Shed Seven’s Rick Witter: ‘We’re a better band now than we ever were’

Shed Seven

Shed Seven

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Rick Witter, frontman of the ebullient Britpop stars Shed Seven, is certainly hoping that playing at Victorious Festival goes better than last time they were in town.

The York-based five-piece will play the Castle Stage on Southsea Common on Sunday, August 24. But in late 2009, when they performed at The Pyramids Centre, it was a less than enjoyable experience for the singer.

‘I remember it well,’ he recalls. ‘I’d done the soundcheck and didn’t feel great, and then we did the gig and I was feeling worse and worse.

‘Because we had a day off the next day, we planned on spending it in Portsmouth and having a bit of a laugh, but I had to go see a doctor.

‘I had bronchitis and a chest infection together, so I spent my day off in a hotel room in Portsmouth, sweating like a pig, couldn’t move, and worrying about the gig in London the next day.’

But the Going for Gold hitmakers made it to the London show: ‘I remember mouthing through the microphone at the start, “I’m not feeling too well, you’re going to have to help me,” and everyone at that gig sang every word.’

However, Rick’s looking forward to coming back: ‘It’s been a while since we’ve been down to that part of the country, but there’s already a bit of a buzz about Victorious – people tweeting me and that.’

While the band were chart fixtures during the latter half of the ’90s, scoring a slew of hits, including Disco Down, Getting Better and Chasing Rainbows, by 2003 they decided to call it a day. Rick formed a band, The Dukes, and the others followed their own paths, mostly staying in music.

But the band stayed friends, and in 2007 decided to put a few shows together.

‘It was solely because we missed playing live.

‘It was a simple conversation over lunch – why don’t we book a week of gigs and see how it goes? But it went through the roof, we had to book bigger venues and it took us by surprise.

‘I think we’re a better band now than we ever were because there’s no pressure on us. We’ve got no deal, no-one to answer to.

‘We know we’ve got a loyal fanbase. Don’t get me wrong, if we booked a gig and no-one turned up we’d know it was time to stop, but that hasn’t happened yet.’

With his tongue ever-so slightly in cheek, he adds: ‘We’ll be like the Rolling Stones – dusted down every couple of years and sent out on tour.’

‘I do like our own gigs because you’re guaranteed people who’ve bought tickets are there for you and they know exactly what they’re going to get and what we’re going to give ‘em. We’re there to play those songs, we play them well, the crowd enjoys it and everyone’s a winner.

‘But festivals are a kind of a challenge. You will get a few people who are there for us, but you also get the passer-by at the back of the crowd who’s walking from one stage to another, and to reel them in is quite satisfying.’

With Britpop now celebrating its 20th anniversary, there’s been a lot written recently about the period. But Shed Seven were never among the movement’s critical darlings

‘We’re one of the only bands from that era who are still actively going with the original line-up and I think that might have a lot to do with the fact that the press weren’t big fans,’ says Rick.

‘We were lucky to have a strong fanbase who would buy every single religiously, regardless of the reviews.

‘Not all journalists were like this – some of them liked us – but when the music weeklies would review us, they wouldn’t mention the song, they’d just slag us off.

‘When Britpop is written about in a celebratory way it’s all Oasis, Blur, Pulp and Elastica, and when it’s written about in perhaps not such a good way, we might be included. We never chose to be part of it, we were just lumped in with it.

‘I’m not dissing Britpop because it was a great time, but you will never see the like of it again, certainly in terms of a musical movement because these days it’s too easy to buy one song for 79p with one click of a finger. It takes the whole heart out of everything, so I am quite proud we were involved in it.’

On Monday, Polydor is giving their first three albums the deluxe re-release treatment. Rick and bass player Tom Gladwin went through the archives to help compile the bonus disc of B-sides and rarities that accompanies each one.

‘It came from the record company, and they’re probably looking at it in respect of the Britpop 20-year thing.

‘We found some songs there I’d forgotten we’d even written, so it was good fun for us. I felt it was really important if we were going to do this, we had to do it well and not rip the fans off. Fair play to Polydor, they’ve done a good job of putting it all together.’

But will there ever be any new music from the band? ‘We’ve talked about it countless times, but we find it hard enough as a band to get together to have a meeting to decide on which festivals to play – the thought of actually sitting down and writing, recording, mixing and releasing something...

‘It’s not something we’ve sacked off, but I think we’d all have to be 100 per cent into it for it to work, and that’s not the case at the moment.

‘We probably wouldn’t announce that we’re going to do it – why put extra pressure on ourselves? It’s a good decade since we’ve written anything together and we’d need to get back on that horse.

‘We’re not ruling it out, and hopefully one day people will get to hear new Shed Seven product, but not yet.’

Shed Seven play Victorious Festival on Sunday, August 24, with Seasick Steve headlining. Dizzee Rascal, Tom Odell are on Saturday with many more acts on both days. Advance tickets are £20 a day, go to victoriousfestival.co.uk

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