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Scholars recently supported Pure Love and that’s how I got to discover this rock band from Hemel Hempstead.  I can tell you without a doubt that once you get to see these guys live, you’ll be pretty much blown away by their ability to surprise the audience and to make sure they won’t be forgotten by anyone in the crowd, any time soon.  Oh and they like to get in your face – literally. Maybe they scare you a bit, but it’s fine I promise!  It’s all part of their performance, a part of who they are and what makes them stand out. You should definitely go and check them out, if you’re looking to experience an exciting and unpredictable show with great rock music, fantastic vocals and lots of fun.  They are releasing their debut album ‘Always Lead, Never Follow’ in April and touring the UK in March, so do not miss it.

In the following interview, the band’s drummer Mike talks about the forming of Scholars, working with Hundred Reasons’ Larry Hibbitt, upcoming album,  touring, ambitions and more.

EVA: Tell us about the band. What are your different musical backgrounds and how and when did Scholars form?

MIKE: Chris and I went to school together and have been in bands together since we were 14. Back then our influences would be bands like Green Day, NOFX and Strung Out. Since then we’ve picked up a lot more of them, bands like Hundred Reasons, Braid, Tears For Fears and Idlewild. Sam is a massive Death Cab For Cutie fan but is into everything from Japanese pop bands to Icelandic Balkan style orchestral dance jazz!

Chris and I started Scholars years back, we were recommended Sam by Ben Sansom of Lower Than Atlantis and a few years later, Cal joined us on guitar after we’d played a couple of shows with his old band. Then about 6 months ago Cal’s brother, Ethan, joined us on guitar as well so we’re now 40% Owen!

EVA: If you could describe each one of you in one word, what would it be?

MIKE: Cal: Hair. Chris: Administration. Ethan: Newbie. Mike: Short. Sam: Procrastinator.

EVA: What’s the philosophy behind your music? What are the main criteria when writing and creating songs?

MIKE: We want to write music that stands out as being different but doesn’t alienate the listener. When we’re writing, it’s important that we’re all into it because we’re making music for ourselves as much as we’re writing music we hope lots of other people enjoy as well.

EVA: Your debut album ‘Always Lead, Never Follow’ is being released on the 8th of April. Can you give us some details on the recording process of it and the album itself?

MIKE: The album is sort of the story of Scholars so far. Some of the songs were written at the beginning of the band’s life and have yet to be heard; there’s also lots of brand new material, which we're really proud of.

The album was recorded and produced by Larry Hibbitt of Hundred Reasons in Brixton. We recorded more songs than we needed and chose the cream of the crop to make it onto the record. We’re really excited with the finished product and it’s been great to work with someone, who we consider a big influence on us as a band.

EVA: The album is being released by Banquet Records. Could you tell us about your relationship with them?

MIKE: Banquet have done so much for us over the years. They’ve supported us from day one and have put us on some amazing shows with some incredible bands, including Twin Atlantic, Futures, letlive and even Hundred Reasons! They’ve released music by some of our favourite bands too, so it’s an honour to be releasing the album with them.

EVA: You’ve recently toured with bands like Pure Love, Sharks, Canterbury or Mallory Knox. What was it like being on the road with these guys? 

MIKE: Those two tours in particular were non-stop fun. We’ve done a lot of touring over the years but it makes a big difference playing with the same bands every night, because you build up real friendships and you inspire each other to put more and more into the live show each night.

It was great to tour with Pure Love as Chris and I went to school with Frank Carter, so it was a bit of a reunion and a chance to catch up.

EVA: It must be exciting to see your mates Mallory Knox taking the charts by storm since the release of their debut album. Do you hope for the same success with ‘Always Lead, Never Follow’?

MIKE: It was fantastic news when we heard they’d made the top 40 and so well deserved. We played a show with them for Banquet Records the following week, so it was great to be able to congratulate them in person.

We’ve always hoped that the album could be a raging success and it’s good to have high ambitions, but at the same time we’re aware that we haven’t quite got the following that Mallory Knox have (yet!) so we’ll wait and see!

EVA: Regarding live shows, you have this ‘in your face’ style of performing. It definitely makes you stand out.  Have you ever got any weird/funny reaction from someone in the crowd because of this?

MIKE: I think most nights Sam scares a fair few people by getting a bit too close for comfort. He tends to get on top of any structures he can as well. One time he was pulled down from a bar by an angry bouncer and that nearly ended badly! We used to mimic having an argument towards the end of our set and there were a few occasions when people took it seriously. We’ve been pulled apart by security, had audience members try to intervene, and even had a promoter try to distract the crowd while we yelled at each other.

EVA: You’ve recently released a new video for your upcoming single ‘Black and Blue’ (out April 1st), taken from the album. Can you tell us about shooting of this video?

MIKE: It was a lot of fun to film. We hired a massive room, which gave a couple of the guys vertigo when they went up top, and a trapeze artist came along and essentially assaulted us for the whole day! There are a few shots, which have been reversed in the video so Sam had to learn all the lyrics backwards. Listening to his garbled nonsense as he practised kept us all amused!

EVA: If you ever go on tour around the world, which countries would you want to play in and what band would you want to go with?

MIKE: I’m not sure there are any countries we wouldn’t want to play in but there are a few countries where we’ve picked up a few fans, so for them we’d love to be able to get to Australia and America. In the near future though, we’d love to do a European tour. As for whom with, there’s a ton of great bands out there to choose from but it’d be great to go on the road with a band, who know how to have a good time so I’ll have to say Don Broco as I reckon that tour would be unforgettable!

EVA: What music are you into these days? Have you recently bought any album that you’ve had on repeat?

MIKE: I’ve actually had difficulty in turning off the Mallory Knox album and the Pure Love record has notched up a hefty number of plays as well.

EVA: You have a tour coming up in March and after that, the album release show will take place at Camden Barfly in London on the 10th of April. Do you have anything special in store for the fans on this very occasion?

MIKE: We’ll be playing songs off the album that hardly anyone has heard live before, so we’ll know who’s listened to the album by looking out for those singing along to those songs. As for anything special, I wouldn’t want to give anything away, so everyone will have to come along to find out!

EVA: And finally, what do you expect from this year and what’s the biggest ambition for Scholars in general?

MIKE: For this year we’d like to get on a few of the bigger festivals, make this album an absolute smash and make as many new fans and friends as possible. Our biggest ambition is nothing short of complete world domination, so get ready!

Review by Eva Jostakova
Press shot provided by Chris Aylett (Bass)

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