In Search Of Greatness

With their latest EP garnering considerable attention, Scout Killers could possibly be heading for the Promised Land.

When archaeologists descended on the quaint city of Bath situated in the South West of England, the excavation that took place and subsequent findings was the closest feeling to a career high one is likely to experience, such was the magnitude of their findings by rediscovering the ancient Roman Baths.

When it comes to the slightly more modern world of music, the equivalent of such a discovery, albeit fresher in terms of its history, is the unearthing of an exciting new band or finding a long-lost relic with limited edition status and preferably made of vinyl. Such a discovery landed at Famous Last Words (FLW) a few weeks ago when a five-track EP by the name of ‘Stand Your Ground’ caught the imagination and led to an immediate downing of tools such was the quality unravelling from the FLW stereo system.

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Located in the aforementioned city of Bath yet drawn from various corners of the globe ranging from Hull to Bahrain, Scout Killers is the band causing such a level of excitement on these very shores and one that has not been experienced for some time. Without hesitation it was the amalgamation of distorted electronic pulses with a hard-edged indie rock sound of the EP’s title track, intriguing narrative of ‘The Rains’ that still creates considerable mystery after numerous hearings, and the resilient nature of ‘Cease and Resist’ that first wormed their way into the FLW consciousness before repeat visits left further impressions with the intricate details of ‘Honey’ and measured temperament of ‘Time and Again’ sounding like a distant relation of Pearl Jam’s ‘Black’.

After hearing such sonic delights, further investigation was taken just like those archaeologists of years ago as the decision was made to delve deeper into this unknown five piece by the name of Scout Killers. Such investigative work led to the discovery of a previously released self-titled long player containing subtle references to Tom Morello’s guitar work (Rage Against The Machine), inflections of Eddie Vedder’s vocal (Pearl Jam) and various other dynamics taking in numerous alternative rock bands. Despite such reference points in relation to the sounds which drive Scout Killers, any such influences remain low-key as this five-piece band take the slightest of touches before turning them inside out and delivering an end product with their own official stamp emblazoned on its rear.

Having made such an impact after one full album and sitting pretty with current EP ‘Stand Your Ground’, there was no other action left to take except to gain the opinions of Scout Killers in relation to their recorded works to date, and where they envisage themselves going after such an impressive start to their musical career.

With four out of five band members in attendance to begin with – FLW is informed that lead vocalist Scott Cox is running late but definitely on his way – Julien Morrez (guitar), Beau Stevens (guitar), Josh Ellis (bass) and Chris Phillips (drums) provide the details to Scout Killers history and current activity.

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“It all started with a previous band that I was involved with and we were based out in Germany,” starts guitarist Beau Stevens. “I was playing in that band when I started these guys up [Scout Killers] as a side project, and then Scout Killers started to become a bit more serious. So I decided to dedicate all of my time to that really, and that’s how it all began for the band.”

“We didn’t know each other before that either,” comments guitarist Julien Morrez.

“The weird thing about it is that we have all randomly met each other and crossed paths,” adds Scout Killers’ resident drummer Chris Phillips. “A lot of us went to the same university together, Bath Spa University, but we didn’t know each other, only the same people. For example, my best friend was good friends with Josh [Scout Killer’s bass player] whose cousin was the band’s original bass player, who is best friends with Beau. So it gets really complicated [laughing]!”

Do you remember when Scout Killers was officially up and running?

“Phases…” comes the reply, “like Iron Maiden, we’ve gone through a lot of phases,” laughs Josh.

“There was the original five and then we got rid of the drummer and then Chris came in,” explains Julien. “We also got rid of the original bassist and recruited this other guy and got rid of him, and then Josh joined and so we had version two of the band by then. I think it got going properly with this line-up [at this point] as we had to keep relearning the songs with new people and therefore keep taking steps back.”

“I’d say it’s been two years seriously where we have put a lot of time and effort into the band,” says Chris. “Josh is really efficient and keeps us on our toes and organises the band, so that’s helped immensely.”

Scout Killers proudly describe their music as “alternative rock” by shouting out in unison when FLW posed the question earlier, but their opinions vary when it comes to their debut album with guitarist Beau Stevens referring to it as, “…more on the middle of the road path” and the band’s other guitarist Julien Morrez jesting with his description of “Easy listening!” leading to a chorus of laughter. That is not to say that Scout Killers is not proud of their debut album because they certainly are, it’s more that the band recognise the progression that they have made since ‘Scout Killers’ and their latest offering ‘Stand Your Ground’.

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“For me, I think that everybody is a lot more accomplished at what they’re playing,” says Chris. “There was a lot more time spent [in terms of the EP] as we knew the parts worked better and it’s not as raw. Even Scott [Cox] with his vocal style, we had some songs from years ago where he had to record his vocals on to a phone and when you listen to how he used to sing back then, I think he was trying to be like Madonna [laughing]! The point I’m trying to make is that he’s evolved, like all of us, and become a lot better.”

