Music interview – Rick Witter of Shed Seven: ‘We wanted to write songs that were ageless’

Shed Seven. Picture Tom Oxley
Shed Seven. Picture Tom Oxley
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As York band Shed Seven’s current UK tour heads to Leeds next week, Andrew Steel catches up with frontman Rick Witter.

Asked to sum up Shed Seven’s new album, Instant Pleasures, the first in 16 years, frontman Rick Witter draws comparisons to cocktails, jumpers and sticks of rock to summarise the band’s effort.

“It’s like a new twist on an old Manhattan,” he says, rapid-fire, Yorkshire brogue colouring his excitement. “It’s like taking that jumper you could never bring yourself to throw away to Timpson’s to have it patched up, or like a stick of rock with the name of the town running all the way through it. It’s familiar but definitely fresh.” He pauses. “Definitely not hipster, though. I wouldn’t go that far.”

There’s typically been a question mark over the prospect of new material from the Britpop stalwarts, ever since they reunited a decade ago as a touring outfit.

Shed Seven’s late autumn/winter tours have not necessarily smacked of nostalgia, but Witter acknowledges that most fans attending the swelling sojourn of shows each December come in full expectation of the same old songs. Now though, the York born-and-bred outfit have a dozen or so new tracks in their back pocket, and their joint-best charting studio album ever. The maxim “all killer, no filler”, he says, is something the band have tried their hardest to hold to.

“A few years back, I saw an advertisement for a greatest hits compilation by Ricky Martin,” he notes, “with just the one hit, in Livin’ la Vida Loca. The rest of the record was just filler. That didn’t sit very well with me. So, with Instant Pleasures, it was key that every song featured deserved its place on the album. We didn’t want songs that people would be bored of after the fifth listen; we wanted to write songs that were ageless in a sense. Songs that feel timeless, songs that will grow as well as our stuff from the 90s.”

On one hand, this is a record crammed with big, singalong choruses and hooks. On the other, it’s definitely a sly nod to the age we live in.

Rick Witter

The group do indeed have a brace of cuts from their heyday – Going for Gold and Chasing Rainbows spring to mind – that still hold up well 20 years later, particularly against several of their peers. Since reuniting though, despite an inundation of questions concerning a fifth album, Witter and his bandmates didn’t begin to make a concentrated effort until the summer of 2016, when they decided as a group to try and create a handful of songs, with a view to potentially self-releasing as demos to iTunes.

“Invincible, at the very end of the album, was started a few years back,” he says. “But we never finished it back then. The first official one in the can was Nothing to Live Down, which came about really quickly. We were just in rehearsal and the riff came out; I was straight down on my knees scribbling lyrics on the floor off the top of my head. Then It’s Not Easy came quite quickly and they all started tumbling out. It’s not been that organic since (second album) A Maximum High, which was definitely a good thing; it made us want to continue.”

The title, he adds, is two-fold in meaning, both passing reference to the joy of listening to an album for the first time and to the culture of hyper-fast gratification Shed Seven now find themselves in within the music industry.

“On one hand, this is a record crammed with big, singalong choruses and hooks, the sort of album where flipping over to the second side of the vinyl is a thrill. On the other, it’s definitely a sly nod to the age we live in. Nobody waits for anything anymore, and honestly, I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing these days.”

Despite the success of the new record, the band are sticking to their guns on the supporting tour. “We announced the shows before the album, so people are coming expecting a dozen top 40 hits and that’s what they’ll get,” Witter says, but for the first time in in years, the band will embark on a world tour next summer to promote the record in earnest, along with a few self-described special shows yet to be announced in Britain. Will one of them be in their hometown? The singer is non-committal. “We played Fibbers twice last month as warm-ups – but the next time we play, it’s got to be something with a bit of meaning and a bit of pizzazz.” He chuckles and gives a full-blown laugh. “Pizzazz. Didn’t think I’d use that to describe us when I got up this morning!”

Shed Seven play Leeds O2 Academy on December 18 and 19 and Hull City Hall on December 21. www.shedseven.com

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