Friday, 5 October 2012



Introducing The Scholars.

Since being directed to their MySpace page about a year ago, The Scholars fast became one of my favourite new indie bands. Now, indie is not a genre as many will scream and shout and I agree, it is not. But then, indie in the context I use it frequently refers to the independent nature of whatever it is that is being discussed. In my honest opinion, the fact The Scholars are an unsigned band is a heinous crime given the star quality of not only what has come from them before but even more so with the phenomenal music they are producing today. Their latest single Wired is released on Monday 8th October as a FREE download. Check it out for yourself and get on board! Share the music, get in touch with the band via their Facebook page, and offer your comments, thoughts and suggestions. Most importantly talk about how great they sound and demand their tunes get played on your favourite radio station and that they must play gigs in your towns. It's still about word of mouth these days folks or tweets of tweeps, if that's your thing.

There are some fine radio stations and shows out there but there’s a whole heap of junk too. The same repetitive noise some of them play should warrant their controllers and presenters be jettisoned into deep space (without breathing apparatus or space suits). What is needed is for them to embrace the true music stars of the future and they need look no further for inspiration than The Scholars. Naming the band as one of a few of my own Bands of the Moment, I’ve featured them on my podcast no less than three times already. While they continue making such kick ass songs like Turbulence, This Heart’s Built To Break and the latest, Wired I will continue to play them again and again. This band is what modern music should be all about! It drives it on for a fan of real hard working musicians like myself and hits home the message that there really are so many amazing acts out there that, for all their brilliance remain just under the radar. Only just though, as these guys are primed and ready for launch. The bottom line is your support for highly professional talented bands like The Scholars, is needed and very much appreciated.  

The band itself emerged in a rather gradual manner, beginning with Adrian Banks and Chris Gillett back in 2007. Both were playing in various other bands until they finally started writing together by the time that year was out. They started big too, by way of writing a full 10 track album called Turbulence. Recorded on a 4 track, they managed to persuade a local producer to record it for them. Cue the addition of a drum playing friend and an initial 3 piece set up was born. Unfortunately, they were a band with an album but no gigs with which to showcase it.

Various individuals came and went as the early days was no doubt more about testing what worked and with whom in what way. How would they build up a live performance making music fans take notice and want to hear and see more from them? How were they going to take those early accomplishments to the next level? It was a constructive process that paid off when a quintet finally emerged by the middle of 2008. Then it was show time as the new complete line-up was ready to be unleashed on unsuspecting (but very lucky) audiences.

That initial album, Turbulence, consisted of various demos of a number of different styles. I’d say it was a work of raw creative genius. I mean this in the sense that maybe not all of the tracks would have been perfect, ready to release or indeed great (they may very well have been all these things, I must add) but much more importantly they were a way, for Adrian and Chris at least, to figure out what they were capable of together musically (and in turn, as a band) and exactly what they may be able to achieve in the future. Five years on and they are still writing together, having produced some of the finest alternative electronic rock songs I’ve had the pleasure of coming across. I was so enthused I found myself returning regularly to their MySpace page anticipating new releases.

Turbulence, the album, may not have been released to the world but the title track was released as a single in 2009 and led to an interview on BBC6 Music with Tom Robinson. Listening to the song it's easy to understand why it generated such interest following its release. It has everything needed to grab your attention and pull you in for more. Superbly written lyrics, striking vocals from Adrian and utilising sounds that embed themselves deep down in the musical parts of your brain. Festival slots throughout that summer followed so The Scholars were on the move at last. Their inclination for doing things on a grander scale seeped into their live endeavours as they won a BBC Introducing Battle Of The Bands after just a few weeks out on the road. The momentum kept building as they were spurred onwards, working hard at playing shows and writing new material. Going on to share bills with the likes of Two Door Cinema Club, The Boxer Rebellion, The Cinematics, The Big Pink, Chapel Club, Animal Kingdom, Wintersleep and A Silent Film, they have also played the wonderfully laid-back and independent Truck Festival as well as Wychwood Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse.

2010 saw the guys become heavily involved with an independent feature film. Turbulence was its name and musical romantic comedy was its game. They played a major role in this venture and Adrian had a starring role, satisfying the acting side of his professional ambitions. Producing the soundtrack for the film as well as being an important part of the story itself meant more exposure for those early songs, especially the terrific tune that is Turbulence but also the likes of Blood Runs Blue. Although still at an experimental stage with regards their sound, the seeds planted from the work on that initial unreleased 10 track album were growing fast and bearing sumptuous tasty fruits. Emulating some of the styles of their favourites bands to an extent, which is only a natural part of the process, The Scholars' own distinct sounds were emerging from their hard work and dedication.

