Girl Scout on picking up career speed quickly and bringing jazz elements into the indie scene: Interview

With their melodies weaving tales of emotion and their sound painting vivid indie rock pictures, Girl Scout are the new indie rock darlings everyone talks about. After meeting up and forming the band during the height of the pandemic, they hauled in a manager through social media, signed with MADE Records, and released their first single last year. The rest is a story about ending up on NME’s ‘shit-hot’ band list, drawing accolades from fans and critics, and intense touring.

Two EP’s into 2023 Girl Scout embarked on a big tour supporting Coach Party across the UK. When they popped by the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, we snatched Emma, Viktor, Per, and Evelina during a coffee break and ended up in a chat about their super quick breakthrough in the indie rock scene, not having control of anything, and their jazz roots. And The Hives, they’re available for the support slot on your next world tour – just give ‘em a call!

Tagging along as the world spins faster

Starting with the obvious; everything about Girl Scout happened really fast from starting the band to going on this big tour and supporting Coach Party. You got together during the pandemic, right?
”Exactly! Or was it before the pandemic? (a discussion starts on when they really formed the band) Ok, we started at the height of the pandemic in the fall of 2020. Maybe we did one rehearsal before we officially were a band – are we sure about that? (laugh) But we didn’t release our first song until last year.”

“And you’re right, it all happened very fast and we just tagged along as it happened. When the pandemic arrived we didn’t have anything else to do and went from jamming in our rehearsal space to recording lots of songs. Viktor has recording gear and we started recording our demos and building a bank of songs that we thought would be useful to have once the pandemic was over. But we didn’t have any bigger plans than doing some local gigs in Stockholm at the time and were just waiting for it to happen, and then other people wanted different.”

“I (Emma) posted a short video on Instagram and put our music on top, and shared it as a story as well, and the same day people got back to us and asked ‘Do you have a management yet?’. Soon after that, we started meeting up with people in the industry. We started following a UK management on social media with no intentions at all, you know, just to build a network. No one would be interested in a band without a following and we started to engage with our friends and their network on social media, and a few days later this guy (Jonathan Morley, manager) got back to us. I was like ‘Hey, there’s an English manager who wants more music, is it ok if I send him a few songs?’ and then he asked if we had even more. So it ended up in us booking a meeting with him, but we weren’t super enthusiastic about it at first, for no reason at all, maybe because we thought it wouldn’t take us anywhere. But we got some good vibes from that meeting and have worked together with him ever since. He is just amazing”

”He opened up many doors for us and arranged for a label to release our music and got us gigs, and it has continued at a furious speed beyond our control (laugh). Jonathan has all these contacts in the UK which sort of made the UK our home as well, that’s where it happens for us.”

”But we also take great pride in the fact that we recorded a lot of music while the pandemic kept the venues closed, and that made it easy for us to send music to people whenever they asked for it. We’ve always had tons of music, not just one or two songs as most bands have when they’ve been a band as short a time as we have. It obviously made it easier to get things moving a lot faster than it should’ve done otherwise.”

Maybe the pandemic brought something good as well; you got time to write lots of demos.
”Yeah, we got a really good start because of the opportunity to stay in the rehearsal space and write new music and not do anything else – no gigs and no distractions, just writing and rehearsing. It also gave us the chance to shape our sound as there was lots of time to try things out, and if something didn’t pan out as we wanted it to, we just started over again before we recorded it. You would never get time to experiment like we did if it wouldn’t have been a lockdown.”

And as soon as the pandemic was over and you released your first songs it took off almost immediately. You released your first song last year and now you’re on this long tour with Coach Party. But does it come with pressure to make something out of the tour and take the next step already now?
”We wouldn’t say pressure because with the songs we have we’re ready for it and we have never gotten to the point where it feels like ‘Shit, we don’t know how to handle this’. Instead, it has been like ‘Hey, great to finally get a chance to release these old songs on record. Just dust off the tape and send it’ (laugh). Pressure often turns up when you don’t have anything new to offer – new music – but we have enough songs for more releases, and that has been our advantage from the first day things started moving forward for us. We don’t need to rush back home and write new music, there’s no stress at all about that.”

”The last year has been amazing and we have done many gigs in the UK and a mini-tour with Coach Party already, and it feels like scaling up the tour to something much bigger as it is now isn’t really a problem. It feels like the second leg of a tour we already started.”

”But we need to point out and emphasize that nothing of this would’ve been possible without all the fantastic people around us and their experience of doing this, they’re just an amazing team. You know, it’s like, ‘Hey guys, it would be good if you record new music now so we can release the first single in six months’. They know how it all works out and what the best strategy for releasing music is. We just tap into that and do whatever they ask for (laugh).”

But in your small bubble or micro-world where things happen very fast, have you had time to reflect on what’s happening and what you want as a band?
”No, not at all (laugh). We don’t have time to think at all (laugh). But even if the world spins faster than we can control we have to make time for other things as well. The time we have left between gigs and rehearsals is about catching up with real life – family, friends, partners, and, worst of all, your day job. They all need their time.”

”It’s the mix of all these activities that makes life interesting right now. On one hand, we’re chasing more gigs and plan for the next release; on the other, we have some sort of normal lives to deal with. We need to continue reminding ourselves that we released our first song last year even if it feels like it was a lifetime ago. The other day we were watching photos from live shows a year ago and thought ‘We looked so different’ – but it’s just a year ago! (laugh)”

A year to remember: Two EPs and a major UK tour as support

Having their roots in jazz music, the band brought many jazz elements into Girl Scout such as songwriting techniques and live improv. It also brought them work routines in the studio, and during the pandemic when there was nothing to do, the band recorded heaps of music to be ready when the venues opened up again.

