Standing outside the back doors of Soyo with Hey Sholay smoking roll-ups amidst the boom of bands sound checking, this all seems typically rock’n’roll. But don’t let this fool you. These guys may like to play at pretend but they are the furthest thing from pretentious. Overdosing on Slush Puppies, communicating through mind-reading and what lies at the bottom of the River Don, are just a few of the random musings of Hey Sholay.
The great thing about Hey Sholay is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. On the flip side you’re never quite sure what is the truth, and what is a tall story. If they were a deck of cards, they would undoubtedly be, full of jokers. Ask a serious question get a surreal answer, that’s how it goes. When the band first met each other they were all playing in separate bands. Already, the interview unravels as I ask vocalist Liam how the band first met, ‘I started making music on a laptop and that was called The Band Who Mistook Their Wives For Hats like the Oliver Sachs book. But then we only made one track and that was released on cassette and then I met Laurie out fishing.’ Liam goes off on a tangent, ‘There’s some right shit in the Don isn’t there? There’s a T.V…’ ‘A tyre.’ offers bassist Stef who used the pseudonym ‘Zahid’ in their last interview. Guitarist Laurie joins in, adding a Reebok classic and a grandfather clock to the list. And so the randomness ensues.
There is certainly a veil of mystery surrounding the band member’s personas. Their bios on Myspace, Facebook and Twitter are cryptic, whilst their photo shoots are equally enigmatic, as they tend to hide their faces behind masks and bear costumes. Any particular reason? ‘That’s what we really look like.’ insists Stef. ‘We don’t want people to judge us on our looks ‘cos we’re hideous. It’s so people won’t think “Oh I’m not listening to them.” ’ jokes Stef. Although, it’s probably a good job these lads aren’t interested in fitting the X Factor mould. On a more serious note, Liam asserts that its all part of the creative process, ‘I suppose you’re just trying to match what you’re trying to do musically.’ So what about the interesting stories that appear in the form of bios? ‘I think that if you gave ‘em stuff on a plate, it’d be too easy.’ continues Liam. ‘It’s like, all the good bands from the seventies, your Led Zeppelin’s, bands like that, you just kinda wanted to get into that band and know them more, just because they had a bit of mystique about them.’ Laurie agrees, ‘I suppose it’s more exciting to hear Chinese whispers about people rather than things that are true. I mean, what are your favourite stories about say, Keith Richards? There’s probably something Ron Woods made up, like him [Keith] attacking him with a knife. It didn’t happen but it’s far more interesting than him saying, ‘He grew up in the Cotswolds.’
The band may use the internet to create their own rumour mill whilst entertaining their fans, but they also use websites like SoundCloud to let their music speak for itself. It was all thanks to this website that the wonderfully psychedelic, Hey Sholay were able to win NME’s ‘Play at Exit Festival’ competition last year. ‘I think the reason why we’ve had the gigs that are available is because of the blogs, and the blogs are linked up to SoundCloud and Myspace.’ Out of a handful of hopefuls, SoundCloud users chose demo, ‘Goodbyes and Gold Teeth (A Song For Sparrows)’ which was subsequently, put out as a single on Fierce Panda Records. The single was so well received at the festival, that they were able to secure a position at number three in the Serbian charts, something Liam modestly labels as ‘Quite impressive.’ In fact, Hey Sholay, have been so well received in Holland and Serbia that they have been invited back next year.
‘You’re gonna get compared to other bands all the time and it’s nice that with us it’s never consistent. If someone comes up to us after a show or reviews us [saying] “It’s like this crossed with this.” We never get the same bands so that’s kinda good. And it’s not a matter of consciously trying to develop into something weirder or more wonderful; it’s all just a train of thought, a thought process, writing songs’.
European festivals have been a welcome support for the band. ‘Exit’ has been especially supportive of eccentric new acts as Laurie elaborates, ‘It’s really cool they have a hell of an open mind because, can you remember the people who played after? Nipple People. It was a man and a woman who danced to other people’s top ten hits but one of them had a plastic pencil sharpener covering his face and the other one had a metallic paper bin. And they were just dancing like weird people. They’re really big in Croatia.’ And from the downright weird to the experimental and talented, Portishead, who also attended the 2011 festival, Laurie fondly describes their performance as ‘stunning’ and the guitarist as, ‘a lovely guy’ who now concentrates on producing bands in Nottinghamshire and whom they one day hope to work with, ‘He asked to do our EP but we were already recording at the time so we kinda missed out there but we might be doing some other release with the guitarist.’ explains Liam.
