I sometimes have to pinch myself in life because it's so amazing that it seems like it's a dream. This interview truly has to be one of the highlights of my year or even the last few years.
This is a band I loved for a while now and so when they agreed to an interview; after scraping myself from the floor and much messaging back and forth - I finally got to speak to the one and only Sophie and The Giants!
Debbie: You know your Instagram stories when you were on your last tour? I really looked forward to them because they're so funny - (to Chris) and yours are bonkers! Where you've got a face that's looking into a phone and then it goes into the phone and it's looking into a phone and it's your face? I was looking and I was like, "Where the heck does he get these from?"
Chris: I like these a lot... I try and find these meme's, I just, I dunno I like being a meme. I enjoy it. The only type of attention I like its being laughed at.
Debbie:.. Awe, but you're such a sweet guy as well. You've got a big heart.
Antonia: He is genuinely a very lovely guy!
Toby: He's always down for a deep conversation... even if the conversation is quite shallow he's always willing to talk deep.
Debbie to Chris: So are you like the big uncle of the group?
Chris: Erm........ No! (laughs) I'm not the parental one. I'm the one who always gets told off! (Points to Toby) he's the dad of the group, he's like stop we need to do this...
Sophie: Awe.. he's a sweetie.
Debbie: But he's the cool one; he's the guitarist in the group, so he has to maintain that.
Sophie: He's the sensible one.
Chris: He's too sensible!
Sophie: He's not too sensible!
Antonia: Here's the thing; he is sensible, Chris is not as sensible so their perceptions of sensible are very askewed to each other.
Debbie: That's very complimentary.
Toby: My perception of being, is like your being (Chris's) is extreme in my perception, but my being is extremely sensible in your perception. So we're all in like some spectrum of sensibility.
Chris: Me and him we clash but that's why we get along. There's been times where we clash with each other for no reason at all. Like I cooked bacon too many times in a row and he got angry.
Debbie: Is he vegan or veggie?
Chris: It wasn't that, it was because he was like, "You're making yourself ill." He was getting angry at me for that.
Sophie: I don't think it was just the bacon. I think it was the 10 nuggets that you'd had before that!
Debbie: Do you know nuggets come in 4 shapes?
Chris: Yes, I've seen that!
Debbie: The bow, the boot I cannot remember the other two.
Debbie to Sophie: So what's the relationship like between you two (Antonia sitting next to her). You've got a sister in the group now that you didn't have previously? I feel like the group is more balanced now.
Sophie: So much so; especially for me. We all got along, it was all great. But sometimes I felt on my own. Not like those guys did anything wrong.
Chris: It's a natural thing that you don't try and do.... Like me and Bailey (Sophie and The Giants former bass player) we used to wind each other up.
Debbie: Were you two, too alike do you think?
Sophie: They were a bit. But in their own ways.
Chris: I'd be more silly because he was there.
Debbie: I didn't even know that there'd been a change in the group and then I saw a photograph and I was like.... What?
Toby: When was the first time when you first noticed?
Debbie: Do you know what..... it's really interesting because I was watching a performance of you guys earlier from some time in May this year and Bailey was still in the group.
Sophie: That was probably BBC Introducing yeah.
Debbie: And then when I saw Antonia play, I was like OH MY GOD this woman can play! My mate Lee thinks you're amazing! If I can say this, you bring a different dynamic to the group that he didn't as a player; as an artist? I would also never challenge you to a limbo competition!
Debbie: The way that you drop to the floor when you're playing is incredible. I'm like how the hell do you do that?
Antonia: (laughing) It's a skill I've developed over many, many years!
Toby: It's funny because you hear people talking after the show and they say to her how do you do that? And I've heard her say, well I can't do it without the bass! The bass is the counterweight!
Debbie: Is that true?
Antonia: It used to be, but having said that having done a tour with the guys.... what about 17 dates in a row? Yeah. I can do it without the bass now.
Debbie: No way?!
