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Ask anybody and they’ll easily be able to recall the indie-pop anthem ‘She’s So Lovely’, especially fans of the cult-like film, Angus, Thongs & Perfect Snogging. Despite the song by Scouting For Girls being released over 15 years ago, it has remained a treasured track with no signs of disappearing any time soon. The band could be described as masters of longevity, however, it goes much deeper than that.
After forming in London in 2005 and still a mainstay in the live music circuit, Scouting For Girls has achieved what most could only dream of. The band consists of Roy Stride on lead guitar, piano, and vocals, Greg Churchouse on bass guitar, and Peter Ellard on drums.
Taking inspiration for their name from the book, Scouting for Boys, a scouting handbook that was released in 1908, it instantly indicates their playful nature towards music – only strengthened by their strong bonds after being friends since they were five years old.
Their eponymous debut album (2007), reflected their catchy indie-rock with a dash of pop sound and began the trajectory of eight Top 40 singles and it sold over 1,000,000 copies. Boasting hits such as ‘Elvis Ain’t Dead’ and ‘Heartbeat’, it’s no wonder why.
Since then, the band has sold over 2,000,000 records and has received over 500 million streams, after releasing six studio albums. Namely, Everybody Wants to Be on TV (2010), The Light Between Us (2012), Still Thinking About You (2015), The Trouble with Boys (2019), and Easy Cover (2021).
Each release proved their penchant for combining catchy choruses with an emotional core. Their most recent release is their B-Sides & Rarities compilation album, which featured a range of hidden tracks and new release, ‘I’m Still Alive’. It just goes to prove how many crowd-pleasing songs the band has produced in their time.
They’ve still got top spots on Spotify’s ‘Cheesy Hits’ playlist, as well as across their ‘Best of’ decade playlists. But performing in the live arena is where the band really shines. Their journey has taken them all over the world from Japan to Australia and they’ve sold out countless shows with sets at all the big festivals – and are yet to stop. A real highlight has been their Neighbourhood Weekender set which could only be described as unmissable.
To find out more about Roy Stride’s thoughts on the modern music industry, best-untold story, and worshiping at the feet of Dave Grohl, aAh!’s Camilla Whitfield catches up with him over Zoom.
How are you feeling about your set at Neighbourhood Festival?
“I have to say that Neighbourhood is one of the ones that I am most looking forward to. I just thought after such a long time in lockdown, I was saying something the other day with somebody. We’re trying to work out how to share fucking screen and we’re like how are we still having trouble. Neighbourhood Weekender looks banging, doesn’t it? The lineup is like my perfect lineup. It’s my perfect sort of festival. We’re on at the perfect time, which is sort of mid-afternoon. Just as people start having a few drinks, the sun will be nice and high. We’ll play all our big songs, everyone will dance along and we’ll have a party. It’ll be lovely.”
Which track is your favourite to perform live?
“I still always love playing ‘She’s So Lovely’. We pretty much always end with it and we always play it. People just love it. People love it now and they’ve loved it ever since we started playing. Before anyone even knew it, people loved that song. Even now when we’ll play a uni gig and be playing to people who were five years old when it came out, they still seem to know the words better than I do. I love playing that song.”
There’s something about it that manages to bridge generations. I remember listening to ‘Scouting For Girls’ in my childhood. You’ve previously released your compilation album, B sides, and Rarities. How did you decide which ones to include in your initial debut?
“Do you know that first record, we just recorded every single song we had. The three of us have been together since we were kids. Since the 90’s playing as a band and playing different sorts of music. But then when we started playing as Scouting For Girls, it happened really quickly. We were in quite a reasonably heavy rock band. It was kind of like a heavy indie-rock band rather than like a heavy metal-rock band. As soon as I started playing the piano and making more sing-along songs like ‘She’s So Lovely’, we got signed within about nine months. We literally played all the songs that we had. We had been trying to get a record deal for about 13 years before that. But once we sort of changed the direction into Scouting For Girls, it all happened very quickly. That first record is all the songs. But since then, like you were saying about the sort of compilation we’ve just put out, I think there must be over nearly 140 Scouting For Girls songs we’ve released. There are quite a few. Some of them aren’t very good. But there are lots of hidden gems, which I love about that.”
Is there a story behind one of the songs that nobody else would actually know that’s actually one of your favourites?
