SHED Seven release their fourth single off upcoming album A Matter Of Time this week as their autumn tour rolls on with a climactic week of sold-out shows.
Starlings joins Kissing California, F:K:H and In Ecstasy – featuring Happy Mondays’ backing singer Rowetta – in previewing the York band’s January 5 2024 sixth studio set on their new home of Cooking Vinyl.
Building up melancholic layers of piano, strings, dramatic beats and swooping vocal harmonies into a slow-burning finale, frontman Rick Witter’s lyrics offer the hope that perhaps not all goodbyes are forever [as proven by the Sheds’ return to the concert platform in 2007 after splitting in 2003!].
“Starlings showcases the album with a different kind of emotion,” says Rick. “It’s a love letter to a departed partner. I had an idea about a couple who have been together since forever, only for one of them to pass away, and the remaining partner is basically treading water until the time comes where they can be reunited for eternity in the ether.
“Some may say it’s dark subject matter, but I find it also pretty uplifting and is more of a common thing than one might think. The beautiful strings and piano add everything that is needed for such a heartfelt song. It’s nostalgic and reflective but has a feeling of evermore too.”
Yorkshire is missing out on the Sheds’ eight-date “Shoctober” autumn itinerary – originally timed to coincide with a September release date for the album that was subsequently put back – but they did play a 6,000-capacity Sounds Of The City 2023 gig at Millennium Square, Leeds, in July that sold out in a day.
What’s more, hush-hush plans are being made for celebrations of their 30th anniversary in 2024 in home city York. Watch this space; announcements are expected very soon.
Before then, the Sheds will embark on a run of in-store appearances next January to promote A Matter Of Time with a mix of intimate, stripped-back performances and meet-and-greet/signing sessions. Such has been the ticket demand that the schedule has expanded to encompass 16 sessions in ten days.
Among them will be Vinyl Whistle, in Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds on January 5 at 12 noon (sold out) and the HMV store, in Coney Street, York, on January 5 at 4.30pm (tickets: shedsevenn.lnk.to/instores).
Three special album launch shows for A Matter Of Time sold out in a matter of minutes in Kingston upon Thames (January 25), Coventry (January 26) and closest to home, Project House, in Armley Road, Leeds, hosted by Crash Records on January 27. Each will feature two sets: A Matter Of Time, played in its entirety for the first and only time (well, three times), followed the Sheds’ greatest hits.
Meanwhile, album pre-orders have seen all test pressings and all copies of Blood Records’ hand-numbered vinyl rapidly sell out already.
The usual Shed three of Witter, guitarist Paul Banks and bassist Tom Gladwin recorded the album in Spain with new recruits Rob ‘Maxi’ Maxfield, from Audioweb, on drums and Ian Brown band member Tim Willis on keys, replacing founder members Joe Johnson and Alan Leach, who left after the 2021 summer festival season.
As with November’s 2017’s Instant Pleasures, the sessions were produced by Youth – famed for his work with Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, The Orb and The Verve – at his residential El Mirador Studios in Andalucia, southern Spain.
Maxfield and Willis had first joined for the Sheds’ rearranged “Covid tour” dates in 2021, whipping 20 songs into shape at ten weeks’ notice. “They’re amazing, very professional musicians, who’ve brought a new kind of vibe to the band, but it’s still very much Shed Seven, with the spirit of the band rising high,” says Rick.
“It’s given us a kick up the backside, and that’s proven by me and Paul beginning to write the album seriously in March 2022 and finishing the songs by December, the quickest since we wrote A Maximum High in 1995. We must have hit a rich purple patch; pretty much everything that came out of us was good.”
For A Matter Of Time, the Sheds reconnected with the classic albums that first inspired them to form a band in York in 1990: The Smiths, R.E.M., U2, Simple Minds, The Cure, even Duran Duran.
As Paul Banks puts it, the songs are a heartfelt homage to those cherished times, while embodying the essence of rebirth, leading to three titles out of 12 featuring “Let’s Go”.
“This record is Shed Seven but with a new edge,” says Rick. “This is more the next rung on the ladder after Instant Pleasures. It just feels better and more grown up.”
Listen out for special guest contributions, not only from Happy Mondays back singer Rowetta’s fervent gospel vocals on In Ecstasy and Reverend And The Makers’ Laura McClure on the folk-pop Tripping With You, but also The Libertines’ Peter Doherty duetting with Witter on the dramatic closer Throwaways.
“We played Bingley Festival a couple of summers ago when The Libertines were headlining the main stage, and as we played, there was Peter at the side of the stage, singing along to all our songs,” recalls Rick.
“When I met him afterwards, he said he used to sit on his bed learning our guitar parts, so I said, ‘would you sing on our new album?’.”
Doherty duly recorded his vocals for Throwaways remotely at Margate. “He did some harmonising and ad-libbing,” says Rick. “It’s a song about outsiders. We’ve always been outsiders, and The Libertines have that about them too.”
A Matter Of Time can be pre-ordered or pre-saved at https://shedsevenn.lnk.to/AMOTPR.