Interview by Elizabeth Wootten.
Is it a band? Is it a DIY creative collective? Is it helping other bands make videos and playing rounders in the rain? Who knows? West London three-piece The Tuts are back at Indietracks, bringing guitar chaos and punk glamour to the Engine Shed. You’d better be ready.
Your songs are all empowerment and feminism. Did you want to make music first, or to spread that message? Was it the plan when you started?
Bev: The Tuts never make plans, we’re off the cuff!
Nadia: When we started out the band I loved the idea of how we were all girls especially cos all the other bands at school (“the grungers”) were boys. I wasn’t aware that sexism was actually a proper issue until we started to play gigs. Songs like ‘Beverley’ accidentally became about empowerment, but songs like ‘Tut Tut Tut’ were written about sexism in the industry. I just really enjoyed playing guitar and learning other people’s songs, sometimes I couldn’t believe how simple songs were to learn. It all fell into place cos we were all learning different instruments at the same time. Now we are aware of the sexism, we make a conscious effort to kick the music industry in the nuts.
Harriet: When I first started playing in a band it was because I wanted to make music – however I was inspired by female musicians and they made me feel empowered. So it kind of worked hand in hand. The more I started to play shows with The Tuts and Colour Me Wednesday the more I was inspired by feminism and angered by sexism which had an impact on a lot of my/our writing. So it wasn’t entirely the original plan, but it happened organically. It would be a bit odd if we didn’t address sexism at all, being an all-girl band from working class backgrounds.
You’ve spoken before about the attitudes of promoters towards all-female bands. As The Tuts are becoming better known, is it still an uphill struggle? Have you ever been tempted to act more “blokey”?
B: Haha, we could never act “blokey”. I mean sometimes we might wear specific outfits for certain shows, but we could never change who we are. Two different guys wrote on our Facebook once saying “you girls need to avoid glitter and pinks, and keep it rock”. We were like: “Fuck you, bitch! Glitter for life!” Harriet does send emails acting as a man sometimes, though, so it is still an uphill battle. What we’re noticing more though is does our race play a factor in us getting shows.
N: I’m not scared of any promoter and I never was but I just used to accept it if they spoke to me rudely and thought that’s the way things were. Then Harriet was like “NO, this isn’t ok”. I think people interpret Harriet wrong. They think she’s the “quiet one” so they see her as an easy target to pick on. When we get to a venue and the promoter comes out to meet us, 99% of the time they’re lovely and help us in with equipment. I then bring up my diva demands about where my dressing room is and swiftly move on to asking them what category of porn they watch. I find that this approach generally has them pretty intimidated, therefore I’ve got the upper ground and no one can fuck with me.
H: Yeah, I adore Nadia’s approach, haha. Its not just promoters, really. Now we can pick and choose our shows a bit we play for more level-headed good people, who aren’t in denial about sexism existing in practically every scene and industry. We notice when we talk to men about labels, whether they run one or know someone who does, they only ever want ONE girl band. As if it’s a gimmick and anything more than one would be too many… Yet they’ll have an unlimited supply of boy bands. To chuck all women into the exact same category even if we have different influences, write about different things, play our instruments differently, sing differently and so on is in incredibly simplistic and insulting. Also some idiots say our girl imagery and make up contradicts our feminism. It’s like…FOR REAL?! But yeah, we could go on for hours about this topic. It’s not just about these small day to day things as a band, it goes so much deeper than that.
Any advice for girls starting their own band?
B: My advice to any girl band is practise, practise, practise. Go on tour, because that will change your life more than any boyfriend or girlfriend will. Also be very loud.
N: If you wanna start a band then just DO IT otherwise when you’re about 50 you’ll look back and think shitttttt, I wish I went through with that. Find a group of people you enjoy jamming with who you feel comfortable with and start off by learning a cover or even an original if you feel ready. I feel like we were lucky cos the band fell into place and apart from the odd hiccup we’ve come out the other end ready for world domination.
H: Yeah, just dive in. Nadia’s right about surrounding yourself with people you’re comfortable with. Bev is right about practising – even if it feels boring after a while. Once you play live you’ll get that adrenaline boost anyway! You may not get it right for you straight away playing in a band, and things may change around a bit in terms of people you work with. But eventually it’s gonna make you feel great.
You’re returning to Indietracks – but I guess you don’t necessarily see indiepop as your natural genre. What’s your one-sentence introduction for any indie-poppers who haven’t heard you?
B: Over time I’ve come to realise that I don’t really fit into any scene, and that all the scenes are pretty ‘samey’. They all have their issues that’s why I could never say I’m solely punk or indie pop. I like the scene me and my friends are creating at Dovetown. We do house shows, cos every venue in London seems to be closing down for overpriced flats to be built. We film videos for up and coming artists. Just recently we played rounders in the rain for a Mammoth Penguins video that Jen from Colour Me Wednesday is doing. It’s really uplifting seeing all these talented people help one another with no ego
N: Feisty feminist pop punk bubble gum bitches that will kick you in your mouth if we read bad stuff you’ve written about us on Twitter. But will appreciate any purchases made in the merch tent.
