pic by CCCPCassin
Girls Against Boys
nov 17th 2002 - Bordeaux, FR
interview with Scott McLoud by SEB WOOd
To me your last album You can’t fight what you can’t see is
reminiscent of House of GVSB. Did you have this album in mind when
recording the last one ?? and what was recording the album like ??
didn’t have House of GVSB specifically in mind but we did have in a way
I totally agree with you I think it is like House of GVSB which is one of
my favourite records. We had in mind to do a more simple record that was more
representative of the sound of Girls vs Boys like it sounds live after doing the
Geffen record which is much more studio-oriented, experimental album, which
didn’t leave us that satisfied with that approach so we thought that we would
want to return in a way to things that come simply to us which is our real sound
and House of GVSB is very indicative of the sound of GVSB. After Venus
Luxure and Cruise Yourself, House of GVSB is a good
representation of where our sound went to.
The evolution ??
the evolution of the sound. After Freak On Ica, we stepped back to make a
more stripped down rock record. It has maybe a little more melodicisms than
record like House of GVSB but it has the same spirit.
Could you tell us what problems you had with Geffen ?? What did you do in
the meantime ??
problem we had is sort of a worst case scenario. Entering into the situation
with a major label, we didn’t have any illusions, we knew what the possible
difficulties would be but we still ended up in a worst case scenario, that being
we released one record and we weren’t that happy with the record and we wanted
to go back and make another record quickly in fact. But the label disappeared
for a while in a big merge in 1998 and there wasn’t no Geffen at all so we
were shuffled around in-between different labels. Finally, we landed back on
Geffen again but with people we didn’t even know at all who basically
weren’t interested in the band. Well, they weren’t interested in the band
enough so that they would let us go. They wouldn’t pay us to leave. They owed
us two more records because the way it works in a three record deal is that we
were obligated to do 3 records and they were obligated to do 3 records as well.
Rather than just leave, we tried to work with them and they kept saying that
they would work with us. It was just a bad communication thing. In a band there
is always “momentum”. And the momentum that leads a band in a way, you sell
records and you sign to a major label. If you don’t sell enough records (Even
if the Geffen record made more money than any other record we ever did), you
lose momentum. We lost momentum. We lost our manager because we worked with a
major label. We started to flounder. It took a long time to deal with the
situation; there were a lot of legalities at hand. We couldn’t just go do what
we wanted to do. We could be sued by Geffen. We were stuck in this worst case
Is BFF about majors being nice to you, treating you like their
best friend and then throwing you away ??
is one reading of it. With my lyrics I often try to have at least a couple of
different levels that I can enjoy the meaning of the lyrics. That song to me is
sarcastic on several different levels and on a level it’s not even sarcastic
on one level. You start a band with your friends and there is this innocent
feeling: “we’re gonna be rock stars, driving in a car, passing some
cigarettes, here we go” and that’s a good feeling there’s nothing wrong
with that sort of emotional charge. But on the other side there’s the dark
element to the song that is the reality of a lot of situations: the egos, the
jealousy. Within bands, the faceless of business stuff, people saying to you
something and doing the other thing.
I think there is a great sense of despair in the last album (for example in Resonance
the lyrics have a grunge aspect: “I don’t want to live…”)
I talked to it a lot with Ted Niceley (who produced the album). When we were
making demos for the album, I didn’t worry too much about what the sentiment
was – I mean I worry all the time about the lyrics- but in my mind after the
disaster of Freak On Ica, spending months to signify what I was trying to
say in the lyrics and getting further and further away from saying anything that
seemed real to me. On this record, I let myself say and sing stuff even if it
seemed dark to me or filled with despair. While we were doing demos, I thought
well we’d go back and change stuff if it sounds too dark or depressive. Some
songs sound depressive but we talked about it and decided to let it be what it
is. It wasn’t a dark time when we made all those records. In the lyrics
there’s a sense of despair with making music and why bother...
It is echoed by the title as well.
is. It is a reference to frustration perhaps. ‘Here you are, you’ve
supposedly succeeded. You’re doing it full-time, which is what you’ve always
wanted to do in your life and you’re no longer making records anymore’.
You’re like living a lie. It’s incredibly frustrating. It makes you feel
incredibly down about music in general, and the whole concept of pursuing it
seems so depressing. You’re on a major label but you can’t make records.
Your indie friends think you’re weird. It’s the irony of it: in the end you
can’t even make records anymore (sarcastic grin). That’s the real big
pay-off. That’s a dark thing and we let it ride in the lyrics
let it be dark because that’s what it was !
