Over in the UK, things have been kicking off rather nicely for Scissors For Lefty. Rough Trade's latest acquisitions have
steadily been building a fanbase, opening for the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Dirty Pretty Things, as well as headlining a
few riotous shows of their own. Just last month they rocked one of the UK's biggest gigs, performing for thousands on the
Carling stage of this year's Reading Festival.
However, tonight they play Baltimore's Sonar nightclub to...well...let's just say considerably less attendees. For, despite
hailing from San Francisco, Scissors For Lefty are still something of an unknown commodity in the States. But given the reactions
of the kids who do show up -- going crazy for single "Ghetto Ways" and prompting an unscheduled encore -- it likely won't
be that way for long. Rock Star Journalism squeezes into the Scissors For Lefty tour van to get a word with the indie dance
scene's next next big things.
Rock Star Journalism: How was the Reading Festival experience?
Bryan: My guitar string broke on the very first song on the very first note! But we kind of just picked it up from that
point and had a really good time. Festivals in general are a lot of fun cause you reach out to all these new people. We had
to follow a tough act; The Pigeon Detectives were on before us, and they kind of stole the festival scene this year. But
we complemented them pretty well.
Robby: Ever since the advent of MySpace, of course, you get feedback these days, and we had so many nice things said.
So, that's really flattering.
Bryan: Plus, we got to see our favorite bands -- that's the best part about it. We got to see Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Belle
and Sebastian. We were in very good company.
RSJ: Speaking of being in good company, you guys are signed to Rough Trade. How did you get hooked up with them?
Bryan: We fooled them! They came to see another band, and they saw us by accident. (laughs) We played a lot of shows
in San Francisco, and we heard that a friend of a friend [told Rough Trade execs to check us out.] We didn't even know they
were there. They saw us play two or three times, and they were into it. This was our first time ever working with someone
else and having a producer and whatnot. We're happy as could be.
RSJ: Have you signed with anyone for US distribution yet?
Peter: Not yet, we're still looking. We've talked to a number of different labels, but we've sort of been holding out
Bryan: We don't want to be in two places at the same time. We wanted to give this a good fair shakeout in the UK and
release this record and then come back to the United States and hopefully tear it up here. We were kind of worried about
how much we'd have to do at the same time if we had to worry about two areas. But we'd be all for it, if it was the right
match. It would sure help us distribute.
Peter: It would help us get our new band jet.
James: Or a band helicopter. (laughs)
RSJ: Did you originally want to go after the UK market or did you find out you had a following there?
Robby: We had no idea. We were just having a lot of fun making some good music and doing some local shows in the [San
Francisco] area. We weren't sending our record out to Sony or Columbia or anything like that. It just happened; it was
a little bit of luck, I guess.
Bryan: But a huge bunch of our favorite bands are from [the UK] or at least are part of that scene. So, it's great, cause
we used to work at some college radio stations and were in tune with underground college music. A lot of it was Britpop,
so to be a part of that now is very flattering.
RSJ: How do the shows you've played overseas compare with those you've done here?
Bryan: You have to win audiences over anywhere. But over there it seems there is a larger portion of people that like
to get out of the house and go to local pubs, so I think they have a little more music in their faces than American culture.
Not necessarily just the college kids, but the masses. Like the culture over there, you'll still see people in their 30s
or 40s having some beers and having a good time, and that kind of seems to disappear here in the States. Maybe we're more
cautious of our livers, I don't know.
Until these past couple tours, we used to just play San Francisco exclusively, or San Louis Obispo, where we used to live.
Once in while, LA or something. So, we just kind of jumped straight into the UK and never really had the chance to see the
rest of America, so this is our chance right now on this tour to see what people are thinking and if they're willing to put
up with us.
RSJ: You're becoming known for your live show -- did you always find it easy to get on stage?
Peter: No. Our first show was a disaster! None of us had ever really played live before, so it was a little awkward
for us the first couple times to get used to what it felt like to be in front of a bunch of people.
Bryan: I swindled these guys and told them lyrics would come to me, don't worry about it. I'm just gonna lie on the floor,
and they're gonna hit me. And then it was like, uh oh...we had people crawling back inch by inch.
Peter: We scared away all of our friends.
Bryan: We had to literally either move or write good songs. Once you hit a low point like that though, it's only up from
there. We can try anything -- I can pull out a kazoo, we can give away a cake, we can order a pizza, we can ask people what
the best joke is --
Peter: There's never truly a bad show. Except for last night's show.
RSJ: Oh, did something happen last night?
Peter: We played a place that we vowed we'd never come back to but somehow found ourselves back there.
Bryan: I like it. But, the problem is, that place is more for singer/songwriters and people eating dinner.
Robby: We're a little too rock 'n roll, I think.
Bryan: You could hear the clanging of forks and knives on the plates. We're like, okay we have another number...and also
deserts are coming.
Peter: It's not necessarily a musical club. People are eating their food, and for some people it's a complete shock. Though,
most of the time they go (adopts motherly tone), "That's such a great set, boys. You played some really nice tunes."
(laughs) They did all stick around.
Bryan: Well, they had to finish their meal. That was a last minute place to book, but still, we got to meet new people.
But it was a little different than playing festivals and opening for Arctic Monkeys. But, you know what? If you convince
two or three people that you're alright, then next time we come back there's five or six. You can't be a snob about it.
RSJ: What do you want to look out into the audience and see? Assuming it's not people eating their dinner.
Peter: It's nice to see people looking at us and not talking to each other. You can tell when people are really involved.
Bryan: As long as there is something of an established front row, cause that's all you see as a band. You just see the
first couple people, and then everything else is usually lights. So, there can be only eight people in the house, but if
they're at the front, then you feel like you're putting on a show.
