Following the release of their critically acclaimed debut Earl Grey and their biggest headline show to date, we caught up with London three-piece Girl Ray via the wonders of email, to speak about the success of their first album, their fun live shows and their bid for Christmas No.1.
Can you tell LOCK a little bit about the formation of Girl Ray?
GIRL RAY: Poppy and Iris always wanted to be in a band for many reasons, but it didn’t really work out with just two members. It took us a while to realise that Sophie was the missing link. We remembered that she used to have classical guitar lessons and so we slapped her on the bass. We had formed the concept of Girl Ray by the first year of Sixth Form.
What made each of you want to learn your respective instruments?
GIRL RAY: Poppy started playing the guitar from a young age and was taught and inspired to do so by her older brother. She could never be bothered to learn whole, existing songs, so started writing her own. Iris was originally the bass player in Girl Ray, but we couldn’t find a drummer so eventually, after attending a White Denim concert, decided it couldn’t be that hard and started drum lessons. Sophie was forced to play bass, but it worked out exceptionally!
Did any of you have any plans before Girl Ray? Did you have any alternative ambitions?
GIRL RAY: We all had vague plans to go to university at some point – Sophie was gonna do Anthropology and Iris Fine Art. But I think we made the right decision not to study straight away. We still have side ambitions I think.
How did you manage to get the band off the ground? Were there any considerable obstacles that stood in your way?
GIRL RAY: The ball started to roll when we obtained a manager. The main obstacle was that we were very inexperienced and under-confident, and would always apologise on stage. We were also relentlessly flat when trying to sing harmonies, which wasn’t great as we intended to be a harmonies-based group. Our legendary manager Conrad had a plan that required us to practice playing shitloads of tiny gigs under a different name for about a year. It was hard to be that patient, as we just wanted to get ourselves out there ASAP, but it was very beneficial to our playing and confidence. One of the more memorable names we played under is ‘Sturdy Shelf’. I think we also played under the name ‘Ghosty Mo’, which was our band name years before Girl Ray.
Can you describe your songwriting process – does anyone in particular take charge or is it a collective effort?
GIRL RAY: The songs are written by Poppy on her guitar and she brings them to the rest of the band and we develop our own parts and work out other stuff together like harmonies.
Your debut EP, Earl Grey, was described in the last issue of LOCK as ‘wonderfully British, without being patriotic’. Do you consider yourselves as unpatriotic?
GIRL RAY: For the most part, yes. We’re not fans of patriotism.
You must all be proud of Earl Grey and its reception. Has anything changed for the band since its release and its subsequent critical acclaim?
GIRL RAY: It’s easy to accept things as casual these days, but we are very proud. We genuinely weren’t expecting half the amount of attention its been getting. I guess things are changing for the band on a bigger scale, planning more tours and exciting things, but the way we look at it hasn’t really changed.
Are there any kinds of emotions or attitudes that you hope shine through in your live performances?
GIRL RAY: We hope the audience can tell if we’re having a good time, which we usually are. If the band is having fun, the gig is always ten times more enjoyable to watch. It’s also nice when people can tell we really like sharing the stage with each other.
What are you all chasing, what are your ultimate goals?
GIRL RAY: Peace and love, and to tour America.
Apart from music, what do you do for fun?
GIRL RAY: Tennis, The Simpsons, walking, buses, pizza!
Do you think that there are enough opportunities for females in the music industry? If not, why do you think that is?
GIRL RAY: I think there is a much smaller window of opportunity for girls who want to make music, simply because there are less women than men in the music industry to look up to. There is increasing support and talk of the subject, which is encouraging, and helping make the issue less of an issue. No single person or group is to blame for this, it’s just general society and culture being shitty and men-driven.
What are your thoughts on current music? Are there any bands or musicians you’d definitely recommend to LOCK readers?
GIRL RAY: Current music is the best music! We recommend Spinning Coin, Irma Vep, Fake Laugh, Eugene Capper, Wesley Gonzales, BC Camplight, Thundercat, The Orielles, Mauno, Omni, Sacred Paws, DUDS, Timber Timbre…the list goes on!
You’re recording a ‘Xmas banger’. Can we expect it to be more Mariah Carey or Kirsty MacColl?
GIRL RAY: Ooof hopefully somewhere in between if possible. And with a bit of luck, somewhere near Phil Spector too.
Apart from your Christmas Number 1, what’s next in store for Girl Ray?
GIRL RAY: Milking the release of Earl Grey and seeing where it takes us!
Volume Two Interview by Alicia Carpenter.
Featured Image by Neil Thomson.