A Grave With No Name Interview

Scales from the crypt – Everyone digs the deathly serious A Grave With No Name

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Alex Shields, the prime mover and orchestrator behind London’s A Grave With No Name, shifts awkwardly as the photographer cajoles him into position. The flash, illuminating his pallid complexion, candidly captures his inability to conform to such social norms as he shuffles uncomfortably in the wake of his shadow. “I don’t really relate to that many people to be honest with you,” he explains timidly as he rustles through a bag of nuts and raisins. “I kind of keep myself to myself, but then a part of me hates that: I understand that I have to make an effort in life and with people… so that’s why I make music, it’s the only language I can speak in really.”

From the isolation of his bedroom, with his instruments, an eight-track and an understanding of melody, Alex has crafted a debut album, Mountain Debris, that sits in purgatory between the earthly melancholy of lo-fi grunge and celestial shoegaze. Its fractured sonic and visual aesthetic seems to explore the thin, fragile line between heaven and here. “I really believe that, and it sounds a touch pretentious, but melody and sound can be transcendental,” Alex explains earnestly. “[The album] is meant to take you on a journey and just be inside… It’s a world that I have created and I’m slightly fascinated as to how people react to it.”

For Alex and his bandmates, who are part of his live set-up – Thomas King (bass) and Anupa Madawela (drums) – this year has seen the release of a split 7” with Natural Numbers, an eponymous EP that sold out, and a warm reception by almost everyone who has stumbled into their world. And a tour supporting similarly haze-infatuated friends The Big Pink has furthered Mountain Debris’s chances of success when it is released November 30. “Going on tour with The Big Pink was the most fucking fun I have ever had in my life and you don’t get that unless you are in a band,” Alex reminisces with a wide-eyed excitement, “but [being in a band] means fuck all to me. It is literally about making music that is good and actually stays true to what I believe in.”

As you’d guess from their name, it’s hard to find any defining identity within Mountain Debris except for that of your own. The brittle beauty of the record creates fissures in the surface of reality only to be swamped with psychedelic solitude and melodic detail; what gravitates towards a certain sadness in sound is only uplifted by the grace that is distilled within its recording and your resulting mind’s voyage. Or, as Alex puts it: “There is beautiful melancholy and then there is self pity and I think that it resides on it being that kind of inspirational melancholy where you find beauty in art as opposed to the self absorbing side of it.”

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