Debut EP, Arrival/Departure was released in 2011 and it was after hearing this I was well and truly hooked on to them. No way was I letting go. My initial thoughts were, sounds similar in style to the Editors. As a huge fan of that band I didn't want just an imitation of course but there was no worry about that with Arrival/Departure because Adrian's uniquely distinct and engaging vocals married with the sweeping electronic synths and powerful melodies provided the perfect mix. Indeed, after hearing this I wanted a full album immediately. If you don't have this EP in your collection I urge you to rectify this situation quick smart. A direct link to where you can purchase this at iTunes is >>here<<.

This Heart's Built To Break was the second single to be released but in January this year and fans got this little gem all for FREE. It is still available as a FREE download so make sure you grab your copy and share the information and link (below) with the world. Again, following the release of this single I desperately wanted an album from the band and while this is selfish of me, I think it will be hard for you not to agree this is something that MUST happen, in time. In order for us to help make it so, we need to ensure we all get right behind this amazing trio right now. That's right, they recently lost two band members but no, not in the sense of having left them behind somewhere. Adrian, Chris and Leigh are not that careless. Producing such great stuff, they cannot be. You will find out a little more about this recent change in line-up from the interview below as well as discovering loads more from the guys themselves.  

Interviewing The Scholars

As the first band interview to be featured on this blog, I shall be eternally grateful to Adrian and Chris who kindly answered this barrage of questions I sent to them. All this for you wonderful readers, listeners and fans of great musical taste to learn more about them and the band. As they launch their latest single, Wired on 8th October let's delve in and when you're done if you haven't already check out the unofficial video for Wired at the top of the page. From Monday 8th I'll also embed the single so you can simply click and be able to download your own copy.

Wired is the first of five new songs the band have for us and what a start for their 'relaunch' as a trio again. I say relaunch but the efforts of former members Tim and Josh are not and never will be forgotten. Wired has everything required to propel The Scholars back into the stratosphere of the modern music world. Brimming with a quality sorely lacking on the radio playlists today it should only be a matter of time before we are hearing them added to such lists in order to do the all important job of vastly increasing the quality of radio output. 

Starting with answering a question about the conception of the band, a brief history from the beginnings up to today, I used some of this information for the above write up. Here's what else Adrian had to say:
We've been lucky enough to do a lot of things a lot of bands at our level haven't but we've had just as many lows as highs and it's still to this day a struggle to make a serious mark in the music industry. It's a broken industry and for any band out there it's so so hard but we keep battling on! Recently we changed to a Trio again. Two of our very close friends just couldn't commit the time anymore and we respected them for there honesty and was so proud of the work they did and the place they got us to today. They will be sadly missed and this year has been particularly hard for us. BUT we're still here and we'll still be making music. 

Who came up with the name The Scholars and how was the name settled upon?
A: Way back in the formation of the band we were struggling for a name, but it came from a visit to Stratford upon Avon when my Dad saw "Scholars Lane" and told us….and it was as simple as that! No legendry story I'm afraid to say! 

As a collective how do you approach the song writing and the recording process? Is there primarily one member who writes etc…? 
A: Me and Chris write the music together, it's just kind of worked that way - we were never adverse to other members contributing, but being brothers and living under the one roof meant we could knock out demo's at a great pace, it just seemed to work. Normally when a demo's finished, we would offer it up to the rest of the band and they would tell us if they liked it or not. We'd work on demos we liked and they developed in our live shows and sift out which ones worked and which didn’t! 

What kind of effect, if any, has the recent alteration in the line-up had on how you make music together as a group?
A: Being a 3 piece has made this process a lot easier and almost more collaborative - Leigh has some great synth pads which he adds for texture and we've been able to really fill out our live shows with some of our new gear which is all operated from the drums! We've also embraced the extra space in our music and explored more keyboard and harmonic ideas. We've written some new songs recently which we are so proud of and can't wait to road test them on new audiences!  

For those reading about you for the first time, having not heard any of your songs, how would you sum up your overall sound? What about the kind of sound you are aiming for?
A: Wow..okay.. a mixture of Electro Rock and 80's new wave with a moody dance feel..something like that.. We never aimed for a sound but it evolved from early demos to definitely the more darker elements of Alt Rock. Due to my low singing voice and aggressive guitars we do get compared to bands we like, but I think its certainly moving away from that into a more defined sound that seems to be quite refreshing to new audiences, which is great! I think in the early days we sounded very like the bands we admired but that’s a natural thing I think. You listen to bands you like, you write music, there will always be crossovers. It's just what you do after that makes things interesting.. 

