”It just started as a fun thing to do” – Virals Interview

16 Nov

Not much phases Shaun Hencher these days. After the break-up of his former band, cult favourites Lovvers, he effectively went to ground, eschewing music and working the nine to five instead. He openly admits to falling out of love with the process and drudgery of being in a band, ”It all, kind of, got a bit turgid”, but the joy of playing and desire to make music for fun never left him.

Now he’s back, sounding relaxed, enjoying doing his own thing for himself and making ”meat and potatoes rock”. When we meet at Norwich Sound and Vision he seems entirely at peace with the world. Writing for himself has reinvigorated Hencher. He’s no longer second guessing anything, the coolness of a sound or how people may react to it, ”I kind of kept writing music without the constraints of being in band, just writing all different types of songs”. His attitude is not quite ‘who gives a fuck what anyone thinks’ but in a sense he has been liberated and the results, his work now as Virals, is probably the best he has done.

”It just started as a fun thing to do”

The irony here is, as so many people strive and strain to make music and be successful, he pretty much fell into Virals. What began as Hencher just playing around has quickly escalated, ”[It] just started as like a fun thing to do”, he explains. ”Just something to do a few nights in the week, and then we got to put out some records and now we’re playing some shows as and when we get asked to do them. I didn’t really plan to do any[thing]”.

Interest and praise may have come quickly but he has learnt from experience and his relaxed attitude remains when considering the possibility that Virals has a shelf-life. ”All the bands I’ve been in before have always been driven by my enthusiasm. I want to do something that’s driven by other people’s enthusiasm i.e if no-one likes it, I’m alright with that”. There is a chink in his laissez faire armour mind you, a glimmer of troubles past perhaps, “there’s nothing more depressing than playing a gig every day for like, 10 weeks, and there not being anyone there”. You sense there will be no flogging of dead horses with Virals. If people don’t like the music, so be it. Similarly, if his band-mates can’t or don’t want to gig, he won’t force them. ”We can do stuff and like everyone’s up for doing it. I don’t wanna be ‘this is my thing’ and getting people to play and saying ‘right we’ve gotta do this’ cause then it creates a bad vibe and bad vibes leads to no more gigs. So I’m just trying to be realistic with it and trying to play when we can”.

His laidback approach should not be mistaken for a lack of ambition, he may be taking it as it comes but that does not preclude a desire to do well, or to do more. ”My main aim for the whole thing was just to record like a record, just like a full length record”. But plans, like his conversation which can dart off in new directions leaving sentences hanging, unsaid in the air, are fluid and there is no guarantee of an album, yet. What we are sure of is a new EP, Strange Fruit, (the first track from which, “Summer Girls”, you can stream below) in the New Year. ”I’ve got a new record coming out in January which was finished in the summer, that’s another 4 songs so in total there’s 10 that are gonna be released”.

“I don’t ask people’s opinions very often anymore”

Having 10 ”really good songs” was his original aim and with them all released, a full length remains uncertain. ”That’s a big undertaking to then start again, writing all these songs so I’m kind of debating in myself whether I should keep trying to put out like 7”s and little EPs”. Which leads us to the considerate side of Hencher, as well as the contradictory. He is reluctant to record an album for fear of putting people out, requiring people to tour extensively to do it justice, preferring instead to do shows as and when in support of smaller releases. He wants to keep it fun, but he won’t rule it out entirely, ”if everyone was telling me ‘it’s the bees knees’ maybe I would [record and tour an album]”.

His point about being driven by others enthusiasm is there again, something he obviously craves but not something he is actively seeking. Instead he embraces his new ‘just playing for me, for fun’ attitude ”I don’t ask people’s opinions very often anymore”. Critics opinions are not sought either. The music presses predilection for labels and classifications doesn’t sit well with Hencher, breeding, as he suggests, ”slacker journalism”. The variety and nuances of music are no longer appreciated once a label has been attached. A band is associated with a sound, that’s their sound. ”I’m interested in music, but like the journalism is so lazy, it must take them like about four or five minutes to write these reviews so I don’t really spend a lot of time reading them”. Indeed he rarely reads reviews at all, let alone of his own music. Now it is only when he is brought something and enthusiastically told to ‘check this out’ that he will take time to read what has been written. It wasn’t always like that though.

“Before I used to be quite precious about it and quite uptight, and read all these negative things, and all these silly reviews of shows and records and it would bother me, but now I’m really not that arsed”.

There is no sense of lingering resentment, no sign of frustration. So relaxed is Hencher that it’s hard to believe he has even been uptight about anything. He is happy to just sit and chat as the festival begins around us, conversation flowing easily. He is attentive and candid; unlike those sitting around us at other tables, there is no constant reaching for a phone, for a distraction. Social media is not of interest, his Facebook page was suggested as a way of updating fans about shows and releases, so that is what it does, nothing more. ” I come from a time when, although I don’t view myself as being particularly old, I still come from a time where I remember to book a tour you’d ring like somebody up! Or there was a network of friends of people and everyone kind of worked with each other to kind of….you couldn’t just like have a Facebook or MySpace or whatever and know instantly people check it out”.

“I suppose I just grew up in a period when things were done slightly differently and I am a bit of a romantic”.

That romanticism can be seen in his approach to writing. It’s not about making money or being an industry, it’s about having fun, about playing for the love of playing. He doesn’t worry about keeping up with trends or buzz bands, about being up with or even using modern technology, “I don’t just whack on my iPod […] I only buy records on vinyl now”, it only really matters if he likes the music and enjoys playing it. If other people dig it, that’s brilliant and he will happily share his music for as long as they do, but it is something he is entirely relaxed about. Indeed, he is relaxed about pretty much everything.

His tranquillity is a stark contrast to his frenetic on-stage persona, who performs like a real showman, rattling through songs at breakneck speed flinging himself around as he plays and sings. Given his new laidback approach to music and writing, it is much more likely that he is merely having fun and playing as if there was no one else in the room.


The Strange Fruit EP will be out on 14 January 2013.

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One Response to “”It just started as a fun thing to do” – Virals Interview”

  1. Name (required) December 28, 2012 at 21:29 #

    What a down to earth sounding chap. When I saw him play once he raced through his set like he was holding us all up!

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