INTERVIEW: Girl Friend | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The 1980s was a turbulent time to live through. With the Berlin Wall, conflict in the Middle East and Stock, Aitken and Waterman terrorising much of the world you might wonder why so many musicians like to hark back to this decade. Girl Friend do just that and they’re coming to Think Tank? on Thursday 16th April.

Their music attempts to channel the wistful jangle of the finest New Wave tracks of the era with a sound that borrows and pilfers everything from very early Human League to Edwyn Collins and Orange Juice. While they may be a little bit late to the 80s revival of the late noughties that saw Mystery Jets, Wild Beasts, and La Roux battering the indie scene with fun, British synth-pop songs the appeal is still there for some. While the music they make sounds like the sort of stuff you can imagine a load of young women with severely back-combed hair waving their arms to, their lyrical content verges on sombre and ominous, with their song Stop toeing the lines of sexual frustration and obsession.

For a little band of glitter wearing pretty boys and one girl from Manchester they’ve done pretty well in the musical blogosphere, with debut single Perfume being picked up on both sides of the Atlantic. The tour is in support of their upcoming EP Arrive Alone, Leave Alone which will be released on Monday 27th April and they recently toured in support of vintage NME darlings The Kooks.

Ahead of the gig, I talked to frontman Amory about the Manchester scene, the successes of their career so far and being a little bit sexy.

In what ways do you think growing up in the Northern metropolis of Manchester has influenced your music?

Manchester is home to some of the most influential bands and artists…ever. Everyone knows that, and no one disputes it, certainly not us. Growing up in a city that has so much history is very inspiring and fills you with awe as a fledgling young musician; wet behind the ears with a head full of dreams about Tony Wilson and signing record deals in blood…There’s a lot to be said for the whole “walking in the footsteps of giants” type thing, it’s easy to be swept up in the magic of it all.

However, if you’re not careful you can very quickly get caught up and trapped in the endless cycle of Manchester loving itself… The Mr Manchester haircut and uniform, that needs to stop. Nightclubs playing The Stone Roses three times a night, that could do to be nipped in the bud too. These are the things we don’t like, and are probably just as big an influence on our music as all the things we love about Manchester.

It’s hard to sum it all up in a nifty sentence really, but we see ourselves as a forward thinking cosmopolitan Pop group. Of course we’re influenced by the music that Manchester has produced over the years, from the synth-pop giants New Order to more recent electronic acts such as Hurts, but ultimately we are inspired by great records regardless of where they come from.

You recently toured in support of The Kooks. How did you find that experience?

It was great, we had a lot of fun. It’s all happened pretty fast for us, we went from playing 50-100 capacity shows in pubs and clubs to being taken on tour with The Kooks and playing to 2000 plus people, it was pretty surreal at first. The crowds each night were very kind to us too, The Kooks have great fans. Dublin was the highlight for us, we’d never been and can’t wait to go back.

What are you expecting from playing in Newcastle?

We don’t know… Newcastle is another city that we are yet to explore, so we’re looking forward to it. It’s still very early days for us, we’re not expecting the people of Newcastle to roll out the red carpet and greet us with champagne, but hopefully we can play a great show and win over some new fans. After all, Bryan Ferry went to school in Newcastle didn’t he? Hopefully people will embrace our Roxy Music influence and Dance Away… Sorry. We’ve heard various stories about Newcastle having a pretty impressive nightlife, we’re keen to see what all the fuss is about after we’ve played.

In terms of the music you make, it’s heavily indebted to the synthpop sound of the 1980s, a la Depeche Mode and New Order. What appeal do you think this type of music has 30 years later?

I think well written pop music will always have an appeal; the strength of the song is just as important as the medium in which you are dressing it up. We are hugely inspired by the bands you’ve listed, amongst many others from that era and from others.

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“well written pop music will always have an appeal”

Do you think you’re putting a fresh spin on 80s-style synthpop?

We’d like to think so. I mean, we don’t claim to be re-inventing the wheel by any means, but by the same token we are not in any way looking backwards. Good pop music is timeless. Yes, our music has a strong 1980s influence, but there’s so much more to it than that. The top and bottom of it is that we aren’t a “retro” act. We listen to Taylor Swift as much as Hall & Oates, we’ll listen to Talk Talk and have Drake come on shuffle next. Pigeonholing us as a 1980s synth revival band is something that I don’t doubt will happen from time to time, but it’s just not the case. It’s lazy.

Your first single Monte Carlo received great critical reception. How does it feel to have gained such a positive reception with your first release?

It’s amazing to be honest, that song really seems to have connected with people, and not just in the UK either, which is encouraging at this early stage. We’re really grateful for all of the positive reviews we’ve received for that track, and for all the blogs and websites who’ve helped us get it heard by so many people. It’s great to work so hard on something you’re proud of and receive recognition for it.

Do you find the overall recording process an easy one?

Yes, and incredibly fun. We love being in the studio, that’s probably the bit we enjoy the most. We find it such an inspiring environment to be in, though that is entirely dependent on where you are and who you’re working with. We work with a young producer from Liverpool called Rich Turvey; he brings out the best in us. When you hear a finished track through some huge studio monitors and think about the process it went through to get to that point it’s a pretty good feeling.

You described the video of Stop as “a bit sexy in places” on your Facebook page (and it is). How does sex and sensuality feed into your music?

It’s instilled in all music, in one form or another. We’re hardwired to think about sex and I find it fascinating to try and delve into the subconscious when writing. Sometimes we only realise how attracted we are to someone after dreaming about them. The Stop video has a dreamlike sensuality about it; though there is some flesh we were careful not to overcook it with gratuitous “dirty shots.” I don’t think anyone wants to see my bare arse on camera… I wouldn’t say I was ever trying to be “sexy,” but many of the song’s themes revolve around carnal love and I think that’s imbued in my delivery. We’re sensual beings, we can’t help but want to touch and taste.

Your public persona is that of almost Byronic levels of torment. What percentage of this do you feel is performance and what percentage is the real Amory?

I think it’s worth mentioning that the majority of the things I say should be taken with a pinch of salt. However, I love to reinvent myself when I meet someone new. The stage/public persona was an invention, an extension of the music, but it’s become all-consuming. I am so very sick and tired of the real world, it’s caused me nothing but anguish in recent years. That feeling of maladjustment is something that Jake and I share and have always talked about, hence the need to pursue a career in pop.

Girl Friend play Newcastle’s Think Tank? on Thursday 16th April.

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