Griffin Dickinson | Ryan Hamilton | Youssef Ashraf | Grant Leo Knight | Harry Jennings
It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for the genre-defying band SHVPES, but now, they have truly arrived. After taking their beginnings as tech-metal upstarts and joining forces with enigmatic frontman Griffin Dickinson on vocals in 2016 for their highly-praised debut ‘Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair.’, SHVPES rode the wave of acclaim that rapidly attached itself to their name. Armed with a refreshingly ambitious and daringly experimental brand of schizophrenic noise, they stood out from the infinite crowd of carbon-copy metallers like a sore thumb. And in no time at all, the Birmingham-based five-piece – completed by guitarist/vocalist Ryan Hamilton, guitarist Youssef Ashraf, bassist Grant Leo Knight and drummer Harry Jennings – found themselves sprawled across the pages of rock’s most prestigious magazines, accumulating tens of thousands of views on their electrifying videos, and supporting their favorite bands on the road. Everyone wanted a piece of the SHVPES action.
Despite the jaw-dropping hype that surrounded them in these two years, though, the group found themselves struck with the realization that they hadn’t fully unlocked their true potential. “I remember there being a dawning point,” the multitalented Griffin explains of the "lightbulb moment" they experienced following the release of ‘Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair.’. “It just felt like we had something missing. We were saying: ‘That doesn’t represent our talent.’ We weren’t as proud of it as we wanted to be.”
And so, rather than coasting on the external triumph, SHVPES put their heads down with a newfound determination, and set to work on the full-length’s follow-up. “Straight away, it was like, ‘We need to make a better album – this obviously hasn’t hit the spot,’” Griffin remembers. “We want to make something that we’re over the moon with.” The band assembled in the picturesque surroundings of Snowdonia, Wales, and this is where they began forming their greatest songs to date.
As is the way when you’re encompassed by a group of highly-skilled musicians, the quintet weren’t short of crisp concepts for the tunes that would go on to mark the next era of SHVPES. “We had so many musical ideas,” Griffin smiles proudly. “And we had a bunch of songs that we were like, ‘Let’s not try and turn something that’s 70 percent good into something that’s amazing; let’s go with something that’s 100 percent good and build on it.’” Taking inspiration from hardcore-meets-soul mob FEVER 333, legendary rap-rockers Limp Bizkit, and everything in-between, SHVPES then united once more with producer Jim Pinder to nail down a more musically cohesive – but no less breath-taking – iteration of their sound.
Thematically, too, SHVPES’ brains were working overtime when they rolled up to the Treehouse Studios in Chesterfield to start recording album number two. Having collectively dealt with enough hardships to last an entire lifetime over the past couple of years – robberies, infidelities, violence, addiction, anxiety and depression – they bravely opened up in a way few would dare to. “We wanted to shine an honest and authentic look at how we dealt with it all, even if that meant it was an imperfect example of things,” Griffin reveals.
Combine SHVPES’ formidable attitude with their mind-blowing fusion of hip-hop, metal, alternative rock and urban elements, and you’ve got colossal bangers like the explosive "Undertones". It’s music for those who aren’t afraid of embracing a little eccentricity, and SHVPES know it probably won’t be for those with vanilla tastes. “What we’ve done is somewhat bold, but I’m not worried about people getting pissed off – they can take it or leave it. A lot of people are going to absolutely love it,” Griffin says with total poise.
A release overflowing with such ambition deserves a title to match, then. That’s why the band have opted for the symbol for ‘greater than’; not only because the figure itself plays off the old-school mixtape vibe SHVPES are working towards aesthetically, but because this album is surely set to take the band to the next level. “We realised that if we put out another album that was only a bit better than the last one, it would probably be the end,” Griffin admits of the release. “We’d be maybe touring the UK once or twice a year, and playing some small club shows, and I don’t want to do that. I want this to be my life.”
Griffin needn’t worry. What SHVPES have created will catapult them into the elite leagues they’ve been preparing themselves for since the very start. And not only will ‘>’ consume their lives in this fearless new chapter; it could well take over your life, too.
Grant Leo Knight