jaydarcy
25th June 2022

In conversation with Scouting for Girls’ Roy Stride

Theatre Editor Jay Darcy chats to Roy Stride, the lead singer of Scouting for Girls, about the band’s surprise success and incredible longevity
In conversation with Scouting for Girls’ Roy Stride

It’s not everyday you get to sit down with the lead singer of the band that defined your generation, is it?

Scouting for Girls released a string of successful singles between 2007 and 2010 that are just as relatable and entertaining today as they were back then. These four songs – ‘She’s So Lovely’, ‘Elvis Ain’t Dead’, ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘This Ain’t a Love Song’ – have aged like fine wine. The bops are just as vibey today as they were when we were kids, but now there’s the added nostalgia that takes them to a new level.

It was a privilege to sit down with Roy Stride, the band’s lead singer. I was fan-girling inside – oh, I can’t lie: I did not even attempt to hide my excitement; I outright told Stride how buzzing I was to be chatting to him!

Initial Success

I began the interview by asking Stride if he ever thought Scouting for Girls would have the success that they had had. He responded bluntly, “Never!”

Stride told me that the he was friends with his bandmates before they formed the band. He met Pete in the club scouts when he was 5 and Greg on his first day of school when he 11 (Stride was the only boy from his primary school; Greg was one of the first people he spoke to).

Once the guys started making music, it took them years to get a record deal. They finally got one, only to be dropped before releasing the first single they recorded. They didn’t think they’d get another. They thought, at best, they might get a “cult-y audience”. Stride still finds it hard to believe that they had the success they did. “It sometimes feels like it was a bit of a dream anyway,” he admitted.

When the band released their first single, ‘She’s So Lovely’, Stride was already 28 – or “quite old,” as he said himself. I asked if he thought he’d missed his moment by this point – most singers achieve fame in their early to mid 20s.

“To be honest, we thought we’d missed it anyway,” he told me. After being dropped, they began releasing stuff on their own label, and they thought that it would stay like that. Stride said that getting signed at 28 was not so mad because there were other bands (e.g. Arctic Monkeys, The Kaiser Chiefs) that were in their mid to late 20s.

“Sort of, 5 or 10 years on from that, it became really pop, and it was very X Factor… I remember when Birdie got signed when she was like 13 years old, then suddenly, we were like the granddads of music! I was just talking to the last person about working with One Direction – they were 15/16 when they got signed. Suddenly, you felt really old, but at the time, it was old, but it wasn’t that weird. Now I’m 42, I’d love to be 28 again!”

Whilst Scouting for Girls were in their late 20s, their music resonated so much with young people – myself included. Indeed, upon my research for this interview, I was surprised to discover that the bandmates are now in their 40s – I had presumed they were in their late teens or early 20s when they had their first hit because of how “young” their lyrical content was.

She’s So Lovely

Another reason that Scouting for Girls were/are so popular for young people is because ‘She’s So Lovely’ quickly became a pop culture phenomenon, featuring in everything from Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging to Ugly Betty (my fave TV series until I got into Desperate Housewives)!

“[‘She’s So Lovely’] is probably the reason why I’m talking to you here today. For some reason – fuck knows why – that song resonated with so many people. It was always magic. First time we played it, people were singing along by the last chorus… We had a sound guy… He phoned me up two or three days later; he said, ‘I can’t get that fucking song out of my head; I’ve only heard it once, but it’s just there’… It’s such a weird thing when a song goes off like that because it doesn’t belong with you anymore. I go there and I play it, it’s like I cover that song when I play it; it doesn’t feel like our own because everybody else has it.”

Stride said that the success of their debut single made all of the unsigned years worth it.

Longevity

I asked Stride what it is like having longevity. The band might not have had scores of hits, but they had a super successful string of hits that are still big today. Most people will recognise the aforementioned four hits, whether they hear them in a club, a shop, or the loos!