But, I think we're up for anything. We played once in front of 15 four-year-old kids in one of those big bouncy ball
funhouses, and we still had a good time. We played the Castro Street Fair in front of like 10,000 people and the big waving
rainbow flag and were introduced by these six trannies. We'll take whatever's happening.
RSJ: Your newer work seems more upbeat than the songs on "Bruno." What do you attribute that to?
Peter: Our show was always more upbeat than "Bruno." So, we just wanted what was going on in our show [to be
on the record].
Bryan: We did want to be a little more playful. But at the same time, before, we had a few other things holding us at
lower tempos. We didn't have a drum software program; we just had a basic built-in metronome on the keyboard, and that was
always 100 beats per minute.
Also, the scene we were playing for wasn't a dancing, drinking scene. We were playing for kind of a sit down, highbrow,
indie crowd at coffeeshops in San Louis Obispo. And they would sit there and mostly just take notes, and all the shaking
hips and smiling didn't seem to work very well, but the more somber stuff did go over pretty good.
I think we've realized we're a little more playful goofy guys, and we let that side come out. This was a very spontaneous
album; we wrote the songs in less than a month. We didn't sit back and try to write like a score or anything; we just wanted
to kind of let it come naturally. Plus, Robby's been playing with us the second half of our career. He's got much more rock
'n roll in his blood and keeps things more fun.
RSJ: I was reading that the title to upcoming album, "Underhanded Romance," relates to your adventures in San
Francisco. What was the most surprising thing that's happened to you guys since moving there?
Peter: I think the amount of stuff that's been stolen. (laughs) I had my bike stolen twice in front of my house.
Bryan: Or how much more rent was, like five times more than we used to pay. But, to be honest, I'd say the biggest thing
is just the friends we've made. In your late teens and early 20s, you think you're getting a little more mature and you're
a little old for some things. Then, somehow that cynicism's completely erased in your mid-20s when you meet some of the people
we've met, and they re-inspire you to feel like a kid again. We just have a playful bunch of friends in that city, so it's
made us feel like it's been one big underhanded romance cause we've been romanced by all these things that aren't your adult
RSJ: Who came up with the concept for the "Ghetto Ways" video? Is one of you particularly into the movie, [1970s
horror film, "The Dead the Devil and the Flesh"], it's based around?
Peter: Our director actually found us. He got hold of our recording, and somehow he thought it would be perfect to mash
Bryan: He worked for "Napoleon Dynamite;" he worked on editing that. So, we heard that, we saw the footage
and we met him. We really like to work with people we get a good feeling from, and he just had that.
Peter: He sent us this whole video that he just did set to our song. And he said, "Well, how about if we take that
and throw you in as though you were part of the movie."
Bryan: We didn't want to have one of those walking down the street, kicking mud puddles kind of videos. We thought this
was up our alley, cause we're always a little left of center, and it has that quirky sex appeal.
Robby: There's footage that actually wasn't used in that because it's a radio edit version. It would be nice to be able
to get the whole thing out someday.
Bryan: Nude scenes...
RSJ: Well, that can be for the DVD package.
Bryan: Dorks gone wild!
RSJ: You guys recently quit the day jobs to focus on the band. What made you realize that it was time to take that step?
Peter: When we wrote "Bruno," we did it whenever we could find time, and we just never felt like we'd been able
to give it as much attention as we wanted to. So, this time, we wanted to put as much attention as possible into the songwriting
Bryan: We didn't want any excuses, basically. And we were getting tired of our jobs anyway. But, we'll probably be right
back at them in a few weeks. (laughs)
RSJ: What sort of wonderful jobs did we leave here?
Bryan: I was a biomedical engineer for angioplasty procedures.
Peter: I worked for a company doing their website.
Robby: Drove for UPS.
James: Random temp.
Bryan: He used to carry a big sign walking the street that said "Bike Survey." (laughs) It's tough, cause it's
really financially hard to even get your friends together and get a practice space, especially in cities cause no one wants
to hear you banging against their walls. But it's what we like to do, so it's what we always put any extra funds into. So,
that's why we were really excited to work with Rough Trade; it was like, what, you what to help us make an album? You'll
And here in America, we're all kind of on our own. We're an indie band; we have to make sure we go back to our day jobs so
we can put some food on the table. But, in the meantime, we have this luxurious van you're inside right now.
RSJ: I know -- I am impressed.
Peter: (laughs) You should see how small it becomes when you have all your gear.
Robby: We're sitting on our guitars.
RSJ: Any interesting adventures on the cross-country drive?
Peter: We had a KFC craving somewhere in Nebraska. So, we saw a KFC sign, pulled off, followed the sign, drove up, saw
the entry sign, pulled in, saw the sign for the buffet -- but there was no building. (laughs) Completely wiped off the parking
lot. It looked like "The Wizard of Oz."
RSJ: Of the experiences you've had thus far, what's been the most unexpected thing that's happened to you guys as a band?
Bryan: Getting to cut a rug with some of our favorite bands. It's hard not to be a little bit awestruck. You sit down
and have lunch, and there's Jack White next to you. It's hard to hold it together and not be like, oh my god it's Jack White!
RSJ: Where would you like to see yourselves in a year's time?
Peter: We'd like to be doing a lot more headlining type shows.
Bryan: Longer sets. We're only playing the half hour power set right now, and it would be nice to bring out the songs
that are a little more subtle and soft. Maybe play for an hour -- then we could put on more of a show, cause we like to get
into some of the antics and maybe bust out a projector...wardrobe changes...dance moves.
RSJ: James, do you have anything to say in the back there?
RSJ: Are you the quiet one?
James: I'm the quiet, mysterious one.
Bryan: James is a huge talent in this band. He's the most multi-faceted; he can play the most instruments.
Peter: And he's the tallest guy.
Robby: Every band needs one!
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