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Interview: Shelter Point

20 February 15 interview: Shariff Ibrahim
photos: Shaun Gordon

Shelter Point’s woozy, dreamy songs are winning over every tastemaker, from Zane Lowe to the LeftLion team. Back from a UK tour with Indiana, and with a Sony deal in the bag, we sat down with singer Liam and producer Robin to find out how it all began, what’s next, and their adventures in between…

How did you two meet?
Liam: We went to an all boys school but they split us up into houses like Harry Potter. I was writing acoustic songs, sort of teen angst, I was sixteen and thought I was an expert on love. Then Robin actually stole one of my songs.
Robin: I was writing more like 8-bit music, chiptune, glitchy stuff. I found this project and it was Liam’s track. I was like, “Ahhh, I know how I can make that better”. So I put this beat and this bass on it, and just said to Liam, “I’ve remixed your track.”

And that’s how Shelter Point came in to being?
Robin: From then, the spark ignited and we hung out a bit more. We ended up going to see James Blake in Birmingham, and there was a support act called Cloud Boat, who were just two guys with a guitar and sampler. We watched them and thought, “We could do that.” We made a few tracks that were quite Craig David-esque, with really garage-y beats and guitar.

How did you make the move from Cov to Nottingham?
Liam: After Robin finished college, I had a gap year and Robin was doing his first year of uni in Birmingham. I said that I was going to Confetti, then Robin turned round to his parents and said he was going to go to Nottingham with me.
Robin: I was still living at home and commuting from Coventry to Birmingham and not really feeling it, so Liam was like, “You should come and do this course with me, it looks great – there’s good staff and good facilities.” So I just went, “Yeah, alright” and put in my UCAS form.

And then you signed a management deal with Denizen?
Liam: We did a release on Hotflush in 2012, Forever for Now, and then it went a bit stale. I went my own way, and Robin didn’t make music with me any more.
Robin: There was a bit of a fall out with management, and they kind of wanted different things from us, so I left to pursue other things. We started working full time.
Liam: I kind of felt pressured into making a decision about working on my own as a vocalist. From then, Denizen said, “You need to get Robin, you both need to work together again.” I asked him how he’d feel about getting back together but with new management, and he moved back to to Nottingham. We started living together, started writing together again, and then March last year, we got the deal with Sony.

How has getting that deal changed things?
Liam: First of all, we quit our jobs. I didn’t want to be working in a bar, Robin didn’t want to be knocking doors for charity, so it gave us that freedom to just write music - the first six months of that we were in the studio every day. It was the most creative time we’ve had together.

Your new EP Weird Dreamers is out now. How is this different to your first EP, Forever for Now?
Liam: It’s a lot more song-orientated, rather than just instrumentals with vocals. We’ve worked a lot more on song structures. We still do like writing songs that take you on a journey, but this EP is a lot more mature in its songwriting. For me personally, I think it’s a lot stronger musically and sonically.
Robin: Our first EP was very glitchy. It was a very experimental time and I think most of it was written while we were stoned. Back in first year, we were living in different halls, and Liam got kicked out. The first person ever to get kicked out of Trinity Square.

Good going. How did you manage that?
Liam: There was such a long list, but one of the main things was that there was a fire extinguisher in our flat, right, and I thought, “I’m having a party here, I’m having a good time, let’s get the fire extinguisher.” I sprayed it in Luke’s, who’s now our tour manager’s face. From then, a lot of stuff kicked off and we ended up getting a knock on the door saying we both had seven days to get out.
Robin: He lived with me for about a week, and in that week, we wrote so many tracks, smoked so much weed, and just generally let loose. I think that’s when we wrote our track Braille, which is probably one of our favourite tracks. Since then, we’ve stopped smoking weed as much as we did and we’re a lot clearer in the way we think.

Where did the title come from? Are you both sleep walkers?
Robin: We do talk about lucid dreaming a lot. I know your own dreams are really boring things to talk about with other people, but there was a dream I had where I could control how black Will Smith was with a TV remote. There was one where I was on a plane on the runway and I looked out of the window and Busta Rhymes was sat on a horse in a full suit of armour. But we’ve always wanted our music to sound quite dream-like, very floaty and surreal. Even with our artwork – Adam Griffiths hit the nail on the head there.