Stride loves how varied the crowds are at his concerts. Sometimes, there’s no one over 25; other times, there’s no one under 30. I told Stride that this reminded me of the audience at the Craig David concert I covered – his fan base is split between people my age (who were teenagers during his comeback) and people Stride’s age (who were young when he had his breakthrough). Stride said that David is not only ageless but also “pure talent – world-beating, ridiculous levels of talent”.

Scouting for Girls remain especially popular with young people and students (myself included). I asked Stride about this.

“It was weird, when we were like 28/29, playing uni shows, like doing uni balls, like when we first started. We were like, ‘well, this is a bit weird, isn’t it? Like, we’re 10 years older than everyone’… We’re still playing uni shows now!”

Stride thinks that he has grown up the last couple of years but admits to not feeling very different in the years since he first achieved success. In fact, he feels even more joy when he plays that music now. I did wonder, however, if the band ever tired of having to perform their old hits. I recounted Madonna dismissing her fans who complained that she was not singing enough of her classic songs.

Stride, however, wants the audience to come away “having the best fucking time”. Stride knows his crowd: a tour is for “the hardcore fans that have listened to all of the songs”, whereas a festival is for people who want to hear their hits.

“I want to make [festival crowds] have an amazing time, hear the songs they love hearing and then go and check out our other songs – ’cause we’ve got, I was looking on Spotify, we’ve got something like 140 original songs on Spotify, of which most people know 3 or 4, and we’ve got some songs which are as good, if you like those ones – and we have a lot of songs which are pretty shit – but if you’re into it, you may enjoy it as well!

“Even when we play the tour, I know that Scouting for Girls is, like, a good night out. It’s supposed to be a fucking laugh when you come and see us. You have a really good time; you leave with a smile on your face. You’re not sat there going, ‘Oh, my god, they’re gonna play, like, a whole new album’. We will always try and play some new songs because people wanna hear some new songs.”

Stride then told me that two of his favourite artists are the Beach Boys and Elton John. He told me that John, when he was at his peak, did a concert at Wembley Stadium, where he played his brand-new album from start to finish. To make things worse, the Beach Boys opened the show by playing “every single fucking hit they’ve ever done” over their 45-minute set, and the audience went wild. John then played songs that nobody had ever heard of for an hour and 20 minutes. “You know which band you wanted to see,” Stride laughed. “I always remembered that story, and we’re always the Beach Boys in that scenario”. I told Stride I hope Diana Ross doesn’t sing too many songs from her new album, ‘Thank You’, on her farewell ‘UK Thank You Tour’!

“There are times you wanna go and be challenged, and there are times you just wanna think ‘fuck it’ and go and get drunk and have a really good time – and we’re definitely that band,” Stride promised.

Music Management

I next asked Stride about Since September – the winners of Little Mix The Search, who recently toured with Little Mix on their farewell Confetti Tour (and the band which former University of Manchester student, and my mate, Patrick Ralphson, is a member of). I asked Stride what it was like managing and mentoring a young boyband after years of success as the lead singer of a boyband. Stride admitted that he is not managing them anymore. There was no big falling out; the split was because of artistic differences. Stride said that this was “gutting”, especially as he is watching them have the time of their lives supporting Little Mix (Stride knows what it is like opening for Little Mix).

Stride is actually managed by the same people as Little Mix, so when Since September won the show, he spent a month writing and recording with them. The boys did not get a manger, and Stride has been a manger before, so he became their manager, but when lockdown ended, he got really busy with his own band (including a 2 and a half month tour) and could not do Since September justice.

“You will look at it like a dad. You know, when you kids leave home, you know? Well, my kids are really young, but, like, I imagine that’s how you do it – and like watching their live through social media and you’re like, ‘my boys, my boys!’ Honestly, though, there’s some things you really don’t want to know about!”

Stride said that when he is working with younger artists, he feels like he is on that level, but then he nips to the loo and looks in the mirror. “I’m like, ‘who the fuck is the old dude in the mirror? I’m the young, cool, handsome guy down there with the kids!’ God knows what they think; they probably all take the piss out of me. But you just don’t think differently. It’s a great thing about doing that; it keeps you very young; it keeps you super grounded, and it keeps you sort of attached to what’s going on in the world.”

