Alter The Press!


Interview: Scholars

Having played shows with the likes of Hundred Reasons, Young Guns, The Xcerts and Don Broco; Hemel Hempstead's Scholars have steadily been on the rise since forming just over three years ago. With a relentless work ethic, the band are said to be one of the most exciting up and coming bands in the UK right now.

Alter The Press! caught up with bassist Chris Aylett and vocalist Sam Nicholls from the band at their recent Cambridge show, to talk about their origins, influence, DIY recording, origami and more.

Alter The Press: Hello fellas! Let’s start with origins. When did you get together?
Chris: It’s about three and a half years ago.

Sam: It’s crazy how they go by but yeah I think so!

Chris: [The band] existed before we were called Scholars and we had a different singer and a different guitarist but really it was about three and a half years ago.

ATP: And you’re from Hemel Hempstead?
Chris: That’s right yeah.

ATP: Is there a story to it?
Chris: Basically, myself and the drummer Mike grew up together and played in our first bands together. Then an old band we were in disintegrated because people lost interest and I was put in touch with Sam, who knew Tom the guitarist and then it was forged form there.

Sam: It’s two groups of mates really, and then Cal is our new addition, he brings the beef now!

ATP: Indeed, that’s one of the first things I noticed tonight. I’ve seen you a couple of times before and it’s no longer four, it’s five. Was that something you were looking to add for a while?
Sam: It was an absolutely conscious decision. Tom (guitarist) has always had this ability to be a multi-instrumentalist, he’s good with keys and other bits and pieces and we’ve always wanted to expand a bit more into playing with more keys and electronic stuff. We were looking for somebody to take the weight of the guitar off Tom’s shoulders, if you will, so that he could get a bit more into other stuff.

Chris: We talked about having a second guitar for ages, almost as long as we’ve been together, it’s just that the right person didn’t come along. With [Cal], he kind of… did, and we thought like, he’ll do nicely.

ATP: Did you know him already?
Chris: We played with his old band in Portsmouth a couple of times and we knew he was a fan, he’d come to a few shows, and I just remember when I was talking to him over the merch thinking: ‘this guy would be perfect!’ We realised he could sing as well because he was the frontman in the other band.

Sam: We got a couple of bottles of Bucks Fizz and said: “Here we go, you’re in the band!” It was a nice little moment, we took a photo and everything.

ATP: What about the first recording you did, how far along in the life of the band was that?
Sam: The recordings that we’ve got are very sporadic, they’re demos from all different eras of Scholars. As we’ve progressed and gotten older, changed what we’ve done and built upon what we were doing, we’ve recorded a new demo pretty much every time. Tom is a recording genius-man and has a studio at the end of his garden, which is the most convenient thing in the world! I consider Tom’s stuff ‘proper’, but recording with Larry Hibbert for Tornadoes and Fractures, which is the single we’ve just released, it’s the first thing we’ve done outside of working with Tom.

ATP: Incidentally, the physical single has great art design with the folded paper and the wax seal. Who came up with the idea for that?
Chris: We all just talked about it, with our management as well, and had a massive ideas-fest, chucked everything in… Tom basically came up with the idea of an origami sleeve that we folded ourselves and then someone else threw in the idea of having four different versions that make one big picture. We’ve always done this subtle thing with colours onstage where we each wear a different colour and so we though we’d do one of each colour, and the wax seal was like… that just looks wicked! It was quite expensive to do but we thought: we’re going to do it!

Sam: The real catalyst was the origami though, I swear Tom was like a Buddhist Monk! He does these amazing creatures and comes in one day to practise and he’s like: “Hey guys, look, I’ve made this CD case!” and we’re like: “What the hell is that, that’s amazing!” so we thought yeah, we can upsize it, do it with A3, put a vinyl in and that was it.

ATP: What’s the best moment, as a band, you’ve had so far? Have you got one that stands out?
Chris: There’s been a few! We toured with Hundred Reasons and the last night of the Hundred Reasons tour was really good, Canterbury came onstage with us and we went onstage with Hundred Reasons and it was just altogether awesome.

