A Day in the Life of His Girl Friday
by anna battista
It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon in Glasgow; it’s chilly, but at least the sun is shining. There are those who are relaxing and those who are indulging in typical Sunday pastimes, such as washing their car or reading the Sunday papers. Yet, there are others who are working hard. Among them is a young local band, His Girl Friday. Kevin Boyle (guitar, vocals), Nicky Ecob (guitar), Amanda Shields (bass) and Gurudarshan Somayaji AKA Guru (drums), are in a rehearsal room, playing new and old songs, preparing to record their new EP.
The bands’ first EP, Thwart My Little Fingered Fate, came out in 2003. Recorded at The Foundry in Glasgow, the EP contained seven tracks, all a sort of mixture of ethereal soundscapes a la Sigur Ros and Múm laced with dark guitars. But since 2003 many things have changed for this young band: a new drummer arrived, directly from India, and the band found a new sound, a more confident approach to music and a more mature attitude.
His Girl Friday formed from the ashes of another band, Merchant City, in which Kevin and Nicky were playing. Amanda joined them in February 2003. “That was the first time we really felt happy about our sound,“ Nicky remembers while we sit in the 13th Note, “we were confident we were getting somewhere, but then Barry Thomas, our previous drummer, left, so we had to start looking for a new drummer. Since then we found one and wrote new stuff.”
The band is at present working on their next EP, Nuclear Winter, which should be out pretty soon. Their plan is to record two songs at a time, get them out as singles, and then do an EP. In the meantime, HGF are concentrating on gigs: they recently played at Glasgow’s Stereo (where they presented old classics such as “Ik” and “Implosion of Mako” and introduced the audience to their new tracks, among the others, “Winters Notice”, “Sins” and “Your So Novel”), and soon they will play at another local venue, The Barfly. “It feels a bit frustrating to have an EP which is a year and a half long,” Nicky states, “but we know that we can reach higher, we honestly think that each new song we write is better than the previous one.”
His Girl Friday are, like many other young bands, unsigned, yet they wish they will soon find the record label they are looking for. “Preferably one that would let us do what we like to do,” Amanda claims, “somebody who would enable us to do what we want, who would give us the opportunity to do music full time and make a living at it.” Though these are still hard times for the band, the fact that they are in Glasgow, a city where the music scene is quite alive and kicking might help them and inspire them as well. Glasgow has spawned great bands in the past, while more recently it produced Franz Ferdinand, globally considered as one of the best bands around. “You can live in Glasgow and establish yourself on the music scene without having to go to London,” Nicky explains, “indeed nowadays you have a lot of A&R people who come to Glasgow to find the next Franz Ferdinand, the next Travis, and so on, people are looking at Glasgow, so maybe we have a good chance to make it. In Glasgow a lot of bands don’t feel like ‘it’s us against the rest of the world’, they feel part of a band, part of a big family of bands that help each other out. The best thing about Glasgow is that you don’t ever have to feel the pressure that you have to fit in a sort of genre: here what you need to be respected for is just for being what you want to be.”
His Girl Friday claim that even though they live in Glasgow, they are not part of the local scene, at least not yet. “A lot of the Glasgow bands are very much influenced by other Glasgow bands, like Belle & Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub and so on,” Kevin says, “If you look up at bands such as My Latest Novel, you realise that they have the distinctive sound of Belle & Sebastian, but I think that, even though our influences are very Glasgwegian because we are surrounded by other local bands, we have different influences that range from My Bloody Valentine to the Pixies, from the Smashing Pumpkins to Sigur Ros. We have totally different influences, but similar interests. There is a lot of variation in the dynamics of our band. We don’t really feel like part of the local community of musicians, because we haven’t put ourselves in that position. We go to gigs and see bands collaborating together, and that’s great, that shows how these bands are a community, but we’re not part of that community yet.”
The band also has a huge respect for the Glasgow bands who made it, like Franz Ferdinand. “They built up a fanbase in Glasgow before they even got signed, they created their own venue and proved they were dedicated, they really worked hard to succeed,” Nicky says about the band that conquered the world in 2004, “They first established themselves in Glasgow and that was already an achievement. Bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol and Biffy Clyro are great exports for the Glasgow music industry, they’re really ambassadors for the Scottish music industry.”
While rehearsing in the studio, His Girls Friday looked quite relaxed and co-ordinated; there weren’t any quarrels, interruptions or discussions of any sorts. “When we started we wouldn’t have been able to jam before we played a song like we do now,” Nicky adds, “it takes a good year to really feel as a part of a group, you need to spend time together, play together, be around each other and gather enough experience, then you will start writing like a collective and you will sound like a band, rather than like a singer and a backing band.” “Nowadays, we just let all the chemistry that’s between us work for us,” Guru (who’s also a journalist and before coming to Great Britain from India worked with many Indian bands among the others Zebediah Plush and Thermal And A Quarter, not only as a drummer, but also as stage, sound and light designer) adds, “my approach as a drummer is to play very naturally, if I were given notes to read or tabs, I’d just bin them or probably use them to roll a joint! The confidence in my drumming technique comes with my experiences with other bands. We are lucky all of us in His Girl Friday have the same sort of ambition for the band. A lot of people think that the image you portray is the important thing, but I think music has to speak for itself.”
While food arrives we talk about the music industry and the music pres. According to Nicky there are three levels in the business. “First, the mainstream entertainment industry, which isn’t music, but it’s entertainment and it’s manufactured,” he says, “the second level is the stuff that appears on the NME, it’s bands making music with an image which is still crafted, though it’s almost trying to fool people that it’s individual; then below that there is a much less lucrative business with bands making honest music they’re proud of. I think up until now, a lot of the music press has been dominated by the NME and by these big magazines, but with the Internet becoming so accessible, the independent fanzines are going to be more and more accessible and the music press won’t be dominated by a restricted bunch of people,” he concludes while Guru nods and adds, “Once there was this busker playing some brilliant tunes on a saxophone, I had my last quid for the bus, I gave it to the busker and walked home. I loved what he was playing, it just moved me so much. There are people out in the streets doing brilliant and honest music, who don’t really care if people are listening, they just play. That is what music is about. Music is not about wearing flashy clothes and jumping on stage. Music is about being yourself. Music magazines are very subjective. Certain mags move with people trends: The Darkness were on every single magazine last year, but now you don’t hear much about them. I remember I used to buy Rolling Stone magazine not to read it, but to cut out the pictures and stick them on my bedroom wall, since the photographs were really good quality. Perhaps many magazines will disappear in future and there will be an industry for toilet papers made with the music press!”
The future is not only a new EP for this young band, it’s also experimenting with new sounds. “It would be interesting looking at the different sounds we could bring into our music instead of being confined to guitar, bass and drums, maybe we will try a bit of piano or Indian percussions,” Nicky says. “There are so many instruments out there that can be used, so I definitely think we should open up more. I’m really interested in pushing the boundaries.” For a moment we all fall silent, we seem to have said whatever it is we wanted to add and state about music, the music biz and HGF, then Kevin adds, “We’ve got aspirations at the moment, but our priority just now is to record and enjoy our music.” And if His Girl Friday are so determined, well, who’s going to stop them?
All His Girl Friday pics (live @ Stereo, Glasgow, February 2005) by Anna Battista