Interviewing drummer Oli Khan from Sea Girls was like having a chat with a mate’s mate at a uni house party. We chatted in a small room with a low slanted ceiling, my phone sat on a stool to record the conversation. Oli went on to talk about feeling good, doing whatever makes you happiest continually, and making your way in the world with friends at your side:
Your tour has just begun, but you’re already selling out venues, have you got a favourite moment so far?
Favourite moment? Oh yeah ‘Damage Done’, first time we’ve played it since it was released, good reaction, it went kind of crazy which was great. Yeah, normally ‘Call Me Out’, or ‘All I want To Hear You Say’ are the craziest but it’s good, I like playing new songs. There’s a song called ‘Ready for More’, that’s the first time we’ve played it live which was cool, it’s always fun unleashing something new.
That brings me onto a question I was going to ask later, can I expect anything new?
We are playing 3 unreleased songs, ‘Forever’ we’ve played for over a year now, we’ve got two new songs on the tour, we always like getting new ones in there, something people haven’t heard before, one called ‘Shape’ which is a rock song, and ‘Ready for More’ which is another up-tempo indie.
I’d like to talk about your music now, how would you describe your style to someone that has never heard you?
It’s rock music, it’s indie music, it’s also got elements of pop music, guitar-based pop music, not like the Jonas Brothers’ guitar-based pop, but indie rock with a pop twist. When we play on the radio after Ariana Grande, we want it to not be so jarring, but to slip into that, because we love all those pop artists, as much as we love Kings of Leon and The Killers, we love Lana del Ray and Florence and the Machine, hopefully finding a lovely middle ground.
What would you say your music is mostly about?
Well it’s about a lot of things, but mostly emotions, I guess. Fun, regret, joy and there’s love in there too, that’s a big one. But, we all write so it’s about lots of different stuff.
So you seem to write quite emotionally, there’s a lot about youth, and having grown up together, but is there anyone in particular you want to reach with those songs?
I don’t think we are trying to reach anyone in particular, it’s anyone that will have it really. If we like it, people like it. It’s not like we will say ‘this chorus tests well with the 16-18 demographic’: if it makes us feel good, that’s what’s important. Playing it live is a good tactic, if it feels great, hopefully it will feel great for other people listening to it, it’s all we can hope for.
So, it’s a really personal thing?
Yeah totally, it’s making the music we like to make, I don’t think it would be true to us and people would be able to tell if we were writing for someone else, not that we’re not writing for our fans. We write the songs because we wanna write the songs.
So, you guys all went to school together, growing up did you go to all the festivals like Reading and Leeds that you are playing at now?
Yeah, we went to Reading and Leeds festival, I went three years in a row and so did Henry and Andrew to Leeds. I went to Y Not Festival in Derbyshire, otherwise not really. We went to gigs around here and stuff, there wasn’t always load of gigs on, as I’m from Leicester there were a couple things in Nottingham.
What music most inspired you, what did you listen to on-loop?
I used to listen to Busted or Mcfly until I was maybe twelve, I still think that’s great. Then I started listening to pop punk bands at maybe thirteen, like Green Day, which I thought was amazing. That was maybe my first taste of that guitar music. And through that I slowly moved to the indie side with bands like Mystery Jets which was my big one at the time. Andrew and I played music together when we were 14, and now we have matured into a fairly eclectic style. We all like different little niches that take us in different directions.
What’s your niche?
I really like pop punk, and I really like some of the weirder indie stuff. I really used to love a band called the Guillemots, which were an English band, like 10 years ago, that was quite orchestral. But I used to really love sixties’ pop music, stuff like the Beatles, but not the Beatles. I also love the Beatles. Whenever I write songs, I also use really fifties sounding chord progressions, I really like that kind of stuff. Yeah, I hope my little quirks from that filter through into it. I love pop music, like ABBA, just listening to how everything is so precise in that, like drumming-wise, that definitely influences me, keeping it simple and letting the drums serve the song.
Were there any stage presences that wowed you and you wanted to emulate?
When we first went to Leeds festival, Kings of Leon were headlining and they are undeniably good, and that was kind of in their big breakthrough as well, so I know Henry was in awe of that. And going to that festival, I saw Foals on the Radio One stage, and now we’re playing on that stage, it’s just crazy to be on the other side of it really.
What is the dynamic like on tour?
Well on tour, in the van Henry is in the front, because he’s the singer, the frontman in every sense of the word. We’ve been friends for so long, more than 10 years, we just know each other really well. We started filming for vlogs, so you’ll get an insight there, it’s a lot of just sitting in the van listening to music together. Usually there’s a new album so we’ll chuck an album on, yeah it’s just like mates.
So, it feels very normal?
Yeah totally, like we’ve been doing it for this whole summer, so you fall naturally into that. You never think, ‘oh I’m gonna be really good at twelve-hour drives’, that sounds horrible when you say it, but when you’re in it you think this is just normal. Now I think we know when to respect each other’s space. If you don’t wanna talk, you just put your headphones in, that’s one things we almost all now have, noise cancelling headphones.
You’re gonna have some long drives in Europe and the US, anything specific you’re looking forward to about that?
Going to America is gonna be awesome for the first time. Europe has been cool, we’ve done all these festivals and played in all these places, not all of them, but a lot. It’s gonna be good to go back and do your own shows. It’s always exciting to do your own shows.
Let me just ask one more question. Obviously I’m from a university magazine, we have quite an eclectic music scene in Exeter, so have you got any advice for anyone looking to go into the industry?
Just keep playing. I’ve been in a band since I was like 13 and I’ve been in a band with Andrew and with Henry for 10 years or more and you keep doing it and keep doing it and evolve your personal style. Just keep writing new songs. Don’t dwell on the ones that are rubbish, keep moving and take your songs down to a gig and make them look awesome, y’know have fun. That’s the number one thing, if you’re having fun, hopefully it becomes contagious, that’s kind of our thing on stage, we just have the time of our lives so everyone can join in on that.
Image Source: Chuff Media