We talk to Sophie and the Giant’s drummer about exploding into the mainstream.
Posted: 30 August 2019
When did you start playing the drums?
I think I was around 11 or 12. The reason I started was I really wanted the game ‘Rock Band’ and I got given it for Christmas and my dad said “if you can complete a couple of games on expert I’ll get you a drum kit”. And then I got a really old second-hand drum kit for getting that far and from there I was just hooked to it. I just carried on playing on drums. I started as a lefthander then moved to the righthanded drumkit. It was a bit silly of me because I’m left-handed, but I didn’t want to make a fuss with everyone else by switching the drum kit round. That’s how I started, just playing video games really.
Is that the only instrument you wanted to play?
The first instrument I actually tried was the violin. I played ‘Three Blind Mice’ on it and then gave up and smashed it on the floor and when I hit it on the floor, I think that’s when I learnt to play drums.
Are you self-taught or did you have lessons?
I had formal lessons for two years and then I went to university for drums at ACM. I quit and then after that I’ve just been teaching myself. But at first, I was taught.
What’s your practice routine?
I don’t ever use a practice pad I always use my legs because I prefer feeling the rebound on my legs, it’s tougher for when you’re doing double strokes and stuff like that. I use my legs to strengthen my hands, so I always do that before I play a gig. Then I do a couple of stretches. I don’t warm up a lot, I prefer to warm up on the kit but I mainly just use my legs, just play 16th notes, paradiddles, diddles, doubles strokes but always on the hard materials so I can strengthen my hands instead of making it easy.
Does your set up ever change?
I have two set ups with one kit. I have a Natal Originals Maple, a 14” snare drum, 12”x7.5” high tom, 14”x16” floor tom, 16”x16” floor tom. But sometimes I take away the 16” floor tom when we play a smaller gig.
How would you describe the sound of Sophie and the Giants?
I’d describe it as left field pop. A bit more of an edgy pop. Live we sound different to recording. Recordings are all about getting the polished state but then live is all about live instruments: real drums, real guitar, real bass, real everything. So that’s where we get our edgy side because we want to hit the drums as loud as we can, we want to play the guitar the way we want to. So left field pop, that sort of vibe.
Do you prefer live or in the studio?
Live. So much more. When you see those faces, you just go for it and it just gives me so much adrenaline.
Photo: Jess Huxham
You guys only formed in 2017 and now you’re playing festivals like Reading, what has that journey been like?
Very fast. Very, very fast. We got signed about a year ago. Before that we were in tiny, tiny venues. We actually played one venue three weeks in a row because we couldn’t find anywhere else to play. And we were just trying to get our name out there. We got management first and then they went with us to gigs and then it just shot up. It just went so fast. We supported Tom Grennan on his European tour. We hadn’t even done a headline tour yet and we were going out to Europe. Then after that, getting the festivals, it’s just crazy. The one I’m most excited about is Reading, playing the Festival Republic stage. It’s just a dream of mine because it was the first stage I went to when I first went to Reading festival. I was 12 years old when I went for the first time with my dad. I can’t remember which band, but it was the Festival Republic tent so I’m really excited to revisit it but on the stage.
You mentioned Tom Grennan, you guys supported Stereophonics as well.
That was only two, three weeks ago at Lytham Festival. That was absolutely crazy. Just meeting them all was just amazing. And obviously they’re with Natal and I was just kind of starstruck. I was just starstruck with the amount of people there as well. It was crazy. We actually had screens and I saw my face of the screen once and I was like what the hell. It was crazy, I loved it.
Can we expect an album any time soon?
So, we’ve got a couple of songs coming out very soon which I can’t release just yet but there is a song out very soon and then a couple more on their way. An album we are trying to think about but at the moment that’s going be kept in the closet. But definitely in the next couple of years.
What advice do you have for budding musicians?
Don’t get drunk in the van on the way home! It’s the worst thing when you fall asleep and then wake up back at your house and you have to unload all the gear. And also when you’re on stage, just forget that people are there judging you. Just enjoy yourself. Just enjoy the atmosphere. Embrace it and don’t think about what the people are thinking because most of the time they’re loving and you’re loving it on stage. Enjoy it with the band that you’re with and your family. Just go for it. Never overthink it, just get on stage and love it.