There’s no denying that The Tuts say it straight. The three-piece, which hails from Hayes in West London, has made it a point to be direct and boisterous in both their infectious punk-pop and feminist politics since their inception 2012.
Each member began playing music as a teenager—despite their parents thinking it was all just a phase—and eventually the three women synced up to form The Tuts. Since then, they’ve gone on tour with Kate Nash, fired their incompetent manager (and released the snarky and fun song “1982” about it), and vocally fought back against Undercover Festival, a two-day alternative music event in the UK, where the band faced a traumatic assault by the festival’s body guards.
As an all-women band with two members of color, the Tuts make it a point to speak openly about their experiences, especially within the London punk scene—the band has noticed the community often negates itself with a call-out culture that lacks inclusivity. “These other bands, they are politically aware, and people make it out like everyone is welcome, but then some people don’t really practice what they preach,” says lead vocalist/guitarist Nadia Javed. The Tuts tackle this issue along with many others on their full-length debut, Update Your Brain. Released in September by Dovetown, a DIY creative collective and record label started by bassist/vocalist Harriet Doveton, Update Your Brain is full of dynamic guitar hooks and vocal harmonies that give way to songs of anger, empowerment, and vindication—The Tuts don’t shy away from addressing the people who have wronged them in the past.
She Shreds spoke with Doveton, Javed, and Beverley Ishmael (drums/vocals) over Skype about operating as a completely DIY band, the music scene in London and being an all-women band with two women of color, and their gear.
I would love to hear about what the music scene in London is like.
Harriet Doveton: I feel like at times it has potential, but in any scene anywhere, there’s going to be politics and bitching.
Nadia Javed: And dickheads.
HD: I feel like the punk scene has some of the groundwork there, but it’s still in the early stages of being representative and supportive. Nobody’s perfect, so if you’ve got a load of people together in a scene, it’s not like everyone’s going to get on. Sometimes it feels really great, like the DIY Space in London. If you’re on a gig there, it can be really lovely, you’ve got this nice community.
NJ: As a band, we seem to fit into lots of different things. Everybody loves us—you can’t deny a catchy pop song. So we get booked for punk shows, indie-pop shows, mainstream ska events, all sorts of things. We don’t really fit in anywhere. The thing is, we’re authentic working class girls that come from a rude boy, rude girl background. And then we come to the punk scene and it’s a lot of middle class people rebelling against their rich parents, and we don’t really fit in with them.
Beverly Ishmael: There’s too many rules in the punk scene. You don’t want to be an asshole, you want to be surrounded by like-minded people. And then, you get into the punk scene, and they’ve got so many rules, and they’re so quick to call you out.
HD: The call-out culture is really great in some ways, but in other ways it’s become a parody of itself, hasn’t it? You could literally breathe wrong and you’ve got a blog written about you.
NJ: The music scene is still dominated by white people, and white males. They need to go out of their way to acknowledge and appreciate us as a band, but they don’t. I think the reason why is because they are intimidated by our overconfident, loud attitude. They instead don’t acknowledge us because they think, “They don’t need any support, look at them, they’re full of themselves.” But really, we are like that as a defense mechanism because of all the undercover racism, and not-so-undercover racism.
BI: I think it’s unconscious, as well. They don’t even realize that what they are doing or saying is offensive.
NJ: We are saying it straight, but on the flipside, there are bands that we love and we have this bond where it’s not just a one-way street of us making effort. But we’re changing the scene. The shows that Harriet puts on through Dovetown are fucking amazing. People come to our gigs and are like, “Your crowd [has] the nicest people.”
Relating back to saying it straight, I think my favorite part of your new record, Update Your Brain, is how forward the songs are in their messages. What has the response been to the record?
HD: It’s amazing, but we’ve barely had a negative comment. We get a backlash not against our music, but us as people.
BI: People like our music, but hate us. [Laughs.]
NJ: I knew that we’d get some positive, but I never knew it would this good. The most common thing people are saying is twelve songs, no fillers, all bangers. Every song is a stand-alone track.
You sound so huge on the record and live for a three-piece. What do you do, in terms of gear, to achieve that full sound?
NJ: I’m really happy that you think we sound full, because sometimes I think to myself, “Fuckin’ hell, do we need a second guitarist?” On the record, obviously we layer on top of each other. I play lead and rhythm, and then we layer on loads and loads of harmonies, and Bev will do drums on tops of drums, stuff like that.
But live, gearwise, I’ve got a vintage Gibson SG custom. It’s got those old school, old-as-gold pickups, and that guitar sounds fucking amazing. I use an Orange Tiny Terror, and I’ve some pedals as well—an Ibanez Tube Screamer, the remake of The Rat, and a channel changer. So, on the choruses, I press on the channel changer to give it that boost. On live sets, I go between playing lead—the riffy bits and the solos—and then I go back into chords again. I try to do both the rhythm and the lead. And my guitar is just fucking sick, that’s why it sounds so big and full. I like lots of gain, the tone to be half way—not too trebly—and obviously the volume to be up. I hate fucking quiet guitars.
BI: I’ve got a Mapex drum kit. It’s white. And my cymbals are Sabian, and my crash is Paiste. I want to get all Zildjian.
