Sometimes, things take time. Just ask Hemel Hempstead-based Scholars. After the best part of six years honing their sound on the live circuit, the ten-limbed rock mob are finally set to release their debut album 'Always Lead, Never Follow' through Banquet Records on 8th April. The first single from the album will be out the week before - it's called 'Black & Blue' and the video for the track is online now.
Having supported everyone from Twin Atlantic, to Pure Love, to Hell Is For Heroes and Hundred Reasons in their tenure, their career to date has been a birthing period for an album that brings all their live energy to the stereo. As frontman Sam Nicholls explains, it's more than just a debut record; it's their story so far. "Some of the songs are from three years back, and they've been on the table for a long while," he says. "Now it's time to bring the life out of them. This album is a collection of the different angles we've taken over the years and I don't think we would have had that if we'd ditched everything and written an album from scratch. It's almost a statement of 'This is Scholars, and this is our history so far'."
Raised on everything from the post-hardcore of At The Drive-In and Refused to the skate punk of Strung Out and NOFX, Scholars mix the urgency of the former with the delivery of the latter to create their own place in the indie / math / rock spectrum. But it's on stage where they rival all of their influences. Whether playing to two people or 200, Scholars have one ethos: you give it your all.
"We're so bored of bands sounding great on record and then you see them live and they just stand there or strike a pose," says Sam. "We wanted to have that energy that we'd seen in bands like At The Drive-In and Refused." "Why would you do anything else on stage than just go for it?" adds bassist Chris Aylett. "It's the release. Even if you're playing to two people, I can't understand why you'd not bother giving it your all!"
Anyone who's seen a Scholars show will profess they're a band true to their word. Razor tight and bursting with energy, they have that ability to win people over, no matter who they're playing to. For Sam, that was tested when they hit the road with Canterbury and Mallory Knox at the tail end of 2012. "I expected us to go out there to a lot of raised eyebrows, but people really took to us," he confesses. "I think it's engaging the crowd and getting involved with them; we make an impact on people by being a very expressive live band."
'Always Lead, Never Follow' captures all of that expression and more. Recorded under the guidance of ex-Hundred Reasons man Larry Hibbitt between Brixton and Melton Mowbray in the first half of 2012, in 13 tracks it spans the breadth of Scholars' abilities. And with Sam's anthropological look at the world around him leading the attack, lyrically it darts between the state of the British press ('Damage'), to mass hysteria to yes, even love ('Stellar'). It's as diverse in its sound as its message. "I have a lot to say," Sam admits, "but at the same time I hate preaching. I'm a strong believer of building your own values - always lead, never follow - so I didn't want to tell people how to think. It's more suggestive."
'Always Lead, Never Follow', then, is the culmination of six years of hard work, life experience and giving it your all. The gestation period is now over. Scholars are Sam Nicholls (vocals / keys), Chris Aylett (bass), Mike Frost (drums) and Cal and Ethan Owen (guitars). Wherever they're headed next, be sure to follow.
7th BRISTOL The Stag
8th BIDEFORD Palladium Club
9th PENZANCE Studio
10th PLYMOUTH White Rabbit
12th BIRMINGHAM The Sunflower Lounge
13th MANCHESTER Roadhouse
14th CHESTER The Compass
15th LEICESTER Lock 42
16th NORWICH The Stanley Arms
17th WATFORD White Lion
10th LONDON CAMDEN Barfly