Classic Rock

Henry’s Funeral Shoe

You don’t meet many Welsh noiseniks who are dodging aliens and taking on the Nazis.

- Words: Henry Yates

You don’t meet many Welsh noiseniks who are dodging aliens and taking on the Nazis. Here’s maybe the only one.

South Wales isn’t exactly known as a hotbed for dirty-blues duos. But then Henry’s Funeral Shoe have always gone against the grain. Citing everyone from the Stones to Spike Milligan as key influences, and taking their name from a short story about a shoe-stealing murderer, Aled and Brennig Clifford are a darker, funnier, spikier and more surreal propositio­n than most two-people operations. And with brass-bolstered new album Smart Phone Rabbit Hole giving this much-tipped duo their best shot at the title, it’s high time you tried the Shoe on for size.

They got together by accident. Back in 2008, Aled was an industry burnout with his career behind him.

“I’d been in a band with a big producer, recording at Abbey Road,” he recalls, “but I was hearing all these horror stories about the business. So I came home. But I was lost without a band. What are you supposed to do, start a fucking stamp collection? My brother kept pestering me to jam, and it just evolved. Me and Brennig, we’ll have arguments. We once didn’t talk for fourteen hours – I wouldn’t even tell him that night’s set-list. But our mum demands that any arguments are sorted before Sunday dinner.”

It’s only rock’n’roll (but you’ll like it). The go-to tag for Henry’s Funeral Shoe might be ‘blues rock’, but that doesn’t cover a sound that fuses punk, country and soul.

“I don’t like any of the terms journalist­s use,” says Aled. “You listen to some blues-rock bands and all they’re doing is murdering Born Under A Bad Sign. So I always say we’re just a rock’n’roll band. That’s what the Stones are. That’s what The Kinks are, even though they had a pop element. That’s what Primal Scream are, even if they make electronic-sounding music. We just plug in, and that’s the sound that comes out.”

Their lyrics are about paranoia and aliens. As a lyricist who cites Son House’s doomy Death Letter Blues as his favourite song, it figures that Aled’s new songs are a perfect storm of black comedy.

“The title track is about how everyone’s lost in their phones,” he explains. “The Fear is a real dark song about drinking too much and contemplat­ing why you’re standing on the planet. Firing Line is about my childhood memory of seeing an alien spaceship that looked like the Millennium Falcon. That was some mad shit.”

They’re hornier than your average rock duo. The trouble with the two-man format, Aled says, is that it can limit your songwritin­g.

“Duos can just bore you. So there’s a Stax sound on Firing Line, and that comes from listening to Little Feat, Exile On Main St and Quadrophen­ia, y’know, with the big horn section on 5:15 – that’s such a frigging great sound. I always wonder why big bands don’t always take horn sections with them. It’s such a joyful sound – like the dawn chorus.”

Their new album sounds like the world’s best lock-in. Ask Aled for the touchstone­s on Smart Phone Rabbit Hole and he’s ready with a soundbite: “It’s like Primal Scream and Rory Gallagher at a lock-in, doing Stooges and Bowie on the karaoke. That’d be a lock-in you’d never want to leave, wouldn’t it? I actually did get locked in a pub by accident once, in Holland. We’d been sat up drinking whisky, and when I woke up I’d been sick, with my head in this pedal bin.”

They’ve weathered storms and swastikas. A decade on the road has put the band in front of some dubious audiences, says Aled.

“I remember playing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Southern Rock Cruise in a storm, trying to stand still and sing while this ship is rocking back and forward. But the scariest one was in Belgium, in this death-metal club where the crowd were Nazis, with swastikas on their foreheads. At the end they bought our merch, and it was like, the people who influenced our music, they’d have fucking lynched from a pole!”

Smart Phone Rabbit Hole is out on September 20, self-released.

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 ??  ?? HFS’s Brennig (left) and
Aled Clifford: putting their best foot forward.
HFS’s Brennig (left) and Aled Clifford: putting their best foot forward.

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