Many people interpreted the title as a reference to the 11th
September events because you’re from NYC. Is that true ??
title actually comes from a lyric line in a song that I wrote that is not on the
album. I was looking for a title and I liked it because it seems so different
from other Girls vs Boys titles. It has a kind of ambiguity about it. There are
a couple of different ways to read it. I was conscious that people might
interpret it politically. I like that in a way. It works on a couple of
different levels once again. In the US, we’re living in a sort of increasing
state of paranoia where everybody feels threatened by unseen enemies. That theme
actually works right in with the same thing that the band has lived through -
unseen enemies. When you’re stuck on a major label, the tendency is to blame
everyone around you but part of the blame is also on you. It’s not just that
manager guy totally fucked you over. You have to get yourself together.
You’re part of the system…
you’re part of the system, you can’t fight what you can’t see. Sometimes
it’s right inside you.
I think there’s repetitive aspect that I like a lot in your music
(dancing rhythms). It is echoed by the lyrics (eg there are many occurrences of
names of cities). With what do you associate this ??
always liked when lyrics evoke to me personally a time and a place. For example
‘Miami Skyline’ refers directly to me being down in Miami, driving around in
a convertible car at night and my experience of Miami as a vacation paradise
place although there’s this big urban sprawl and there’s nothing
paradise-like about it. It’s the dichotomy about this tourist viewpoint and a
real life-aspect. Mentioning city names is also because all cities have their
own image, their own ‘vibe’. If you say “Los
Angeles-NewYork-NewYork-Chicago” (‘tucked in’), there’s something about
it. It gives me a visual which I like. The music we do is repetitive and
sometimes dance-like that I want to try to get it a trans-type feeling in the
lyrics. I like to repeat things often to a fault. People say ‘You’ve gotta
say a couple of more lines’ but I don’t like it when it gets too dance. The
thing I don’t like with Freak On Ica is that we kept doing it and
people kept saying ‘you gotta do more lyrics’. Always a new line… to me it
never settled down. I like repetition. When you repeat something, it makes you
think of something new. You interpret the lyrics in a different way the second
time you hear it. At first, you think ‘party lyrics’ and then there’s
something darker. By repetitions, new meanings can reveal themselves.
Somehow, it evokes big city loneliness and modern advertising concepts.
I’m totally into advertising ‘speak’. It’s this kind of constant barrage
of words that are meant to slowly invade your subconscious, all these things
that you live with everyday of your life and that keep repeating constantly into
your brain. I’ve always enjoyed this concept of repeating lyrics and maybe
altering them slightly so that they take on a new meaning. You can even see the
despair in some advertising stuff. You’re in some dreary place and there are
pictures of paradise-like advertising stuff all over the place. There is
something strange and macabre about that.
Let’s skip to something different. Recently, Dischord released a twenty
years birthday compilation in which there is a song by Soulside. They chose
‘Punch the Geek’, which to me sounds like Fugazi in Red Medicine for
example, which is quite different from Girls vs Boys. What do you think about it
Soulside was really first starting out…we started actually before Fugazi…
there are definitely similarities between Soulside & Girls vs Boys
musically, rhythmically. It’s very different lyrically, I am a very different
singer than Bobby Sullivan was (Scott was only on guitar in Soulside) – not as
melodic for example. At a certain point…doing a band in DC, at a certain point
it’s a bit…we sort of…we were a little bit….at a certain point….I
don’t want to say it the wrong way because I totally respect Fugazi, they’ve
been an inspiration to me but in a certain point doing a band in DC is
irritating because everywhere you go, people keep comparing you to Fugazi.
Everything’s like Fugazi or not. After Soulside came out and when we moved out
to New-York, in our mind we wanted to change our sound a little bit and get away
from the Fugazi thing.
Is that why you signed to Touch & Go ??
is a reason why. We were really pleased to do that because people couldn’t say
anymore ‘it is a DC band that kinda sound like Fugazi’. A band living in
New-York, coming from DC and signed to a Chicago label was confusing. People now
asked ‘are they kinda Jesus Lizard, kinda …’ It was nice and it gave us a
place to breathe.
Is that why you changed the name from Soulside to Girls Vs Boys ??
was 2 or 3 years between the bands so we never concentrated on having the same
name. It was different members too. There was the three of us but Eli who’s
actually not with us tonight…
…because his wife is in the middle of her second pregnancy
and there have been complications. Everything’s gonna be ok but at the last
minute he was unable to go. The baby’s coming on February so we couldn’t
postpone the tour either. We waited 4 years to do this tour so we couldn’t
just cancel the tour. A friend of Eli’s and ours named Sohrab Habibion (see
photo). He used to play in a DC band you probably never heard of a long time ago
(Headsoul??). He has roadied for us in the past. He knew all the songs. He was
able to step in and learn the new songs 3 days before the tour started. It’s
been hard and it’s been getting better now. It’s been strange for us to do
the tour without an original member. That’s one of the things we definitely
share with that DC mentality: when someone quits the band, the band is almost
What do you think of Dischord now with retrospect ??
