Interviews

Fuelled by nostalgia, EGOISM are leaving their mark on the resurgence of emo pop

Egoism

Sydney dream-pop duo EGOISM have perfected the art of emotional expression, and their new single For Ages is absolutely no exception.

Since 2018, EGOISM have been playing a role in the resurgence of emo pop, and now they’re taking their dreamy sounds and heartfelt lyrics along the east coast of Australia.

The duo released their latest single For Ages at the tail end of March, complete with a luminescent music video that wouldn’t have been possible without bribing shop owners, and consuming an intense amount of Red Bull.

We caught up with Scout and Olive to chat about the tour, working on music in police stations, and of course, their fabulous new single.

Egosim For Ages
Scout (left) and Olive (right) of EGOISM | Photo by Billy Zammit

HAPPY: Hey Scout, how’s your day been?

SCOUT: Good thank you, how are you? How’s your day been?

HAPPY: Yeah not too bad at all thank you.

Olive joins the call.

HAPPY: Hey, how are you going, Olive? 

OLIVE: Yeah. Fine, fine. Just had a big talk with my mum. She was like, ‘You could have been in an orchestra.’ *laughs* And I was like, ‘Why would you think I’d be making more money from trying to be in an orchestra than trying to make pop music?’

HAPPY: Do you play any orchestral instruments? 

OLIVE: Yeah, I played violin as a kid. I still do, actually. There’s some violin in a song we’ve got coming out. Not this one, but the next one, that I played. But I used to play it a lot. Like in the little shitty public school string ensemble. 

HAPPY: Oh lovely. Congrats on the new single by the way. 

OLIVE: Oh, thank you!

HAPPY: It’s so so good. I’m interested to know how it came about. 

OLIVE: Well, in November 2020 I think… Oh, no, I think it was on Halloween that we wrote it. We went down to Culburra and it was our first ever writing trip, I guess. We’ve never really done that, we always just write in our rooms at home. But we wrote a lot of stuff, and then towards the end it was just raining the whole time and we were starting to get really bogged down, and I left the house. Kind of had… not exactly a tantrum, but was a bit like, ‘AHHHH, I’m done with this. I’m going to go for a walk in the rain!’ And when I got back, Scout pretty much had the whole first half of the song written. 

HAPPY: Wow, so have you done any writing trips since then or is that still the only one that you’ve done so far? 

OLIVE: It’s the only one we’ve ever done, yeah.

HAPPY: The way you integrated both of your voices into For Ages sounds completely natural, is that something that took a bit of practice at first?

SCOUT: I mean, we’ve approached it in a lot of different ways at different times. I think it depends on the song. We have the philosophy that if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. It’s better to have just one of us singing on a song, than to have both of us singing and for it be a less good song. But I mean, a lot of the time it can just happen naturally. I think we kind of follow the basic rule of ‘if you wrote it, you sing it’. And so sometimes if we’re working on a song together, it’ll be like, I’ll write a section, I will sing it. Olive will write the next section or have an idea for the next section, and they will sing it. And we just don’t even think about it very distinctly…

OLIVE: Yeah, we’re completely impulsive.

SCOUT: We’ll be like, ‘All right, let’s record that. Let’s just record that right now while we’re making a demo and writing it.’ And so it’ll just be there. But for For Ages, it was very natural, I would say. 

OLIVE: Yeah, I’d say that when we were working on it, it felt very, very equal. Because, you know, we didn’t have anything else to go to throughout that whole period. So compared to a lot of other songs where it’s more like, I’ll start it and then I’ll show it to Scout in its half formed kind of sense, and then she’ll be like, ‘Oh, I’ll do a verse or I’m going to put a harmony there’ or something.

With this, I got home and I was pretty much in the middle of fleshing that out really quickly. So, I was immediately like, ‘Well, I have this idea.’ And so that’s why it’s really, really back and forth compared to a lot of other songs, because you’re hearing us write it in real time really *laughs*.

Egoism
EGOISM via Instagram

HAPPY: Oh wow. You were kind of ahead of the game in terms of like the resurgence of emo pop. What do you reckon spurred that comeback from pop punk and emo rock?

OLIVE: Actually, Scout has a very good theory about this.

HAPPY: Oooh, nice! I’m keen to hear it.

SCOUT: Oh, do I? I just think that it’s a specific age thing. I think it’s like the musicians, how old they were. So I think for me, I was a kid slash tween during the emo era. So I was in year four wearing the Veronicas line from Target, and the dark Urban Angel. And I thought I was an emo, you know, that was me as a kid. And I think people want to be emotional. They want to have this emotional release and have lyrics with more of a depth and story behind it. 

OLIVE: Yeah, that’s really big at the moment. 

SCOUT: It’s really big at the moment. You even see it in some music that you wouldn’t call emo, right? Like you’re hearing it a lot in Taylor Swift’s two acoustic albums, and then Phoebe Bridges, and Lucy Dacus and what have you. And then you have it even in a lot of hip hop, it’s gone back to that same sort of storytelling again. I think people want to hear and share stories. 

OLIVE: I would actually really argue that it’s almost because of the mainstream-ification of hip hop as well. Like we’ve suddenly got this kind of thing where we’re in a really not-dancey era of pop music at the moment. I mean, for one thing, most of the world hasn’t had a consistent dance market for the past two years, but I think that’s spurred this generation of people, that for the last couple of years have really just been listening to music on their own. 

HAPPY: Yeah, that’s a good theory too. 

OLIVE: Yeah, you just need that extra bit of engagement… not even engagement, that makes it sound really kind of commercial and weird. It’s like, no one listens to a song about nothing. No one cries to a song about nothing on their own. And that’s what we’ve all been doing a lot of. I don’t know. 