“I think that everyone has really improved,” agrees Beau. “We’re a couple of years on since the album and therefore our playing has improved. As a band, we’ve become a lot more experienced. For example, we didn’t demo anything in terms of the album, whereas with the EP we demoed everything down to the last guitar note. So we all knew what we had to do when we entered the studio without having to add anything apart from the occasional extra layer or input from the producer.”

“‘Stand Your Ground’ was the band finding its way to the sound that we’re trying to achieve, and I think you’ll see us progress even further with the next recorded output,” explains Josh.

Can we expect to hear quite a leap forward therefore, in terms of your overall sound with the next record that Scout Killers is currently working on?

“From the stuff that we’re writing now and been demoing today, I think we’re going to have more elements of metal and some electronic stuff as well,” replies Julien.

“The sound is getting darker is the simplest way of putting it,” comments Josh.

“The songs are going to be a lot heavier, not necessarily metal heavy but a lot more in your face,” continues Chris. “In other words, a lot more time and effort is going into these songs because a lot of these songs have been lurking around for two years, simply as ideas that we’re trying to revisit. However, there’s got to be a step up again because there are no half measures for any of us. The album was a starting point, and that was good, the current EP was a step up from that, and the new record that we’re going to release is going to be a step up again.”

“If it’s not a step up, it’s a step backwards,” interjects Beau.

“We’re not even going to release it if it’s not good enough, “confirms Chris regarding the new recordings.”We’ll even scrap our studio time because it’s that important that the new recordings are a definite step up from our current EP.”

You have been compared to Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine, QOTSA et al but without sounding directly like any of them. Do you agree with such a comment?

“Yeah, totally,” says Josh. “Our musical tastes per individual in the band are pretty diverse.”

“Chris and I like bands such as Architects and Bring Me The Horizon to name a couple,” answers Beau before adding, “but we try not to implement that into our song writing. We take influences, obviously, as everyone does, but we don’t want to sound [directly] like any of these bands.”

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You’re creating big sounds coming from a small city such as Bath as it sounds like Scout Killers is from a much bigger environment.

“I don’t really know,” ponders Beau for a moment. “I think it’s because we’re always driven to do more I guess, but we don’t really see ourselves in that sort of light.”

“Julien is technically from Bahrain [other places are mentioned], so I guess we’re an international band!” says Chris. “So there’s probably a collaboration going on there that produces that noise.”

With all members of Scout Killers responsible for the technical components of the song writing, the lyrics adding fuel to the fire of the band’s songs are predominantly penned by the absent Scott Cox. Just as this subject is raised, however, Scout Killers’ frontman makes his entrance with a swift “Hello” and then has to suffer a bout of ribbing from his bandmates due to his late arrival. So, without further ado, the subject of the band’s lyrics requires attention in order to establish whether they’re directly personal or written from a third-person perspective.

“A bit of both really,” considers Scott. “I take on things that I have done or been through and then write the lyrics from somebody else’s perspective and how someone else may react in that situation or how they might view that situation. In terms of writing the lyrics, I think there have been only two songs that haven’t been written by me, with Beau and Josh writing the other two.”

What was the decision to go with a five-track EP with ‘Stand Your Ground’?

“Going with an album is a lot of work and a lot of effort and it only really works if you’re in a well-formed and well-known band,” replies Scott. “When it comes to EPs you can release more content more often, and gain more exposure by doing it. You end up using a whole lot more energy by producing an album and for less exposure basically.”

“We wanted to pick up the pace with our [current] release as we’re going to be doing another EP this year,” mentions Beau. “The last one that we did was probably six or seven months and this one will be quicker again. I guess that we’d rather release three EPs in the same space of time that it takes us to do an album because nobody really listens to [music in that way] and that’s not how music works anymore.”

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There seems to be a growing trend for bands releasing EPs in the current musical climate. Would you agree?

“Yeah, as people consume music differently now,” responds Julien.

“When you release a record and it’s forgotten in two months, then that’s a year’s work for maybe a couple of month’s exposure,” Chris sums up. “Whereas if you do three EPs a year, you’ve got an EP with two months exposure and then you’re straight on to the next one, and that’s how people work [now]. We’ve got a tough year ahead of us in terms of what we want to accomplish with EPs, music videos and we’ll be doing some acoustic stuff as well. So we’ve got quite a lot to do during this year to try and achieve it all.”

Where did you record the ‘Stand Your Ground’ EP, and how long did the whole process take?

“Our friend, Dominic Bailey produced it at the recording studio Nine Volt Leap,” answers Scott. “We were in the recording studio for five days, with a couple of days to mix it.”

Did the band encounter any problems during the recording of the EP?

“The song ‘Cease and Resist’ was quite tough,” recollects Chris with a hint of frustration in his voice. “I must’ve gone wrong about 40,000 times! Apart from that, it was ok [laughing]. To be fair, when we recorded the first album, we didn’t do any demos and did everything in the studio as Beau mentioned earlier. As a result of this, the album is kinda rough-and-ready. Looking back, we should have demoed the album, but with this record [‘Stand Your Ground’] we spent a lot of time demoing and throwing about ideas and getting people to listen to it in order to gain their input, so that we could get the best quality out it. When we went into the studio, we had these demos and knew all of our parts really well, which meant that we were able to finish it within five days and with five songs.”