an amazing thing. I can’t say enough good things about it. It truly reflects
what has been happening in DC. The compilation is a good documentation of the
scene, music and mentality of Washington DC. It’s totally brilliant
artistically. Dischord is not pursuing all the hot bands from all over the
place. They are just saying “if you’re a band, you have a similar mentality
to us, you’re in DC and you play around for a while and you prove yourself,
maybe we’ll put you out on Dischord”. For a band coming up, it’s a great
opportunity to be on a solid label that really works on the music. The new bands
can enjoy the whole network. Dischord has grown over 20 years ! It is a great
thing because it hasn’t been exploited too much. Dischord hasn’t signed
every cool band to the point where it doesn’t have an aesthetic sensibility. I
think Touch & Go has grown in a similar way. Cory is very peaky with his
label, with the things he puts out, which gives Touch & Go an artistic
viewpoint so people who buy records know what to expect.
exactly. You know what to expect when you’re buying a Dischord cd.
I read somewhere (Abus Dangereux – French fanzine) that ER bought one
of your songs for an episode. Which song is it and has it been on air yet ??
‘One perfect thing’. They used it in the background. It’s been on air but
I haven’t even seen the scene in which some suicidal girl comes in the
hospital after an abortive suicide. They picked up our song because of its dark
atmosphere. They always use our music for the really dark scenes !! ‘Yeah, I
want your song for the scene when the guy is throwing up in the bathroom because
he took too many drugs…”. Anyway, it pays really well. It’s helpful !! It
doesn’t bother us to have our songs be used in TV shows. We had some songs
used in movies before… We appeared in one movie before, playing as a fake
Do you watch movies in which there is one of your song in the soundtrack
we finished the soundtrack of Series Seven, I had seen the movie so many
times from doing the music that I didn’t really watch it. We did some stuff in
Hedwig and the Angry Inch which I was very proud of. It’s an awesome
Down here, everyone knows your contribution to Clerks.
it’s amazing how many people tied into Clerks, how many people know
that one of our songs was in Clerks. Soundtracks are good way to get your
name out of there.
Can you tell us about your side-projects??
I’ve been doing for several years now is called New Wet Kojak. It started off
as late-late-night, almost jazz mostly because of saxophone but now it’s more
stripped out, darker, quieter, harmless rock. A new album is coming out in
February 2003. The sound is getting more and more slightly electronic. It’s a
fun band because of the collaborations with different people. It’s entirely
studio-oriented, elaboration goes constantly in different directions. It’s not
rehearsed live. It’s a fun way to work (acoustic guitars…) and to me it’s
interesting because the way we work is totally different than with GVSB.
I also have another project – it’s an electro-pop thing – that is coming out through Chronowax in France. It’s called Operator. I do this with these guys in LA. There are some similarities to GVSB but it’s totally different. It’s not that serious. The guys in LA write all the music. It’s kind of poppy, which is really fun. It’s a new experiment.
Johnny (Temple) runs a publishing company called Akashic Books. He’s struggling to do something. He’s doing something with Touch & Go and Dischord concerning the books. He’s doing well but it’s difficult to make ends meet. He’s working on it all the time on his laptop computer when we tour.
Alexis is drumming for other people sometimes. He’s drumming for this band called Bellini with guys from Don Caballero (but the drummer from Don Cab quit the band) and these Italian guys from Uzeda that was on Touch & Go.
We’re coming at an age where it makes sense to do many things. We’ve been doing music for so many years, we meet people all the time so we want to make collaborations. Being in one band is great but after a while you want to try other things. Sometimes you learn something and bring it back to your original group.
Last question: I really like this line in ‘Superfire’: “In Dust We
Trust”, could you tell me what is the song dealing with ??
goes back to what we were talking about earlier. There isn’t a way that I can
describe where I was going lyrically. It is basically about an overload of
stimulation. A visual stimulation overload of life to the point that you just
feel… A lot of the lyrics back then are phrases that I took from French.
‘Rien dans un citron’ is a phrase I used in ‘super-fire’: “Nothing in
the lemon”. There are phrases that I heard that I liked. “X-head X-vibe In
Dust We Trust” evokes a money thing. In the back of the dollar bills, there is
‘In God We Trust’. ‘In Dust We Trust’ is a negative way to talk about
money and this sensationalist overload of things. It’s in your head and
you’re going to go crazy. It’s hard to describe. The song to me is that
nothing satisfies. You get so much stuff that basically you’re looking for
satisfaction but although you get a lot of things, nothing satisfies you.