To divorce Sam Fender’s music from his Northern England roots is near impossible.
The colour of industrial, impoverished and often forgotten North Shields, England saturates the 24-year-old’s guitar-fuelled indie rock, creating a repertoire that is gritty, unflinching and starkly different from the plethora of soft-core romantics like Ed Sheeran or Sam Smith.
“Where I’m from definitely plays a part in my music because it is intrinsically part of who I am,” says Fender. “When my parents divorced at 10 I moved from a terrace house into a small flat. We could only work a certain number of hours a week and the majority of our money was coming from benefits. We were on the bones of our arse. There was no such thing as savings.”
Growing up on the precipice of poverty has given Fender a curiosity and compassion for those surviving in the chasm below. His debut album, Hypersonic Missiles, tackles subjects such as young male suicide rates on the track “Dead Boys.” In addition to gritty and grounded lyrics, the album, produced in Fender’s self-made warehouse, is loud, occasionally bombastic post-punk with hollering Buckley-esque vocals layered on top. It packs the heat and meaning of Brit-rock with a soulful modern twist.
Nevertheless, Fender is humble — he refuses the mantle of working class hero.
“I’m not on some crusade,” says Fender. “I don’t like to say I’m working class but I am from a working class family and I’m from a working class town. I’ve experienced many different financial situations throughout my life. I would say that what I am is a common person and I can stand for that.”
With venues like New York and LA already sold out on his upcoming North American tour, Fender is clearly finding international resonance. Perhaps this is because, while North Shields might be in a frozen corner of an island an entire ocean away, the stuff he writes about and the common people he speaks to are found in every corner.