“I’m trying to think of stories I haven’t said too much. I suppose on that album, like ‘I Wish I Was James Bond’, sort of started life out of me and Pete [Ellard] the drummer, we used to go to this venue in Howard where we grew up. It played music and was like an indie disco after pubs kicked out. We used to make up different jobs, which we’d tell people. One day, we were professional tennis coaches. One time we were pilots. One time, we were out of work actors and Pete was saying that he was in the running to be the next James Bond. That was how that song started.”
That is my new favourite story and taking it to being the next James Bond is amazing.
“I say it never worked. It never worked. Maybe it was how long ago this was, but it was before Daniel Craig had become the Bond. They were looking for the next Bond. So, Pete went around saying that he was gonna be the next one. It never worked. None of those stories ever did. But it also didn’t help that everybody in that place was pretty drunk. The music was always very loud, so you couldn’t hear anything anyway.”
If you hadn’t forged a career in music, what career would you have followed?
“I would have always done music, just at a very different level. I work for Carphone Warehouse and sell mobile phones. I’ve just been offered the job as a manager of a store in Newquay. My whole thing was just to be like a bit of a surf bum. To write music, a bit like sort of Jack Johnson vibes. To be all sort of surfy and acoustic, kind of like what Scouting For Girls were. I just thought I’d still be an artist. I’d just work. A lot of the time, I found that my manager who I thought at the time did very little work, he just sat in the back office. So I just thought I’d sit in the back office writing songs. I’d probably be a part-time musician, but I’d have always done it.”
I quite like the mix of genres from heavier rock to more of an acoustic sound. Does this reflect the range of music that you listen to?
“It’s all over the place. I love vinyl. I love shopping for vinyl just in secondhand shops. I was in Oxfam. I picked up Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run yesterday and The Very Best of The Drifters, like some old Motown. I love everything. There’s not any genre I dislike. I love some dance music. I love some really heavy rock. I genuinely just love the classics though. I love The Standards, Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, and then building up from there. I love the British stuff. You’ve got all the bands that came before the Beatles, through to Madness. The punk stuff to Stone Roses, Oasis, The Smiths. All of that indie sort of stuff all the way through, that’s where my heart really is.”
I can imagine that as with any band, that’s where they start. That’s how they progress to where they are now. With your debut album, is there anything that you would have changed, or would you keep it exactly the same?
“I think there are lots of things I would change. But that debut record for us was perfect, the songs on it and how it came about. It was one of those things where it just happened. I suppose I started demoing those songs about two years before they actually turned into a record. There was a long process of how the songs got edited down. We did the demos. The first demo suddenly got picked up by XFM, Radio 1, and Glastonbury. Through that, we got a manager. We went with the first manager we met and then the first record label. We went with the first producer we met. We signed a record deal on a Tuesday and we went into the studio the following Monday. It was done in six weeks. Mixed in two more after that. We did a summer of really shit festivals when nobody knew who we were, which was great for us to learn how to play in front of a bigger audience. And then, we did six or seven tours on that first record getting bigger and bigger. The first tour was to like 20 or 30 people in a room. By the end of that, we were playing to like 10,000 people a night. It was perfect. After that point, there are loads of things that I’ve worked out where I went wrong. But nothing was overthought. It just happened. It was the right time and the right place. Just a very, very magic time. I’m not saying it’s the perfect record. But for us, I wouldn’t change anything from those first couple of years.”
I like that though. When you’re new in an industry, you’re still finding your feet because you don’t quite know where you’re going with it. You just know that you’re enjoying it.
“Exactly. Everything was a blessing. It was like, ‘Oh my god, someone else loves it.’ ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve been played on the radio.’ The moment that record sold a million records, it changes your perspective on everything. Suddenly you’re thinking, ‘Well, will Radio 1 like this song?’ Or ‘Will our record plugger like this song?’ Or, ‘Does this hit the right demographic?’ You start thinking about all of these stupid things, which you never thought about when you first started putting it out. That sort of naivety, you see in so many bands’ first records, which is why a lot of the time they’re their best ones. First of all, they’ve had a lifetime to write it. Secondly, there’s no bullshit in it. It’s their true self. There are less people around to fuck it up really.”
In our changing modern world, the rise of TikTok does mean some artists forgo the usual touring circuits. It still seems crazy when you compare the two. What do you think about it?
