The Schla La Las
George and Katrin Schla
The Schla La Las are Delia, George, Hannah, Katrin and Piney. The interesting thing about the Schlas is that they make a lot of fuss about looking good and having fun (real ‘girly girls’) but are also smart and sassy and you pigeonhole them at your peril. You might have come across them before: Piney released her solo album ‘Peakahokahoo’ last year on Truck Records and Delia’s recent bands include Manic Cough and the A-Lines, who this year released their debut album on Purr. The Schlas have just released an EP called ‘Schla Demos’ which is available from Truck Records. Ged and Paul spoke to George and Hannah at the Truck Eight festival and to Katrin a couple of days later by email.
SXP: At some gigs you look around and the band and the audience look really miserable but there are plenty of smiling faces at your gigs.
George: We have a lot of inter-band banter, and we hang out together socially an awful lot, and I think that comes across. Because we’re having such a laugh, then hopefully the audience will have a laugh. There’s nothing worse than going to see a band and thinking: I might as well have stayed at home and listened to the album. You want to see something different going on onstage.
Hannah: These days people really don’t give a shit about making an effort. And we are all about making an effort.
SXP: Do you play in other bands?
Katrin: This is my only band and I learned to play bass especially for it. I'm probably the least rock'n'roll-savvy Schla, but I try to make up for it by sporting a suitable hairstyle.
Hannah: Piney has her solo thing, but that’s kind of it.
George: We used to be the Orff Orchestra as well but it disbanded. I think it’s good you’ve only got one main focus. If you’re in three bands, you have to spread your energy whereas at the minute, for four of us if not for five of us, the Schla La Las is our raison d’etre. And I think that makes us better because we all absolutely love it, it’s our creative outlet.
Hannah: We don’t have time to do anything else. We don’t have chilled practices, they’re very intense, everyone pushing each other.
George: And we speak every single day. We get together once a week, but we speak every single day about Schla La La stuff.
SXP: What about your dresses?
Hannah: We have some specially made and some we buy off the peg. There are five girls: different shapes, different styles, different tastes so it’s really difficult. We’ve had a few outfits made and we’ve got a few where we found them in specialist shops.
Katrin: Working out what outfits to wear often involves a lot of to-ing and fro-ing - we all have different tastes. Delia is Retro Schla, Hannah is Goth Schla, Piney is Doll Schla, George is Indie Chick Schla and I'm... er... Eclectic Schla. I think. I'd be interested what sort of Schla I’d be perceived as. Oh dear, I hope they don't hate me for those classifications. Deciding on outfits ain't easy - you should see the amount of emails get fired about when it's new-frocks-time!
George: The thing about the Schla La Las is that, whatever happens, the five of us absolutely love each other and we’re each other’s top priority, and the fact that we wear matching outfits enforces the fact that we’re a gang.
Katrin: The girl gang feeling is definitely there, especially for me as I used never to have that many female friends. Being in the Schlas has most certainly made me more girly than I ever was. I think it helps that most of us have other creative outlets so that no-one needs to throw their full ego into the band.
Hannah: It’s an influence on younger girls: you’re not in competition. We don’t want to look better than the other one. You can tell there’s a slight difference in styles - my dress will have something black in it - but it’s OK.
George: What I like is the juxtaposition between the way we look and the way that we sound. I love that we go on in really girly dresses, with our make up and our hair all done and sing songs about female sexual frustration and how crap boys are. We look like we’re going to sound like the Supremes and we sound like…
Hannah: The Supremes mixed with X-Ray Spex!
George: I think we struck the perfect balance between being girls and liking to do our make up and hair and actually being really musically adept. We played a lot of gigs where we got male soundmen and they’d bring out practice amps for us to play with and [we said] “we’re girls, we’re not fucking stupid. That’s 60 watts – that’s not going to fill the venue”. We do encounter a lot of attitude. Sorry, I got on my high horse there!
SXP: Hannah, as you’re the most recent recruit to the Schla La Las, how did you find joining the gang?
Hannah: It was really easy to fit in. It’s very much a democracy. It kind of extended my ability to be around girls and not be intimidated. That was quite new to me. I really enjoy that and it’s adding a lot to my personal life.
George: I love being in the Schla La Las.
Hannah: There’s nothing I talk about more that I’m happy doing. It’s my recreation and my therapy I think!
SXP: What are your influences?
Katrin: I actually really like funk, but the others have threatened to throw me out of the band if I ever attempt to play slap bass! I suppose I have a tendency to do playful things, odd harmonies or things on the off-beat, which is good as it complements George’s role which is more like playing rhythm bass. Other than that, I do most of our graphics, so I guess I have influence on our visual representation. My bass hero is our very own Delia drummer Schla. I hadn't seen any of her other bands for ages, but me and George went to check out her new band Manic Cough at Artrocker this week. I really enjoyed them, and couldn't take my ears and eyes off Delia’s bass playing - this is exactly how I want to be able to play.
George: I loved Kenickie and Elastica when I was growing up. The thing with Kenickie is that they weren’t so good but if you listen back to their albums now it’s obvious how much of a laugh they’re having, so they’re still entertaining. I like going to see a band and taking things from them. My favourite artist is Beck; Beck always puts on a show and I hope that we put on a show.