Let’s hope that bigger and brighter possibilities continue to open up for the band as previous collaborations include The Heebie Jeebies, ‘[We’ve done] a split single for Christmas. We had a gig at the Harley on December 23rd with Mad Colours, rewriting and playing each other’s songs. There’s gonna be 250 [singles] tops and in May it’s gonna be a proper single release with the album. So we gotta get some of that on vinyl.’ The band admit, ‘We’re big fans of vinyl.’ Sound quality is everything as Laurie explains, ‘The thing is, with anything, CD’s or whatever, they cut so many higher and lower frequencies out that vinyl doesn’t. So vinyl is scientifically way closer to the recording.’
But with a new single on the horizon for May, the band realised they should probably settle for the more accessible, CD. Closer to home, Hey Sholay played last summer’s Tramlines Festival as well as harnessing the help of Radio 1 to promote their internet hit, ‘Wishbone’ which was temporarily available for download, ‘We thought if people were hearing us all week on the radio, they would need something to listen to [after] as well, so we released it for a month for people to buy so it was essentially a single.’ While we’re on the subject of ‘mad colours’, Laurie tells me how their first demo was released on bright pink cassettes, before telling the not-so-rock-n-roll story of one too many colourful drinks, ‘Yeah, I OD-ed on Slush Puppy once when I was 16. I drank like three litres of it then collapsed. I broke my skateboard. I was quite fat back then. It was good though.’
There has certainly been a shift since the days of the typically indie, Arctic Monkeys in that, Sheffield bands are no longer afraid to break the mould and go in very different directions, ‘Which I think is healthy.’ adds Liam. So what do Hey Sholay think of the bands emerging in home towns, Leeds and Sheffield at the moment? ‘There are a lot of heavier bands doing well at the moment’ says Laurie. Liam agrees, ‘There’s a lot of heavy blues bands, isn’t there? There’s a blues scene which has been created in Sheffield.’ ‘An alternative blues.’ Laurie insists, ‘Not the classic stuff.’ Liam picks up on the use of the word ‘scene’. ‘It’s a convenient place, Leeds/Sheffield but as far as the scene goes…’ Laurie finishes the sentence, ‘I don’t think we’re really part of a scene.’ ‘No, we’ve never really jumped onto the back of someone else’s success. We’ve kinda just done our own thing.’ So, is being defined a good thing or do they find it far too restricting? ‘You’re gonna get compared to other bands all the time and it’s nice that with us it’s never consistent. If someone comes up to us after a show or reviews us [saying] “It’s like this crossed with this.” We never get the same bands so that’s kinda good. And it’s not a matter of consciously trying to develop into something weirder or more wonderful; it’s all just a train of thought, a thought process, writing songs.’ Liam agrees that they would rather be innovators than sheep simply following the herd, ‘Yeah and we do like to experiment a bit as well so it’s not just one style. I want to start trip-pop.’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqpUbUyPmdw
Having been picked by Drowned in Sound and BBC Radio 6 as winners of the ‘Summer 2012’s Must See Band’ competition, what’s next for Hey Sholay? Is the future of chart music in safe hands? ‘It’s nice to be playing music in Sheffield and people seem to enjoy it.’ Says Laurie. ‘Yeah it’s kinda growing nicely.’ responds Liam. ‘And the rest of the UK are starting to pick up too. It’s nice. Like in the charts at the minute, it’s all R’n’B which I like, pop music, love pop music, but there hasn’t been rock bands and alternative bands for quite a while so I predict there’s gonna be quite a lot of that. I think that’s gonna become popular again.’And finally, what’s the last thing the band really want to shout about? ‘Actually,’ Says Liam, ‘You need to get this into the interview. Dave Sanderson who co-produced our album, due out in the summer.He’s an amazing producer, busting his balls to get our record finished so we owe him big thanks and lots of hugs.’ Bless.