It’s been over five years since Shrines released their self-titled, full-length debut album but, now, London’s heaviest post-punk outfit is back with their recently-released Ghost Notes EP, which dropped on March 26th via Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings. Following the release of the EP, we spoke with Sam Loynes and Matt Adnett from the London-based band about the EP, space travel, and where the last five or so years have gone.
Thanks for your time. How is life treating you at the moment?
Sam Loynes: “I am ticking along ok. Mostly trying to remain very busy and using this strange time creatively.”
You’ve just put out your new Ghost Note EP, which sees you shift in a more post-punk direction. What prompted that shift in direction and are you happy with the way the EP turned out?
Matt Adnett: “Well there is great love for the old post-punk bands of the ‘80s in the band, but there is also the pursuit of tone. From a guitarist’s perspective, Sam and I have always been fond of simplicity when it comes to our sound, even when we play the heavier stuff. We like to just plug into a decent tube amp a la Marshall and strip back the gain in favour of clarity. This paved the way for more simple, catchier guitar parts with more of a focus on the song as a whole, rather than how heavy or technical a riff is. We haven’t turned our back on those kinds of riffs though! Expect a few here and there.”
It’s the first EP since your 2015 debut. Why did it feel like now was the right time for you to put out new work?
Loynes: “The stars just aligned. Other projects gained the type of momentum they require to have their own life and as such the free space created allowed us to refine and concentrate once again on this material, most of which is a couple of years old. Through the process of re-visiting it and refining, I believe we captured these songs in their best possible form, in terms of songwriting.”
Apart from the shift in musical direction, how else do you feel you’ve changed since the first album?
Loynes: “The main aspect for me is that we’ve all grown as songwriters. I re-listened to the first record the other day and really very much enjoyed the epic and journey-like structures. It’s really very much a heavy metal album with a unique twist. I suppose those moments that we began to gravitate toward in the first album, such as catchy choruses and heavy bridges, we focused on. Rather than a song having many different movements and developments, we aimed to cherry-pick the best of the best and structure an entire song around these elements. It’s a more punk feel now, rather than epic metal. Although, we really can’t stay away from the heaviness as we are still, of course, a heavy act.”
Ok, let’s talk about the new video. Can you tell us the thought behind it and how it relates to the song Relics?
Loynes: “This was one of the many things that the lockdown and furlough periods have allowed to happen. As I said, I have been trying to be as creative as possible and we needed visuals to go with this highly cinematic EP we have churned out. As we couldn’t do the more generic music video with the band meeting up, as restrictions prevented this, I got creative with public domain footage and during the research into what’s out there, the most fitting collection of footage was the Nasa footage. It just screamed Shrines. Huge scale, retro style, and undeniable cinematic quality. We are all really happy with the video.”
What about space travel, if you could travel into space, what would you hope to find?
Adnett: “More questions! Questions are what keeps the human race moving forward. Imagine how boring things would get if a big conclusion was discovered?”
What about the recent footage filmed on Mars. Were you impressed, surprised or just a bit meh about the whole thing?
Adnett: “It’s hugely impressive to know that a collective entity of billions of people, over the course of humanity has made something like this a reality. I am excited and terrified at what leaps will be made over this century.”
Could you talk us through some of the themes behind the songs on the EP?
Loynes: “There is a lot about loss, pain, and redemption. The focus is mostly on redemption. I feel a sense of melancholy runs through the EP and lyrically this drove me toward a more introspective approach. But ultimately it is a positive and cathartic expression.”
Ok, now that the EP is out, what next for Shrines? Have you thought about the next twelve to 18 months? In general, what is the big plan for Shrines?
Adnett: “Nothing is ever set in stone, but our initial plan is to meet up in the practice room post lockdown. We have always been a jam heavy band, and enjoy the spontaneity of seeing what we come up with the old fashioned way. I would imagine any ‘big plans’ for the band will be made after said meeting.”
Having taken nearly six years between the first album and the EP, do you have any regrets?
Adnett: “No, personally I do not regret any step this band has made. We all have projects and other callings outside of the band and we make it work at a natural speed. We don’t sit around mulling over the material for that long that’s for sure!”
Loynes: “Not so much regret no but once this has been completed I realized how much worth and potential this band has. Being in many bands I can confidently say that Shrines is one of the positive projects I am involved with so it is nice to have that back.”
Is there any other new material lying around? Was the material on the EP new songs or material you had already written?
Adnett: “There are a few ideas still in the ether. Some blueprints ready for developing. Even though there is a big gap between records, the majority of the material on the EP was written and arranged quite quickly really… it just took a while before we entered the studio with it.”
Life is hopefully returning to normal. What are your hopes on a personal level for the year ahead?
Adnett: “It depends on what you perceive to be normal! I don’t think things will ever be quite the same as they were pre-pandemic. Seeing friends and family in the flesh of course, and being able to play and go to gigs again. I’m not chomping at the bit to go on holiday though, the mad rush for it would do my fucking head in. I’d love to see people connect outside of the internet, I don’t like the idea of getting too used to remote contact.”
Loynes: “I just hope for gigs to come back. I miss both London shows, and of course, the European stuff so very much so along with everyone becoming safer I really hope gig culture will return before too long.”