Antonia: Having said that, I don't want to demonstrate that right now! I've only been performing in that style like bending my back and going up on my tip toes for about 7 years or so.
Debbie: Do you do any yoga?
Antonia: I used to, but not since being in the band. The first six months of this year; and a lot of last year I did a lot of yoga.
Debbie: It shows!
Antonia: Laughs..... There was a couple of photos we got, were my back was impeccably straight - I was like.. YOGA!
Sophie: I think you've definitely brought a new energy which has made us all, a lot more energetic!
Debbie: The second time I saw you guys was at YNOT and the show compared to the one in March was like WOW! A lot more energy. And then when you waved to me from the side of the stage I was like ... sighs.. and then when you jumped off the stage and hugged me after your set I was like, just kill me now!
Chris: I remember YNOT just jumping down and giving you that drumstick (I still have it). You kept on looking at me and I was thinking you're like you better you better (laughs) and then when we finished playing I was like oh yeah I need to give her this stick! And then straight away, I jumped down and gave it to you.
Debbie: Well to be honest if you don't ask, then you don't get.
Antonia: I actually cried that day after our set at YNOT - everything hit me at once. You know being in this band and what this band means and everything just hit home. It was this overwhelming feeling of like; Yeah, you've made it. I had a really tough time, the six months before joining the band. I was nearly giving up, I wasn't going to be in a band anymore. I was like yeah I'm going to do all this stuff. But they picked me up and I couldn't help it. I cried a lot. I can't help it, it's happy tears I swear.
Debbie: So if I can ask how did you actually join the band?
Antonia: We knew each other at Uni.
Debbie: Did you?
Chris: Antonia actually went to the partner school. You know when it's an all boys school and an all girls school? You do prom and stuff like that and you join together. I knew Antonia there.
Antonia: When Chris and I were young we were completely different people. Obviously we were young and now were very, very close. That was one of the first things we said when I joined the band, I'm so glad we get along!
Chris: I was the sort of kid who used to mess about.
Antonia: I was the sort of kid who would do their homework in the class so they could hand it in first!
Debbie: I was the class clown.
Chris: Me too.
Debbie: I was told I would never achieve anything! #LookAtMeNow
Chris: Exactly the same as me. All my teachers were like; you're gonna work in a fast food restaurant.. you're shit.
Debbie: Did you play drums then?
Debbie: How long have you been playing drums?
Chris: Since I was 13.
Antonia: I actually remember seeing Chris play drums when he was 13!
Debbie: Was he good then?
Antonia: Er... he's better now (laughs).
Debbie: Diplomatic response...
Antonia: It's what you wanna hear!
Chris: I was difficult with all my teachers. Anyone who's tried to teach me anything I've been difficult with, I've always been like, "Go away!"
Debbie: So who's the teacher who had the biggest impact on you then?
Chris: Actually it was my PE teacher Mr. Churchill. He was only 25 so he was quite a young teacher and he was my head of year. He knew I was trying to do something good, I was just going about it the wrong way.
Debbie: So he helped you channel your energy in the right way?
Chris: Yeah for sure. He always had my back. He built me up. I emailed him when I got signed by Universal thanking him for everything. He was the only teacher that believed in me.
Debbie: It's amazing how much power, one persons belief can have on a person.
Chris: Definitely. He believed in me, because I wouldn't have pushed myself in that way. I wanted to be doing rugby.
Debbie: Were you any good?
Chris: Yeah! I was supposed to go on a Canadian rugby tour. I cracked my kneecap in half in a scrum and so I couldn't go anymore. So I was like I don't know what to do. He was the one who encouraged me to go to ACM (Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford) and I didn't think I was good enough to get into ACM. So to be honest he was the one who showed me what that place was, and without him I wouldn't have gone there and I wouldn't have met these people.
Debbie: Awe... Wow so it's his fault!
Debbie: When you look into your history online Sophie, there's a lot there from being a teenager and singing obviously. Have you always sang?
Sophie: Yeah... I was looking through photos on my phone. I actually found one of me from when I was about 4 years old!
