The School are an indie pop band from Cardiff, which was formed by Liz Hunt in 2007, who was also a member of the critically acclaimed 60’s-influenced group, the Loves.
As well as Liz on vocals and keyboards, the School also consists of Ryan (bass), Ivan (guitar), Harri (guitar and percussion), Steph (violin), Kay (violin), Fran (trumpet) and Rich (drums).
The School, who signed to the Spanish label Elefant Records after their fourth gig, have now released two albums, ‘Loveless Unbeliever’ (2010) and this year's ‘Reading Too Much Into Things Like Everything'.
Pennyblackmusic spoke to Liz Hunt about the School, and fronting such a big group.
PB: The School was formed while you were still in the Loves. Was it originally just a solo act?
LH: I'd started writing some songs but they weren't suitable for the Loves - the first one was 'Valentine' (from the School's first single & album) which I wrote in 2002, but I didn't do anything with it for several years as I didn't think it was good enough, and no-one I'd played it to seemed to be that bothered. But I couldn't get it out of my head. I knew it was a good song but I also knew it wasn't a Loves song.
I just hadn't considered starting another band before, let alone being in charge of one. Eventually I started writing more songs when the Loves were winding down a bit, bought equipment and recorded some demos. Simon Love (the Loves' founder and front man-Ed) helped out with the first few songs. He co-wrote 'All I Wanna Do' and 'I Want You Back' because I'm not as confident with lyrics as I am with melodies, and I also can't play guitar.
I started putting a band together so we could play live, and after we recorded our first demo we signed to Elefant Records. It was always going to be a band rather than a solo project, but I'd envisaged shared boy and girl vocals. I just liked the idea of mixing up vocal sounds. I also wasn't supposed to be the lead singer but no-one else would do it - I'm not a proper singer, I'm normally the accompanist. I'm glad it's turned out like this though!
PB: What do you like about the label?
LH: They're such kind people who run it directly from their hearts. They love their bands. It is like a family,as everyone chips in and helps each other. They don't care about finding the coolest sounding band that'll go on the front cover of the NME and push whatever boundarie. They just love good independent pop music. They survive because they're always developing the label, constantly adapting to change with the times and thinking of great new ideas. It is inspirational.
PB: The Loves got Doug Yule from the Velvet Underground to sing as Jesus on their last album. ‘…Love You’. How did that come about?
LH: Simon found an email address and just asked him straight out. He told him the whole story of the Loves and how it'd probably be their last output. He said he just needed to record it on something rough and email it to him - Doug had to get his son to help and we think he might have broken something in the process, but it got through. He sounds like he's a very lovely fellow.
Simon is also Facebook friends with Moe Tucker and she's been known to 'like' and 'comment' on things he's posted, I think she liked one of our videos he was tagged in once. Rock 'n' roll.
PB: Is there a healthy Cardiff scene?
LH: Yes! There's loads of great bands here and they seem to keep forming new ones all the time! Me and our violinist Kay run three small venues here so we're always booking loads of ace bands. There is a good selection of venues to play. There are everyone's favourites, people who have been part of the music scene making it amazing for a few years like Cate Le Bon, Sweet Baboo, Islet, Gruff Rhys, then we always get excited when there's new acts popping up like Joanna Gruesome.
PB: Would you say it's mostly indie kids of the same age who are your fans? You recently toured with the Primitives. Did that bring you more fans?
LH: It's mostly indie kids but they're not all the same age - it varies in age way more than lots of the gigs we put on in Cardiff. We tend to find that new indie acts mainly have younger/student fans. But there are certain acts which could be from one of a few decades and they seem to attract a wider range of fan. We just need more of them now though!
Yes, the Primitives tour found us lots of new fans. It was an older crowd and seemed to be people who don't go to as many gigs these days so may not have heard of us playing in their hometowns before or read about us in the right places, so it was perfect. We're still in touch with lots of the lovely people we met. We had a fantastic time and we're talking about doing more shows together next year.
PB: Would you say you were influenced by 60’s sounding girl groups?
LH: Yes, very much so, but it's not just 60’s girl groups. It's well-written classic-sounding pop songs from all decades. I guess I've got my family to thank for that one. I grew up on 60’s and 80’s pop and then I started going out when Britpop was at its peak so that all had a huge influence on me.
I'm always saying our song 'Where Does Your Heart Belong?' is a perfect combination of The Supremes and Madness. I still haven't finished exploring all my influences though. There's still quite a lot somewhere in the back of my head yet to come out.
PB: Your songs are very romantic. Are you unlucky in love?
PB: Is the third album finished yet or started at all?
LH: I'm always writing new songs but it'll be a while yet. We've been busy! Aside from my job taking up most of my life, we've been recording two Christmas songs for a very special Elefant compilation, and there are a couple of new videos from the second album and a single with a few new B-sides yet to come. We still need to tour the album in a few countries because we've only played the UK this time, mainly due to jobs and money.
Then while all that's going on I'll still be writing lots of new songs, picking favourites and I would imagine we'll record another album later next year, but there are no solid plans yet.
PB: Why the name, the School?
LH: It looked good written down, I thought it'd look good on single artwork and on a T-shirt, and it's quite fitting as there's so many of us. It sounds totally unoriginal but no-one else had it (well apart from a Norwegian metal band, so officially we're 'The School (UK)' if anyone asks, but no-one seems to mind so far). There's already enough clever band names or ones that try to be, so I thought if we're going to sound so'classic we may as well have a name to match. PB: Do you have any hassles with having such a big band?
LH: Yes. I could sit around moping about the number of countries we could have played in by now if only we were a 3-4 piece but then we wouldn't be the School. It's hard to rehearse and we normally have some people missing each time, and it's hard to book shows that everyone can make. And every now and then there's heartbreak when we have to part ways with someone because they've got other commitments and just can't be in the band any more.
But we're like a gang. When we're playing shows, it's the best feeling in the world, and I'm lucky to be playing with such amazing people, so that more than makes up for any hassle along the way.
PB: What are your future plans?
LH: Christmas, pop shows, planes, boats, new songs, albums, weight loss, hair growth...
PB: Thank you.