Chris: The other day someone compared us to The Chameleons, which I thought was pretty cool. It's good that we mostly get compared to decent bands.

Considering Social Networks, it has become evident to me that certainly in the early days and even for a number of years to follow, it requires bands (or indie artists of many areas) to really work hard and relentlessly at self-promoting. Are there still times when you feel like giving it all up and just playing Skyrim instead or heading to the pub after work? What encourages you to keep at it?
A: All the time! And For the record, me and Leigh are massive Skyrim fans and we still somehow fit it in. It’s bloody hard to keep doing. Ideally you want a company to jump on board and manage that side for you.. but its all money. Tim, our former 2nd guitarist and PR man was incredible at keeping the band alive online and working around him not being in the band has been a massive challenge. Chris has really taken it on board to crack on with the emails and talking to management types - with regards to social networking - I like to do that myself - I also design posters and have quite a large say in artwork and image for the band. Leigh is a dap hand at making our videos and editing various things to keep our visual online marketing interesting. We all talk to each other and all have opinions on our online structure and so far it seems to work. Having our own little areas just builds into the larger picture. It’s a lot of time and effort but the buzz we get from playing live and the reaction we get from people when we release stuff is enough to keep going. We all love music and playing and writing – that’s what it’s all about….time for a drink ;) 

Do you think Social Networks (and/or even the internet in general) are helping or hindering real quality emerging talent? Why? (Although let’s face it, Simon Cowell has done his best to annihilate quality talent via the television).
A: It's great exposure for any emerging talent, but at the same time its so saturated its hard to know where to look. The likes of X Factor esq shows really blind what the reality is to make it as a successful act with a career and not quick cash for covers. Some blogs are useful for sifting through the shit – and spotify is a great tool. Anything that exposes people in the right way that can benefit upcoming bands is invaluable to reach the right audience. If you dig a little you’ll find so much more than what TV and Radio1 expose us to.
What are your thoughts on how the music industry itself operates these days?
A: Battling with the economic fall and the internet age has shifted the industry to a place where money is few and far between. There's not much trust anymore and it's trying to work itself out, except no one seems to know how. Once the problem with illegal downloading can be worked around things will hopefully pick up, but until then bands are going to have to find new and more inventive ways to get out there – the industry now is enough to put people off getting into making music, maybe we’re crazy?    

What would you say has been your biggest challenge as a band so far?
A: Adjusting to a 3 piece for me, I think we would all say various things - but that or just trying to get out there and finding new ways to do it! Always trying to write a better song is the goal.

C: Agreed. Trying to capture our sound on record has been something that has driven me to insanity over the last 4 or 5 years, and if something is not right to me, it can really create a pretty tense atmosphere. With these new tracks, it was the most relaxed I've ever been in a studio.
As musicians, there are no doubt numerous bands and individuals of all kinds of styles that have influenced you all, both in terms of general jamming for fun and professionally. Name just ONE each that you’d have to say has had the most impact on how you ‘make’ music right now.
A: This will divide people but I don’t care….Chris Martin

C: John Frusciante. But Simon Green (AKA Bonobo) has also had a huge impact on the way I make music.

Would any one of you ever appear on a reality TV show if it meant getting the band some exposure? If not all of them, which ones would you refuse point blank to do?
A: Road to V? Otherwise, none of them. We refuse to watch any of them but we can understand why people want to use it as an exposure platform. Just not really us. It does more damage than good. 

You have five really great songs ready to unleash on the world, the first of which, Wired is released on Monday 8th October as a FREE download. What is the impetus for a) releasing them one at a time as opposed to a full EP and b) why for free?
A: We've been advised by companies and friends that singles are the way forward. People are unfortunately losing interest in albums and releasing singles can get you way more exposure than an EP - unless you’re in a position where you have a big enough fan base. 

Explain what Wired, is about?
A: Lyrics I write about are normally based on a personal experience or an onlookers view to a situation. I try to, on the most part get away from telling the listener what I’m thinking and instead provide them with a story or an idea that they can make fit into their world. It always pleases me when people explain their idea of a song I've written even if it's not what I've envisaged. It’s boring to be told what to think, right? Wired is about how someone gets under your skin and knows how to push your buttons. “You know how I’m wired” refers to the fact that everyone feels in control but when someone can control you – just how hard it is to escape them and the effect they have on your life.

What hurdles are in the way of you making a full album and can you see these being conquered? What kind of shape might such a longer record take?
A: One word. Money. – If we were to record an album, it would have to be with some money behind us to really capture what we would want on record. 

Are there any big named bands you would love the opportunity to support on a UK (or even beyond) tour? Which ones? 
A: For me - Coldplay, The National, Muse, Interpol....any pioneering band that we grew up listening to really. I’d love to play with Elbow, just from an advice point of view – they are a real hardworking band.