Debbie: Awe that's so cute!
Sophie: So I had one of those little microphones and I was constantly walking around just singing.
Debbie: Was it one of those ones that you sing into and it echoes?
Sophie: My parents hated it!
Debbie: Who was the first person that you aspired to be like when you were little?
Sophie: Well my dad used to play Blondie all the time - so I used to want to be like Debbie Harry.
Debbie: She's my absolute idol. That's why I'm called Debbie.
Sophie: Oh really?! No way!
Debbie: Yeah, that's also why I've got a Blondie tattoo as well (show's the band my awesome Blondie portrait).
Sophie: That's sic! I want a Blondie tattoo! I used to see loads of her CD's and pictures and stuff and she is the coolest person ever.
Antonia: She's really cool!
Debbie: What's your favourite Blondie song?
Sophie: I love Atomic, that guitar riff is amazing.
Debbie: I've just learned to play that recently.
Debbie: Yeah.. My favourite Blondie song ever is Shayla. It's an album track on Eat to the Beat. It's phenomenal. The way that she sings, and the way Chris Stein plays it hits you right in the heart. The first song that I can remember hearing of Blondie is Heart of Glass.
Chris then does an amazing rendition! Don't worry bro - this one won't get released!
Debbie: So apart from Debbie Harry is there anyone else who springs to mind?
Sophie: I'm trying to think of people when I was younger... it's quite hard to go back that far.
Debbie: Oh it's ages for you.... you're so old (laughs)
Sophie: (Laughs).... We used to listen to a lot of Queen as well when I was young. That was when I first started learning harmonies too. My parents would play Queens Greatest Hits on our long car journeys and I would learn all of the different harmonies to it.
Debbie: Have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody? I still haven't seen it.
Sophie: Really? It had mixed reviews, but I loved it.
Chris: I wanna see it.
Toby: It made me cry.
Debbie: What bit?
Sophie: It was heartbreaking his story.
Toby: I'm less of a sad cryer I'm more of a overwhelming cryer. So when they're playing Live Aid, it was so dramatic. The way they pulled it off, it was amazing! It's very accurate. The way they pull it off in a way that looks like you're there.
Debbie: I remember watching it live. It was amazing.
Sophie: I want them to do another one.
Debbie: Who would do one now? Would you guys be in it?
Antonia: Maybe we should make it happen. It's terrifying there's so much going on in the world right now!
Debbie: It's terrifying isn't it? Climate change is going on. You know I've noticed every mainstream musicians must is getting darker and darker. I think its because of the times. Even The Light, whilst its an uplifting song, it's quite a dark subject matter.
Sophie: Yeah, yeah it was a dark time.
Debbie: It's quite funny because I've been looking at your lyrics for a long time now and your early lyrics they're almost haiku's, the way that they're written. Your early songs, like Waste My Air is almost a haiku. The way it's written rhythmically, your writing has evolved as you've grown as musicians, and The Light. If I had a song that I wish I could've had 7 years ago at the start of my transition that is the song.
Debbie: Because it's so uplifting. It's about being yourself and not being afraid.
Sophie: I think that's the hardest thing; to be that support for yourself when you don't have anyone else saying it. Even when people do, it's not the thing that will push you. Sometimes you just have to say to yourself, I have to do this! And getting yourself to do it, has to be the most uplifting thing.
Debbie: Do you write all they lyrics?
Sophie: Yeah.. pretty much, yeah. Sometimes I might write with producers and stuff but I write the lyrics. They're all based on stories from my life.
Chris: Look at the Genius lyrics for Break the Silence. Completely wrong! Stand up with Diamond Done?!
Toby: We're singing with lyrics and fans are singing it and we're like, that's wrong.
Debbie: Maybe you could put lyrics on your website?
Toby: We're planning on putting up lyrics for Break the Silence, it'll come out after the video. That'll clear the air.
Debbie: Rather than"Waste Your Air!"
