New Zealand’s groundbreaking future-soul, drum-and-bass outfit Shapeshifter is returning to the Czech Republic for another infamously energetic live show, this time at Lucerna Music Bar on April 3rd. With five studio albums under their belts and numerous bookings at some of the world’s largest festivals, these guys don’t mess around when it comes to entertaining! We chatted with Devin Abrams (synth/sax), Sam Trevethick (keyboards, vocals percussion), and PDigsss (vocals) about the latest album, becoming ‘pop’, and the secret to their impressive live sound.
This isn’t your first time playing in the Czech Republic is it? Can you tell us a bit about your previous visits? When and where you played, how the show went etc.
I’m not just saying it when I say The Czech Republic is our favorite place to visit and play – the people, the food, the beer –and the gigs we’ve had have been epic. The first time we came to Praha the response was amazing – we played at Meet Factory and there was a big turn out and people knew our music. And meeting people afterwards was a real good time – we stayed for longer last time and went to the countryside and saw some more of The Czech Republic – the weather was warm and it is a very beautiful country, with beautiful people.
Your fifth album Delta was released last year after a 2-year gap. Why the wait? What took you so long?
We take ages to get happy with something – I think all of our albums have had quite big gaps between them – we find we like to sit down and really nut it out when we write but we often go off and do a lot of touring and don’t tend to write that much while on the road. We do end up with sketches on the road but then its good to take them back to the studio and refine it into some sort of song then take it back out on the road.
How has the album been received by the fans and critics so far?
By the fans, pretty good I think. I didn’t know what to expect because we kind of went off on other tangents and stretched the genre we were or are, and tried some different things and people could have said. “I like their old stuff better than their new stuff” but I didn’t really hear that, people seemed to embrace the change, which is really nerve wracking because we do care what people think that have been long-time fans and honour you with their appreciation (the nicest thing that can happen to a musician)!
As for the critics, I never actually read a single review for the album to be honest – just online comments and things like that. Who knows what critics think and why? It’s sometimes irrelevant I think.
How much of the new album is in the live show?
The last few shows I think we’ve been playing about 7 out of 12 which is quite a lot but some of them are huge live and really fun to play too. Some of the rockier numbers like “Giving up the Ghost” are good to pull out but we also go for cruiser ones like “Endless” which go down quite well too.
You’ve played a lot of big festivals including Glastonbury and The Big Chill. Do you prefer smaller, more intimate performances or the larger outdoor festival gigs?
Both have their benefits. We will do a different set for each because some songs don’t work in front of big crowds. It seems a bit easier to rock the whole crowd when it’s a smaller gig and I would have to say they would be more fun than a big one.
How do you feel the group’s sound has changed over the years? Do you agree with the comments about becoming more of a pop group?
Ha ha! Yea why not – I think we all stemmed from the love of drum and bass and jungle but writing songs is something we love to do. There’s only so many times we wanted to go through the intro/drop/breakdown/2nd drop thing…we wanted lyrics, different forms in our music and I guess it ends up “popish” but that’s not our aim, we just try write music we like.
The band’s line up has also changed recently with drummer Darren Mathiassen joining you last year. How does having a new band member change things? Do you re-work old tracks to fit the new sound?
Not too much really, Darren just adds to what we’re already doing. He’s a master of interpreting feels and then once he’s nailed it he just goes on to make it even better!
So, what can the Prague crowd expect from your live show. We’ve heard about your big atmospheric sound….what else can you tell us?
We have big dnb wobble bass coming from live synthesizers, big soaring guitars, and some big rock sounds – and we’re touring with our sound-boy-extraordinaire Tiki Taane who gets things sounding as phat as possible. We try our hardest to take people through an aural journey. And its probably going to be f*cking loud – in a good way!
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Will you catch the musical phenomenon that is Shapeshifter?