Amory and Eleanor of Girl Friend chat to Katy Blackwood about the stigma of pop and when we might finally see an album from them
With a hedonistic electro-pop sound and snazzy harmonies, Girl Friend are one of the leading lights of the alternative scene’s ongoing skydive into the glitzy world of pop.
The Manchester band have boldly and unabashedly produced a string of infectious pop singles, influenced by the synthesizer brilliance of their Eighties heroes and the more recent icons of nu-disco and indietronica.
Perpetually on the brink of stardom since 2014, they have evolved in both line-up and sound, finally hitting on a winning formula and looking ready to take a hammer to the glass ceiling.
Although Girl Friend are officially a quartet, it is invariably the band’s sibling duo that take centre stage. Amory Neish-Melling is the confident frontman and lyricist, Eleanor the shy but glamorous second vocalist since she joined in 2015.
Katy Blackwood met up with the pair at The Great Escape for a seafront chat…
Thanks for joining me on the coast for a chat! How’ve you been finding Brighton?
Amory: “We’ve literally just arrived! We drove down today from Manchester, so we’re feeling a bit jaded from the early start. But we’ll have a coffee, take in the sea breeze, and wake ourselves up.”
What kind of opportunity does The Great Escape present for a band like yourselves?
Amory: “It’s a great opportunity. The Great Escape is a festival you grow up hearing about. It’s so good for getting exposure to like-minded people, and that’s what really attracts us to being here.”
How does playing a festival like this differ from a regular show on tour?
Amory: “The key difference is that not everyone is here to see us, and so there’s people to be won over. It’s a challenge. We’re doing more festivals than ever before this summer, and it’s a chance to present our music to new people.”
It’s been quite a journey for you guys so far, but the big story recently is Eleanor joining the band. How did that come about?
Amory: “I started the band with a guy called Jake [in 2013], and we’ve been through a couple of versions since, just throwing ideas around.”
Eleanor: “They wanted to change the dynamic, and I’d always been a singer.”
Amory: “She’s a couple of years younger than me, so I was reluctant to ask her to join at first. But I’ve always been a big fan of family harmonies, things like the Bee Gees, there’s a lot in that tonally for me. She was free and I asked her to do it, and she said yes!”
What sort of difference has that made for Girl Friend?
Amory: “It’s completely changed. Once you have a woman in the band, it doesn’t just change the tone of the music, but the whole feeling on-stage. People react to you differently. We just work more as a pop band now.”
And pop is very much where it is for you?
Amory: “We’re a pop band. Not an indie band, maybe alternative pop. But pop should always be at the centre of how people describe us.”
Is it annoying that pop music has such a stigma attached to it?
Amory: “It is pretty irritating, but I think that’s sort of disappearing a bit now. The revolution really started with Taylor Swift’s 1989, with all of the influences coming together, and in a way she’s paved the way for bands like us to move from the alternative scene and into pop.”
Eleanor: “It’s definitely not as bad as it used to be.”
Do you think we’re reaching the peak for alternative pop? There’s so many bands in the genre right now.
Amory: “There’s still a rich vein of bands coming through, and there will be for years to come. There is some crap about, but I’m really pleased with the climate of music right now. It’s so good for bands like us that have always wanted to do pop, but suffered from the stigma surrounding the word.”
Your last release, ‘Tragic on the Dancefloor’, is definitely a great pop single. Is there a story behind it?
Amory: “I’d been going through a bit of writer’s block when I wrote it, which was frustrating because we needed a killer single. People were touting us for big things, but that means nothing if you don’t have something to back it up with. It was borne out of that frustration, and it was such a relief as we were so happy with it!”
You’ve mentioned the expectations. I was reading back about your debut single ‘Monte Carlo’, and a national newspaper compared it to the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. Does that sort of thing add pressure?
Amory: “Yeah, it was kind of daunting really! It was a big surprise, and for them to like it was a big honour, but we tried to not let those things enter our mind. It can be difficult when you get press like that right at the beginning.”
A subject you’ve touched upon in the past is your internal conflict. What’s all of that about? It’s pretty ambiguous!
Amory: “Well, I guess I didn’t want to talk about the etchings of my soul at the very start! But everyone has a degree of internal conflict, anxiety and that kind of thing, and music is a way of dealing with that.”
Your band logo is very similar to the old Top Of The Pops logo. Do you think something like that should come back?
Eleanor: “Yeah, I loved it!”
Amory: “It’s a little bit of that, and a little bit of Soft Cell as well, who we’re big fans of. I think it’s only a matter of time until it returns. You need a platform like that on television, even though online has taken over a lot. I miss it.”
When you’re away from the music, what do you like to get up to?
Amory: “Well, I like to entertain! To be honest, at the moment – spending so much time with the band – music is quite all-consuming. There isn’t a lot left for me I find, so when I’m not sleeping or eating the band is my life.”
Eleanor: “It’s slightly different for me because I’m still in education, but I’m going to be studying music at university, so I would say it’s most of my life?”
How’s the music scene in Manchester doing at the moment?
So far it’s been all singles and EPs for Girl Friend. When might we see an album?
Amory: “It’s funny you ask that, actually! I was pulling an album draft together earlier. If we wanted to, we could bring out an album today. Whether we will or not, I’m not sure! We’re happy releasing singles at the moment, but when we feel it’s our time to release the album I’m sure we will.”
Above: Girl Friend invasion as another band member pounces on the photo opportunity on the seafront
Teasing stuff! Will the album include material from your earlier line-up too?
Amory: “Oh, definitely! I think everything from ‘Monte Carlo’ onward is in the running. We have songs that haven’t seen the light of day yet that I’m sure we’ll put on as well.”
Other than the album, what else can we expect from here?
Amory: “We constantly want to evolve, and we’re keen to do that. So we’ll create more music, and spend the rest of the year writing. This Summer, though, it’s festivals.”
Girl Friend play live at the following dates:
10 June: Club NME @ KOKO, London
21-24 July: Secret Garden Party, Cambridgeshire
2 September: LodeStar Festival, Cambridgeshire
7 October: Rockaway Beach, Bognor Regis
8 October: Neighbourhood Festival, Manchester
Photos: Katy Blackwood