Michael Alexander speaks to singer and guitarist Darren Forbes about the pandemic, playing with his heroes and raising money for a local good cause.
It’s more than 18 months since Kirkcaldy-formed band Shambolics took a huge step towards the big time when they were signed by Oasis music mogul Alan McGee.
The four-piece got off to a flying start in spring 2020 when they sold out St Luke’s in Glasgow – their biggest gig to date – and had high hopes for the rest of the year.
However, just days later, the UK was plunged in to lockdown forcing the cancellation of all live gigs.
The band made the most of it with a series of online events.
These included a series of weekly cover versions to lift spirits including a re-imagination of Fleetwood Mac’s timeless ‘Everywhere’, Abba’s ‘Mamma Mia’ and more recently The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil’.
The cover versions followed a succession of singles on Alan McGee’s Creation 23 label, including the 2020 release ‘Sandra Speed’ plus ‘Chasing A Disaster’, which saw the band receive airplay on Steve Lamacq’s BBC6 Music Show and championed by Clash Magazine for their “soaring guitar pop that recalls everyone from The La’s to Blossoms and beyond”.
However, Shambolics’ gigs are renowned for feeding off the energy of a live crowd, and with 2021 now underway, singer and guitarist Darren Forbes told The Courier there’s no doubt it’s something he’s missed.
Having returned to his mum’s in Fife for Christmas but in the process of setting up a larger studio in Glasgow to replace his Eggman Studios set-up in Dunfermline, the 25-year-old is hopeful that 2021 will allow a return to live gigs when the time is right.
However, having recently had the “total honour” of working with Kyle Falconer of The View and James Allan of Glasvegas as part of a special live streamed gig Shambolics organised to raise funds for Kirkcaldy Foodbank, he feels hungrier than ever for success.
“This has made me realise how much I live and breathe live music,” he adds.
“To be honest, I think loads of us took it for granted and when it was taken away from us we realised how much we miss it.
“I’m dying to get back to touring.
“We’ve got a tour in April – it’s nearly sold out in lockdown – and it looks like that’s going to go ahead if the vaccine makes a difference.
“Our plan for 2020 was a 1000-capacity gig for Glasgow. That’s the goal now for the new year. We want to step it up to 1000 cap by end of 2021.”
The professionally staged fundraising gig, which livestreamed on December 17, was pre-recorded at iconic venue the Caves in Edinburgh.
Darren said that ever since the band raised £1300 for Kirkcaldy Foodbank through an intimate benefit concert held at Kirkcaldy’s Wheatsheaf Inn at Christmas 2019, he had always been minded to stage another event for the foodbank this year.
However, while the unforeseen impact of Covid-19 had forced the cancellation of all gigs, he and the band had been determined to stage an alternative fundraising event that was broadcast online instead.
“I’ve used foodbanks before and I’ve got family members in that position which is why every year I want us to give something back to the community,” says Darren, who grew up in the Templehall area of Kirkcaldy.
“I just feel like if we’ve got the platform now to be able to raise money quickly for the foodbank then we should be doing something to help.
“I don’t live in Kirkcaldy anymore – I moved to Glasgow – but it’s where I’m from.
“Doing this for Kirkcaldy is a good thing with all the donations going to the foodbank, but it was a big event as well with Kyle Falconer of The View and James Allan from Glasvegas joining us.
“They are heroes of ours and to hear those names connected with Kirkcaldy Foodbank is class.”
The gig was welcomed by Joyce Leggate, chairman of Kirkcaldy Foodbank, who was delighted that Darren and the band were doing another gig to fundraise for Kirkcaldy Foodbank.
“The increase in demand (in 2020) has increased our costs significantly and as many of our regular fundraising efforts have had to be curtailed we welcome support such as this during these difficult times.
“Kirkcaldy Foodbank has been busy throughout the pandemic with many people having to turn to us for support for the first time due to the financial impact of the pandemic.
“Thankfully the public have continued to support us with donations throughout the past months and we have been able to meet that demand.
“We are continually working to improve the nutritional value of our food parcels and have been adding more protein enriched foods as well as fresh fruit and vegetables to our range.
“This was helped by a grant award received earlier in the year.”