REWS are a mighty force in music and have played…
some exceptional gigs this year. In their career, so far, they have performed at Glastonbury’s John Peel Stage; rocked crowds around the world and had their music spun on BBC Radio 1. Shauna Tohill and Collette Williams have a close and kinetic bond that makes their music such a physical and seamless thing – accessible enough for anyone but instilled with plenty of swagger and flex. I speak to REWS about their new single, Shine, and how they met one another.
They talk to me about their hectic schedules; whether there is an album approaching and how they both got into music – and recommend a few new artists worth watching out for...
Hi, girls. How are you? How have your weeks been?
Aw. It has been a busy week, but all fantastic…and you?
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
We are REWS: a high-energy, Alternative-Rock/Pop duo consisting Shauna Tohill and Collette Williams!
Aswad and Take That have taken a ‘shine’ to a certain song-title. I am guessing your Shine is a bit different?! What provoked the song and can you remember the moment it was written? Was it easy to put together?
Haha! They certainly did!
Our Shine is slightly different. It is actually one of the first songs that we completely collaborated on. It began with a jam but, lyrically, it was inspired by the observation of a love interest that couldn't be figured out. It’s, like, when you want to know someone but you can't figure out how to make them notice you (and come out of their shell and 'shine') – but, coming to the conclusion that they are the only one who can make that choice...
All you can do is your best and hope until you need to draw the line. It was a disjointed process, writing, as it came in different stages - and we tried a few different techniques but took around two weeks to finish.
It was fun!
What was it like shooting the video for that song? How involved do you get in the conception and production side of shoots?
What a fun-crazy, glitter-time! We had glitter coming out of every orifice for two weeks!
We worked with two amazing creative videographers (Jonny Finnis and James Chisholm). We rocked out sooooo hard that we also couldn't move for a few days with muscle strain/whiplash. Haha!
We are always involved in the conception and creativity so we brainstormed our ideas with the team and the video director - and were over the moon with the video.
Is there a REWS album afoot? What can you reveal about the kind of albums one might expect to hear on the L.P.?
Indeed there is!
It's called PYRO and will be out on the 3rd November, 2017! We can't wait to release it!
Hmm...expect explosions of colour in your ears - and your face to be melted?! You might want to dance along at times, too.
There's something for everyone on the album.
I have been following your music for a long time. How do you think you have evolved as a duo over the last year or so? Do you find yourself growing more confident?
Aw, thank you! That’s really good to know!
We feel that, over the last year, we have become more of a unit. We are more confident in our abilities and what we want to deliver as a duo - as well as what we are saying through the music we write and play together. We are still evolving - as everyone does - but we think we are on the right path.
How did REWS come together and what was the moment that made you both realise you were meant to make music with one another?
It is a long story but, basically, we were introduced by chance...
We both moved to London at the same time - both of us looking for someone to play music with...
Shauna: I met a friend of Collette's who recommended we hook up and, through the powers of the Internet (particularly SoundCloud) hunted Collette down and hoped she would be up for it. I knew before I met Collette (through our online convo.) that we were going to be a good team - as we shared a lot of interests - but our jam solidified that for me - and we've just been getting to know each other more over the years.
Collette: I got a message on SoundCloud from Shauna explaining that she wanted to find like-minded musicians to, potentially, start a band together (with). I was seeking the same thing and felt an instant musical connection which, then, bloomed into a friendship and exciting musical journey.
Many have compared you with Royal Blood. Is that a flattering or do you want to be known on your own terms? Do you think the media are too quick to compare artists with other acts?
Shauna: It’s interesting...
We do feel flattered but, equally, want to also have our own wings to fly upon. I think media need to compare artists with other acts so they have something tangible to tease people into listening to someone - as the music world has so much new music to offer!
Collette: Yeah, I mean; they've been really successful and have helped put duos on the musical-map.
It would be great to follow in their success but our music is a little different and, dare I say it, perhaps a little more accessible to a wider audience - as it's Rock…but has Pop sensibilities.
I am seeing more female duos/bands come to prominence. Do you think it is important we promote female acts more and does it give you heart knowing you’re inspiring many new artists to get out there and show what they are made of?
I think it is really important to promote and encourage anyone with talent - particularly female acts who are doing something different! It certainly does give us heart knowing that we are inspiring new artists to get out there and be themselves! We love it!
That’s why we do what we do in many ways!
Collette: It's important to inspire people full-stop, regardless of gender. One of the most rewarding parts of being in a band is when a young fan comes up to you, after a set, and says they've started playing an instrument - and they really want to be in a band because of their idols etc.
