Sharp Shock talk about the ideas behind, and the things that inspired, the songs on their new album Youth Club…
REAL LIFE: Sometimes I compare life to a computer game—think how quickly you fuck up and die the first time you play a computer game, it’s ridiculous. I often look at my life and am amazed I’m still here, living and breathing. Life is so fucking fragile and we’re all just dealing with everything for the first time and trying to play our computer game the best we can and NOT die. We also experience some real drama along the way to test us. That’s what this song is about: the challenges we face in real life, familial discord, relationship problems, money, addiction, death, overcoming our demons and our shortcomings and learning to live with ourselves and others. And there’s no going back. We have to move forward and carry all the emotional baggage.
SUPERFICIAL: This song was written about a short period of time when I was working in a pretty shallow and cliquey environment. I took one of those personality tests a while back and apparently I’m the INFJ type. It said something about always getting frustrated at small talk and constantly seeking a deeper connection and stimulating conversation. That’s pretty true for me, so this song is based around that idea. Lyrically, I don’t think it’s the strongest track on this record, but it’s definitely instant and has a catchy chorus, so it’s proven pretty popular. We tried to give it a little Descendents flavor with the intro bass riff!
DANCING ALL NIGHT: I lived in England until I was in my early twenties. I’ve been living in southern California for many years now, but there was a time that I couldn’t leave America for almost 5 years due to legal complications. When I finally managed to visit England, it had been so long that I was actually culture shocked to reconnect with my homeland and essentially my past. This experience definitely inspired a few songs that touch on the English cultural nostalgia I was feeling for my adolescence and my life pre-America. I think this created an underlying theme on the album for British working class youth and coming of age. This is definitely one of those songs…it’s a story based around a gang of Northern Soul enthusiasts (for any un-initiated readers, Northern Soul was an underground English cultural phenomenon that celebrated American soul music). Some of it is fictional and some of it touches on my own own adolescence as well as friend’s of mine. In the first verse, we tip our hats to The Jam’s “This Is The Modern World.”
BAD LAD: Years ago, back in Birmingham, England, I did a short stint working in a brush factory as a teenager: the most soul-destroying job I’ve ever worked. It was a pretty bleak, dead-end place to spend your days, although it did inspire this song. There were some real loose-cannon nutters working in that place, and these lyrics are partly based on one of them. It’s a little tongue-in-cheek here and there, and I throw in plenty of English slang to make for an interesting listen to our mostly-American audience. Musically, I think I was trying to express my love for snuff and the Cockney rejects in this song. I urge you to watch the video —it features up-and-coming actor Dean Ashton. It’s hilarious and quintessentially British.
THINGY PART 1 + 2: I have a very interesting, weird and complex relationship with random, useless, inanimate objects.
I DONT WANT A NUCLEAR FAMILY: Ever since I was a little kid, I never really understood marriage. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with love. More so, one of the things “you just do” in order to jump through life’s hoops and be considered an adult or taken seriously in our society. I also think the standard tradition of the woman taking on the man’s name is fucked up.
I realize this song might come off as “anti-family,” but it really isn’t. This song is more a commentary on the fact that, no matter what you do as a parent, you’re gonna fuck your kids up in some way. We’re all massively affected and scarred by our upbringings, good or bad.
Ultimately, this song is “pro-family.” I’m tipping my hat to anyone raising kids in a non-traditional way or going against the family values that most of us are taught or pressured into—be that un-married couples, same-sex parents, single parents, parents that live apart, or couples that are reversing the stereotypical gender roles of parenthood. I’m a supporter!
This might be my favorite song on this record. I wrote it pretty quickly on an acoustic guitar. Sometimes the best songs just write themselves.
DEAD END TOWN: This was another song written after my first trip back to England in 5 years. I was walking past one of my old schools that I attended from age 8 ’til12. It looked really bleak and grey. There were bars on the windows, like a prison. I remembered how much I struggled at school and how it was never very inspiring for the kind of kid that i was. In the academic world, I had to work my hardest just to be below average. I feel like I was put down by teachers and never told that I could succeed in things or improve, when the place we go to to get our start in life should really be the opposite. (This was the early-nineties in Birmingham. I’m sure / I hope that schools are more positive environments these days.)
It got me thinking about how difficult it really is to get ahead in life when you have the humble beginnings that the majority of us have. The fact is, that unless your family has real money or real connections, then most of us will spend a lot of our lives working as a wage slave, constantly chomping at the bit to keep our heads above water and trying to get out of debt—we’re all products of the system, and we all usually buy into that system.
When I looked back at my old school and where I came from—in comparison to where I am now—it made me realize just how highly the odds were stacked against me as a child. The fact that I managed to tour the world through music and ultimately wind up living in LA, coming from where I come from, means I basically won the lottery. It just wasn’t in the cards for me. I was supposed to work in a car factory like my dad. It made me think how absurd it actually was to chase my dreams when I was young, but I did it anyway (as I should have).
I probably work 7 days a week now just to maintain my modest lifestyle. I still feel like I’m still fighting to chase my dreams and haven’t actually secured anything in my life. There’s still that dreamer kid in me thats trying to squeeze something more out of life than just accepting a mediocre existence of a day job where I’m counting down the hours to go home. Yes, this song is kind of negative and about all the ways that working class life can hold us back. I know I can often come off as jaded, but for the record, I’m a total believer in the underdog defying the odds. I’m living proof (despite still being a wage slave) that we can all break out of a dead-end town.
THE REDS: As a Brit living in America, most people assume I’m some mega football fan. I honestly never gave a shit and was too single-minded about music, so this song’s a bit of a piss-take.
I JUST CANT GET MY HEAD AROUND IT: This is an anti-violence song written during the same trip home to England I mentioned above. I witnessed three or four fights in as many days of getting off the plane. I guess Amercia has a gun culture; the UK likes to get drunk and fight. It reminded me how much violence I grew up around—there was a fight every other day when I was at school, there was a fight every other night in the pub when I got older. It never made sense to me and it still doesn’t now. I guess I consider myself a pacifist—I believe physical violence will never improve any situation. Up the (peace) punx!
STEPS: A hardcore song about chasing passion in life, and not money.
WALKING A THIN LINE: This song kind of wrote itself really quickly without much thought. I guess it’s loosely based around someone following their gut in life and never thinking too hard about consequences, for better and for worse. It’s written in the second person, but i do think parts of this relate to myself when I listen to it back…so maybe some of this was subconsciously autobiographical.
Download Sharp Shock’s cover of Silly Cover here
Sharp Shock’s new album, Youth Club, is out now and you can get it here