Glasgow-based Shambolics are getting ready for the first date of their UK headline tour at The Garage, Glasgow when RESOUND catches up with guitarists/vocalists Lewis McDonald and Darren Forbes, still buzzing and a little bit fried likes after the release of debut EP U Serious Boi?!, out now on their new record label Scruff Of The Neck. 

Brimming with down-to-earth banter, McDonald and Forbes look like a right pair of Adidas addicts in their gleaming leisurewear as they tell us how they plotted their musical futures as 15 year olds hanging out in Kirkcaldy’s Ravenscraig Park. It’s a place still close to their hearts with the park’s former bowling club pavilion featured on the cover of 2021 single Dreams, Schemes And Young Teams, their first number to be released under the expertise of Glasgow’s Chris Marshall. The Gold/Platinum certified producer has continued to work with the band on U Serious Boi’s release which sees the five-piece, complete with drummer Jake Bain, bassist Ben Sharp and keyboard player Scotty Paws, fuse up-beat anthems with nostalgic grooves and effortless hooks under the heady vocals of songwriters McDonald and Forbes. With influences including Oasis, The Smiths, Fleetwood Mac, The Stone Roses and The La’s, they also like a bit of hip hop and trance while Forbes admits that some of the others like “f**king Abba too!”

Shambolics live at The Garage, Glasgow

So far, the EP’s reception has been really positive, though for Forbes and McDonald it’s all about whether the fans will be “bouncing” to the new songs tonight, the rowdy atmosphere at their gigs already celebrated in Scottish music circles. With that in mind, it seems like the inclusion of a live cut of Sharp As A Razor on the EP was a great move, the propulsive slice of swagger-infused indie, complete with regulatory ‘here we, here we, here we f**king going’, perfectly illustrating how frenetic their live performances are. But rather than seeing this as a shrewd addition, they shrug it off, Forbes smirking as he tells us it was just added at the end “to fill a bit of a gap”, McDonald adding “yeah, we had a bit of writer’s block”.  

The band’s journey to the release of this debut EP has been an interesting one and while most young musicians can only dream of former Creation Records boss Alan McGee handing them £40 for a bloody big poke of chips and a record deal with his boutique vinyl label Creation23 into the bargain, that’s exactly what happened to Shambolics in 2019 after McGee, who was responsible for signing Oasis back in 1993, initially ignored his friend Jamie’s advice that he should sign this bunch of Fifers he was managing. Forbes tells us

it was amazing, pretty much a dream come true because we all love Oasis and used to watch their documentaries all the time. Of course, McGee was in them and we’d be like ‘we’ll send him a demo one day’”.

McDonald grins as he admits he took a bit of convincing at first, Forbes adding, “aye, he didn’t give a shit about us for years. Our manager Jamie works on the management team with him now, but at the time they were just mates and he’d send him shit demos all the time and he just kind of ignored them. I think what changed his mind was other people kept coming up to him and saying ‘you need to sign the Shams’”. Eventually cracking after getting harassed about the band at a Gerry Cinnamon gig, McGee invited them along to a Q&A night he was doing at St Luke’s in Glasgow and, according to Forbes, “when he saw us play he was like ‘f**k it, I’m going to sign them”, McDonald adding “then he gave us forty quid for poke of chips!” Hmm, I’m not sure if the Gallagher brothers even got a single pickled onion out of McGee when he signed Oasis on the spot at Glasgow’s King Tut’s so it sounds like the Shams did well out of the legendary Glaswegian.

At the time McGee hailed Shambolics as “one of the great Scottish bands… big tunes and they look great” and it wasn’t long before their debut single, Chasing A Disaster went to No 2 on the UK Official Vinyl Charts. But after building momentum with two further releases and a sold out show back at St Luke’s in 2020, that nasty piece of work Covid reared its ugly head.

On the other side of the pandemic, some of the band members relocated out of Fife and Shambolics found a new base in Glasgow, working with Marshall. Forbes admits that although they’re always going to be from Fife (making me wonder if ‘Fifer’ is in fact optional) they now see Glasgow as their base and want their homecoming shows to be in Glasgow each year “because Glasgow’s just the place to be for music”. He’s not wrong, though Scotland’s music scene as a whole is thriving at the moment. “It’s doing a lot better than in a lot of places” agrees Forbes,

there are so many good and diverse bands coming through just now…even the likes of Lewis Capaldi, it’s great seeing someone like that who’s been kicking about the places we have go on to become a worldwide success. I think the eyes are on Scotland at the moment.”

Shambolics are still with McGee’s management company, the man himself negotiating their deal with Scruff Of The Neck records, Forbes affectionately describing him as being “a bit fried in the heid likes”, adding “he won’t mind us saying that either likes, cos we’re a bit fried too”. Ah, got to love them and some might say a fried heid is a pre-requisite for surviving the music business so it could stand them in good stead in the long run. Going on, Forbes explains that Creation23 was more of a stepping stone for the band, adding “it wasn’t like Creation in the ‘90s. It was a means of taking us to the next level.” And now they’ve reached it, they’re clearly excited to be working with Manchester’s Scruff Of The Neck, who’ve been instrumental in the release of the debut EP.

Although they don’t appear to take life too seriously, they’re committed to giving back to their local community, with their pre-Christmas gigs in aid of Kirkcaldy’s foodbank becoming an annual occurrence. And that’s not the only ray of light they offer in the winter months, with U Serious Boi’s poignant number Living In The Shadows recognising the struggles many people, themselves included, go through with their mental health in the months when daylight is at a minimum. Describing it as “a song of hope for anyone going through a dark time”, it’s great to see the issue recognised, the number both soothing and uplifting. At the other end of the scale, they tell us that a couple of the EP’s other tunes, What’s Going On In Your Head and Never Gonna Change are slightly older and according to Forbes “not bitter, but kind of like wee digs at folk that are all talk, saying they’re going to do this and that to change their lives but never do.” 

Well this lot certainly aren’t afraid to move on, and as a result their musical exploits landed them a spot on the bill with Richard Ashcroft at The Big Top in Ingliston’s Highland Centre last summer, which was “class” according to McDonald, a massive fan of the Verve’s former vocalist. He’s gutted it was Forbes who got to meet him though, the lucky Sham telling us “Ashcroft’s brand new likes, a bit like what I imagine it would be like to meet Iain Brown, you know, a bit fried, but he was proper sound with us”. Yep, nicely put Darren!

So surely an album is next on the to-do list for the Shams. “Well, we can’t say too much,” they laugh coyly, but Forbes admits they’ve been really busy and at the gig later they showcase snappy new number Never Be Mine, a wee taste of things to come.

You can find out how the evening went in our live review >>

U Serious Boi?! is out now on Scruff Of The Neck records:

Words: Shirley Mack @musingsbymarie
Pictures: Calum Mackintosh@ayecandyphotography