Collette. When did you take up drumming and are there particular idols/performers that inspired you to do so?
I started drumming when I was fourteen - after singing for years and playing the violin/guitar.
I just felt like there was something else out there that would really fulfil me musically…and drums was my calling. I loved Rock music and the energy it exudes - and really needed an instrument to reflect that. I always found myself honing into the beat on tracks and air-drumming along - or coming up with my own grooves.
I grew up listening to the likes of Fleetwood Mac, The Police; Eurythmics and the Sex Pistols - so it was a really eclectic mix. I was particularly inspired by Dave Grohl; Cindy Blackman and Travis Barker. I always joke that Animal from The Muppets is my biggest inspiration – hence, why I always go mental at gigs. Haha.
Shauna. I am fascinated by your range of lyrics and the way you mix personal with the oblique. Again…are there artists that have influenced you heavily?
Thank you. That has made my day!
There are quite a few artists that have influenced me to write really honestly – but, adding in creative, metaphorical twists - including Tori Amos, Daughter, Biffy Clyro and Little Dragon. I must also admit that reading (particularly doing the 'artist way' course) helped me to unblock that creative flow and I try to allow myself to (just) spill whatever comes to my hand onto the page - and then get a feel what fits with the music and concept of the song.
For Shine; Collette and I actually had our second process of trying this together, which was fun.
Recently, you have performed some incredible gigs – including dates in Belfast. Have you got a favourite memory from 2017? What is it like hearing your music chanting and sung to at gigs?
Shauna: For me; my favourite memory was playing Glastonbury’s John Peel Stage with Collette. Seeing the amount of support (and people we had there) plus feeling their weight, physically, in their cheering was quite something - especially when they are singing and dancing to your music!
Collette: Likewise…I almost stopped playing at one point as I was so overwhelmed by how many people were there watching us! It was probably the biggest moment in our career to date and was so awe-inspiring.
BBC Radio 1, among other stations, has backed and celebrated your music. How do you react when you hear your music played on stations like that?
Every time; we feel overwhelmed and grateful.
We also feel our confidence grow with the increase in the support - but we still have to pinch ourselves and stay centred!
PHOTO CREDIT: Mick Rees Photography
It seems there is a real sisterly bond between you, Collette and Shauna. What do you two get up to when not recording music? It seems like there might be a cheeky, Rock ‘n Roll side to REWS that is indulged away from the stage…?
Shauna: Haha! We are actually probably the least Rock ‘n’ Roll band... normally!
But, when we get a chance to hang out - we do enjoy rockin' out at our favourite bands' gigs; sneaking into awards ceremonies; eating delicious food and having a cocktail (or three). We spend a lot of time just laughing at stupid things, T.B.H.
Collette: Haha, yeah. The basis of everything we do is to have fun!
We like exploring new things; going to gigs; shopping; comedy nights - and being a pair of wise-cracks!
How is the tour diary looking? What dates do you have coming up and will you get a chance to have a breather before the end of the year?!
Shauna: We have a jam-packed diary with tours coming out our ears - but we are really excited about it all! As for down-time …we will have some time at Christmas!
Collette: Yeah. We have an announcement coming soon in regards to tour - so keep your eyes peeled. It's pretty much all-go but we'll both get some time with our families for Christmas (which will be great).
IN THIS PHOTO: Marmozets
If you each had to select the one album that measn the most to you; which would it be and why?
Shauna: Hmmm... it might have to be Avril Lavigne - Under My Skin
It helped me through a really hard time in my life - during teenage years and when my family broke up.
Collette: I would say Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
It was the first physical album I got for Christmas and really got me excited about music. I learned all the words; studied Chad Smith’s drumming style - and imagined being married to Anthony Kiedis. Haha.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Shauna: Keep focused and work for what you believe in - and do it for the right reasons. It’s not an easy world and there are so many conflicts you will experience along the way. But; if you stay true to yourself, it is possible.
Also; it’s important to keep your priorities right and surround yourself with people who you care about - and who care about you.
Collette: Treat others as you'd like to be treated. Even the biggest bands had to start out somewhere - and you will work with many of the same faces in your career. People remember the divas - and negative news travels fast. Remain true to your beliefs and fight for what you believe in.
Be as versatile as you can: bands that can drive themselves; have a car; understand live sound and can advance their own shows will go far - and be very attractive to labels.
Finally, and for being good sports, you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Shauna: Favourite song of the day is Daughter - No Care
Collette: Great Scottish band: Fatherson - Always