Paul: Hello! Who am I speaking to and what do you do in Scholars?
Sam: Hello, I’m Sam, I sing and play keys.
Chris: I’m Chris and I play the bass guitar.
Paul: How would you describe the Scholars sound? Which bands did you grow up listening to? I hear a bit of Braid and some of the old-skool Deep Elm bands in there…
Sam: It’s all about energy and feeling, bands that have stayed with me since my teens have been aggressive and full of heart like Glassjaw, At the Drive In and Million Dead. When it’s so rockin’ the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, that’s what we’re striving to achieve. The song writing and the style is influenced heavily by bands like The Smiths, The Cure and Death Cab for Cutie, so there’s a fair bit of contrast. And yes there’s definitely some Deep Elm in my diet too, Benton Falls and Planes Mistaken for Stars are two all time favourites.
Chris: Myself and Mike (drums), who are a little older than the other two, grew up with punk like Green Day, Strung Out and Lagwagon, but also lots of Idlewild and Hundred Reasons. We’re all fans of Braid and bands like Penfold and Last Days of April so you may well detect a bit of them in the mix.
Paul: Is there a story behind the band name?
Chris: Nothing interesting I’m afraid – it was a name we settled upon in the very early days of the band because it had a nice ring to it.
Paul: Are there any specific things that inspire you to write, whether it be people, things, events etc?
Sam: Like anyone, I spend a lot of time dealing with normal things like hating my job, being hungover or trying to be responsible for myself. I like writing about the general insignificant daily struggle (which at the time feels anything but insignificant). I think people can relate to that kind of thing and in a way it helps me vent. I instinctively steer away from your conventional love/ loss lyrics in many ways. Not exclusively and not because these aren’t important to me but because I want us to have our own voice. I’ll also write about anything I feel is worth saying something about, our songs include references to the Stockwell station shooting and global warming (no preaching though).
Paul: Do you have any achievements or career goals you’d like to achieve but haven’t yet?
Chris: I’d say that our main focus is to develop musically and write the best songs that we can – to explore our potential as a band. One particular ambition is to play overseas at some point, we’d love to get Big In Japan.
Sam: We played a local festival recently and the big crowd was extremely fun to play to. We’d love to get on some bigger festival bills next year.
Paul: Is it true your guitarist Tom has been touring German arenas as a session guitarist for other bands?!
Chris: Almost! Basically, Tom works in the studio of a guy called Jeff Wayne, who wrote the mega-successful ‘War of the Worlds’ album in the 70s. There was a 30th anniversary tour recently and Tom was asked to fill in for the lead guitar player on one date in Germany. He had to learn all this widdly-widdly solo stuff at pretty short notice. I wasn’t in attendance but I hear it was massive and mental.
Paul: What’s better/worse – someone who downloads your music illegally but takes an active interest in the band and comes to shows or someone who buys the CD, listens to it once and then puts it on a shelf never to play it again? Are you worried about how the industry appears to be going with the death of the CD?
Chris: That’s a bit of a conundrum. As a band, we want as many people to hear our music as possible, and if more people hear our music thanks to illegal filesharing then that’s a good thing. However, we’re also firm believers in the value of music as an art form, and it’s pretty worrying to see just how disposable music has become for a lot of kids these days. I think what we’d really like is for people to give bands a proper hearing, almost regardless of how they obtain the music. As musicians we spend a lot of time agonising over lyrics and arrangements and it’s a bit disheartening to think that the fruits of our labours will be acquired for free en masse with a million other tracks and listened to only when the shuffle function on an iPod dictates. Until now we’ve given away demo tracks as they’ve not cost us much to record and we’ve wanted to spread the word. Hopefully this will stand us in good stead for when we release something properly, and that people who like us will be willing to part with a bit of cash. I don’t think that going to a gig and/or buying a t-shirt makes up for illegally downloading a record – most developing bands won’t be making much more than a tiny profit on either shows or merch sales, certainly not enough to cover the costs of recording and pressing an album. As for the industry…I think it’s going to have a tough time of it in the future. The cleverest bands are asking themselves why they actually need a label now. The bands that succeed will be those that are constantly thinking about new ways of engaging their fanbase. I can think of quite a few examples of bands that are awful musically but have marketed themselves exceptionally well and are doing very well for themselves.
Paul: With MP3 technology and CD sales sliding even further away is there still a need for majors and has it levelled out the playing field with the indies?
Chris: I’m not totally sure that there is a need for labels anymore, indies or majors – bands that are smart enough and willing to put in the effort can do a lot of what a label does for themselves. The internet puts so much at our fingertips. Because of this, I reckon the future is brighter for bands and musicians than it is for labels. However, that’s not to say that I want labels to disappear, by any means. There are loads of labels doing lots of interesting things and adapting well to the changes in the industry. I loved that Polyvinyl Records released the Of Montreal album on 7 formats, including tote bag and paper lantern.
Paul: What music are you guys currently listening to? Any bands/records you would recommend we check out?
Sam: Oslo’s finest, Lukestar have been one of my favourite bands since Chris saw their video on a music channel in the early hours and knew I would love it, can’t wait for them to come back to the UK. Tom (guitar) will be happy if I mention Algernon Cadwallader which he listens to almost constantly.
Chris: I personally have been enjoying new albums from The Faint and Phoenix of late…in terms of UK bands, we all love Canterbury, Don Broco, Blakfish, Joey Nightmare, Hearts Under Fire, Tell it to the Marines, Pharaohs…I really wish The Maple State would start playing gigs again.
Paul: Are you writing any new material yet? Have any plans for further releases yet?
Chris: We’re always writing – the process slows down a bit when we’ve got lots of shows or when we’re recording but there’s always new stuff in the pipeline. We’ve no plans for any formal release as yet – we’re trying to write a whole load of songs and let them develop before we spend lots of time and money on a proper album or EP. In the meantime you can expect lots of different demo CDs, lovingly handmade by Scholars.
Sam: We’re more and more pleased with everything we write, comparatively we’ve not been a band for a particularly long time so we’ve been honing the skill over the past year. We never regard anything as perfect so we will always improve songs somewhere down the line. Having said that, we’re still very much into our older material, we’re not the type of band that throws old stuff out of the set without very good reason. There are songs that are written that we have no intention of playing live at the moment, just because we’re not done playing our current set yet.
Paul: You’ve got to the last round of Deal Or No Deal, there’s two boxes left, one with £250,000, and the other 1p. The banker offers you the swap, what do you do?
Chris: Hmm…I’m not familiar with the rules of this show, but I’m highly cautious by nature so I’ll take whichever option is the least likely to end in disaster.
Sam: Put a gun to the back of Mr Edmonds’ head and demand the banker tells me where the flipping money is; before I deliver Noel’s balls in a bright red box you sonofabitch.