H: I also like the idea of indie-pop as a scene just appreciating good melodies and female-fronted bands. And that’s what we can offer! Plus most of the scene hate tories and so do we! So I feel in that way it all works quite well with us playing at Indietracks. Dovetown RuLeZ tho.
Best band you’ve heard live so far this year?
B: The Selecter are the best live band period!
N: I agree. Also seeing The Libertines changed my life!!! The day after I was bopping to school with my shock-proof Discman listening to them and singing out loud, people would have thought I was mad but I didn’t care, that’s when the punk rock attitude started to become real life. I enjoy Colour Me Wednesday OBV and any Pete Doherty gig cos who doesn’t wanna see a drumkit thrown into a crowd?
H: The Selecter are phenomenal live. But also this year I loved Waxahatchee on their most recent tour with their current line up – I felt so inspired. We’ve seen Wolf Girl a lot in London this year and always love their set too! Too many bands to name, though…
Who makes the decisions about what you’re going to wear on stage? Anything you’ve ever decided not to wear because it was too controversial?
B: Controversy is our middle name, hehe. I usually leave the outfits up to Nadz and Hat coz they’re a little bit more body-conscious than I am. I can’t wear some things cos I’m playing drums, but I still do then end up flashing the audience.
N: I mainly make the decisions, I come up with a theme or colour scheme and then everyone can decide what they wanna wear to fit in within that sooooo yes I would like to take full cred for us looking amazing all the time.
When can we expect the album?
B: OMG don’t even ask that question. We wanna make an album so bad. Next year, definitely. In a way we’re already working on it. We’ve been playing around with some new songs recently. We have a few more shows booked in, but once they are over all our focus will be on making this album. Then motherfuckers won’t know what hit them.
N: Feels like we ain’t never gonna have a fucking album out. We recently got a manager who talked about how it could be another 2 years depending on record deals… fuck that, I can’t wait that long! I’m already bored of waiting. We should be on our second album by now but considering we ain’t got any album out we’ve done pretty well. Everyone at Indietracks seems to have the EPs so we probably won’t sell many but we’ve got vinyl and some new t-shirts especially for them.
H: The album is going to be such a big deal I already feel overwhelmed by the idea of it haha! But yes, hopefully soon!
How do you go about writing songs?
B: Usually Nadia and Harriet bring ideas they’ve already been working on, but recently we’ve tried new things like starting with a drum beat or just jamming together and seeing where it takes us. Usually nowhere, but you’ve got to try new things to keep it interesting.
N: I wrote the first EP and the second EP had hits from Harriet and I, and co-written stuff. I tend to write in my room alone and then show the girls, it’s usually missing a part that Harriet will complete. We then put Bev on the spot and tell her to make a beat and the magic starts to happen.
H: When I first started writing songs for The Tuts they were actually inspired BY The Tuts as I’d seen them live before joining the band. Which was a great process as a songwriter. Now it’s a different experience cos I’ve been in the band 4 years. But new stuff is on the way and we’ll probably use all sorts of techniques.
You’ve achieved musical world domination and no one can deny you anything. What batshit demands will you add to your rider?
B: Thanks for taking notice of our achievements. It’s gonna have to be food-related. I would like a Lovin’ Hut buffet in our dressing room, please. Lovin’ Hut is an amazing vegan restaurant. Aww man, I want it right now.
N: Right. First off I want a decent-sized dressing room with adjustable heating, good lighting and mirrors. Then I want a selection of vegan foods, dippy things and NO BEER. Just vodka and cranberry and orange and Red Bull. Oh, and water… simple. A lock on the door would be great as men tend to walk in without knocking, hoping to catch a glimpse of a Tut tit. Most of the punk shows we play have taken care of us and I can’t fault them but some corporate venues are so tight! When we played Shepherds Bush Empire we had to beg for bottled water.
H: Yeah, we’ve never really had anything incredibly interesting in our rider. We just ask for vegan and vodka. Indie pop and punk shows are great when the promoter makes food and brings it! Recently we played in Brighton and Jo (from the band Haters) made us amazing chilli!
If someone takes just one thing away from a Tuts show, what would you like that to be?
B: I want some people to walk away feeling refreshed and empowered and some to walk away with sweaty balls.
N: I want people to wanna start a band! When I was 15 The Libertines were pretty much the reason I wanted to start a band. Now look at me, I’m here playing Indietracks with you lovely people.
H: Yeah, I want them to feel the adrenaline. And if they’re women particularly to feel inspired. Not just to start a band but to feel a boost of confidence. The Tuts helps me with my confidence, I hope it can help other people with that. Also dump your boyfriend innit.