Hannah: My favourite artist ever is Siouxsie Sue. My favourite album ever is ‘Disintegration’ by the Cure and I don’t think that’s influenced the Schlas. But since I’ve been in the Schlas, I’ve listened to Interpol a whole of a lot.
George: What would make my life is if people said to me: I formed a band based on seeing you, which we’ve actually found. The Cliffhangers formed based on seeing us last year. I love it when boys love it but it means slightly more to me when a girl comes up to me and says I love your band because when I was growing up, I had no female guitar icons.
SXP: We heard more of a garagey sound in today’s set, reminiscent of the Medway bands.
Hannah: Like Billy Childish – that’d be Delia. If I didn’t know Delia I’d idolise Delia because of the bands she’s been in.
George: Oh my God. When I joined the band and knew Delia was in it I was kakking my pants!
Hannah: I was majorly garage-influenced. When I was learning guitar, I was into Billy Childish and the Headcoatees, classic 5,6,7,8s and all those.
George: We used to be a lot more arty and then we dropped the artiness for…
Hannah: …distortion pedals!
George: Yeah, for distortion and for being more: fuck art, let’s dance!
SXP: How do you choose who sings? Is it who writes the songs?
George: No. ‘Bitch’, the song I sing, wasn’t written by me, it was written by Angie. We write the song and say: who’s got the voice for that? I’ve got a very, very rock voice, Hannah’s got a very, very punk voice, Ang has got a very, very 60s voice. So it’s just who it’s best for.
Katrin: It's always a group effort. Often one of us kick-starts a song with an idea, a melody or a lyric, and then we sit down together and work out the rest. My favourite story is the birth of 'Up for It'. George and I were at T in the Park last year, and feeling rather full of ourselves, we decided that we were the Up For It Schlas, as we were going through a rather party-heavy period. One of us drunkenly suggested we write a song called 'Up for It', and when we were on the road to Bath a few weeks later (our first ever out of town gig), Piney got her shark guitar out, which has a built-in amplifier, and we pretty much nailed the song in the back of the van.
SXP: Are decisions about what you wear and sing collective decisions?
George/Hannah (in unison): Yeah, totally!
George: There’s no lead singer in the Schla La Las. It’s nobody’s band: it’s our band. And every single person’s opinion is important. We don’t argue a lot because most of the time we’ll do things for the good of the band. Very, very occasionally we’ll say “let’s take a vote” but if one person feels really strongly, they’ve got the power to blackball. Which sometimes is a little frustrating but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t want to do anything that would make any of the Schlas unhappy. So it’s a really really supportive, nice environment. At the end of the day we’re not bra-burning New French feminists!
SXP: Your image, though, is sort of sexy and female.
George: We don’t try to be sexy. We don’t go on stage thinking: what can we do that’s going to make boys go home and laminate our posters so they can wank over them? It’s a side product of just being, hopefully, attractive young ladies.
SXP: A song like ‘Bitch’ doesn’t seem to be about female solidarity.
Hannah: That’s if you take ‘bitch’ to mean a girl; that’s your own baggage. It could be a boy or a girl. I personally would use ‘bitch’ for any sex or any species!
SXP: Don’t you include the word “whore” too?
Hannah: Same thing for “whore”. It’s how you use your own language because there are man-whores and lady-whores. For me, personally, I wouldn’t necessarily equate a bitch and a whore with a female at all. We’re very aware of language and we wouldn’t sing a song if we thought it was really derogatory towards females.
George: Sometimes when we go on, I say: OK, this is a song about my Mum! Which it isn’t – my Mum’s great! - but it makes people laugh. We’ve got 2 Americans, a German and 2 English people in the band so ‘bitch’ in an American way isn’t necessarily what ‘bitch’ in an English way is.
Hannah: What’s the point of having lyrics if you don’t experiment with them and you don’t make people think about it? I think that it’s quite important to do it in a subtle way that doesn’t make you to look like a total Oxford asshole, who writes a dictionary.
SXP: How did you all meet up?
Katrin: Piney and Anna, our first drummer (and inventor of our name), initially decided to form a band. Piney used to work with George, so she asked her if she fancied joining in. At this time she was also just getting to know me and Vicki (our first guitarist), so she asked both of us, too. It really was a bit like in the Schla theme song, I guess.
Hannah: I worked on Piney’s video for one of her songs and she met me there. I have quite a long history of being in bands; then Vicky Schla left and she asked me [to join].
SXP: Where’s Vicki now?
Hannah: She just had to focus on her main love, which is photography. So she just didn’t have time to be able to commit solely to the Schlas. She’s still in touch with all the Schlas.
SXP: Any new recordings?
Hannah: We’re recording a new song for a movie in the near future. It’s going to be a road trip song. Then we’ve got a few labels interested in putting out a single. I’m not actually on any Schla things at the moment so we’ve got quite a different sound since I’ve joined. *looking admiringly at the ‘Schla Demos EP’ sleeve* Very new; that’s my silhouette.
George: My silhouette’s shit, I don’t like it.
Hannah: George keeps saying that but she’s got the coolest stance. That’s a rock’n’roll stance.