Debbie: I cannot believe I got a band pun in!
Debbie: So what started you playing Antonia and was it guitar first or was it bass?
Antonia: It was guitar first! When I was 6 my mum got me classical guitar lessons, but I didn't enjoy them. I wasn't very encouraged by it. I had piano lessons as well - but as a kid I didn't really have very much focus. They were both cancelled and something in my heart just dropped. I was like OK Mum, I'm just gonna leave this. My mum was always very encouraging. You know she took me to the same place that Chris went to when he was little.
Chris: Realistic Rock!
Debbie: It sounds a bit like The School of Rock!
Antonia: It's funny because they always used to play School of Rock on the TV's there.
Debbie: I love that film.
Antonia: I started my first band there, when I was 12 and I've been in bands ever since. I've always been in crossovers. This was the longest gap I had it was like 3 months.
Debbie: What was your last band called?
Antonia: Foxe. Fox with an e, F-O-X-E.
Sophie: I was a massive fan.
Antonia: That's the funny thing, they were all big fans and we were all at uni together.
Sophie: Part of the reason why we never really talked at Uni, is because I was terrified to talk to you.
Sophie: I was like a massive fan, and I was like oh she's too good to talk to me.
Antonia: You know when you have a massive respect for each other? We had other mutual friends, and they used to say to me, "You 2 would be great friends." And I'd be like, oh but she's Sophie from Sophie and The Giants. It's so funny to hear that she was the same.
Sophie: I remember going round your house once and I was quite shy at Uni. I'd be sitting in a room with loads of people who I really admired.
Debbie: Sometimes it's terrifying, but you have to push yourself to do these things.
Sophie: It's like you want to contribute, but you also don't want someone to go, who is this person?
Antonia: But yeah I did that, I went to the school with my parents. I went to normal school the next day I stopped in the canteen and I was like I need to be there. I put myself in the underdog position.
Debbie: Women do that.
Antonia: I was immersed with such talent around me.. I was like, am I worthy? I was playing bass at the time and I was with my vocal teacher. She was like, you should bass because bassists are so rare. I was like I don't wanna play bass, I wanna play guitar. I played bass for a show and then got put into bands ever since. Everyone's always looking for bass players and a female bass player that's pretty niche! So it's always like fallen onto me and I've always been like, I need to rise to this.
Debbie: It feels like you've been a part of this band for years.
Sophie: I feel like that.
Debbie: The chemistry between you all, the way you bounce off of each other on stage. It's just magical to watch.
Antonia: I think that it's our friendship more than anything.
Sophie: I think it very trusting and when you trust the people you're on stage with you know you can try anything and they'll have your back. Whether you mess up or not, they're gonna tell you the truth; they're gonna spurn you to do better.
Antonia: I think the strength of our friendship has definitely helped with that. When I came up to Sheffield for the first time I was terrified, and we had this 4 hour coach journey and we just didn't stop talking.
Debbie: That's why you're so close - because you're coming to this from a similar position. There's no ego in this at all.
Antonia: Oh no, none at all.
Sophie: We were both people at uni who were so career driven, but we also kept ourselves to ourselves. Me and Antonia we both had our own things with our small groups of friends.
Antonia: This is like my 7th band now so like having tried this 6 times previously and it's not working out... you know I'm only 23 but like there comes a point in your life that you think you're not getting anywhere. I'm so glad that they brought me back. Now I get it. The love that we get from your fans (looking at Sophie).
Debbie: They're your fans!
Chris: Our fans!
Antonia: I remember watching these guys get signed... doing all these amazing things. Coming up on new music Friday.
Debbie: I remember when you guys last released a single and you did a live video at midnight and I stayed up to listen to it and then watching... You guys were in a bar somewhere and you said Hi Debbie when you saw me watching and I was like OH MY GOD!
Sophie: I remember Chris putting the phone in my face and we were getting complications. I was like oh...
Chris: I'm always the person who starts the live streams.