With the title track from Scout Killers’ current EP being written approximately three to four weeks prior to entering the recording studio, the growing confidence in the band was blossoming in stature and evident from the preparation set in place. There was even a flexible nature to the whole recording process with responsibilities changing hands when it came to the actual lyrics, for example, as bass player Josh explains in relation to the song ‘Stand Your Ground’:

“That’s the one and only time I’ve written any lyrics for any song ever. As Scott said earlier, there are only two songs that he hasn’t written, but Scott and I do collaborate on it a bit. We had this idea for a song but ended up scrapping it due to not liking it very much. The song simply wasn’t working and therefore we just took the bits [that we liked]. One day I was playing the guitar or bass and started humming something and that was ‘Stand Your Ground’. Then I had to sing it to these guys in practice and basically, I can’t sing! So that was tough.”

“We gave you a real nice pep talk beforehand telling you not to worry, then you stood up and you were like…[mimics Josh when trying to sing and giving a good impression of a character from The Muppets],” jokes Scott.

“As a band, we’ve had quite a lot of stuff come our way that looked like it was going to materialise into something big, or people introducing themselves and promising a lot and delivering very little,” Josh continues regarding one interpretation of the song’s lyrics. “So I guess ‘Stand Your Ground’ is kind of about that, as well as the band to keep plugging away at it.”

Is there one particular track from the current EP that is a favourite of the band?

“‘Cease and Resist’, especially when performing it live,” is the immediate reply.

“When it comes to the dropdown part in that song, we have been known to extend it a lot, with the two guitarists jumping into the crowd and even Scott gets in there as well. We kind of build it to a certain level and there’s people jumping everywhere and Scott builds his vocal and then it really kicks off! Julien has often snapped his guitar strings and Beau has fallen off the stage during this song, and it’s generally good fun!” says Chris enthusiastically. “When you listen to it on the record and you’ve got the bass drumline which is the dropdown, we extend that whole part for maybe two minutes and try and get everyone hyped who’s watching the show. It’s often our final song and everybody seems to go f****** crazy. So the song is a favourite from the EP, especially for me watching these guys go crazy from behind the drums it’s good fun! In fact, I’m jealous as I want to be out there!”

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What’s next for Scout Killers?

“We’re going to be doing a few acoustic tracks and a video for that, and hopefully a new music video for one of the tracks in May this year,” explains Chris. “Then hopefully it’s going to be the new record out sometime in September. There will be a tour in August as well, but there will be more details about that nearer the time. So we’ve got a lot going on and it’s going to be a busy year.”

Is the next record definitely going to be an EP?

“Yes, it will be an EP,” Chris confirms. “We’ll be recording it in July with three songs written that we have been demoing today, so they’re coming together nicely and quite quickly as well.”

Are you aiming for another five tracks for the next EP?

“I think we’re going to just keep writing and when it comes to July we’ll see what songs fit together,” Chris replies. “We may do three tracks and if we’ve got an extra song or two we might release another single at some point in the year, or keep them in reserve just so that we’ve always got that nice steady flow. Since February this year, we’ve just finished playing several gigs a week, and therefore you don’t really get that much done in terms of song writing. So this is the first week where we’ve been able to really work hard in terms of the new material.”

As new material from Scout Killers looms on the horizon, the wait for these fresh compositions is going to be an agonising one, considering this recent discovery and the manner in which the entire contents of ‘Stand Your Ground’, in addition to earlier songs such as the emotional grip of ‘The Waves’ (Just try prising that from the FLW player!) and dirty indie rock of ‘No Reason’ are causing genuine levels of extreme excitement here at FLW. Until that time arrives, however, it looks like our patience is going to be severely tested during the coming months.

(Photography courtesy of Andrew Bert Greaves)

FLW - From the Tapes

With Scout Killers in full flow during the video for their song ‘No Reason’ lifted from the band’s debut album, FLW was keen to learn how the whole video shoot came together.

“It was filmed in a local biker bar where we go sometimes in Wiltshire,” says Chris. “Some of the people in the video are friends, but a lot of them we didn’t know as we did a lot of promotion for it to get people involved.”

“There was a rather tense half an hour before people were supposed to arrive,” recollects Scott. “I remember thinking that nobody was there and it was going to be the worst music video ever! However, five minutes before everyone needed to be there, everybody suddenly showed up!”

How long did it take to record the video?

“It was kind of an all-day thing really,” replies Beau. “I think it was one of those incidents where the majority of us stayed around the bar afterwards anyway!”

“That’s a Scout Killers top tip for you, anything that you do in a bar takes considerably longer!” jokes Julien. “So it’s probably best if it takes place outside of a bar! But if you’re doing something quickly in a bar, then you’re probably doing it wrong!”

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