published: 24 /
Nottingham-born but now American-based hardcore singer-songwriter Scout Niblett has just released her third album 'Kidnapped by Neptune'. She talks to Anthony Dhanendran about moving to America and the new album
Scout Niblett’s three albums, 'Sweet Heart Fever'(2001), 'I am' (2003) and this year's 'Kidnapped by Neptune' are raw and direct, as much as you might expect from Steve Albini productions. Heavily influenced by American hardcore groups, the Nottingham-born Scout (or Emma, as she’s officially known, having picked her nom-de-plume and named herself after the main character from 'To Kill A Mockingbird') now resides in the States. Her live shows are even more explosive, the band consisting of just her and a drummer, but producing a ferocious, pugnacious sound. Pennyblackmusic caught up with Scout at the beginning of her British tour to promote 'Kidnapped by Neptune' earlier this year.
PB: You’re currently on tour with Electrelane. How is it going?
SN: That was the first show last night. We've got about four shows to do.
PB: Do you think you have a common set of fans?
SN: I actually don't think we do. I don't know. I don't think that they cross over much, so it's kind of surprising really. I think that at these shows people are coming to see both of us.
PB: It's quite a lively set that you play…
PB: Is that something that comes out naturally when you play live ?
SN: You mean compared to the album? Yeah, I think I like to play, I don't know, 'cos on the album there are a lot more songs where it's just me on my own, and some of them are quieter. I think, live, I really like to kind of rock out.
PB: It seemed very hardcore-influenced. Is that the case?
SN: I guess so, I mean I listen to fairly heavy music. I mean, I listen to all types of music but I really love very heavy music.
PB: How did you get into that?
SN: Well, I've been into that since I was 17. I was listening to heavy stuff when I was younger. It's not like a new thing.
PB: You've said in the past that Daniel Johnson was a big influence?
SN: Yeah, I'm influenced by a lot of different music. There's some, like Daniel, where I'm influenced lyrically, and there's some that are vocalists, too, but definitely his songwriting I think is amazing. But I mean, it's not like he's the only person I listen to.
PB: Have you worked with Daniel Johnson?
SN: I've played shows with him.
PB: Did you have a sense of awe?
SN: From my part? I'm always in awe of people. But I've not actually worked with him. I've just played shows with him.
PB: You moved to America a couple of years ago. Was American music always a big thing for you?
SN: Yeah. I never really got into English music.
PB: Why do you think that is?
SN: Because I don't think there's any good English bands [Laughs].
PB: No-one at all ?
SN: Well, there's a few exceptions, but… I don't know. I really never could really deal with it. I just don't think there's much of interest there.
PB: How did you get into American music?
SN: When I was a teenager, at school, when I started going out and listening to… I don't know how it happened, I just became aware of American music. I guess through other people, you know. I can't remember making a conscious decision, thinking: "I hate pop music, let me listen to some American hardcore." I think it was probably just people I knew were listening to stuff like that.
PB: Have you found more and more interesting stuff since you've been out there ?
SN: Yeah. There's a band I really like in San Francisco called Too Galant. They're a two-piece and they kind of sound folky at times, but they also really do some stuff in just kind of like a Metallica style.
PB: Is it usually you and the drummer when you play live?
SN: Yeah, it's only me and him.
PB: Ever been tempted to add any more to the mix?
SN: No, I like playing with just the two of us.
PB: Have you done shows on your own?
SN: Yeah, I mean, to be honest, I've been playing solo for about three or four years. And then when I started working with Jason, in October, that's when it changed, when it became two people. I started with a drummer early on, when the first album came out, but when I had to start touring seriously I had to start doing it on my own. The first drummer couldn't do that, 'cos he had a job. It was out of necessity really.
PB: Has touring with a drummer affected your writing?
SN: Kind of, yeah. I think it energises me. I do most of my writing when I'm on my own, in my own house, but sometimes when we're on tour, when we do the soundcheck we'll do some… jamming and stuff [Laughs]. It's definitely different than if it's just me on my own. You know, it's a lot harder-sounding.
PB: Where was your first gig?
SN: It was in Nottingham in a pub.
PB: Once you did that, was it obvious that it was the way to go?
SN: Yeah. I mean, not that I felt appreciated at all, but for me, I knew that I loved it.
PB: Some of the stuff you played last night involved you drumming, so it was just vocals and drums. How did that come about?
SN: I used to know a guy in Nottingham who was an old man. He used to do open-mic nights sometimes. He used to sometimes get up and play, like an acoustic guitar – calypso songs. He'd also sometimes just go and play the drums, just like beat the covers. And I kind of just thought it was amazing and, just, started doing the same thing [laughs].
PB: It's definitely something you don't see very often.
SN: No, I've not seen anyone else do it.
PB: You have to have quite a strong voice to carry it off. That's probably what holds people back, the idea that you have to have some sort of instrument there to provide a melody.
SN: Yeah, I think people just don't consider it at all. I just don’t think people even think about it.
PB: What are you up to at the moment? You're touring England…
SN: Yeah. And then to Europe, and then back to the States.
PB: Are you going to be thinking about recording again soon?
SN: Oh God, no, it's going to be a while yet. I'm going to be touring a lot, this year, for this record. I'm really going to be trying to promote this record.
PB: Do you find you're playing to bigger crowds each time?
SN: You'd be surprised. I don't even think about it any more, because, like, if you think, "there should be this many people there" and then there isn't, you just get brought down. It's nice to just play.
PB: Are you aware of the crowd when you play, or do you tune out?
SN: I've noticed that I don't really open my eyes much. I tend to play with my eyes closed, or watching my own guitar, so I can see what I'm playing. So I'm not really aware of the crowd until I've finished the song.
PB: Do you think either touring or recording is more important than the other?
SN: No, I love both, it's a different experience. I mean, songwriting is something that I do to make myself feel better. Touring is equally therapeutic for me. Like I was saying the other night to someone, there's no other place where I could scream my head off and be appreciated for it. Like, normally, you'd just be put into a crazy home, you know. The fact that I can do that, and get away with it, is amazing.
PB: Do you think that's one of the reasons you started playing in the first place?
SN: It's definitely a reason. Yeah, it's definitely great to sing my heart out.
PB: Do you know what you might have been doing if you hadn't gone into music?
SN: No, I don't think I could have done anything else, to be honest. I don't think I can do anything else. I can do astrology, I'm an astrologer, but I don't do that for a living. But I would have been doing music… I've been doing music my whole life. The fact that I'm getting paid for it is great, but I wouldn't have stopped doing it just because it was not my job.
PB: Do you feel like it's been a struggle to get where you are?
SN: It's not been a struggle because I've been enjoying it. But I don't… I don't know. I don't know how to view it, really, because for me, I felt kind of lucky that I ever got to play my first gig.
PB : Thank you