“A greatest hits? I never thought we’d even get to make a single,” chuckles Scouting For Girls singer, songwriter, pianist and guitarist Roy Stride. “When we started all those years ago, all I wanted to do was make music with my mates. If it went really well we thought we might earn enough to give up our day jobs.”
It’s too late for that of course. Over the course of three sparkling, life-affirming, Top 10 albums Scouting For Girls have made the journey from playing pubs in Harrow and Ruislip to headlining Wembley Arena. This, then, is the tale of three friends who followed their dream, seduced a nation and sold two million records along the way.
Roy met future SFG drummer Peter Ellard at cubs (“Roy was my sixer. He told me what to do then and he’s been telling me what to do for 20-odd years”). The pair stayed friends, but Scouting For Girls were really born on a cold February evening in 1995, when Suede came to the Watford Colosseum. Roy and his school friend Greg Churchouse went together. For both it was their first gig.
“We were sat cross-legged at the back having a cheeky under-age beer,” remembers Greg, now, of course, SFG bassist. “This magical, mystical experience blew our minds.”
“That night we knew we’d form a band,” states Roy. “We couldn’t play instruments, but we both thought ‘we’ll do this or we’ll die trying’. Obviously we didn’t know it would take us over 10 years of trying…”
In that period, the dream remained. Shared rehearsals in bedrooms and then shared bands came and went but Roy and Greg’s friendship remained steadfast. Even when they both went to university. Along the way, Roy worked for Iceland (the frozen food giants rather than the country) and Carphone Warehouse (“I still have my Iceland nametag and a Carphone Warehouse sign so I never forget how things could have been”). And when the pair worked at the Thresher’s on Ruislip High Street, they were joined by another friend, Pete Ellard. “Let’s just say a lot of things went on there,” notes Greg cryptically. “But what I can admit is that we spent some quality time smoking cigarettes and drinking the stock. Frankly, it’s no wonder the chain went bust.” It’s now a Sue Ryder shop.
After yet another of his covers bands imploded, drummer Pete found himself without a gig at the very moment Roy and Greg found themselves without a drummer. The three school friends became Scouting For Girls and for all that’s changed, some things have remained exactly the same.
“It’s still about the songs and only about the songs,” muses Greg. “We play music for the sake of music, not celebrity. If we hadn’t been successful, we’d still be rehearsing every Friday night at wherever would have us.”
“We’re an old school band,” continues Roy. “We do everything ourselves. These songs on
the Greatest Hits have really connected with people’s lives. People like them because they’re catchy, uplifting and somehow very very British. Me, Pete and Greg aren’t just friends any more: we’re family. That’s why our music sounds so natural.”
After all the years of toil, after all the years spent building the Wolfcubs, their fanatical hardcore fanbase, success happened quickly. In 2008, Scouting For Girls’ self-titled debut album topped the British charts and found its way into a million UK homes. Nominations for BRIT, Ivor Novello and MTV Europe awards soon followed.
“We’re upbeat people,” notes Pete. “We find it hard to write about death and depression. Roy’s the songwriter, but he’s also a very good listener who looks for your input. In fact he wants criticism and that’s such a good thing.”
After two years of hard touring, ‘Everybody Wants To Be On TV’ soared into the British top two, ‘This Ain’t A Love Song’ gave them their first Number 1 single (“a real turning point; we knew then we weren’t going to go away,” remembers Roy) and by 2011 they were headlining Wembley Arena a few miles but several light years away, from their modest beginnings. “Initially y’know, my aim was to be as big as the Pixies,” admits Pete. “That aim was soon smashed.”
2011’s ‘The Light Between Us’ made it three out of three Top 10 albums as Scouting For Girls evolved into a national institution, the under-rated band we love more than we think we do.
“So many people get us, so it doesn’t matter if not everybody does,” argues Roy. “We confuse people, because we’re too old, we’re not especially good looking and we do our own music. People who’re into whatever “proper” music is miss us, but so do the pop purists. We fall between the cracks, but we don’t really care, not least since we can’t pull off pretending to be cool and the people who get us, get that.”
Described by Greg as “a man who vomits songs; he’s got so many”, Roy has embarked upon a sideline of writing songs for others including One Direction (‘I love how Scouting for Girls have been bringing feel good pop music to Britain in the past years.’ – Louis Tomlinson, One Direction), Olly Murs and Alexandra Burke amongst others.
“Scouting For Girls will always come first, but I love doing it,” he attests. “Working with other writers has been brilliant, but the worst thing is being sat in a room with an artist and wanting to take the song for our band.”
Now comes the Greatest Hits which features all the hits and some new songs (oh, and there’s a deluxe edition including B-sides, demos and live tracks), most notably the impossibly jaunty ‘Millionaire’ which is Scouting for Girls in excelsis.
“Making ‘Millionaire’ was the most fun I’ve ever had in a studio,” enthuses Greg. “It’s summery, it’s got a huge chorus and it’s typical Scouting For Girls: uncool, but irresistible.”
Naturally, releasing a best of means those inevitable rumours of a band’s demise. Not Scouting For Girls, oh no. Indeed, August will see them take those greatest hits to the nation’s racecourses in a series of special outdoor shows. “Fingers crossed for sunshine,” chirps Pete. “And Roy will teach them the choruses of the new songs; he’s good like that.
“I can promise you that we’ve never thought of stopping,” explains Greg. “I can also promise more lovely songs, more lovely albums, more lovely touring and more lovely, lovely festivals.”
“This isn’t even close to the end,” concludes Roy. “What people like about us, I think, is that we soundtrack real people’s real lives, whether they’re building a house or posting a letter or just going about their everyday business. It’s an honour to do that and, believe me, we’re not going to stop.”
Notes To Editors:
British pop band Scouting For Girls released their third studio album 'The Light Between Us' on 3rd September 2012, which entered the UK charts at Number 10, to make it their third Top 10 album following their eponymous debut and second album ‘Everybody Wants To Be On TV’.
Scouting For Girls are one of the biggest pop bands in the world with over two million record sales, 4 Brit Award nominations, an Ivor Novello nomination, and 4 Top 10 singles.
The Greatest Hits was released on 29th July 2013, through Sony.