Our Girl – Interview – 2016

Our Girl have been one of the pinnacle acts over the past year or so making their name in Brighton’s thriving rock scene of up and coming bands. The trio is made up of Lauren Wilson on drums, Soph Nathan (also in The Big Moon) on guitar and vocals, and Josh Tyler on bass. They create a dreamy yet gloomy shoegaze inspired rock, mixing Soph’s soft feathery vocals with distorted melancholy guitars, and it is incredibly absorbing. With three songs for us get obsessed and engrossed in, the amazing eponymous ‘Our Girl’ anthem and their stunning debut release Sleeper/Level (out on Cannibal Hymns), we put some questions to the band to out find more about them.

Where did you grow up?
[LAUREN] Hitchin, Hertfordshire

[JOSH] Weston-Super-Mare, North Somerset

[SOPH] North London

Is there much of a music scene there?
[LAUREN] Actually for a very small town it had a very vibrant music scene. All the pubs had bands playing in them and we have one of the best music venues in Club 85. That place broke so many bands. When I was younger touring bands started coming to play there and it was so cool! I've been playing and going to gigs there since I was about 14 years old, so they really watched me grow up as a musician and were so supportive of me and my bands.

[JOSH] Not really, but I moved to Devon in my mid-teens where there was more of a scene – post-punk and grunge and stuff like that. 

Do you think where you lived/live now has influenced your music and how?
[LAUREN] I live in London now, which is kind of a boring answer. I've been really lucky since joining Our Girl and meeting Soph and Josh to have been able to experience the Brighton scene – I love it! Everyone is so supportive and there's a real scene there of friends and really exciting bands like Gang, O Chapman, Breathe Panel, The Magic Gang, Tigercub, Wytches etc.

[JOSH] Not so much when I was younger. When I moved to Devon me and a few of my friends fed off of each other a lot and that helped me figure out exactly what kinds of music I liked, in addition to living in the countryside which directed me towards more rural sounds like folk music as well as ambient stuff too. Moving to Brighton was great though as I eventually found / bumped into a lot of likeminded people and I definitely picked up a lot of technical skill and picked up lots of things from different people and bands. 

[SOPH] I started playing in a band called Hella Better Dancer when I was 16 years old. The people I played with had a massive influence on me, and playing shows around London meant we got to meet lots of different bands. We started Our Girl when I was living in Brighton, which was a big influence too, mainly the people I started playing with and the kind of friends I had around. We had a basement in our house that everyone practiced in, so just having a space to do that freely had a big impact.

What kind of music were you brought up on?
[LAUREN] All my music taste comes from my Dad. He was, and still is, a big music fan and was always playing music in the house or car and encouraging my siblings and I to sing and play. I listened to Marvin Gaye, The Eagles, Crowded House, The Clash, Hall & Oates, Fleetwood Mac, INXS – quite a mix of stuff!

[JOSH] I took a lot of inspiration from my older brothers Dan and Mike. I sort of liked exactly whatever they liked which was quite a mix, from Royksopp and the Chemical Brothers to lots of indie music and Bob Dylan. 

[SOPH] My dad has a bunch of mix CDs that he made about 20 years ago and he always plays them in the car. I mainly remember a lot of Motown and bands like Billy Idol, Blondie, Don Mclean, Simon & Garfunkel, The Doors.

Can you remember the first album you bought/owned?
[SOPH] Missy Elliot Under Construction on CD. I think it was the Spice Girls on tape before that.

[LAUREN] The first single I bought was actually Panjabi MC – Mundian To Bach Ke. Haha, remember that song?!

[JOSH] Not a clue actually. 

What was the first instrument you played, and when?
[LAUREN] I got my first drum kit when I was about 6 or 7 years old. Before that my Dad would play me records and I would hit in time with it. I loved it, so I asked for a drum kit for my birthday and my parents bought me a little toy one. Then when I was about 11 years old I saw the music video for Queens of the Stone Age's 'No One Knows', the one where Dave Grohl is playing drums and he does this drum solo in the middle eight, and the first time I saw that I was like, “wow I want to do that”. So started playing drums properly from that point on.

[SOPH] I'm still waiting for Lauren to whip one of those solos out! My first instrument was a sunburst Squier Stratocaster which I've recently fixed up a bit and started playing again. I was about 7 years old too, but for some reason I stopped playing after that and didn't start again until I was like 13.

[LAUREN] Haha yeah, now I'm not really a drum solo kind of gal – understated is the way to go!