ATP!: A real brodown?!
Chris: Yeah, it was really cool because they’ve always been an influence on us.

Sam: Well, that’s the thing, it was a brodown with your personal influences, it was really gratifying. There’s not been a better tour but I think we’ve grown up a bit since then and we have had some other moments where we’ve been a bit older and felt like: ‘Yeah, this is maybe the best show we’ve played’ kinda thing.

Chris: I think just getting the 7”s, the Tornados/Fractures thing finished, and when that all came together and we had it, that was wicked!

Sam: The whole recording process and everything we did for that was really enjoyable as well. It was hard work but really satisfying and when you’ve finished it, and you’ve got it there, got the vinyls, got all the packaging and it all looks really cool, and it’s like… this is a brilliant thing that we’ve created!

ATP: On the flipside, what about disasters?
Chris: There’ve been a few gigs we’ve had which have… we kinda laugh about them but it’s just like… we’re not going to name names here but there’s just some when you get there and are like, “alright, we shouldn’t have agreed to this, this is a mess!”

Sam: You have to think Black Flag, you have to think that those guys played so many shit shows and they never got anywhere, years and years of playing crap shows.

Chris: And I think we’re pretty resilient, we’ve played loads and loads of shows and we don’t really let that bother us. It’s more other stuff when you get technical disaster after technical disaster and the crowd hate you.

Sam: It’s actually worse if it’s a big crowd and it goes wrong. That’s much worse than when there’s no crowd and you get it right and you go off, because that’s fine, you just melt the faces of four people and that’s brilliant.

Chris: To be honest, probably our lowest points have been when we can’t get the songs together. We are quite perfectionist and just want things to be really good so we do go through quite long periods of not writing stuff that we’re happy with and throwing away vast amounts of material, which I think is good, but it does get there are low moments.

ATP: We touched on this but what are your influences? You’ve already said Hundred Reasons, have you got any other artists that you really dig?
Sam: We all like The Dismemberment Plan.

Chris :Yeah, that’s more in recent years, but they’re a band with so many ideas! Who else? At The Drive In. We’ve also started to listen to a bit more Electro, spearheaded by Tom.

Sam: It was weird because he was listening to all this stuff and I was kinda like: ‘Oh yeah, this is cool!’, and then really recently we went to see a load of these artists.

ATP: Anyone in particular?
Sam: Daedalus, LFO…

Chris: Aphex Twin.

Sam: Yeah, I was already quite into Aphex Twin but he wasn’t really that great actually! We went to this little festival and saw loads of these artists and it’s really unlocked a door for me, I been really into that stuff.

ATP: Is that something we going to see influence you more in the future?
Sam: I think so but maybe not in a ridiculous way, we’re not going to go off on one!

ATP: So you’re not going to become and Electro-Rock-Punk band?
Chris: Erm, probably not! We’re set up to be a rock band and I think that’s what we’ll be first and foremost but I hope that we’re going to inject a lot more of that, we do want to, it’s just...

Sam: There’s so many other bands, so many other styles of music that we’re into, we can’t just ‘be’ Electro, we’d get just as frustrated as that, we’d be: ‘this just isn’t rock enough for us!’

ATP: Finally then, what have you got in the pipeline, what’s coming up gig-wise?
Chris: At the moment we’re concentrating on writing so we’ve not got too many shows in the pipeline. We want to get a load of material together, demo it and then see what we make of it, quite a lot at once. In the past we’ve done two or at most three in one go and then recorded it and put it out there, but we want to get a load together and think about a release down the line. I think we’re going to do a tour in May.

Scholars were playing at The Junction in Cambridge on Friday 28th March 2011 with The Colour Movement, Adelaide, Contours and Set To Air.

Official Website
Scholars on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Youtube, and Big Cartel.

Words by Nick Worpole

Alter The Press!