“IT’S JUST FUN MUSIC… I THINK THAT SUMS IT UP”
Noisy fuzz pop trio Golden Grrrls have just rolled into town. They’ve been driving all night, having played Leeds yesterday and Newcastle the day before, and after tonight they’re off to Manchester, then home to Glasgow. They’ve just had a whirlwind setup and sound-check, and – bar the odd furtive glance out the window to make sure guitarist Ruari’s car is parked okay – the three of them seem remarkably relaxed and cheerful. Has it been a good tour so far?
“Newcastle was great,” enthuses guitarist-come-keyboard player, Lorna. “We had fantastic support.” All three Golden Grrrls burst out laughing. It was that bad, eh? “Me and my fella, we started a new band,” Lorna explains. “We’ve never played music together before, so we just wrote six or seven songs the day before the show and played them. It’s boogie woogie guitar to a little Casio keyboard drum machine. We’re called Boy’s Bedroom – big plug for Boy’s Bedroom!”
She’s also in a group called the National Jazz Trio of Scotland, which is comprised of four people. “At first I was on drums for them but now I’m just on vocals, which is really good because you don’t have to take any equipment with you, just a packet of Lockets.”
Lorna started out playing drums in a band called Park Attack for about five years, and when they split up the guitarist ended up in a band with Ruari playing drums. “I’ve been in more obnoxious bands before, more noisy bands,” says Ruari. He met drummer Eilidh when she was working in a record shop in the café where he was working (incidentally, Lorna had worked in the same record shop prior to going to the US). Ruari had started playing guitar and, as Eilidh played drums, they started discussing the concept of doing something together.
“It sounded pretty different before,” says Ruari. “I started on my own, when I started to play guitar, and I could play drums, so I found a keyboard, recorded all of that… It was really simple, because I couldn’t really play. Then I started playing live with Eilidh on drums and our friend Kate played keyboard, initially. The sound changed because we’d start making stuff up in practice, it wasn’t just me recording on my own, and then Kate had to leave and Lorna joined in February/March, and it changed again because Lorna contributed a lot. She can play a lot of things. It just sounded like crap to begin with,” he laughs. “My bad guitar playing and bad recording… It’s a bit more polished now.”
Neither of the girls bother acting flattered by that semi-backward compliment, however, everyone agrees that the music is shaping up nicely; the tunes are more melodic and the sound is filling out more, with Lorna playing both guitar and keyboard, and all three members singing. Ruari puts it down to a balance of approaches; unlike him, the girls come at things from a melodic, pop sensibility.
“Most of our set now is stuff we’ve written since March,” he says “so the stuff on our MySpace page is, well, not outdated, something that’s three months old can’t be outdated…”
But since the band have been playing together for the last three months, they’re beginning to get an idea of what Golden Grrrls’ sound is. “I don’t think about it like that though,” says Eilidh. “I don’t ever think, ‘This is the kind of music I want to make.’ I like to take different elements and see how they work together. I can probably only play the way I play,”
“I don’t mean that I’m like, ‘let’s write a sad song’, or anything like that,” Ruari explains “but you can analyse how things come together. I mean, before it was just obnoxious keyboards and three notes in every song, just bashing all out, and now it’s getting more complex.”
A lot of their progress has taken place in the past few weeks, just from playing and touring together, bonding as a band and getting comfortable with the scuzz/pop balance. “I really enjoy playing pop music,” Eilidh says, sounding slightly surprised at her own statement. “It’s weird, I’ve only ever been in folkier bands and it’s quite novel to be rocking out to pop.”
“We’re a party band,” beams Lorna. “I think that’s great, it’s so much fun.”
“Seeing you play the drums now, in practice,” says Ruari to Eilidh “it’s totally different to the bands you were in before – you used to just sit there and play and now you’re smashing the kit up!”
“I’m just trying to be heard over your amp!” Eilidh laughs.
So, is this new, solid sound of theirs going to end up on a record any time soon? Ruari insists that, as with the tracks on the band’s MySpace page, all their current tapes and CDs are outdated, even the split tape with La La Vasquez/Teen Sheikhs supergroup Boredom Boys, which he says was still the stuff he’d recorded on his own. “I once put out three seven-inches really close together,” Ruari recalls. “It was really underwhelming, it just took so long – the artwork alone took about three months, it was crazy. But now that we’re happy playing music together, it would be good to put something out, but we’re not going to do it ourselves – we don’t have any money,” he smiles, ruefully. “We’ll have to wait for someone to ask us.”
All three agree that there is a good bank of songs building up, and they’d quite like to lay them down on a tidy little seven-inch, but, despite being approached a few times, they’ve yet to get a definite offer.
“I think this band has been quite lucky, and the progress we’ve made has been so natural,” says Eilidh “but there’s these depressing times when you feel like you’ll be waiting years for an album to come out.”
Oh, come now, where’s your Sellotape and scribbles DIY sensibility? Can’t you just bung it all on a spool of Tesco Value CDs?
“It takes a lot of time and effort and commitment,” says Ruari. “Eh… and some finance.”
“Distribution as well,” adds Lorna. “We have the ethic that we know we want to get something done, we know you don’t necessarily need expensive equipment to make a good recording, we could do the recording on a four track or a laptop and we’re happy, it sounds quite good, but it’d be nice to have good distribution.”
There’s also the slight stigma of the aforementioned brand of DIY, they feel the concept of Doing It Yourself has been hijacked to a certain degree – that it can get a little too earnest and is more about the things you can’t do than what you can, and it’s not so appealing.
“I’ve read that we have a DIY ethic, or aesthetic,” says Ruari “and that’s true, we do do it ourselves, we made CD-Rs for the tour, and we even organised the tour ourselves. It feels good,” he smiles. “We’ve done alright.”
DIY they may indeed be, but Golden Grrrls are not about to settle into a cubbyhole next to the more trendy, earnest lo-fi-ers. They don’t take themselves seriously enough for that sort of thing. After all, this band started when a guy, on his own with a keyboard and debatable guitar skills, called himself ‘Golden Grrrls’.
“It’s just fun music,” says Ruari.
“It is fun,” agrees Eilidh,
“Fun,” Lorna laughs. “I think that sums it up!”
By Polly Rappaport
Originally published in issue 19 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. July 2010