[JOSH] I had a guitar in my Christmas sack when I was really young, a toy one that played a different solo when you pressed each button – I wrote my first song on that. Didn't play a real guitar till I was 14, when I also got a sunburst Squier Stratocaster.

What drives you to write music?
[SOPH] People generally. Friendship and different behaviour. For some reason it's so much easier to make a song out of something that makes me feel sad, but I'm trying to play on other things a bit more.

[LAUREN] I love being in a band – there's something special about being connected with others that way, you bounce off each other. Every time Soph sends me a demo or brings an idea to practice it is honestly the most exciting thing. I feel very lucky that we all found each other and clicked.

[SOPH] So lucky!

[JOSH] I enjoy the challenge of capturing a thought process that feels very personal using music. Also when something comes together and sounds great I get a lot of satisfaction. 

How was Our Girl formed?
[SOPH] I started writing songs and really wanted to start a band and play live. Playing the songs live was the thing that made me excited more than recording or the idea of making an album, or anything. Josh only played guitar in bands at the time but we played around with song ideas with him on bass. We were already good friends and we'd played together in other projects before, so it worked really well. Then we went on a drummer hunt, found Lauren and she joined after our first practice! 

Can you remember your first jam?
[LAUREN] First jam with Our Girl was in this place in Hackney just over a year ago. Soph and I had been emailing over the summer and they had asked me to come for a practice. I was so so nervous, but I loved the demo they had sent me so much. I knew I just had to get over it and meet these people and play with them!

Is there a story behind the name?
[SOPH] It's the name of the first song we recorded. It's about someone I love a lot! 

How would you briefly describe your music in a few words?
[LAUREN] I never know how to describe us, my Grandma asked me what we sound like the other day because I sent her a copy of the record. I was like, “well there's guitars, and loud bits, but also really quiet bits”. Haha, that was the best I could come up with!

What are your main influences?
[LAUREN] My main influences are bands like Warpaint, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene. I love drummers who have a unique style. With drums that's quite hard. I love it when I listen to a track and I can say that is so Dave Grohl or Stewart Copeland or Stella Mozgawa.

How do you approach the writing process?
[SOPH] I normally write best when I have small pockets of alone time rather than a substantial amount of solitary writing time. I like to spend time with people and engage in stuff in between. I feel like ideas pop out more naturally and easily that way. It's less particular for when we develop the songs/make stuff up in practice. We just jam stuff out and it normally comes together surprisingly easily.

Do you prefer writing music or performing live?
[SOPH] Both. They're completely different! You can forget about stuff a bit more performing live, and you can think about stuff too much writing songs! They're both outlets that I feel lucky to have.

[LAUREN] I love playing live although it terrifies me, well not the playing, the bit before when you're waiting to go on – that is scary! I watched the Nick Cave film recently and he summed it up really well saying; when he's waiting to go on stage he can't imagine how he could ever do it, to go and perform and become this other person, but then it happens and he gets on stage and does it. I'm always like how am I going to do this?! Then I do and it's great! When I'm actually playing drums I don't think about very much and that's quite peaceful – although it looks a bit mad and energetic on the outside.

[JOSH] Both too! I really enjoy the calm of writing and letting something flow and come together, I can get a bit precise, but playing live is a nice release from that and it's a unique experience – letting off steam and communicating. 

Tell us a bit about the Sleeper/Level release?
[LAUREN] We were lucky enough to work with Andy Savours (My Bloody Valentine, The Horrors, PJ Harvey) on the tracks – he was so great! We had a lot of fun and he just got it straight away. I remember going to meet him for the first time to get a coffee and to discuss, I told him sonically what we were inspired by and mentioned Warpaint, The Pixies and The Breeders. He was on the same page straight away and it was so exciting!

[SOPH] I didn't initially imagine those songs being released together, but they both represent really different times and feelings. I feel like there's a chronology and a thematic consistency between the two songs that make them fit really well. We were so lucky to work with Andy Savours on it, he totally got it and really helped make what we had envisioned and more!

What are you listening to at the moment?
[LAUREN] At the moment I'm listening to Father John Misty, Sexwitch and of course Gang – they're great and they played at our single launch in London recently, I love them!

[JOSH] Land Observations – really interesting use of guitar layering. 

[SOPH] The Japanese House are really really good. I'm also massively hooked on Bully's new album.

What are your future plans?
[LAUREN] To carry on playing more gigs, and to continue writing and have fun.

Facebook: facebook.com/weareOurGirl
Twitter: twitter.com/weareOurGirl