Scissors For Lefty are Rough Trade's newest acquisition. You may have caught them delivering their off-kilter Californian sunshine pop at Reading and Leeds. We caught up with Bryan, Robbie, and brothers Peter and James to discuss their upcoming album 'Underhanded Romance' (released in October), dodgy soundtracks and pro wrestling, amongst other things. Read this and then go and buy their new single 'Mama, Your Boys Will Find a Home'. It's ace.
VF: So you guys are in the UK promoting your upcoming single 'Mama' and your new album, I believe, how is all that going?
James: “It’s going well.”
Bryan: “This is what we’ve been wanting to do, this is a great place to travel to, we’ve been sharing the stage with some awesome bands and we believe in our album, so far so good. The shows so far have been spectacular so if we sell five copies we’ll be happy.”
Robbie: “We’re living the dream, couldn’t ask for anything better you know?”
VF: Reading your bio you cite quite a lot of English bands as influences…what is it you like so much about English pop music?
Peter: “Yeah, it’s definitely been a big influence. Starting from early English bands we’re really into guys like The Beatles, The Zombies, some of that early 60s stuff and then later on stuff like Ladytron.”
Bryan: “We like the melody and the structure of a lot of Britpop you know? But our topics are going to be based on our adventures and experiences you know? The US has a broad spectrum of scenes that sometimes college radio gets a little bit lost and it’s always going on, there always garages with music being played in them. On the radio we hit notes we can’t hit so we play in England.”
VF: How has your reception over here differed to that in the US?
Bryan: “Really similar to San Francisco [Scissors For Lefty’s base] I couldn’t say there’s hardly any difference at all, you have to earn your performance, you have to see sincere and enjoy what you do but on the larger scale there same to be more people appreciating our style of music over here. English tabloids seem to have people like Pete Doherty and they discuss the Libertines and music of that nature more than you’d ever see in the States. In the States it’d be more like what’s Beyonce up to, or Mariah Carey up to. Which is OK, they all have their own time and place.”
Peter: “The only thing that surprises us is that we don’t really see bands knocking each other in the US, like Razorlight and The Kooks who’ve apparently got some kind of war going on. That’s something we’re not really used to in the States. It’s hard to be in a band in general and put in all the hard work in so it’s pretty remarkable for anyone to want to do that.”
Bryan: “Four guys get along, their girlfriends still want to date them, they’ve go to find a way to pay their bills and that’s a great thing. I mean obviously we want to hear great music but we’re not too much into knocking bands you know…those fucking bastards.”
VF: Also you mention artists like Cyndi Lauper, Cher, Britney Spears and George Michael…seriously?
Pete: “Well we just like good pop songs and we have this weird attachment to female singers as well, I think that plays a big influence on us.”
Bryan: “We like the melody, we like the whole shtick they create but we always want to put our own spin on things you know, we wouldn’t shoot to be like those really trite super-pop bands. We’d like to be like a pop sounding band, if you’re kean to what we’re talking about then you might recognise there are a few little endearing quirks and a little bit of sarcasm, you know?”
VF: Any collaborations likely with any of these artists?
Bryan: “We’d like to do Scissors for Lefty featuring Linda Rondstadt. She’s like a huge crossover of Mexican and American pop music in the 60s. She always wore short shorts and roller skates and she sung songs like “Love is a Rose” and she sang with the Stone Ponies: “you and I travel to the beat of a different drum.” We like 70s female artists, they sang with really cool voices, you know? Like you’d hear these gut wrenching deep vocals and a lot of American female pop these days has really whispery vocals.”
VF: Also you mention the Top Gun soundtrack, strange as a band I interviewed last week also mentioned the huge impact this film had on their lives (Goose)…what is it about this movie that has made it so influential on scores of contemporary bands? Do you think the late Don Simpson would be proud of his influence beyond the grave on modern music?
Bryan: “Well, it’s our parent’s fault. When I grew up we had Top Gun, Flashdance, The Doors and that was about it in my parent’s tape player that they would ever listen to. Everyone grew up with it to some degree, we don’t try to write Top Gun music to any degree. And no matter how much you don’t want to like it later on in our first couple of shows we used to hand out Flashdance tapes and videos and order a pizza after the show.”
Peter: “It’s got that Berlin song on it [the Top Gun soundtrack], “Take My Breath Away” which is such a good song. I think in general we’re like an i-Tunes band in that we’ve got a ton of different songs that we just love and we’re not attached to one specific sound, we’ve just got this huge collection of songs that we love to listen to. What ties us together is that we just like good songs. And none of us can play trumpet yet so we don’t have any trumpet in our songs.”
