New Noise: Shookrah

Chatting with the Cork collective.

Six-piece supergroup, Shookrah, are not just a sibilance fan’s dream but also one of the most exciting bands around at the moment. Meeting in the small town of Cork in Ireland, the group’s unique take on R&B is quickly establishing them as one to watch.

Following 2014’s fantastic “Implicit Content” EP, the band are now back with song “Gerascophobia”, a teaser of upcoming “Clichés” EP . A stunning track, full of captivating synth hooks and hypnotising vocals, the track may be about the fear of growing up but you are certainly gonna want to grow old with this band.

Currently getting ready for next month’s tour, we sat down with the exciting group to find out all about them.

How did you all meet?

Senita: Cork is a pretty small city with big personalities and a good knack for transcending the separations of ‘clique-ey’ scenes/disciplines . While we were all in different social groups in college, study and gigs meant we more or less fell into each other’s laps and got to know each other while in the throws of “the sesh”. There are now 6 of us: Senita (vox), Imelda (vox), Daniel (guitar), Diarmait (keys/synth), Brian(bass) and Emmet (drums).

When was the moment when you were like “YES! I want to make music with these people”?

Imelda: It all happened very organically. Cork is a small city and roughly 99% of the people we know are involved in music in some shape or form. We all met at gigs and it made sense to experiment together. We started with covering our favourite tunes and this quickly turned to writing our own stuff.

S: Dan and I did a covers gig at a small bar on request from my boss with our then-bassist David Carey. When Emmet suggested that we properly make a band so he could play drums, I was super onboard. I wanted to be part of their people.

Diarmait: I knew these cats from the scene, they was ICE-cold.

Who would you say are your main musical influences?

S: Erykah Badu, MNDSGN, Thundercat, Questlove, Flying lotus, D’Angelo, Kimbra, Janelle Monae, Jill Scott…there are actually too many, hence the fat sound.

Emmet: Aside from the superfreaks Senita mentioned, myself and Dan come from a more prog-rock background, and I’ve always been very influenced by stuff like Cardiacs, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and other weird-in-the-right-way shit.

Your music is such a refreshing take on R&B. What were your creative visions for how you wanted the band to sound?

E: I think the “creative vision” (singular) has only recently cemented. It is something that evolved between us, slowly but surely, as we wrote more and more music. I think we’re all aware that there’s some sort of balance between pop appeal and experimentation/originality to keep in mind, and that’s probably a big, somewhat unconscious thread through our recent work. I’ve noticed a lot of bands popping up now doing the Hiatus Kaiyote type thing when it comes to live R&B, which is great because they’re an incredibly innovative band, but it can get a bit pastiche and it can just sound like musical fan fiction. I think because we’re a fairly rag-tag bunch, some musically-trained, some not, some into Rihanna, some into Meshuggah, we can only sound like the weird sum of our parts. In terms of our creative vision for the future, we just want to write songs just like we do now, except 200% more sex appeal and with plenty of lucrative product placements.

“I think because we’re a fairly rag-tag bunch, some musically-trained, some not, some into Rihanna, some into Meshuggah, we can only sound like the weird sum of our parts.”

Can you tell us about your latest single, “Gerascophobia”?

S: Gerascophobia is a vocalisation of the fear of getting old, which on one level is normal but I find has manifested itself in a number of irrational anxieties. From complaining about ageing while in the prime of your twenties/thirties, to the constant self-questioning and thinking you aren’t doing the right thing at the right time to subscribing to the pressures of the fickle world we live in…I find myself wasting energy thinking about aspects I cannot control or have done so to the best of my ability and exerting that energy in ways that aren’t good for me. This song is a reminder that it’s all bullshit, and it’s all real shit, but I am able and young and at my advantage today – seize it and take stock of it with as much of yourself as you can.

What exactly is “Gerascophobia”?

S: Gerascophobia is an irrational or abnormal fear of ageing or growing old. It can be triggered by anxieties of being left alone, without resources and incapable of caring for oneself – which also makes me feel like most of us have this to different degrees.

The track comes from your upcoming EP “Cliches”. Can you talk us through the EP a bit?

E: The whole process was a relatively slow and educational one, but a lot of fun. We started in January of 2016 recording drums in a studio in Cork city, and for everything else, we set up camp in a lovely old house on the outskirts overlooking the River Lee. There, over the course of a year, we recorded everything else, re-recorded lots of things here and there, basically threw the kitchen sink at these five tracks – synths, loads of layered vocals, even an old steel butter churn thing. Thankfully, I think we resisted the urge to crowd the songs with unnecessary embellishment. It’s very tempting when you don’t have a time limit to just keep re-working things and it took a lot of discipline to walk away from it in the end. I will say this EP is definitely something we can stand behind, more so than our previous EP I think. It more accurately reflects where we’re at now. It’s got the right balance of groove and experimentation but also poppy hooks. We’ve since been working on loads of new songs, which we’re also pumped about, but we aren’t sick of anything on “Clichés” yet – a good indication that it was a year well spent!

I: We are and were really lucky to have a sound engineer (Edan Ray, our last bassist) and sonic nerds in the band. We would have been lost at that time without having both factors, it really gave everyone the benefit of time and space to try things. We also had great help with the use of the late Lawrence White + Keith Clancy’s studio in Cork, recorded with Chris Somers (African Fiction/Implicit Content EP engineer).

What song are you most excited for people to hear?

S: I’m smug as fuck about every song, especially “Prayer” which is a bit grittier. Everyone was vigilant in their output to advance what Shookrah’s sound is, and I think it shows.

What else do you have lined up this year?

S: The second single from the “Clichés” EP, “Our Own Way” is out on April 28th and we’ll have a music video (filmed over the course of a few hours in a total belter of a house party) coming very soon, directed by Brian Kiely. We’re at the final stages of cutting out all the unsavoury bits, which we will later use for the purposes of wholesale blackmail. We have plenty of gigs over the summer here in Ireland, including supporting Billy Ocean on his Irish tour, which we’re really looking forward to – it’s a very different kind of gig for us, and takes place in three amazing venues that we haven’t played before. We’ve got two gigs at Body & Soul Festival (one at 3am!), we’re playing a brand new festival in Cork called ‘Right Here, Right Now’, all based in various parts of the Cork Opera House which is going to be a big success I think. Aside from all the gigging, we’re going to film some live in-studio performances to fill in what little gaps we have, and we’re hoping to start pre-production on our debut album in the autumn. This depends on the gigging schedule though, as we’re also talking some shit about a more formal tour of sorts, maybe beyond the slimy green hills of Ireland. Either way, expect more soulful tomfoolery.

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New Noise: Shookrah

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