What about collaborating with any other people musically, bringing them into the band for a project perhaps? Alternatively, any specific music producers you want to work with?
A: Too many to write down but I think we'd all be open to working collaboratively if it was done in the right way with the right people and was interesting for us all! Crossing genres can either really work or ruin you. I guess it’s who you’re aiming for. In terms of producers…umm…really admire Peter Katis, Jacknife Lee, Brian Eno and Jeff Saltzman.

You’ve made it through and are heading out on your first UK headline tour. What qualities or sound in a supporting act(s) would you look for?
A: I’d want to look for a band who have been on the unsigned circuit a while who we may have played with who deserves a break. 

What would you consider has been your biggest and most accomplished gig so far? Does this differ from what you’d choose as your favourite gig?
A: Biggest gig would be supporting The Boxer Rebellion with We are Augustines last year around the release of our EP - it was a fantastic day playing with two bands we hugely admire. 

C: Our Arrival/Departure EP Release party at The Regal in Oxford will always live long in the memory - incredible venue, soundguys and lighting.

Do any of you have any pre-gig rituals?
A: Paying for parking and grabbing a quick dinner…oh and deciding on a setlist. I normally sing in the car to warm my voice up.

How do you like to best unwind after a show?
A: Gah, I wish we say we could but the reality is we don’t. We often pack up and head home. The nearest is probably listening to BBC4 on the way. If the bands we're playing with are good we'll stick around and enjoy the show. Leigh likes to grab a few beers, he's a laid back kinda fellow, except when Tottenham lose. 

Can we expect some shows to come following the release of Wired? Where would you most love to play?
A: We will be doing a few shows around the Midlands following the release. Would love to play...err….SO many! Wembley, Reading/Leeds, Roundhouse and Glasto. Well, in England anyway. Shameless plug, but for our shows, best visit our facebook!  

If you weren’t in a band or into music like you are, what would you be doing with your lives instead?
A: I’m a jobbing actor as well as juggling a music career. I think I’d always want something involved in the arts.

C: If I wasn't in a band I'd still be looking for a job within music.

Music guilty pleasures: Name an album or band/artist you owned or liked when you were a kid/teenager that makes you want to go back in time and have a word with yourself? (if there is one) 
A: I brought a Stained album once. God, it was tripe. Why did I do it?!

C: I bought the single 'Escape' by Enrique Iglesias. No regrets.

I’m aware Adrian is an actor. What aspirations do you have regards that part of your professional life?
A: I grew up acting and it was music that I got into later. I love both though. I trained as an actor and I’m lucky enough to have a great agent who puts me up for loads of stuff - Ideally I’d love to be involved with a comedy series or feature film – but as long as I’m working in either I’ll be happy. I get a different buzz off each. Acting you get to put your stamp on someone else’s idea where as music exposes what you make. You can't hide behind someone else’s work.

You were involved in the making of the independent film Turbulence which has recently been selected for a premier at Edmonton International Film Festival. This should expose the band to more people in a completely different setting, what are your thoughts and hopes on this? 
A: We are so lucky to be involved in this film and I was extraordinarily lucky to be a main character as well as being involved in providing the soundtrack. It’s been some time since we did the film but its great to see it still make waves, especially abroad! It certainly gives us a new audience. It was a fantastic project to work on and we’ll have to wait and see what comes of it.

What are amongst your most important non-musical influences? 
A: For me, the Media in general. I write a lot about how devastating it can be and how it moulds people’s perceptions. I really hate it and the effect it has on society but it’s great to draw on. Other than that….Art, friends and family.

What kind of plans do you have for, say, the next twelve months? 
C: I think we've been doing this long enough to now be realistic with our goals. As long as we can stick to our plans for the releases, and continue to write better songs, then we will be heading in the right direction.

Once again, my sincerest thanks to Adrian and Chris for the above and all the best with the release of Wired.  Keep fully up to date with all things The Scholars at their official page via Facebook. As Adrian pointed out you will find all these gig dates on the Facebook page so go hit that all important 'like' button and prepare for some awesome live shows. Get along and support the band, let's help them get to where they deserve to be!
Banbury Folk Festival - 12th October
Oxjam, Purple Turtle, Oxford - 13th October
AKA, Banbury - 26th October (Free Entry)
The Bell, Adderbury - 3rd November
The End, Birmingham - 23rd November
Winter Warmer, Fat Lil's, Whitney - 16th December

The Scholars are:
Adrian Banks
Chris Gillett
Leigh Taylor

You can (and should) follow The Scholars on Twitter @TheScholars.

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