Does that more song-focused approach make the performance dynamic quite different?
Robin: Yeah, when we did the first EP, we did one show in London, and brought in some friends as a band, and we were trying to use as much gear as possible, trying to play every element of our tracks live, which we then found out was impossible.
Liam: I think there’s one synth line that Robin wrote that you needed twelve fingers to actually play the chords, so that’s not going to help. We’ve had time to work on it now, doing the tour. Now that they’re more vocal-orientated, I can open up a lot more on stage and be able to sing the whole song and put my feelings across. It lies nicely on top of the ambient production.

How does a song begin? With the vocals or the beats?
Robin: It changes every time. We never know what we’re going to write until we’ve finished it, basically. We’re not like most bands who will get together and jam for a bit and try new things, with a drummer, a bassist, a singer. With us, we just sit down in front of the computer and will just be like “Right, what are we doing?”
Liam: Sometimes it can be like you’re ramming your head against a brick wall but other times it’s magical and just works, and we’re like, “How the fuck did we do that?”

You’re getting tons of airplay at the moment…
Robin: It’s crazy hearing Zane Lowe talk about us like we’re his new favourite band.
Liam: I used to watch him on Gonzo on MTV 2 and now he’s talking about us, playing our music and saying he’s a fan. It’s pretty nice.

You’re just back off your UK tour with Indiana…
Robin: That’s our first tour and the first time we’ve gigged so much in such a short space of time. It was loads of fun. We saw it as like a learning experience, and how we figure out the live shows and what we can and can’t do. Indiana and her band were absolutely amazing to us, they’re all sound people.

So is the scene in Nottingham at the moment the best it’s been for a while?
Liam: It’s nice to see people from Nottingham doing so well. Like there’s Phillip George — he was in our tutor group at uni so it was mad seeing him get to number 2 in the charts.
Robin: Our friends Kagoule are about to make movements too. And bands like Field Studies, Leah Sinead/Keto who are all on the same label as us, which is crazy.

How does it compare to Coventry?
Robin: I can’t think of a single artist at all from Coventry that’s doing music in Coventry. It’s dead, it’s a ghost town.The Specials, that’s all we’ve got, that’s all we ever go on about.
Liam: We came up to Nottingham and were like, “Wow, these guys are doing things.” The clue for me was when we did the Hockley Hustle gig.

I have it on good authority that your Hockley Hustle set blew people away. How did the day go for you?
Liam: I got kicked out of the Kagoule gig. In my defence, we finished our gig at 3.30pm so we were drinking all day. By the time Kagoule were on - I can’t remember a time - I was partying and just peaked.
Robin: We’ve seen loads of Kagoule gigs in the past and they always get a bit rowdy, and I could tell Liam was just so eager to start moshing, he’s basically a little grebo still. The Hockley Hustle as a whole though, I was just blown away by. Stuff like that, you’ll never ever see in Coventry.
Liam: We have the Godiva Festival, which is shocking. It’s like Goose Fair with live music, in the worst possible way.
Robin: It’s a load of old has-beens performing that no-one really listens to any more.

When’s the album out?
Liam: Basically from today onwards is us starting writing the album. We’re at full swing and whenever it’s ready, it’s ready. We can’t really put a date on it yet.
Robin: It’ll be on Space + Time, my good friend Sean’s label, which is a subsidiary of RCA and Sony. But we don’t see ourselves as major label artists.

You don’t really act like major label artists. When are the diva sides going to come out?
Liam: (to Robin) Am I kind of getting there?
Robin: No, I wouldn’t say so. It’s weird, we’ve both quit our jobs now and are getting paid a wage by Sony to make music. There are parts of us that think maybe we should be like that, and we should have a major label persona about us. But we feel so lucky and so honoured and amazed by how people have taken a liking to our music.
Liam: From what started out as just making shit garage.

Is it too early to be talking festival appearances this summer?
We’ll definitely do those nice little gigs about the EP, but in terms of festivals and stuff like that, we’re in no rush to mess it up.  I’d love to play, but they'll still be there next year.
Robin: If we were doing a festival, then we’d like something to shout about, and you can only talk so much about a four track EP. If we’re going to write this album, it needs to be spot on. It’s been a long time coming for us.

So 2015 is about knuckling down and getting the album out? Any other resolutions?
Liam: Stop drinking, stop smoking. And so far I have spent 50% of this year drunk, so I’m doing alright.
Robin: My New Year’s Resolution is 4K…

Weird Dreamers EP by Shelter Point is released via Space + Time on Monday 23 February 2015.

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