Good Shoes like to keep things to the point. For example, in January, when they were interviewed by The Sun, they described themselves thus: “We’re from South London and write short, guitar-based pop songs. Our ages range from 19 to 22.”
Rhys Jones (vocals, guitar), Steve Leach (guitar), Joel Cox (bass) and Tom Jones (drums) formed the band 18 months ago in Morden, familiar to London’s commuters as the last stop going south on the Northern Line. Their debut single, Small Town Girl, released in 2005, set the tone – brisk songs about suburban inertia. All In My Head, Photos On My Wall and We Are Not The Same followed, establishing them as masters of succinct indie pop built from jangly guitars, tight tempo changes and lyrical wit.
Like Jamie T, they’ve become poster boys for kids bored with Middle England. On a recent tour of the UK, fans shouted for Morden, even when they were in Glasgow. Brevity may be their watchword, but their two-minute songs communicate volumes.
The band travelled even farther afield to record their forthcoming debut album, Think Before You Speak, flying to Sweden to work with producer Per Sunding (The Cardigans, The Concretes). The result is a sparky indie rock gem. However, all the travelling has left Rhys concerned that, as the band gets bigger, they may leave a whopper of a carbon footprint.
This is the world according to Good Shoes.
Morden is as boring and nothing to do with Gandalf.
Rhys: “It’s weird that people were calling out for Morden in Glasgow when we were 400 miles from home.”
Steve: “It must be strange for you as it’s your lyrics, your vision of the whole place. As soon as we walk on stage people shout for it, which is annoying because of course we’re going to get around to playing it.”
Rhys: “Morden is more subdued than how I describe it in the song. It’s as boring as everywhere and so people relate to it. The suburbs are nice and shit at the same time. We don’t really get grief from skinheads in Burberry caps like I say in the song because we went to school with them. One of my mates used to have long black hair when he was 16 and he got punched in the park and he used to get grief on the buses.”
Steve: “I’m not actually from Morden so I don’t feel the connection. I live nearby in less of a suburban environment. Morden is an ugly place. If people can connect with it then fine. The last time I got punched I was nearer Mitchum – that’s got two syllables as well. I was on a tram and one of these guys punched me as they were getting off. I had my guitar with me, which could have been enough. It could have confused them.”
Rhys: “Should we tell foreign fans that it’s about Gandalf? The Mordor thing has been an in-joke with us for ages.”
Bands shouldn’t try and become DJs.
Rhys: “I was DJing last night actually, for some friends. I play the records I’d like to hear. I don’t know whether I have a grasp on what’s good or not. In fact, I’m pretty bad at DJing. I DJed before New Young Pony Club once, and they know how to DJ. I left my plastic bag of records at someone’s house four months ago, so now I DJ using four burnt CDs.”
Steve: “I don’t think it should say Good Shoes DJ set on a flyer. It’s a travesty. It should be left to those who can DJ. Rhys should do it under his own name. It’s not like we are all there as a committee waiting to decide what to play next. But I suppose if people want to hear Rhys play records then fair enough.”
Don’t choose a name you’ll have to explain endlessly.
Rhys: “I’ve probably been asked, What shoes are you wearing? and, What makes a good shoe? about a thousand times, Why don’t people use their brain and ask something interesting. I thought it was a really good name for a band, but it’s been the source so much grief. If I interviewed a band I’d have so many more interesting questions to ask. Now I just say It just sounded good and it doesn’t mean anything.”
Steve: “I didn’t like the name at first. I thought it was absurd. But that was when we only thought we’d play two gigs. I don’t mind it now. It’s quite provocative. I guess you could be asked silly questions about any band name.”
Start young and stop young.
Rhys: “Tom was 18 when we signed our record deal. A lot of important music was made by teenagers. Paul Weller had written two albums by the time he was 18. At that age you’re doing it because you love it and you don’t think about the peripheral stuff. We all seem to like short pop songs and the one band we all agree on is be your own PET, whose songs rarely reach the two-minute mark. I think songs that repeat themselves and are formulaic and a bit of a cop out.”
Steve: “I’m 22, so I’m the oldest, and I think the older we get, the better we’ll get, though I do know when people get really old their careers take a nose dive. Our first album may be our most naïve.”
Take a swimming pool on tour.
Rhys: “Going on tour does not help me keep in shape. I did a load of running a few months back and I swim every other day. It’s a battle. It has to become part of your lifestyle. I wish we could take the swimming pool on tour.”
It’s easier driving into Birmingham listening to Queen.
Rhys: “The vans we tour in are so shit that the CD players are usually broken. It can take two days to get them to work.”
Steve: “We keep getting the same van and the CDs always skip.”
Rhys: “Queen is a good middle ground for us all, as is David Bowie. Bohemian Rhapsody skips all the way through, but then rights itself just in time for the head-banging bit, which is effective. We all love The Love Below by Outkast, especially when it takes ages to get into London. I don’t understand watching DVDs in a van. It’s too distracting because not everyone watches it and they start talking through it.”
Steve: “There’s a lot of hangovers, so we sleep a lot. I like to read books in the van because you have so much time. Otherwise we like classic sing-along stuff like Don’t Stop Me Now. That picks up our spirits when we are driving into Birmingham.”
Don’t ride a bike when you’re drunk.
Rhys: “I found a bike after the gig in Glasgow and cycled round the city very drunk, found a casino, joined a casino, did not go in the casino. Then the bike broke. I fixed it and got covered in chain oil, then I cycled back to the hotel. I left the Premier Travel Inn decorated with some nice chain oil hand prints.”
Include your fans in your artwork.
Rhys: “We covered the Photos On My Wall sleeve with pictures people had texted to us from their mobiles. I met some girl last night who said she was on the single cover. It’s nice to include people. We don’t know who the hell’s on it. I just looked for the photo my girlfriend sent in.”
Steve: “It looked like a community effort. It was quite inclusive.”
Poppers are nostalgic.
Rhys: “People in Glasgow really go for it. When we played there recently they were all doing poppers in this club after the gig, which seems nostalgic to me. Why? Everyone did it when they were 15, didn’t they? Get stoned and do poppers. I was trying to stay sober and everyone was doing pills and poppers. Mind you, it was Burns night.”
Klaxons and The Horrors should use their influence and get political.
Rhys: “It’s all decadence. People live for the weekend. There’s no protest left in the world. Probably because the march against the Iraq war did fuck all. The one thing I want to change in my lifetime is carbon emission and the fuel we use. It should be politician’s main agenda. Bands have a pretty big carbon footprint. Even though I cycle as much as I can in London, on tour we have to go everywhere by van, stay in hotels that waste vast amounts of electricity and fly places regularly. Recording our album we flew out to Sweden so many times. I’d like to calculate my carbon footprint and try to offset it. I found out about a place in Wales where they plant trees and never chop them down. No one seems to be bringing their environmental or political opinions into interviews when they have a chance to influence people who look up to them. No interviewer ever seems to ask any interesting questions either. Everyone thinks the same thing about the environment, that changes need to be made, but it needs to be voiced by the majority putting pressure on the government to make changes. Successful bands like Klaxons and The Horrors should be making more of their position to talk about important things.”
Good Shoes’ debut album, Think Before You Speak, is released on 26 March on Brille.
Written for the spring 2007 edition of Dummy.