HEADSHRINKERS (l-r, clockwise from bottom left): Matt Whalen (drums), Xavier “Xav” Al-Naqib (bass), Garran Hickman (vocals), James Knott (guitar)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
PHOTO by ROSIE MULHERN
From the West Midlands, indie/punk four-piece Headshrinkers formed in 2018 with a determination to craft great songs, and perform live sets that would leave a lasting impression on audiences everywhere.
Last year, the band unveiled ‘Underclass‘, their debut single, to a positive response, and having just brought out its follow-up track, ‘Where She Plays‘, they chatted to me about such things as that, lyrical influences, future plans, and more.
How did the band initially form?
Aside from knowing of each other for most of their lives, living in the small town of Wall Heath, Garran and James properly met in their local pub, and he told James that they needed to start a band together. A few days later, they started writing tunes, then they recruited Xav and Matt, and it all went from there.
How did the name Headshrinkers come about?
We found the word written on a 1950’s flyer from a cinema, which was located in Stourbridge town centre, and is now demolished.
No, we’re only joking! Actually, there’s not much of an interesting story to the name, it’s an Oasis song. We’re not even huge fans of Oasis, but we thought that it would be a cool band name. It also happens to be the name of some kind of wrestling team from the 1980’s, although we weren’t aware of that until afterwards.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
Lyrics are really important to us. Garran writes the lyrics as poetry, which we then put to music as a band. At the moment, we’re experimenting with different sounds and styles.
What inspires the band lyrically?
GARRAN HICKMAN (vocals): I try and mirror myself when writing. My lyrics seem to be quite self-destructive at times, so I don’t know what that says about myself. Maybe I’m a bit awkward, or maybe a little weird, I don’t know.
I also try to capture modern life, as I think it’s important that we all address how we are currently feeling at this present time. Everyone should be honest with themselves.
Last year, you brought out your debut single, ‘Underclass’. How was the reaction to it, for you all personally?
The reaction was brilliant, and we were buzzing with the support we received. We hadn’t been a band for very long when we released it, and the first time we got played on the radio, we were all listening to it together, really excited. That really gave us a push to want to keep going bigger.
The band recently unveiled a new track, ‘Where She Plays’. How was the recording process for that?
We recorded with Gav Monaghan at Magic Garden in Wolverhampton. Gav is a brilliant producer, he really knows how to get the best out of a track, and us as band. We knew how we wanted it to sound going into the studio, and it came out sounding even better. He’s worked with so many great artists, so it was a pleasure to be able to work with him, and so easily, too. Gav is the fifth Shrinker.
And how does your latest release differ stylistically to ‘Underclass’?
‘Where She Plays‘ is more melodic than ‘Underclass‘. ‘Underclass‘ came at a time when we were all angry about what was going on politically, where as ‘Where She Plays‘ is a bit more introspective. As a band, we never want to do the same thing twice, and our sound has been evolving since we formed.
You have been getting a reputation for putting on live sets that are frantic and forceful. How is the experience – for you all – of playing on stage?
GARRAN: Once I enter the stage, I have to be the best, I have to give it everything I’ve got. I can’t do anything else. That stage is mine. When I see James, Xav, and Matt giving it their all, I have to step it up a level.
We put everything into our live shows, as it’s so important for us to make the whole show something special, and more than just the music.
Now that the single has come out, what are the band’s plans for the near future?
We’re planning on growing our fanbase throughout the UK. We want to constantly improve by trying different sounds, and trying to write better songs. There is no better feeling than when you have just written your best song to date, hence why we are constantly writing. It’s become almost like an addiction, and we’re way beyond obsessed.
And lastly, what is your long-term aim?
To be the best British punk band the world has ever seen.
‘WHERE SHE PLAYS’ – THE LATEST SINGLE FROM HEADSHRINKERS – IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: