For last week’s print edition of the Voice, I wrote about the return of NYC’s Girls Against Boys–at one time perhaps the “It”-iest of all the ’90s alt-rock underground It-bands–who are back after more than a decade of self-imposed exile.
GVSB will release their excellent new Ghost List EP on Sept. 24 via Epitonic. The band also gets live in NYC for the first time in a zillion years with a show Wednesday night at Bowery Ballroom [9pm/$20], where they’ll be joined onstage for a batch of tunes by long-time pal and erstwhile Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow (get there early, as the typically stellar Coliseum opens).
I chatted with GVSB singer-guitarist Scott McCloud for a good long time for the print piece; here are a few extra bits from our wide-ranging conversation that didn’t make it in.
See also: Girls Against Boys Version 2.0
On the band’s efforts to revamp their sound not long before they went on their extended break:
“I wanted to think of other things we could do. Like, I spent months just playing drums. I’m not a terrible drummer, but I’m not a really good drummer — it’s not exactly the best thing I should be doing [laughs]. Or it was, ‘OK, I’m tired of staring at my guitar, I’m gonna pick up a keyboard now and mess around with loops.’ It was very time-consuming. And after months and months of experimentation it was like, ‘I’m just not that great at this.’ My joke was always, I’d get a new Roland MC-303 [sequencer] or whatever and plug it in and I’d put on the demo and be like, ‘Well, the demo sounds fine…’ [laughs]. It all kind of felt like, well, this is where music’s going and a lot of times there’s this thing with music where new innovations create new sounds and directions for people to pursue, so I wanted to try to participate in that. And even those last records, we did have more 303 sounds — we’ve also had some of that to a degree, we’re not a traditional rock band in any sense of the term — but ultimately, all those things I tried didn’t exactly come to fruition. Basically, when we get together to do stuff, we end up sounding like what we sound like. And it was like, ‘OK, it’s 2002, where are we going as a band?’ It felt like it had run its course, to some degree, and I was burned out and needed a break.”
On getting back together and recording the new EP:
“We wanted to play again but we weren’t so into just doing a bunch of dates playing old stuff, even though that’s mostly what’s in the set. And we had these new ideas for songs, so…it’s only an EP, but it kind of gave a different weight to the concept of [getting back together]. So we started talking about doing that, and it took a while. We used to call it ‘The Battleship’: Getting four different people to move in the same direction so you can turn the battleship around [laughs]. But we managed to all get on the same page. We tried doing some things like exchanging ideas online, and that was interesting, it worked OK. It got us talking about music. I thought we could send tracks to each other and build something up and then get together and fix it all up. But it didn’t really work for us and I understand why — the best result is going to be the four of us together in a room, banging it out.”
On what it feels like to play live with GVSB again:
“Now, more than ever, when we play I’m amazed by little things about it. Like how the four of us interact onstage, and how each instrument fits together. In the old days I think maybe I didn’t really notice it that much because you’re just kinda grinding it out every night playing, you’re not thinking like, ‘Wow, that’s really interesting the way Eli plays that bass part.’ It’s just work. Nowadays I’m just reveling in how interesting it is. And it’s also great to play loud music, and fun and interesting to play these songs again, some of them have aged differently than others.”
On what it’s like now to listen back to the band’s older songs:
“A lot of these songs, I think: ‘Is that me?’ [laughs] At the time it was everything to me. I listen back to it now and I think, ‘Who was that?” When a band is in a period of recording a lot, and making records quite quickly, every one of them has this thing in my mind of not being good enough. It’s imperfect. It wasn’t what it should have been. So when I’d listen to things we’d recently done back then, I was very critical of it. And now I listen to it and I’m kind of amazed at how good I think it is. It’s a mystery because it doesn’t seem to me like the songs on these things are like a failure anymore. It seems like a lot of successes in there. Back then, some of the things that started to seem like negatives to me were the things people hailed as positives. Like, the way I sing, or the way our music has repetition, grinding loops of stuff, and there’s not a lot of melody in the music sometimes. Those things seemed like negatives at a certain point, like, ‘We need to get some more light in here…’ It was that real classic sense of going through the music grinder and being hard on yourself and beating yourself up to the point where everything that’s a positive you’ve flipped into a negative. That’s when you know you need to take a break. But I’m much less that way about it now. I don’t beat myself up anymore. We are the band we are, and there’s no reason to be apologetic about that.”