Stride also spoke about “that initial success”. He worked with One Direction a little bit but has been much more involved with Seafret and 5 Seconds of Summer. He was one of the first people to work with 5 Seconds of Summer when they first came to the UK, aged about 16. Stride said that there is a fatherly aspect to managing young boybands because he knows what can go wrong.

“I worked with [5SOS] for about 2 years before they went on the 1D tour and then became this – they’re now like almost 30 and they’re proper rockstars in LA now. But when you’re involved from the start, and that journey, that initial journey is one of the most crazy, magic, insane times of your life, when you go from like playing 50 people in a club to like 50 thousand people at a festival… The ride is wild.

“Watching it happen for other people, ’cause it can never happen to me again – it’s like losing your virginity; you can only do it once. Watching other people do it and fulfilling their dreams and having everything that comes with it is so amazing; it’s as good as it happening for me the first time round… To be part of that, to work with lads with like part-time jobs to when they’re, like, buying their new house with the money from the song, knowing they’ll never have to go back and work at, like, Tesco. That is a trip.”

Top Landing Gear

Stride might take on several different roles within music (singer, songwriter, producer, manager), but he also does things outside of music. Most noticeably, he has an aviation podcast called Top Landing Gear!

“Lockdown sort of precipitated a bit of a midlife crisis in me, so I ended up trying to find something mad to do,” and this ended up being learning how to fly!

“I’ve done like 6 lessons still. I can take off and fly; I just can’t land – which is a big fucking problem,” he laughed. “That’s quite important,” I said.

“Anyway, everyone was doing a podcast, and we just started doing a podcast about it… Basically, it’s about aviation, about flying… We call it Top Landing Gear, so it’s kind of like Top Gear but with wings… If you’re not really interested in cars, you might still watch Top Gear – it’s a bit like that really.”

Upcoming Projects

Scouting for Girls featured on ‘Stick the Kettle On’ by Lucy Spraggan a few years ago. They only started playing it live last year, and it really resonated with audiences. It’s quite a serious song for Scouting for Girls. Spraggan brought up the statistic that the biggest cause of death for men under 50 was suicide – and she wanted to write a song about this. Stride said he remembers thinking, “Well, that’s a bit morbid”.

The song was in a key that suited Spraggan’s voice, but Scouting for Girls have changed the key so that it is easier for Stride to sing – and suddenly, it came alive. They have done a “band-y, guitar-y, Oasis-y version” of the song. At the end of the last tour, they recorded the song with their longtime guitarist who is going on to do something else. The song was released shortly after I interviewed Stride.

There is also an Oasis cover that the band might put out as a little EP, as well as “a few fun songs coming out”. The next album is written, and the band plan to record it over the summer, “so hopefully there’ll be like a proper single coming out at the end of the year” – ahead of the album probably being released in early 2023.

Stride wants the next album to be a little different. The last album was about the band having never grown up. The next album “won’t be a somber album; I don’t think Scouting for Girls has somber in it, but it’ll be a little bit more grown up, I think, finally, maybe after 15 years. But we’re gonna have another summer of parties and good times first.”

I asked Stride if it is the sound or lyrical content that is going to be mature. Stride clarified, “No, it will still be very similar, but, more like, with Scouting for Girls, you’ve got like ‘She’s So Lovely’ at one end, ‘This Ain’t a Love Song’ on the other end – so it’ll be more ‘This Ain’t a Love Song’ than ‘She’s So Lovely’. But it’s still going to be, like, piano-lead, indie pop.”

Oh, thank the Lord, I thought, worried that the band would be changing their iconic sound.

Scouting for Girls are playing at Brewood Music Festival on 2nd July before touring the Netherlands from 22nd until 25h November and then the UK from 28th November until 11th December. The UK tour includes a stop at Albert Hall in Manchester on 1st December.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected]

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