High Hopes: Henry's Funeral Shoe

“Everyone wears their best shoes to a funeral, don’t they? It’s a thing in our bit of Wales…” Aled Clifford is explaining his unpublished short story from which his band’s name – Henry's Funeral Shoe – originates.

A clunky moniker, perhaps, but the noise they make is worlds more invigorating: think demonic blues-rock’n’roll, with a steel-eyed brutality that brings to mind punk clubs and bloody fist fights. As a rock two-piece, parallels with the White Stripes and (more recently) Royal Blood are unsurprising, though HFS draw from elsewhere.

“I’m not a massive fan of those groups. And I think because I play slide guitar people see us a blues act, but I just see us as a rock’n’roll band. I grew up on blues and Nirvana, and later got into loads of hip-hop,” the singer/guitarist says. “I loved the film Crossroads; my friends were into the Steve Vai stuff, but I couldn’t get away from the slide of Ry Cooder and Robert Johnson.”

Growing up, Clifford had guitar lessons with local hero/Van Morrison collaborator Ned Edwards. Post-school, with arsenal of chops to hand, he spent an ultimately fruitless decade in a number of rock bands. On returning to Wales in 2008 he unexpectedly found himself a new venture with his brother, Brennig.

“A lot of it was down to his perseverance,” Clifford concedes. “I’d come back from London thinking I didn’t want to do this any more. But he’s ten years younger than me, and kept saying: ‘Come on, let’s jam!’ We had loads of fun; it felt right and ferocious.”

‘Ferocious’ aptly sums up much of new EP Comfortable Skin, though there are softer touches to be found as well.

Signed to Alive Records for their 2009 debut Everything’s For Sale, the Shoe began a jam-packed life of touring and writing. Their song Dog Scratched Ear soundtracked a Fiat advert in 2012, gaining them serious overtime and overseas listeners, although that didn’t translate into sales.

Still, musically they’re getting it very right. The new record matches their fearsome live set, led by a fiery Janice The Stripper Pt 1. “The Beatles used to play in Hamburg with a stripper called Janice, I think, as she did her show. So it came from that. And I always imagine strippers to be quite aggressive. I think they’d have to be.”

Musical differences between the brothers are minimal, helped by the fact that Brennig doesn’t listen to music, at all – aside from his hero Keith Moon. “But as a drummer he’s a natural,” Aled says. “When we’re recording we’ll do three takes max. And live he just doesn’t make a mistake. That gives us more freedom to be creative.”

The Who parallels don’t stop at Brennig’s drumming: “I’ve smashed a few guitars up at gigs,” Aled says, “just towards the end of the show when you’re really excited and the adrenalin’s amazing – it’s not contrived at all.”

Comfortable Skin is out now via Giddy Kipper

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.