INTERVIEW

“It’s quite funny doing your own thing; you can’t really just stop, can you?”

virals

“It’s quite funny doing your own thing; you can’t really just stop, can you? With a band you can split up, fall out or come to the end of what you’re doing but when it’s just you, well, it’s just you.” Shaun Hencher is in a reflective mood; jocular but reflective as he’s enjoying life on his own. Like us, he looks back fondly on five years of nerve-shredding, ear-splintering punk in Lovvers, a group he fronted and one that lead and defined the DIY resurgence of recent years. “I seem to always be in bands that when they’re finished everyone looks back with rose-tinted glasses,” he ponders. “We probably would have stopped Lovvers a bit earlier but we kept being asked to do cool stuff. Five years is a long time living that lifestyle, though, not knowing where you’re going to sleep. If we continued we would have compromised our friendships and no good music would have come of it.”

Ozzy, America and a couple of shit jobs later and Shaun’s sat in front of us as Virals. It turns out he’s a multi-instrumentalist with an ear for an infectious melody and a love of woozy doo-wop guitar pop. “I went back to Worcester, working where I was from, listening to the same music that I was listening to when I was 16, like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. I felt like I’d come full circle. Then I did a bit of travelling around America which was incredible.” And the shit jobs? “I made a new year’s resolution not to have any more of those, no more pot washing!”

Doing the dishes or not, Worcester re-energised Shaun’s love of music. An inspirational source of song writing in Lovvers, his craft never strayed too far away. “At home I could just play what I liked, be as silly as I wanted to be,” he explains. “Then, through time, I got more confidence and thought maybe people will want to hear the tracks. At first I thought people were just being nice, you know, they didn’t want to say, ‘Shaun, this isn’t my cup of tea.’”

His aligning-planets-moment came over a pint in his local pub, a place where Shaun used to promote shows and now records. “Yeah, it’s funny,” he says, “the landlord was my only real link to Worcester and he told me he had a studio after hearing my tracks. He said he’d do a better job so we went upstairs and just did it. From having a beer he’s offered me a studio and now a job so I basically spend all my time at the pub recording music or hanging out with people.”

The freedom Shaun has in his new habitat radiates through the peppy material of Virals, bouncy surf guitars and loose melodies all over debut AA single ‘Magic Happens’/’Comes The Night’ and his forthcoming EP. It’s a cliché, but he sounds like he’s having a ball.

“It is just fun really. It wasn’t supposed to be a band or anything, just something for me to do in the week. ‘Oh, tonight’s record music night and listen to records’, you know? It’s been going on since last year, so it’s only now stuff is happening.”

It’s Shaun Hencher as you’ve never heard before in more ways than one. In Lovvers Shaun’s vocals hung heavy in a dirty, dusky mix of fuzztone guitars; with Virals you can make him out every word. “I thought fuck it,” he says. “I’m just going to try and sing it, and so I did, but then deleted it straight away. Then I did it again and again and eventually I got over it and thought, you know, this isn’t too bad.” Once more it was the nostalgic move back to Worcester that cured his initial hesitance. “When you’re 14, you listen to what’s in front of you, right,” he explains. “Popular culture is presented nicely so you could hear Robert Plant, Ozzy, Sting or whatever. I just thought maybe that, what I’d listened to growing up and had started listening to again, would go well with the music.”

So just as Lovvers rode the vanguard, will Virals do the same – usher in a slew of pop-punk replicant’s behind as Shaun surfs the zeitgeist? He raises a wry smile. “I don’t really think other bands came in our wake with Lovvers, I just think we were doing something that got quite popular. A lot of American bands were doing the same thing and we had similar influences, we’d even get to play with those bands. I honestly don’t know much about what’s current and I’m really bad at listening to new music but I know what I like.”

Shaun’s easy going nature is rather at odds with his vision. He may be pretty reticent to display drive but Virals definitely contains ambition. His first release contained two glorious doo-wop tracks, laid to tape with Shaun playing all the instruments bar the drums. He even created the artwork himself.

“I’ve always done most of the artwork when it comes to my music,” he says. “When I was doing my next release [a 12” EP via London label Tough Love, coming May 7th] I handed over four songs and the cover art they said don’t you need a few weeks or anything… I think they were shocked. I’m just a bit sad,” confesses Shaun. “At home I’ve got 20 logos and 20 album covers.”

The EP is called ‘Coming Up With The Sun’, and promises to pick up where ‘Magic Happens’ left off. “Yeah, I’ve got a good idea of what I want this to be. I’ve grown up in the last year or so, the type of music I listen to and like is never going to change so I’m trying to take that on board in my own way and hopefully people will be into it.” Shaun’s yet to play a show as Virals, but he’s rallied together a band that are ready to. “I’m very much one of those people who say, ‘right, we are going on tour! But where are we going to sleep and eat?” he asks himself, perhaps taking this one man band thing a bit far. “‘I don’t know!’”

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