Middlesbrough-based outfit Shrug is back after almost 30 years with their second album ‘Island Complex’ so Damian Robinson caught up with vocalist, Rob Nicholls, to talk about lead single ‘Whitby Kipper’, its intense video, and the forthcoming album.
Let’s start with the video for ‘Whitby Kipper’, which feels like some psychedelic nightmare. Where did the idea come from?
We wanted to put out something interesting to support the promotion of the new album and to grab people’s attention. We worked with AJ Garrett – who is part of Peg Powler Art Collective – on the video, starting with the visual references mentioned in the song.
And these references took you to Whitby?
They did, yes. We went on a day trip to record the video and were lucky that it was sunny, it was off-season and there was snow over the moors. This combination helped us to create a really atmospheric video.
It reminded me of the Prodigy video to ‘Baby’s got a Temper’ which is also psychedelic and totally open to interpretations…
We based some of the track on a historic question about the Whitby hills and cliffs and a formulae which lets you extract the minerals from the rocks and then fix guys to cloth. There are lots of hidden references in the track and we filled the song, and then the video, with loads of different ideas, meaning that you can listen to the song and watch the video a number of times and take different ideas from each experience.
I’ll certainly need to watch it back a few times as I thought I’d taken a bit, but clearly, I’ve missed a lot…
We did a show a few weeks back and there was a big cheer when we introduced the song so it seems people are watching and enjoying the video which is a real credit to AJ.
And the track itself is pretty far out. It has a strong melody with a sound using bells, whistles and an interesting drum section…
Yeah, that’s right. We tried to go for something fresh and a bit different to what you tend to hear nowadays.
Is this a good indication of the sound which we’ll hear on the album?
There is a theme, yeah. We’ve been a band for a long time but it’s been almost an embarrassingly long time since our last album so we wanted to make something interesting and we wanted to test ourselves. Oli, our guitarist, usually started the creative process by bringing in really interesting sounds and then we’d build out from these, writing the whole album within a few weeks. Quite soon into the work, I came up with the name ‘Island Complex’ based on a book I’d been writing about a farm on the edge of the world, and that helped us to shape what we wanted from the album both in sound and in content.
So the title helped you build on the theme?
It did – it helped us work towards a common concept. Nigel, our producer, also did a great job of working on each track and making them stand out as individual pieces.
Last question. The album cover is amazing but what’s the image?
Oli created the cover and it’s an image of the demise of Captain Cook over which is placed a map of the north. Oli will know more about the concept than I will, but I think it’s very striking, looks great on the vinyl cover, and just as Captain Cook’s death is open to interpretation, we’d like people to feel the same way about the album.
Links to ‘Whitby Kipper’, its accompanying video, and further information about ‘Island Complex’ can be found at facebook.com/shrugshrugshrug.