‘Shows we’ve played in the last year have been the best we’ve ever done’ : An interview with Scholars


I met up with frontman Sam Nicholls and guitarist Ethan Owen from rock band Scholars prior to their set at Southsea Fest.

I last saw you supporting Canterbury in December last year – you’ve been on tour a fair amount lately!

Sam: We did a lot of touring at the end of last year and beginning of this year. The shows we’ve played in the last year have been the best we’ve ever done in our careers, it’s been really good! Especially since our album came out earlier this year, we’ve had some really good stuff. At this moment in time we’ve been doing some writing.

You played Y Not Fest, how was that?

Sam: Y Not was probably my top ten shows of all time, just because, we were on at half past one in the afternoon, at a festival we’d never played before and managed to almost pack out a tent!

Chris: That was a bit of a crazy weekend because we played Leopallooza in Cornwall the night before. We had a six hour drive or something!

Sam: We had to get up at half past five from the other festival and crawl out of the tent into the dew and have to drive.

How do you wake that early in the morning? Lots of caffeine!

Chris: Well not all of us did! There’s a funny story, I won’t go into too much detail but one of our guitarists, we didn’t know where he’d gone. He wasn’t in the tent, obviously everyone’s phones are dead at this point.

Sam: Walking around the tents shouting ‘’Cal!” We eventually found him in a tent which wasn’t his, dragged him out of the tent by his ankles and he’s completely out cold and he woke up in the wet grass, so we throw him into the van.

That’s rock and roll.

Sam: It is!

What do you think about festivals like Southsea, an urban festival in different venues around a city?

Chris: It’s odd that they call this a festival and they call a festival a festival! It’s a completely different thing but they’re great in their own right. I really like these types of festivals, especially when it’s an all day thing and there’s lots of different venues because I love the carnival atmosphere you get going up and down the street – vastly different from onsite camping.

Sam: With Southsea Festival, I get the impression it’s really well loved. They have a good mix of local bands and bigger bands. It’s a source of local pride, they’re not protective over it, they’re very welcoming and they dress up and come on down so it’s good!

You’re playing Joiners on 13th October, my local favourite venue, have you got any favourite venues around the country?

Sam: The Joiners is good actually, yes! We’ve only played once years ago so really looking forward to coming back because we really enjoyed it.

Chris: There’s a place in Newcastle called The Cluny – the venue itself is really nice and next to it they’ve got a café and bar which has all sorts of different beers. Just outside is an urban farm, which is free to walk around. We got there at 2pm, had a burger in a café, walked around the farm, petted a goat, and I think we performed better as a result!

Sam: The Barfly in Camden is a landmark for us because lots of big gigs we’ve done have been there, our album launch was there; it’s a big venue for us as a band.

You’re off to Germany for a date the end of this month, are you looking forward to that?

Sam: Yeah definitely, first proper venture outside the UK so we’ll see how it goes.

Chris: Interestingly enough the festival we’re playing is like Southsea Fest, all based around one street. 

Have you got any bands at the moment that you’d say you’re influenced by or who you think are going in the right direction?

Sam: There’s not bands that we want to be like that are around at the moment, there’s bands that we love that are around at the moment, like The Computers. Max Raptor have got a new single out, love them. I keep getting inspired by Pure Love every time I see them, we saw their Reading set recently and it was just unbelievable. They’re really cool. The stage show was just incredible.

Are they quite a performance live?

Sam: Yeah, it’s Frank Carter who used to be in Gallows, and he comes out with a big rubber dingy and a big inflatable swan that ends up on top of the crowd and he he’s in the dingy floating around on people’s heads!

Are there any particular favourite songs on the setlist that you particularly look forward to playing?

Sam: The big one for us at the moment is Damage. What are we saying about Damage…?

Chris: It’s going to be a single we’re putting out.

Sam: It’s one of my favourite songs on the album anyway, especially lyrically. There are some songs where I really think I’ve got my point across, and others where it’s not quite so articulate, but I think that one has worked out really well, I’m quite proud of that one.

Chris: With our new video for Damage, we were on a really tight deadline to get things done, so we ended up with four hours booked at the rehearsal room. Within an hour we had to cover an entire room with newspaper! Another song called Ties is slightly heavy, I particularly like that. It’s quite interesting, because some people don’t quite get it, and others do. I like separating people out.

Sam: A Marmite one.

Chris: Yeah, which I like, it’s a healthy thing.

Sam: Marmite is quite healthy.

Chris: Marmite is very healthy.

Do Scholars like Marmite?

Sam: I’m a lover.

Chris: I’m indifferent. I buck the trend.

Any dream bands you’d like to tour with?

Sam: There are some American bands we’d like to go on tour with, like The Dismemberment Plan and Cursive. We’d never fit but I love Death Cab for Cutie, so I’d be up for going on tour with them.

Chris: At The Drive In has been an influence on us, and we get compared to them and stuff  – if they reformed that would be an awesome thing for us.

Sam: There are some British bands I’d love to tour with, just because they play the right shows – it would be great for us to go on tour with Enter Shikari. As a band it would be great and it’s not the kind of thing that’s beyond the realms of possibility in the next couple of years.

Chris: Enter Shikari are a good example of a British band that have built up a following and managed to keep it, just by doing what they want. We have a lot of respect for doing that. I’ve not known a rock band like them to do exactly what they want and keep the fanbase for so many years, particularly when it’s quite a niche sort of sound.

Have you got any dream merch you’d love to sell? You’ve got to be able to sell it at a gig!

Sam: Maybe a cufflinks set! A tie and cufflinks set! So you can have a suit with our logo on! Actually, that’s not a bad idea!

Chris: A tie and blazer badge combination!

Sam: Toilet seats.

With your faces on!

Sam: With our faces on, exactly.

Thanks to Scholars, whose debut album Always Lead, Never Follow is out now and who have a UK tour coming up in October. Image courtesy of Scholars.






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