In the spotlight – Shop Front Heroes

In the spotlight – Shop Front Heroes

In the spotlight – Shop Front Heroes are a five-piece rock band from Mid Wales comprised of Steve Yeomans (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, keys), Jake Owen (lead guitar, backing vocals), Tom Jaques (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Alex Middleton (bass guitar) and Matt Whitehouse (drums, backing vocals). The band takes influences from a vast range of artists and songwriters including Queen, David Bowie and The Killers. Their style smacks you with rock, pop, classic rock and alternative.

Let’s start at the beginning, how did the band form?

Jake: “Myself, Steve and Matt have known each other for a long time. We got comfortable playing in a fairly serious covers band for a few years but we always talked about writing our own music. Shop Front Heroes was the outcome! Tom joined in 2017 after we met out and about on the open mic circuit of Mid Wales/Herefordshire, Alex joined the band last year just after we finished recording the album.”

I was wondering, how did the band name come about?

Steve: “The name Shop Front Heroes really just came out of nowhere, off the cuff and unexpected. It’s about putting yourself out there. In the front window; wearing your heart on your sleeve, being honest in your creativity and being truthful. These are traits that we all think are heroic. That’s how it came about.”

Which bands and music do you count to your influences and how would you describe your music?

Jake: “I’d say we’re firmly in the rock/alternative genres. We’ve all got pretty varied tastes but there’s certainly a lot of crossover in our influences. Namely the music of Queen, David Bowie, Arcade Fire, The Killers and Queens of the Stone Age. As well as two or three guitars on each track, harmonies are a big part of our music and songs will often feature three or four vocal lines.”

What song would you send to someone unfamiliar with your music?

“We’ve got a couple more singles to release from the album which we are ecstatic about! We can’t wait to share those with you in the coming months but until then our most recent track is probably what I’d be most happy to share, the song itself, the recording quality of it all is what we’re keen to show off. Our very first single ‘Kicking In’ is a bit of a crowd favourite as well, we’ve played a few sets without it over the years but they never felt right! So I’d recommend the most recent stuff, plus that to get a good sense of our sound.”

What’s your songwriting process – does it come together in rehearsals or is there a primary songwriter?

Jake: “Steve is the main songwriter, in that he’ll come to rehearsal with a song he’s come up with on keys or acoustic guitar, the rest of the band typically then builds the complete track around that idea. We’re pretty democratic as a band and we’re all pretty vocal with suggestions and refinement of parts and structure until a song clicks into the finished article.”

Where do you find inspiration for the music and/or lyrics?

Steve: “Inspiration comes from everything I encounter, good or bad. The songs usually come from a feeling, and a desire to get whatever is in your heart and head through a microphone; get a sweet beat and some awesome guitar parts behind it and make it as powerful as it deserves to be.”

You recently released ‘Flowers for Algernon’, can you elaborate on what the song is about?

Jake: “The song ‘Flowers for Algernon’ shares its title with a fantastic sci-fi novel written in the 1950s by American author Daniel Keyes. It’s the story of Charlie, a man of below average intelligence who undergoes experimental brain surgery to raise his IQ, after seemingly successful results when performed on a mouse named Algernon. I won’t give any more away! “

“Steve woke up with the main riff in his head after just finishing the book the night before. He walked into his kitchen and saw a mouse on the floor just sitting there. Relaxed and happy. After picking him up and putting him in his pocket whilst he went to the woods to release him, the chorus just wrote itself.”

“It’s fundamentally about the synergy between Algernon and Charlie and the concept of the two being so fatalistically linked. It’s also a comment on how people want to see themselves and what they think is the definition of their happiness. Be careful what you wish for.”

‘Flowers for Algernon’ is the first single of your upcoming debut album. Why did you decide to release this one as the first single?

Jake: “It’s the opening track of the album and the immediate, continuous heavy groove of the main riff felt like a pretty cool way to introduce the album and, to a lot of people, the band.”

What can you tell us about the album? When will it be out?

Jake: “The album is called ‘SuperPowers’ and is due out this summer. We can’t be more specific than that as it stands due to a long wait for vinyl pressing! Date to be confirmed ASAP.”

“We recorded ‘SuperPowers’ at Rockfield Studios in our native Wales. It was an incredible experience spending two weeks there, recording at such an important place in the history of rock music. We brought together some great musicians to provide additional parts, strings, vocals, we even had a full Welsh male voice choir on one track (‘Caer Bryn’ – a future single, keep an eye out!).”

“All 12 tracks were mixed by Stew Jackson (Massive Attack, Emily Breeze) and mastered by Sean Magee (The Beatles, Queen, Rush, Radiohead) at Abbey Road Studios.”

Can you touch briefly on some of the songs on the album, as far as musical or lyrical inspirations?

Steve: “The songs on the album are so varied in their subject matter and inspiration. I guess the recurring themes are of hope, nostalgia, longing, frustration, self-doubt, self-confidence, longing for the things that made you happy once, family…mostly, it’s just honest and from the heart.”

I see you have quite a few music videos, is it important to you to put a visual element to your songs?

Jake: “I do feel that it’s increasingly important to have a visual element to songs. You just have to look at trends in social media to see how important shareable clips are for bands these days, for better or for worse! We’re very fortunate to have a talented and helpful bunch of mates willing to help us out. Namely Matt Joiner, based in Bristol, who’s an incredibly talented film maker and more recently Ben Middleton who filmed and edited the video for ‘Flowers for Algernon’. We’re so pleased with it and it’s gone down really well!”

What are your touring plans this year? Any gigs you’re especially looking forward to?

Jake: “We’re in the process of booking up shows for later this year and the goal eventually is to take a couple of weeks to tour the album. Two gigs we’re really looking forward to are at The Oxford in Bristol, as well as Rock The Barn, a festival near Hereford – both last weekend of July.”

If you could open a show for an artist who would it be?

Jake: “I’m sure we could each give many different answers to this! I’ll give you mine, rather than a collective answer, and that would be our fellow Welshmen, Manic Street Preachers. We played at the same festival as them a couple of years ago and it was such a great experience, getting to go and watch some heroes of mine shortly after playing to what was (at the time) our biggest ever crowd!”

What’s next?

Jake: “Gigs, getting the money together to pay for album overheads and a first UK tour. We’ve not stopped writing though and already have a few new songs ready for the second album!”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

Jake: “I think I’d have to say ‘Burn’ by Ederlezi. Haunting vocals, I love the production on the whole piece and the rhythm when it kicks in just grabs you.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

Jake: “I’d like to add ‘Rum River’ by Dusk Brothers. We’ve shared a stage with these guys many a time, based in Bristol, they make their own instruments from scratch. They joined us at Rockfield and both feature on SuperPowers, providing additional vocals and on one track a truly face-melting electric violin solo! Enjoy…”

More about Shop Front Heroes: website, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

Shop Front Heroes debut album ‘SuperPowers’ will be available this Summer 2023 on CD, vinyl and all digital outlets.

(Photo credits: Andy Compton)


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