HD: I play a Fender Mustang, the one that’s three-quarter scale but still takes regular strings. It’s so perfect to play, it’s like playing a cloud. You know, with bass guitars, it’s really hard to find a short-scale that’s standard. You usually have to get the really cheap ones, or spend so much money. I just find it a little bit sexist, to be honest. All these basses are so big and heavy, and they just drowned me. It’s ridiculous that companies like Fender haven’t made more three-quarter scale basses with a high quality sound.
You released your first EP in 2012, and your full record came out this year. What was your process like in those four years?
HD: Since 2013, we’ve been non stop doing stuff. Putting ourselves out there, getting tour slots like the Kate Nash tour, the Selector tour, all these opportunities. We had two EPs out and they were just selling, selling, selling, and we knew we were working towards an album, but we didn’t want to do it at the wrong time.
NJ: Also, I always imagined that we were going to be on a major label. So, we were just getting on with work, getting our name out there as much as we could, playing shows, building our fan base, and improving as musicians. I wanted the album to go out with a bang, and it has, but we self-released it. Growing up, looking at other bands, they were all [on] majors. I thought we’d follow in the same footsteps.
HD: We recently played The International Day of the Girl at the Southbank Center in front of all these school girls, and it was incredible. We thought, “Imagine if we could do that all the time?” Just play to all these teenage girls.
NJ: Because they loved us. All we need is the opportunity.
HD: To access these school girls, it sounds really weird but it’s really hard. You have to get on a tour slot with someone who has a really young fan base, or play these school events. It’s the only way to do it if you’re not on a major label. But that’s what we really want to do, we want to reach these young girls.
On a similar subject, you’ve been operating completely DIY. What have been some of the challenges, as well as the rewards?
HD: We’re massive control freaks. We need to know what’s going on all the time. We had a manager for a short period of time, and we felt really in the dark.
NJ: We did less! One of our fans said, “You’re doing less with a manager.” And he was right.
HD: We weren’t in the emails, we didn’t know how the process was working. But when you’re DIY, you know what’s going on.
NJ: DIY is instant. We know how everything works. We want contacts, no contracts.
I read up on the assault that happened at Undercover Fest, where security guards attacked you for being on stage with your friends The Selector. I’m curious to know what came of that.
HD: We got trolled quite hard for a while, but that’s died down now. It was trolling by a lot of middle-aged men, and we have a lot of middle-aged men fans, but now there’s this group that hates us that are friends with the festival. They lied a lot, said we didn’t go to the police, that we had secret management, that it was all a stunt. It represents so much more than the event, it represents safety of women, safety of women of color, and festivals and how they should handle situations like that. We’re still going to talk about that.
NJ: The way the festival reacted, and the way everyone else acted around it, basically reinforced that there is a load of fucking sexism and undercover racism. They thought they were outing us for being a PR stunt, but all they were really doing was outing themselves for being massive misogynists. I got manhandled and dragged away by the side of the stage by various men, Harriet got grabbed, Bev got grabbed, and in the end we got kicked out. They did that over nothing. They already hated us anyway because we wanted a dressing room, and they were like, “Who are these divas asking for a dressing room? They must get naked in public, stupid bitches!” [Laughs.] And they didn’t like us because we didn’t promote the festival hard enough, but that’s because our album was just coming out. I just didn’t have enough slots available.
HD: Every single interview over the summer, we plugged the festival. And this man, he wasn’t very good at promoting.
NJ: After that, we were all really shaken and upset. I had bruises all up my arms. I had spoken to the police, and I wanted to take this further, but because we went on tour, every time the police were calling me, I was either in the van or something was going. I never got to give my proper statement. They were trying to get their legal team on us, but they knew they fucked up, and used too much force on us. They were like, “Shit, what can we do?” So they made this bullshit statement, all lies. They turned all the people are the festival against us, and claimed what we did was a publicity stunt.
You recently finished a tour surrounding the release of Update Your Brain. What do you hope people take away from your live show and performance?
NJ: Some merchandise [laughs].
HD: I think a common thing people take away from our shows is this uplifted power, and that’s really nice. I hope they are buzzing.
BI: Yeah, buzzing and feeling like they can do anything they want to do.
HD: Particularly young people, girls, or people of color. Anyone who feels like they have to jump over hurdles because of society. If they could come away feeling more powerful, that would be so cool.
Do you have anything coming up with The Tuts?
HD: ]We’re just doing press and planning for next year…
NJ: [interrupts] You know, I’m tired of being DIY! It’s a lot of work. I’m ready to go big-time.
HD: We put in years of work, it would be good to have something to elevate us.
NJ: We’ve all given up our jobs and are doing the band full time, and although the band pays for itself, we still need to pay the bills.
If you could have your wildest dreams for The Tuts come true, what would they be?
HD: We would love to go on tour with Paramore, Charlie XTX, Little Mix, Keisha. And being able to access those younger audiences.
NJ: We want to be ambassadors! Get our songs in films, radio play, our own fashion line.
What else would you like She Shreds readers to know?
BI: Never compare yourself to anyone else. Just do your own thing.
NJ: Embrace brown skin, always.