“It’s quite bonkers. I don’t sit here thinking it’s better or worse. I find it really interesting and really exciting. I write a lot of songs. I do a lot of writing for artists who are younger and trying to breakthrough. I’ll work with somebody who’s got like, 5 million TikTok followers, half a million Instagram followers, and then they’ll have like, 10 million monthly listeners on Spotify. But then they can’t sell out, like 200 tickets in London. The whole business is very upended. It’s very hard to create because it’s all about tiny little moments now. It used to be about an album and a body of work. When we came out, we were lucky to have lots of songs. Obviously, it’s always been about hit songs. But then, it became more and more about just the songs. So it’s harder for people to like you for more than just your one big song. Before songwriters were like, ‘We’ve got to keep people interested for three minutes.’ Now, you’re like, ‘You’ve got to get people in three seconds.’ Then, there are the polite 25 seconds. As a creative, I love it. I find that quite exciting to look at things like that. But at the same time, it’s very hard to build careers like that. It works brilliantly for me because that’s why we’re still playing Neighbourhood Festival, because it’s harder for the artists to come out. The real thing which is really heartbreaking for me is that there are so few bands because you can just do it all by yourself. Before I needed a band to play music live. I needed a band to record the music and now, you don’t need anything. I’ve got an entire band in my studio here. You can get anybody online to play the song, sing the songs and write the songs for you. It’s not having a band which is really expensive to run, as it’s the same money coming in, so you have to split that money four ways, so it just doesn’t work. That’s one of the sad things about what’s happened at the moment. I’m sure it’ll change.”
The whole setup is just so different. Especially, when you think about going to see an artist live, and instead of a full band, it’s a laptop.
“I do a few solo shows every so often and essentially, I play all the same songs but stripped down. The only thing is that watching a solo artist singing to a backing track is fucking boring. Because what is amazing, is to see four people coming together and playing music together. When the lead singer is being a bit of a dick, it’s fun to watch the bass player play. Look how he plays and how they work together. And then, you’re like, ‘The drummer is so cool, the way he works with the bass.’ There’s just more stuff to look at. I’m probably an old romantic but there is something really fucking cool about a group of people going out as a team, and taking on the world. I really fucking love that. You might have seen the Tom Petty version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. It’s got George Harrison’s son. Prince comes on and plays his guitar solo. Steve Winwood’s in the band and Jeff Lynn. It’s this supergroup. I was watching it just on my phone, which is one of the shittiest live experiences you will get. I was having goosebumps all over and I’d seen it so many times. I was like, ‘You would never get that ever, from watching somebody sing’. No matter how good they are at singing, from singing to a backing track. Having the way people come together, that’s what I think has happened with a lot of artists now. But what’s going to happen is some clever bunch of kids are going to say, ‘This is shit, let’s be a band and do it that way.’”
Definitely. You’ve been playing together since you were kids and the chemistry you see on stage is clear. It’s reflected in the music.
“I think people believe that and buy into that. It is really fucking cool to be in a successful band. It really is. At times, I feel like I’ve completely lived my childhood dream and it’s fucking cool. I think people go and when I used to go and see bands or saw when you were good people who make music, I loved it. I’d be like, ‘Fucking well done, guys!’ I see bands now who are just having a great time and they are just winning at life. It’s really hard sometimes to win at life. There are a lot of things going against everything. I think it’s really inspiring. It inspires me when I see bands who are just there and they’re just doing what they love for a living. Making other people happy. It’s just a good thing.”
I really like that because I interviewed Lauran Hibbard last year. She mentioned that you’d sent her a message about how much you liked her music. I thought that was really lovely.
“Oh, that’s amazing! I’m going to have to message her. I think before she had a record or anything, I don’t know how I even discovered her. I popped up. I was like, ‘She’s fucking amazing and I love her’. I just sent her some messages saying, ‘Really love it’ and that she reminded me of like, a 90s grunge band called Belly, who is fucking amazing. I sent it to her. I was like ‘Check out this band, there are some really good bits there. But you’re actually way more exciting’. I’ll send her a message. That’s really cool.”
I really love her music too.
