They say don't work with children or animals, but this 'they' are not aware of the 405's obsession for all things cat-related.

This edition of Acts and their Cats is part traditional '405 meets' interview, part 'holy crap, look at how cute those kittens are', so apologies if you were expecting the usual Q&A format. The 405's Amelia Maher and Hollie Fernando met up with the fantastic Shura to talk about her origin story, and her plans for the future.

Check out the entire 'Musicians and their Pets' Mega Series by clicking here.

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Acts and their Cats: Shura

Emotions. They're funny things and they often get in the way when we least want them to. They can make a seemingly normal situation incredibly awkward, stop us speaking our mind or cause more pain than necessary when we don't know what to do about them.

Shura is a woman who knows all too well about the trials and tribulations of emotions and first hit us with her relatable, and catchy-as-hell synth pop odes to awkwardness over a year ago in the shape of the unmissable 'Touch', which quickly racked up thousands of plays on Soundcloud and sent Hype Machine into overdrive. "I remember being stuck at work on the internet, and it must have been 2-3 days since the Soundcloud link for 'Touch' went up and I started refreshing the page every minute and the plays were going up by a thousand a minute and in my head I was just like "maybe I'm making this happen! Keep pressing refresh!"


Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura

Singing about the unspoken feelings that simmer under the surface, her songs have become the soundtrack to shy lovers and over-thinkers alike, "I found emotions really difficult to deal with when I was a kid. In Disney movies when people kissed, I would walk out the room and get out my toy gun. So for me, music was very exciting because I was always really awkward with emotions."

In many ways, music became Shura's main outlet for her feelings as she explains how writing a song can act as a kind of therapeutic exercise. "It's a really bizarre place to be in" she ponders, "because you can't say something to your friend, or someone you're attracted to do, but you can say it to 10 million people via YouTube and in a song. I think it's the way a lot of artists are, maybe that's why they do what they do. Sometimes it is easier to say something in the form of a song rather than saying it in real life... You're also not committing to it. By virtue of making it and sharing it, you are letting other people in. You no longer even have ownership over your own emotions, which kind of takes them off your shoulders in fact."


Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura

Growing up in Manchester meant that Shura honed her musical craft amongst a thriving open mic scene where her dad would drive her from venue to venue where she would play to crowds much older that herself: "when you're 16, you think that. You think [that you] can go to a pub full of grown men and women and talk about love like you actually have a clue and they will totally want to hear about what you want to say."

Living in Manchester also meant that she inevitably developed an interest in The Smiths, "I am obsessed with Johnny Marr and his style of guitar playing" she professes. It therefore seems apt that her latest sonic offering, the brilliantly catchy and understated '2Shy' should share the same ethos of The Smiths' song 'Ask' which was written in 1986, where the same reluctance to let go and have confidence arises.




Yet, whereas 'Ask' allegedly first came together from a few chords played on an acoustic guitar in a library, '2Shy' was mostly penned whilst standing outside Tesco in Shepherd's Bush. "I literally walked down Uxbridge Road in the middle of the night and kind of stood on the corner of Tesco and thought about what it meant to me. I find sometimes, walking or commuting is the best time to find lyrics, because you're not sat with a pen and paper trying to be profound, you're just letting thoughts come to you."


Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura

The song is paired with a hypnotic video that features dancers moving in weird ways under an eclipse "I spoke to the director David about the song basically being about being alone and loneliness and that's the idea behind the helmet [in the single artwork] and being alone in space. So he came up with this very beautiful concept that revolved around an eclipse - which I was going to love as a sci-fi fan- of all these people being united in this celestial moment, uniting all these people in loneliness and this stillness... whether that is immediately obvious, I don't know. I haven't really discussed the concept with anyone actually before, and I kind of thought that it was a really beautiful video. These are all people who don't necessarily feel they fit in, or that they are trying to find where they fit in in this universe, which is what I guess we are all trying to do anyway."




As a producer as well as songwriter and video producer, and self-directing her first video for 'Touch' which at the time of writing has racked up around 11 million views on YouTube, Shura describes herself as a self-confessed control freak when it comes to her creative work. "I've always been like this, whether it was recording on an 8-track minidisc recorder when I was 16 or GarageBand when I was a little bit older on my Mac. I love that feeling of having something in your head - because, maybe I'm not a super-skilled producer, and it might take a long time for the thing that is in your head to be in your ear, [but] there's a kind of beauty in the failure."


Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura

When we talk about how she first starts with the idea of a song in the first place, that development from early teen writing to the songs we hear today becomes apparent. "It's changed a lot since I was a teenager, you know I would just pick up a guitar if I was feeling really angry or upset, and it would all come at the same time and sometimes that's a really great way of writing, and sometimes I still do that and it's a really pure form. Sometimes I'll listen to stuff and just be like "that beat is really good!" and try and recreate that beat, and from there you will be inspired to make something else that's maybe different. It really depends on what mood I am in; whether I feel like an acoustic troubadour or a synth wizard or if I feel like J Dilla it depends on how I wake up as to what comes out."

As she works towards recording her debut album which she hopes will be ready by the end of the year, this inevitably means she has a lot of work to do involving a lot of 'pyjama time', and her apartment is full of professional recording equipment as she works through long nights of home recording sessions. "I love working late. I love that feeling where all you can hear is what you are doing, and you think that you should probably just go to sleep, and you lie in bed and think 'oh wait, I could put that synth part in there and then...' and you go back to the computer. And you become kind of hypnotised by your work."


Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura

In just over a year, Shura has gone from bedroom producer to signing a major record deal, having the likes of Warpaint and Jungle remix her songs as well as Mumford and Sons covering '2Shy' for their Radio One Live Lounge session and playing her first proper sold out shows. "Before I would play and my friends would come down and people would say it was nice. But it was never a ticketed thing. Playing that first London show, where I didn't know 70% of the audience and they had spent £9 on a ticket and realising I had to be alright, that actually I really have to do a good show. Realising the responsibility of having people spend money on your music that they've saved up for. You can't like faff around anymore."

As daunting as that seems, life doesn't look like it will slow down anytime soon as Shura looks forward to a summer of festival performances and has just released a stream of UK live dates set for later this year. For now though, she is recording at home alongside her adorable kittens who - if you're wondering - really seem to like her music too.

You can visit Shura by heading to her official website.


Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura
Acts and their Cats: Shura