Interview: Scouting for Girls

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An English indie rock band, first formed in 2005 and signed by Epic Records two years later, Scouting for Girls are a London-born trio consisting of Roy Stride, Greg Churchouse and Peter Ellerd. Known for hits such as ‘This Ain’t a Love Song’ and ‘Elvis Ain’t Dead’, the band dominated UK charts and their first album went triple platinum. To date, Scouting for Girls have sold approximately two million records and in July of this year released a Greatest Hits album.

Tell me Greg, how long have you been playing the bass?

I started playing the bass when we started Scouting For Girls in 2005. Before that I played lead guitar in our bands when we were 15 years old. Like the other two, I am self-taught.

You were friends with the others before you started playing. Do you think one of the reasons for your success is because you’ve been playing together for so long?

It’s been nothing but beneficial…We’re friends before we’re bandmates. Me and Roy met on the first day of senior school when we were 11, and Roy and Pete had met a few years before that when they were in the Cub Scouts. The band was a natural product of an already formed friendship.

Did you ever think back in the day that you would be as successful as you are?

Never. It’s really weird thinking we used to go to our modest rehearsal studio on a Friday night with a couple of beers and now we play arenas. We always hoped we would make a living out of it, but we never thought we’d be as big as we turned out to be.

Can you tell me about the song writing process?

Roy is our main songwriter. He loves nothing more than to sit in the corner of a room with a piano or guitar and come up with melodies. His songs are sometimes based on personal experience but mainly just observational. For example Elvis Ain’t Dead is based on a magazine he read about an Elvis fan in the States who was convinced the King was still alive and working in a burger bar in New Mexico. Roy will then come to us in a rehearsal and show us his ideas and we’ll work on them as a threesome.

You’ve released a Greatest Hits album after just three albums. As a Scouting For Girls fan, should I be worried you’re going to split up anytime soon?

Never! The Greatest Hits is just the end of an era. We’ve got a body of work from the three albums that we absolutely adore, we’ve put all of the singles we had in a compilation. For the next album, we’re going to come in with a new slant: “where can we go from here?” As a band, we don’t want to stagnate and replicate She’s So Lovely until we die – it’ll be nice to experiment.

I guess part of it is that as you have had so many successful songs, there’s no reason why you can’t release a Greatest Hits. How do you make sure your albums are consistent every time?

Roy will come up with between 30 and 50 song ideas. We’ll go through them, arrange them and let people who we trust have a listen (managers, producers, etc.) Then we’ll take between 20 and 25 songs into the studio and start recording them, and at that stage you can get a feel for whether a song is working or not, so we’re able to whittle it down into 10-12 songs that we adore. We’ve just been lucky enough that lots of other people adore them as well.

I’ve never seen you live before. What should I expect from the Greatest Hits tour?

We like to pride ourselves in not necessarily being the most proficient live band, but getting the crowd involved as much as possible. Roy is a brilliant frontman and will get you into a frenzy – expect to come out hoarse from joining in. This time we’ll be doing all the hits, a couple of cheeky B-Sides and maybe a few covers.

How do you pick a set-list?

It’s actually quite difficult. You don’t want too many upbeat songs next to each other – you’ve got to give the crowd a rest. If they’re jumping up and down the whole time, after 40 minutes they’ll be knackered and won’t enjoy the rest as much. I personally love playing the big hits the best because I get a great buzz off the crowd – once they hear the first four notes of She’s So Lovely they turn into animals.

Where’s the best place you’ve been on tour?

Generally, we see lots of airports, hotel rooms, venues, radio stations and TV Studios and that’s it – everything’s such a rush! We were lucky enough to have a couple of days off in Berlin when we were touring Germany, and the history there was mindblowing. Usually we’re in and out though – we did Australia and New Zealand in four days which was manic!

Who are your musical influences?

My personal favourite bands are Pearl Jam, Led Zeplin, the Stone Roses and the Foo Fighters. As a band, our influences are probably much more diverse. Roy is a big fan of melodies and harmonies in bands like R.E.M., the Beach Boys and the Beatles, and I think these pop influences are the ones that come through in our music the most. But we discovered music in the Britpop era so Blur and Oasis must have had an influence on us, and Suede were the first band we ever saw together, so a real mix!

What are your thoughts on talent shows like X Factor and The Voice?

I’m absolutely addicted to the X Factor, I think it makes for amazing television. Those programs are not just about singing but the whole package – the most important thing is charisma. Last year, Rylan was my favourite. He didn’t have a great voice, but he put on a really good show. Whether the program is a good thing in terms of popular music, who knows. I do think those shows could do with some more bands and genres of music to diversify everyone’s taste in music a bit.

Unless you are on a program like the X-Factor, I’d imagine people don’t tend to recognise pop artists’ faces as much as they would have done back when everyone watched Top of the Pops. Do you get recognised from day to day?

Not at all. It’s awesome. We’re blessed that we’ve had a lot of songs that everyone recognises and yet we can go to have a pint without anyone saying anything. Once I’ve even been asked for directions from someone on the way to one of my shows!

Do you have any tips for our performance students on how to be successful?

It’s an old cliché, but practice really does make perfect. We spent over a decade as an unsigned band and we needed that time to make ourselves as good as we are now. You’ve just got knuckle down, keep at it and never give up – you don’t know what could be round the corner.

Simon James

Any excuse to write about Oasis really.

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