With an upcoming gig at Studio 2 and some great new material on offer the Shipbuilders brewed up with Getintothis’ Del Pike and revealed all about their musical obsessions and the day Thatcher died.
The Shipbuilders who made quite an impression on this writer during their short set on the LIMF Bandstand stage, are currently preparing new material for a string of gigs in the New Year.
The Shipbuilders follow the tradition of bands like The Coral, The Stands, The La’s, The Bandits and Edgar Jones‘ various projects with their unmistakably Mersey sound that has roots in folk, sea shanties and blues. Frontman Matty Loughlin doesn’t feel there is a distinctive Liverpool sound at the moment but feels that “the ghosts of The La’s, Beefheart and The Bandwagon do always hang over guitar bands from these parts, which isn’t necessarily always a bad thing.”
In terms of what bands they feel akin to Matty said, “We seem to be drawing comparisons to bands like The Growlers, which is unintended but most definitely welcome. Someone dubbed us ‘Scouse Surf’ the other day, which is a new one to me, but yeah I’ll have that!”
The core of The Shipbuilders lies in the working relationship between the brothers Loughlin with Matty’s brother and guitarist Andrew. Comparisons with the battling Kinks brothers Ray and Dave Davies and the Gallaghers spring to mind and we asked Matty if similar sibling shenanigans were commonplace in The Shipbuilders’ camp. “Our Andrew has been thrown in at the deep end really, and it’s been great, he’s picked everything up dead quickly. Cheesy as it sounds, we’re mates anyway, so the whole ‘brothers in a band’ thing never occurred to me ‘til someone else pointed it out really.”
With a musical brother and a longing to play live, The Shipbuilders’ story is kind of inevitable. We asked Matty about the initial sparks of the band, which seem to stem from Matty’s desire to succeed in whatever shape or form. “The band started almost by accident – I’ve been in bands, on and off for donkey’s years, and so when the last one I was in fell apart as these things do, I was left with a bunch of songs, about 40 of them, old and new, just gathering dust.
“I got itchy fingers just sitting around my flat playing them endlessly to my long suffering other half, so when she gave me the kick up the proverbial to get out and play them live again, about a year ago, I set out with the aim of being in a bit of a fluid ‘collective’, with people coming and going as and when, some gigs being solo, others not, that type of thing.
“Great idea, but a logistical nightmare. After about three drummers and god knows what else, and the stress that all that brought, we finally settled on the current line-up and that ‘collective’ idea went out the window.“
If the summer bandstand gig is anything to go by the current line-up really works. Their songs that deal in the reality and mythology of Liverpool life, in very much the same vein as The Coral, are delivered tightly and you feel like you’ve known these melodies for years.
We assumed the band’s name came from the maritime culture that their city possesses, but were surprised to find out that it came from a much more inspired source. “The name The Shipbuilders comes from the Elvis Costello song ‘Shipbuilding’; I remember playing it on repeat the night Thatcher died after getting home from the… festivities in town… and being struck by what a boss name it would make for a band. Plus the connection with the docks and the mother Mersey and whatnot, all in all it just seemed to fit.”
With musical tastes and political leanings like these The Shipbuilders would surely fit in well with the ideologies of the average Liverpool scenesters. We asked Matty how he felt the band slotted into the current regional picture. “I’ve got loads of close mates in other bands, but I don’t know exactly how we fit in with the other bands in terms of any ‘scene’ or anything. Not that I’m trying to be elusive or holier-than-thou, but we’ve holed ourselves away in a bit of a bubble really, just working on the songs and our sound without really thinking about other bands. That might sound a bit stand-offish, but it’s not meant to be.”
We wondered what other Liverpool bands The Shipbuilders were listening to at the moment. “Mama Roux are boss, and last time I saw The Sneaky Nixons so were they. There’s always a deluge of good bands around, but they all seem to last about two minutes don’t they, so God knows where we fit into that.”
We imagine that Matty would wish The Shipbuilders longer than two minutes of fame and fortune and pressed him as to what he hoped for the band in terms of their success. “Well practicalities aside, I’d deffo want to take this as far as we could, world domination the lot! Has a scouse band ever played Tonga before?”
Before departing we asked Matty what is influencing them in these dour winter months. “The new British Sea Power boxset Sea of Brass is just stunning. They’re untouchable really, if I went into how much I loved them, it’d end up in ‘Pseud’s Corner’ in Private Eye, so I’ll leave it at that. Closer to home, Half Man Half Biscuit and Jimmy Campbell are never far away from the turntable, but that’s been a constant for me for years.
“The website Awesome Tapes from Africa has been getting a battering lately too, there is some mental stuff on there that is just mind-blowing, some real primal, raw stuff to be found alongside some magical hypnotic melodies and some real grooves. In terms of influence, I started writing a song that drew on that sort of stuff, but our Andrew reckoned it sounded like ‘Japanese Boy’ by Aneka, so that’s gone in the bin… for now.”
It is clear that The Shipbuilders are men of fine taste and devoted to bringing their music to those who deserve it. Darkening Vale has just been released on Soundcloud and Matty promises more new stuff shortly. Try and catch them at Studio 2 on November 27, we guarantee a night of brotherly love and some brilliant music.