Ahead of their packed Live at Leeds set at Oporto Bar, I sat down with Sheffield-based leftfield pop quartet Sophie And The Giants to talk about teenage angst and why older generations should talk about their feelings more.
You met at The Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford. What were your first impressions of each other?
Sophie: Toby was on my course and we used to go off and play during the lectures. Toby played and I thought he was really cool. [Bailey and I] never met, we just moved in together and I was like “I really need a bassist. Can you play bass?” And [he was] like “I’ll learn bass if you want me to.”
You refer to Sheffield as your ‘adoptive hometown.’ What made you choose Sheffield?
Sophie: The first time we went – I was writing with Jon McClure from Reverend [and The Makers] – and he just put us in his car and drove us around the Peak District and it was just so lovely. The music history there is so cool and it’s nice when you come off tour just to go back to somewhere that’s not too hectic.
What new Sheffield bands would you recommend?
Toby: I’d always recommend BlackWaters.
Bailey: RedFaces. The Seamonsters. There’s a band that I quite like called Delirium, they’re like a psychedelic rock band.
There’s a line in one of your songs ‘Waste My Air’ – “Overrated and we’re hated by the town outside our door”. Is that metaphorical or is that literally about Staines?
Sophie: It was mostly to do with where we lived in Guildford because we were always throwing parties and the surrounding houses just hated us.
As a group you’ve been defined online as ‘leftfield pop’ i.e. pop that differs for the mainstream. What do you think it us about you that warrants that definition?
Sophie: I think because it’s pop but [bloggers] don’t know where to place it because there’s alternative influences.
Bailey: Because pop right now is mumble-rap.
Chris: Our recordings are very polished but in a way we like it, but when we play it live we want it to be.
Toby: A live adaption.
Chris: Not just you get on stage and you’re listening to basically your iPod.
Sophie: Also not the way social media makes it look – like pop artists and bands are untouchable. We want to connect with people.
Your debut EP ‘Adolescence’ was very personal in terms of subject. You talk about assault, toxic relationships, self-doubt. Are there any subjects that you wouldn’t write about?
Sophie: No, I don’t think so. Whenever I write it’s usually whatever’s going on in my life at the time. If I’m going through a hard time I’m not really gonna be afraid to write about it because there’s people out there that are also going through that stuff and they need stuff to listen to and relate to and know that they’re not alone.
Sophie, I’ve seen you quoted as saying – and I’m paraphrasing here – that when female artists sing about love it often unrequited. Are there any other tired tropes in music, not necessarily just to do with gender, that you’re looking to overturn?
Sophie: I think maybe less about songs being directed at specific genders because I think everybody goes through stuff and I think everybody has the same experiences. I think unrequited love with women is a massive subject and it’s always really sad but it’s the same for guys as well. I’d like for all of our songs to be relatable to everyone.
Whilst ‘Adolescence’ seems to focus on past experiences, your latest single ‘The Light’ appears much more future-facing. What can you tell me about this track?
Sophie: ‘Adolescence’ was all about becoming an adult and taking your experiences and learning from them and then me giving them out to the world so other people can relate. ‘The Light’ is more of a general thing, you can do anything if you can get through stuff. ‘Adolescence’ was all about figuring it out. And now ‘The Light’ is what comes after that.
I think with ‘Adolescence’ like with [the songs] ‘Bulldog’ and ‘Waste My Air’ and ‘Space Girl’ as well, it’s not aggressive but I was in a place where I was really trying to empower myself. [In] ‘The Light’ the lyrics and the verses are actually very open and vulnerable. When you’re a teenager you feel like you have to be so hard all the time. ‘The Light’ is like “it’s okay to not be okay” but there’s ways to get through things. and it’s not always negative.
In interviews you’ve often been asked what advice you would give to your adolescent selves. What advice would give to, say, your parents’ generation?
Chris: Be more open.
Sophie: That’s exactly what I was going to say – [be] more open-minded. People were brought up in specific ways, like male or female. And then also all the different classes. With our generation, there’s a lot less judgement.
Chris: Back then, the men were told to stiffen-up. They feel like they need to hide their emotions. I’ve never seen my dad cry. I’ve seen him through a lot of things, but I’ve never seen him cry, because he thinks he needs to look strong in front of me.
Bailey: I cried three times at [the film] ‘Avengers: Endgame’ [All laugh]
Sophie: I think people are becoming a lot more open to mental illness as well, instead of shoving it under the rug and being like, “You’ve just got to put on a smile and get through it.” Now it’s more like you actually talk to people, which is good.
Catch Sophie And The Giants on The Festival Republic Stage at Leeds Festival on Sunday August 25.