Debbie: I've seen you do it with your phone when you're drumming as well. I'm like one of these days you're gonna whack that phone!
Chris: I used to live stream games. I used to have people pay per month to watch me play games. That's the weird thing. That's why I do it.
Antonia: I think we're all great at interacting with fans face to face, but Chris is definitely the best at online stuff. Interacting with everyone.
Chris: I think of it like this...... I've got something to say. Doesn't matter if someone's not listening.
Debbie: It's why I started doing this, reviews and interviews and stuff. It doesn't matter if anyone doesn't read it. I'm sharing what I felt, with the world. It's why I do my blogs as well.
Chris: Don't be afraid to repeat yourself. That's how we met management as well. I was teching for a band called Black Futures and they were supporting The Libertines. I was trying to promote bands by putting their desk mix on streams and then trying to promote their merch online, and then that flopped and they were like are you in a band? And then she listened to our songs and she liked it. It was really great.
Debbie: You guys get better with every time I see you.
Sophie: It feels like it. The first time I sung The Light live it wasn't great, but as time has gone on it's got easier. It's like having singing lessons all over again.
Debbie: You don't just stand there and sing either do you? You actually do bop all over the place.
Antonia: I am always impressed when I look around and you hit those high notes and you're head banging and I'm like, Oh My God this girl is so cool!
Sophie: When I think about it, I love Beyonce as well. The way she moves and dances and her voice is always flawless.
Debbie: Self Esteem is like that as well. I saw her the other night and her voice. Her range is incredible!
Sophie : I sang with her once. You know Joe Carnall does this Christmas thing every year? Well I sang last Christmas with her and Laura McClure (Reverend & The Makers) we did All I want for Christmas - She's such a bad-ass.
Chris: You know when there's 2000 people in an intimate setting for you. It was O2 Academy, when it's a that big room.
Sophie: I've been to gigs to see some of my favourite bands and no one turns up for the support act. Like that Joe Carnall thing, having a room like that packed out people, whoi didn't actually come there to see us play, but when people actually stick around to see you play. When everybody moves forward to see you, instead of heading off to the bar it's amazing.
Chris: The weirdest thing is having a room packed out to see you. Like that gig at The Leadmill.
Debbie: I'm going there to see Yonaka next month.
Sophie: You'll be so impressed by them they're amazing. We've supported them a few times.
Chris: We share the same management. Our first show with them was at The Harley (small pub in Sheffield). They were growing then, but they weren't as big then as they are now.
Debbie: You guys will be as big as them in 12-18 months time.You watch.... you will.
Chris: We're playing a castle in Prague soon at a festival it's gonna be so cool. I saw a picture of the venue we're playing with another band called Childcare. Have you heard of them?
Chris: I've shown these guys them. I've missed them every time we've played as we play at the same time. Never been able to see 'em as we're always playing at the same time but I love that band so much.
Debbie: I saw The Mysterines last week support Sea Girls and they were phenomenal. If you imagine Wolf Alice punked up.
Chris: What about Sea Girls?
Debbie: Yeah, I love them I've seen them 4 times this year and they get better every time I see them.
Chris: We bumped into them at YNOT.
Debbie: They played a few bands after you...
Chris: Did they play the same stage as us?
Chris: I think that Deco played before us.
Debbie: After you it was Pip Blom, then The Snuts, then Sea Girls if I remember rightly (checked after this was the running order).
It's been a blast listening back to this and I'm still literally pinching myself that this happened.
Look out for part 2 next Thursday where we find out what find out: what got Toby into playing; how they're all developing as musicians; how Chris and I started playing the same instrument in our youth! We'll also find out which albums they'd buy in my tenner question plus much more.
Sophie & The Giants new single Runaway is out tomorrow. You can pre order it via Spotify or Apple Music via this link
Thank you Sophie, Antonia, Toby and Chris for your generosity, your time and your friendship. So much love for you guys. Always.
As a taster to Runaway's release here's a link to them guys performing Runaway live at Reeperbahnfestival Hamburg in September this year.