And The Shots Rang Out...
Listen to Belfast's most promising young band with Lee Henry
Emerging Belfast band The Shots have an average age of just seventeen years old, but to hear their music you might be forgiven for thinking that they’ve been around for years.
Catchy, tuneful, intelligent and assured, their songs glisten like diamonds in the rough of Northern Ireland’s unsigned rock underworld.
As yet unsigned, the band have already notched up a Top 15 release in the Irish charts via Blast:Beat Volume 4, and recently put the finishing touches to their debut EP Morning Gone In A Drag – recorded in Donaghadee’s prestigious Blueroom Studios and produced by NI music scene veteran Pete Pratt.
Based around the mature song-writing talent of the band's guitarist, nineteen year old James Smyth, The Shots – namely Conor McGuiness on vocals, Ray Kinnaird on bass and keyboards and Phil Corrigan on drums – initially formed in 2004 under the moniker of the Noiseniks, honing their sound in West Belfast’s St Theresa’s Youth Centre under the tutelage of youth worker Liam Cunningham, now the group’s manager.
‘They have a really good practice room at St Theresa’s, so that’s where we started off, generally making nuisances of ourselves,’ bass player and main backing singer Kinnaird quips. ‘Phil was actually a late recruit. But I think we’ve got a lot tighter since he’s joined the band, especially live.’
Citing such bands as Led Zeppelin, Radiohead and Muse as their primary influences, the band’s sound is more reminiscent of Merseyside tunesmiths The Coral fused with the harmony-laden grit-rock of The Futureheads.
Uploaded onto their MySpace webpage, the four songs that make up their debut EP have already amassed a respectable 9,000 hits from converts throughout the UK and Ireland. The band have also entered themselves into the NME's New Bands web listings and are currently riding high in the Top Twenty.
One listen to 'Morning Gone In A Drag' and it's clear that The Shots aren’t your average garage rock band. Recorded, they sound like the finished article - very much like a modern day Undertones.
Early performances led Roadhouse Magazine to heap particular praise on the then sixteen-year old McGuiness, comparing the singer to Led Zeppelin front man, Robert Plant.
‘We were 16, 17 at the time and headlining our own gig with the Evangelists and Tin Pot Operation,’ The Shots de facto spokesman Smyth explains. ‘It was a daunting experience. Thankfully we had no idea that Roadhouse were even there. But to be told that we sounded like Led Zeppelin was absolutely amazing.
‘They wrote that Conor had put the previous bands to shame vocally, but that as a band, we had to have time to develop our own sound. That was two or three years ago.
‘I think we’ve definitely evolved since then. Whenever we went into the recording studio, we didn’t know what the results would be. But we were really happy in the end, and we’ve got a lot of new stuff in the pipeline.’
Recording their first EP in Blueroom Studios was an eye-opening experience for the band.
'I think the best thing about recording is arguing,' Smyth divulges and it seems that the recording studio was the making of The Shots.
'We would never have thought of using synths; essentially, we're a guitar band. But Pete really knows how to get the best out of bands. Without being too art-rock pretentious, we liked the thought of everybody playing something different, with the guitar playing one riff and the bass playing another. And with the synth lines running through songs like 'Morning Gone In A Drag' and 'Shivers', everything seemed to gel together. It's very important to have an open mind in the studio.'
Producer Pete Pratt was impressed.
'There's no doubt they've got a lot of promise,' Pratt enthuses. 'Individually they're all very talented musicians. We very rarely needed a second take on any of the four songs, which is a producer's dream really.
'A lot of the time new bands seem to fall behind schedule. But The Shots had a fair idea of what they wanted to do, they're very tight as a live act, and in the end we had plenty of time left over to let the songs settle and figure out where we wanted to go from there.
'I love all the tracks, especially 'Morning...' That intro is just fantastic. It’s only a matter of time before the various radio stations pick up on it. Catchy songs like that are made for radio.'
Part of an impressively diverse new wave of Northern Irish bands, The Shots are expected to make some waves of their own in the months ahead. For news of upcoming gigs go to the band's MySpace page.