“That’s wicked. The great thing about her is that she’s fucking started and she’s got a band. You go and see someone like that because it’s fucking cool. She comes out in like a lunatic dress. You’re just like, ‘She’s cool’. It is more than just seeing someone because there are lots of artists and some who I’m friends with. They are fucking brilliant, amazing songwriters and amazing producers. But their live shows are just a little bit dull. They are playing amazing songs to a laptop. That’s cool but you’re never going to get on a fucking mainstage doing that. I know you are connecting with people but I always think about Ed Sheeran, who I fucking love. But I’m just like, if I was him now, I would just have the biggest badass fucking band in the world with the best musicians. Like that supergroup which I mentioned and have loads of fucking amazing guests come on. He’s in a position where any fucker would fly across the world to appear at Wembley with Ed Sheeran. I’d just turn it into the most amazing fucking supergroup of all time. You’ve called me at a really good time because our first festival is on Friday. We’ve played a few gigs but we haven’t really got into it. I’m really buzzing about it.”
If you were playing Wembley, who would you bring out for your supergroup?
“I wouldn’t want to play with them. Because I just know having said this, maybe this is why Ed doesn’t do this. I’ve always been overawed by people, but I would definitely have Ringo [Starr] on drums. Ringo and Paul [McCartney]. Definitely. That would definitely happen. Gallagher’s on guitar. It would just be the classics. There are just too many who I would say. In fact, I would just have Ringo and Paul McCartney. I would just sing all the other songs. That would do me. That’s all I really need, bass and drums. That’s great. And then, we’d get Ringo and Paul doing, ‘She’s so lovely’. Love it.
I love it. Who is the most unexpected fan of your music that you’ve ever had?
“I’m trying to think. Dave Grohl. I don’t even know if he is a fan of our band, but he said he was and that’s probably because he’s just such a nice guy. We were playing at a festival in Holland. We just sat down at a table in catering. Catering is basically like school dinners for rockstars. That’s all it is. It’s a buffet. You get a nice school dinner and you sit down at a table with your band and your crew and you eat it. You look around the room and see who the other famous people are. Most people just stick with their band. Dave Grohl being Dave Grohl, wanders over and says, ‘Is there a space here?’ He just sits down next to me and introduces himself as Dave Grohl, ‘Hi, I’m Dave.’ I was like, ‘Ah, I kind of know that.’ I didn’t even say that. But I just said we were playing later. He came and watched us for a couple of songs. And then, we actually went right in the bottom of the pit, like he had another little party area right underneath. We worshiped at the feet of Grohl.”
That’s really cool. It’d be amazing to meet your favourite musicians and trade all of your music knowledge.
“Definitely. He’s definitely that guy. He’s such a gentleman and still just like a fan. He still just fucking loves it and everything about it. When you’ve done it for a while, you have to forget about all of the bullshit. You just have to get back into it for why you love it. You have to tap back into those feelings that made you want to be a musician in the first place. The live shows that made you want to do it and that’s the most important thing. When you get that enthusiasm and go with it, then that’s infectious. That’s what people want to see on stage. I’ve never ever called myself a musician because I’m not. I’m in a band. That’s what I say because we were just very much about having that experience of being in a band. If you’ve got the enthusiasm and the songs, you can get away with less musicianship because people just buy into the fun, the enthusiasm, and the experience.
Definitely. Is there anything which you have never been asked but you wish that you had?
“Not really. Did you not know that you had that winning lottery ticket in your wallet? No, I don’t think there is. It’s hard enough to think of exciting answers to questions. Let alone start thinking of questions that you haven’t been asked. What I was going to say, is that we’ve got a song coming out in the next couple of weeks. We’ve done a reworking of a song we did. We wrote some of Lucy Spraggan’s ‘Stick the Kettle On’, which I really loved. It was about the problems related to Calm. She wrote very much about men’s mental health and we did a duet. We started playing this on the tour last year and really connected with lots of people. We did a band version and that’s coming out in the next couple of weeks. I’m quite excited for that. We’ve got a new guitarist taking over from Jamie for the summer, who we’ve known for years. This year is going to be unlike any other for us in a long time. It feels very much like a new beginning.”
U.K Winter Tour Dates
Monday 28 November – Liverpool O2 Academy
Tuesday 29 November – Oxford O2 Academy
Thursday 1 December – Manchester Albert Hall
Friday 2 December – Birmingham O2 Academy
Saturday 3 December – Leeds O2 Academy
Monday 5 December – Cardiff Tramshed
Tuesday 6 December – Bristol O2 Academy
Thursday 8 December – Nottingham Rock City
Friday 9 December – London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Saturday 10 December – Norwich The Nick Rayns LCR, UEA
Sunday 11 December – Glasgow SWG3 TV Studio