This five track EP is the latest offering from Manc synth-pop outfit Girl Friend. Less than a year since their inception they're already creating a stir, with outlets from Line of Best Fit to the Guardian awarding them early accolades for their modern take on 80s electropop. Arrive Alone, Leave Alone builds on the absurdly videoed Stop, included here, and musing on the perils of love Chemical Romance, streamed late last year.
Glorious opener Monte Carlo situates itself somewhere between the delicious, knowing camp of Light Years era Kylie Minogue and Metronomy's English Riviera. Amory's sweet falsetto is backed perfectly by sister Eleanor; between them they paint turquoise seas and the sticky humidity of summers spent in fleeting, all-consuming love, building a crescendo of catchy hooks that is difficult to shake off.
|Credit - Ben Roberts|
You Lead The Way has an urgency and edge that wouldn't be out of place on Dragonette debut Galore. Sweeping synths build slowly, blending the pop heart of the Human League and the thugishness of Depeche Mode. With a production aesthetic reminiscent of early Brothers In Rhythm, it's the grit in the pearl of this collection, showing that underneath the perfect pop vocal lines there's a flawed soul styling out their heartache. Which brings us nicely to Style and Substance, a pounding disco pop ode to faking nights and losing days, with the best synth riff since The Killers stepped out of Vegas. It's a testament to the quality of this release that a song this good, with its glittered take on fractured self-confidence, could ever be called the weaker one.
Ending fittingly on Stop, this is the best indication that there's even more to come from Girl Friend. The ever-so-slightly slower tempo gives Amory's vocals space to really shine; there's something infinitely listenable to the vulnerability he never quite allows to snag at his voice. Plenty of reviews have compared them to Hurts; while that duo always seemed like reasonable guys in interviews, there's a clinical coldness to their recordings, always a danger when reliant on technology. Girl Friend manage to escape that, infusing their electronica with poetic heart; proving that pop doesn't have to be flimsy and an infectious melody can trick us into diving a little deeper than we first thought.
INTERVIEW WITH GIRLFRIEND
INTERVIEW WITH GIRLFRIEND
PLUS ONE: A quick Google of ''Girl Friend Band'' brought up all manner of results, from a long gone Aussie girl group to a Twitter support forum for girls who have boyfriends in bands. Have you ever been tempted (or pressured) to add an extra symbol or stylize the name as G!rl B@nd or something equally as silly to get those all important hits?
GF: No. It’s a challenge for us to get our name out there. The songs will dictate, we’ll be first thing that pops up in a few years... That’s the plan.
Your sound is both decidedly retro, yet oddly simultaneously modern. Was that something that took a lot of effort from a production point of view, to prevent it from becoming pastiche?
Our sound is something that we slave over, but it isn’t something that we’ve struggled with. From a song writing point of view we take a very classic approach and are influenced by a broad range of artists. We certainly don’t see ourselves as a retro outfit, we’re just a product of our influences; both modern and classic.
Considering the band only formed last year, the songs feel whole and have a depth of something a long time in planning, even if only in someone's head. What path did you take to get to your sound?
Amory and I had been writing together for a few years prior to the formation of Girl Friend. We decided to release our material once we felt we had a coherent set of ideas. ‘Stop’ was a pivotal point for us, everything seemed to fall into place with that song. There’s two sides to us and I think these are quite apparent on our latest EP; the bright, sun-kissed pop of Monte Carlo is juxtaposed with the dark, richness of ‘Stop’.
Which three albums have been most significant in your musical education?
David Bowie - Scary Monsters & Super Creeps
Depeche Mode - Violator
Hall & Oates - Big Bam Boom
It seems like things have come full circle - in the 80s there were acts like Human League being respected for their musicianship whilst it was acknowledged that they were creating pop, but in the 90s/00s pop became a dirty word for fans of ''proper'' music. In the internet age, genres seem much more blurred and there's less snobbery, it seems to okay to embrace good quality, well thought out pop again. Would you describe yourselves as a pop band? Why/not?
We are a pop band. I completely agree with you on this, well written pop has come back into style. It’s fortunate for us that people are getting into pop music again, Girl Friend probably wouldn’t have gone down so well 10 years ago. As for “proper” music, what’s that? I suppose it’s all subjective. We’re just striving to make great records.
The tracks on the forthcoming EP seem to be exercises in ''putting a brave face on it'', like whatever happens emotionally, the feeling is there's always a place for eyeliner and dancing, finding the diamond in the broken glass. Is this a character you play in your lyrics or how you approach life generally?
Though the songs are personal, I’m not just singing pages from my diary. Everything is character driven - emotions are amplified. I think we’re moving into a hedonistic period; people are putting on a brave face and going out, we’re not so willing to wallow in our misery anymore. I’ve grown very tired of music that dwells upon dour, mundane subjects, I suppose I’m trying to be positive.
You can only listen to one song for the rest of your life. What would you choose?
Nick Jonas - Jealous. Over and over and over and over and ov...
Words & Interview Questions - Angi Strafford
Arrive Alone, Leave Alone is released on April 27th on Tri-Tone
Girl Friend Facebook