HAPPY: I hadn’t thought of either of those theories, but I reckon you’re both completely on the money. 

OLIVE: Yeah, I mean compared to a lot of music that we were listening to when we were early teenagers in the early 2010s and stuff like that. Sometimes I go back to some of my favourite albums from when I was like 15, kind of coming out of the emo phase and I’m like, ‘The fuck are these songs even about?’. It’s literally just like *bling, bling, bling*, drumbeat and they’re just talking about a petal on a rose or something like that. And I’m just like, ‘Damn, 2012 was really on something that is not happening right now.’

SCOUT: Yeah, it’s actually crazy how lyrics have become far more important. It’s crazy how much that’s happened. I mean, if you listen to what was alternative at the time of the early 2010s/late noughties, and you’re just there like, ‘these songs are about nothing.’

OLIVE: Yeah, it goes in phases because a lot of the nineties was like that as well. Anyway, anyway…

HAPPY: No, no, no, if you’ve got more theories, keep them coming.

OLIVE: We will never stop. You’ll have to tell us to stop *laughs*.

HAPPY: *laughs* Well, one of my favourite things that I’ve seen recently is that photo that you posted on Instagram of you editing music in GarageBand while you’re in a police station. Is it in a police station? I don’t know what’s going on, but I want to know what was happening in that photo because that sent me.

OLIVE: Well, unfortunately, we are legally allowed to post it, but we’re not really allowed to talk about it *laughs*. We kind of only thought about it after we posted it, I was like, ‘If anyone asks for an explanation, we’re just going to have to be like, “use your imagination”’. 

SCOUT: Well, what we can say is that Olive was there with me. And so basically we were just in there for so long that Olive had their laptop and just brought it out and started working on the song that we were working on, which was For Ages. And then just took this photo.

 

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OLIVE: Literally. I have the text chain. I sent it to our manager, literally with the caption, ‘this will get done in time, don’t worry.’

HAPPY: Yeah, I was wondering whether you were legitimately working on music at that time or whether you just opened it up for the photo. So I’m glad to know that it was real *laughs*.

OLIVE: It was not. It was real, like 100% *laughs*. 

HAPPY: That’s amazing. You’re also about to tour the East Coast to follow up For Ages. Have you had a chance to do much traveling over the past few years, or is this one of the first times that you’re going to really get out of town?

OLIVE: Yeah, one of the first times.

SCOUT: Yeah, same. I’ve been travelling less than Olive.

OLIVE: I’ve been to Melbourne a couple of times and we went up to Brisbane recently and of course we’ve been around New South Wales but you know, like everyone it’s been real, real limited. But I mean it is our first headline tour which is crazy exciting, we’ve gone around Australia quite a bit in the past two or three years since we’ve been doing it. And yeah, it’s cool to kind of think that we’ll actually be doing these shows in Melbourne, Brisbane, Wollongong and you know, it’s our show. That’s crazy to me. Which we are really, really working hard on because we’re like, ‘okay, we’re not a support act here. We’re not kind of basking in someone else’s greatness. It’s gotta be everything on us.’

HAPPY: Yeah, you also had the chance to play the Opera House last year for Luminal. Even though it was an empty room because of COVID, how did it feel to play such an iconic venue? 

SCOUT: I mean, it’s a dream, isn’t it? 

OLIVE: Literally.

SCOUT: We both grew up in Sydney, and if you grow up in Sydney and you go to public schools, one of the things that happens is you actually do end up playing the Opera House quite a lot, you know, in school things. So like I was in the choir…

OLIVE: On the fucking recorder *laughs*.

SCOUT: I was doing recorder *laughs*. I think you (Olive) played violin. I danced once, you know, you do a bunch of stuff. And I remember every time we’d do it, I would fantasise playing there on my own, me as a musician. I always wanted to do that my whole life, so it was incredible. It didn’t feel real, and I still look back on it and I’m like, ‘LOL, what? Me?’

OLIVE: Yeah, I think of it as the dream show lite. It’s like, ‘okay, it felt like the dream show, but we’re not done yet. Like, we’ve got to do it, but the people have got to be in there.’

HAPPY: Do you thrive off big crowds or do you prefer playing like smaller, more intimate shows? 

SCOUT: I think it’s about how crowded the room is. I like a crowded room.

OLIVE: I would say we thrive off good crowds. Not anything to do with size, really. We’ve played big shows. We’ve played to over a thousand people and no one really gave a shit. And we’ve played to like 50 people and everyone was like losing their heads. And the 50 people showed way better, and we played way better in my opinion as well. 

SCOUT: Yeah, I think it’s more about the density of the crowd right in front of the stage who are like, ‘yes.’ 

OLIVE: Yeah, exactly. Which is exactly what I hope happens on the tour. 

HAPPY: Yeah, yeah. That’s what I was thinking. Hopefully you get great crowds, I’m sure you will. Well that’s all I’ve got for you, thank you so much for jumping on the call. 

OLIVE: Any time. 

SCOUT: Thank you. Nice to meet you. 

HAPPY: It was lovely to meet you both as well. That was great. 

OLIVE: Yeah, thank you so much. 

HAPPY: Good luck with the release process and everything.

SCOUT: Thank you!

OLIVE: Thanks so much. 

HAPPY: All right, see you both later. 

SCOUT: Bye!

OLIVE: Bye!

For Ages is out now on all major streaming platforms. You can have a look at EGOISM’s recently announced tour dates here, and listen to more from the duo below.

Interview by Lochie Schuster.

Photos supplied.