VF: And what of your other influences?
Peter: “We’ve all grown up with the more classic pop, like all that 80s stuff, but I think like Pavement, Granddaddy and Ladytron were like some of the real early influences on the band. Ladytron are half-Japanese-looking-kind-of-guys so we realised that half-Japanese-looking-kind-of-guys [Peter and his brother James are half Malaysian] could make a go of it. We kind of really like all the people who played little Casio keyboards so we tried to capture some of that but a little more pop oriented.”
VF: How long have you guys been together and how have you managed to get to where you are today?
Bryan: “We’ve been friends for five or six years and seriously trying to play shows for about two.”
Peter: “We used to write a song every couple of months back in the day, we thought it was great if we played a show a season, now we play shows so much it’s become a ballpark.”
Bryan: “It’s become a joke man, but one that we like.”
Peter: “Before we had a manger we were absolutely terrible, we never booked our own shows so we always relied on handouts.”
Bryan: “We’re in good hands and it’s nice to relax [now having a manager], you want to make sure that all your energy, and sacrifices, and lost girlfriends and jobs have been worth it.”
Peter: “We got really lucky because our manager found us, she came to a show and she was like: “Oh my God, I really want to manage you guys, I think you’re great.”
Bryan: “Plus it was guaranteed that she would sleep with us so our business ended up being much more effective…hee hee hee.”
Peter: “It was kind of funny because she was sending our stuff to loads of labels but Rough Trade found us.”
Bryan: “It was flattering because we like our own music but we had no idea other people would be curious. It’s nice to have a little extra help so we put a record together for them. [Underhanded Romance, out in October.] We like it a lot, we were amazed how quickly we put it together, it’s a lot more playful than our last album that’s for sure.”
VF: Are you looking forward to you performance at the Reading/Leeds festivals this weekend? Are you looking forward to seeing anyone else play in particular?
Peter: “Yes, a definite yes.”
Bryan: “We didn’t realise how big it was, how much of an influence it has. I mean we have no other option other than being ourselves which we always do but of course we’re kind of thinking “let’s stick closer together for this set, we’ll not spread apart on the big stage.”
Peter: “Because that feels funny when you’re on a big stage and you stand 20 feet apart.”
Bryan: “It’s funny at all the big festivals, you’re barricaded from the audience and you can’t just sit on somebody’s lap, we don’t really like those. We played in Germany at the Hurricane festival so we have some idea of what these big festivals are like. But you know it’s flattering because there’s always more people at the end of our set than at the beginning. It’s like, “hey, thank you…all six of you, I’m glad you enjoyed it.” But then there’s the poster that says: “stick around for free shit.””
VF: And what’s the festival scene like in America?
Bryan: “In America you’ve got your Lollapalooza, the Warped tour, but what happens is they get going and then they take off and they become very, very commercial. But the idea of them is great, getting people excited about something, grabbing a bunch of good groups, celebrating some new talent and bringing some new comers. San Francisco has Noisepop, Texas has South By South West.”
Peter: “Yeah, we drove like 30 hours to get to South By South West to play at it. It’s 2,000 miles from where we live, so we had two days to get there, so we drove and we didn’t stop driving.”
Robbie: “So we jumped right up on stage and played our butts off.”
Bryan: “That was the first time Jeff Travis and Jeanette from Rough Trade saw us play so we were glad because they were like “we were a little nervous because we liked the music on the album but we were always wondering if it was going to translate.” But they liked our live act a lot.”
Robbie: “There’s Burning Man as well. We played there and there was nothing but a complete storm going on, we had to plastic all of our gear.”
Bryan: “It could have been a lot of fun but it’s such an outdoor event and we were told there was going to be a sound stage and a PA, it turns out there was one mike and a speaker! And it’s like you need a lot of power to play outside. But we had fun, but our drummer quit on us right there, he was like “fuck this!” and we decided “hey man, we’re having fun” and so we invited some guy from the audience.”
Robbie: “He said he couldn’t play the show but you know what, nothing stops Scissors for Lefty! Nothing stops our performance, we will do whatever it takes!”
Bryan: “He quit in the middle of a song so we asked the crowd, “hey, anyone else play drums?” This guy was like “I do” so we invited him up and then while this other guy was playing drums for us our drummer was taking his drum kit away!”