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 ??

We 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 ??

Yes, 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 ??

The 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 scenario.

-         Is BFF about majors being nice to you, treating you like their best friend and then throwing you away ??

That 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…”)

Yes, 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.

It 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 ??

The 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…

Yeah, 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 ??

I’ve 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.

Yeah, 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 ??

When 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 ??

It 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 ??

There 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…

-    Why ??

 …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 over.

-         What do you think of Dischord now with retrospect ??

It’s 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.

-         That’s credibility.

Yeah, 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 ??

It’s ‘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 band…

-         Do you watch movies in which there is one of your song in the soundtrack ??

When 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 movie.

-         Down here, everyone knows your contribution to Clerks.

Yeah, 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??

What 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 ??

It 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.

-    Thank You.

Thank You.