About a year ago they were picked up by MADE Records and released their first single, and this year has seen the arrival of two brilliant EPs, Real Life Human Garbage and Granny Music. And if Emma gets to decide, the band will work on releasing their debut album next year. But again, they don’t have control of anything and just tag along.

I know that you have a background in jazz music and that you also toured as a jazz band before Girl Scout started, right? But this is a complete change of scene in terms of venues and audiences. How was that experience?
”It has been quite a transition and something new for us – let’s call it a learning curve. But our network and management made sure we got to play live as much as possible and that gave us much experience in a very short time – and heaps of flight hours across Europe (laugh).”

What do you bring into Girl Scout from jazz music? How does it affect your songwriting for instance?
”Quite much actually, but we tweak it differently in Girl Scout. How I (Viktor) play live is inspired by how I did it with jazz, like playing bits and pieces of songs differently at gigs and improvising a lot when I feel for it. We can’t do it too much though because the indie audience wants songs to sound a bit as on record but there’s room for some live improvisation.”

”We did an acoustic set on radio a few days ago and realized that we’re good at rearranging songs and doing them more lo-fi. That’s something we brought with us from jazz music and take those experiences to the indie scene. Above all, jazz gave us a language, a common terminology that makes it a lot easier to write music together. Our music education gave us a toolbox that is amazing to have right now.”

Your debut EP Real Life Human Garbage was released in February and Granny Music is out in a few days. Is there an album in the works as well or will you continue releasing EP’s? In this day and age EP’s can be more rewarding than albums.
“Yeah, Granny Music is out in a week but we have songs we don’t want to release on an EP, they’re album songs. Again, we don’t know what the future will look like and if the chance turns up to release a debut album soon. At the moment we’re at the end of our contract with the label and we’ll probably release a few more singles before that door closes. And then it’s about money. Do we have money for a full album? I (Emma) have the idea that it will happen next year but we’re dependent on other people as well. Let’s say it like this; we want to release an album but don’t have a plan on how to do it (laugh).”

I was also thinking about your song bank and what you recorded during the pandemic. Songs are often timestamps of a period in a band’s sonic identity but it tends to change. Are you in the process of leaving that ‘old sound’ behind you or will a possible album be the end of the first part Girl Scout’s sonic identity?
“That’s a very good question – and we don’t know. As you say, we have lots of songs to use but don’t want to limit ourselves to them if we happen to change completely. But we also have routines for how we write music that works well for us at the moment and that comes with a certain sound. However, we think our sound is more nuanced than having one sonic identity. Sure, our EPs have common references, that’s what happens when you record two EPs during one week, but our demos range from acoustic pop music to punk. Let’s say that our music represents our mood at a certain point in time and if we’re in the studio, it’s that week’s mood you will hear on record (laugh), although someone probably will stop us from releasing a punk record (laugh).

In terms of reaching out to people, it seems like you’ve found a fanbase outside Sweden. Your management is based in the UK and naturally, they’ll squeeze you into the scene over there. Does it even matter if you don’t get any attention on home turf?
”Well, we definitely care about Sweden and would love to do more shows at home, but right now we don’t have time for it. Sweden is also very small and doesn’t have enough venues to play if you’re not The Hives and get people of all ages to come out for your shows.”

”It’s really difficult being a band in Sweden in general and even more so if you only would tour at home. Imagine trying to do this club tour with Coach Party in Sweden – it just wouldn’t work out. There are not enough indie clubs or enough people to make it happen. But the shows we’ve done at home have been amazing and we don’t want to cut ties with Sweden at all. In November, we’re doing a mini tour in Scandinavia and that’s something we really look forward to.”

”It may sound like we’re attention seekers and just want to get famous when I (Per) say it like this, but we’re doing really well abroad but no one knows about it at home. I know, it sounds like ‘Hey man, don’t you know who we are?!’ (laugh) and that’s not what I mean. I just want a response from some sort of music community at home, like meeting up with producers, labels, agencies, and other bands – or is it only an illusion and it doesn’t really exist?”

Maybe it all changes after the Coach Party tour and you can’t walk down the street when you’re back home again. It’s fun that you do this tour with Coach Party because they did it just like you do now and supported two bigger bands before doing their first headliner tour. What do you want this tour to lead to? What will it look like after 2024 for Girl Scout?
”We have probably released our debut album and we’re best friends with The Hives (laugh). After the Coach Party tour and our mini tour in Scandinavia, we’re ready to join The Hives for a tour (laugh). But most of all we hope this tour will open up doors for even more gigs next year.”

” As we said earlier, we don’t know anything about the future because we have problems catching up with what happens in real-time right now. It’s more likely that we just tag along like we’ve done so far and just hope it will continue – and lead to a debut album. (laugh)”

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Interview photos: Sophie Dobschall
Live photos: Christian Berg
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About J.N.

Music researcher with an unhealthy passion for music and music festivals. Former studio owner, semi-functional drummer and with a fairly good collection of old analogue synthesizers from the 70's. Indie rock, post rock, electronic/industrial and drum & bass (kind of a mix, yeah?) are usual stuff in my playlists but everything that sounds good will fit in.
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