Words by Ed King / Pics by Paul Reynolds
“Like a little Tequila worm that crawls in, gets drunk, and stays in there forever.”
Is that them..? No. The problem with meeting strangers is you don’t know what they look like. I’ve sifted through Rews’ website, seen promo pics, videos and alternating styles, but I still couldn’t pick them from a line up.
Rews’ music however, especially the ‘earworm’ that is their latest single ‘Miss You in the Dark’, has burrowed quickly into my head – nudging ‘Can You Feel It?’ further down the canal. I’d recognise them if they walked up the stairs. But the only thing I can identify about the two people I’m here to interview, with any certainty, is that there are two of them. Luckily they spot me. I guess one is the loneliest number.
“Rews is inspired by a Dutch surname, spelt Reus,” explains Shauna Tohill – the arguable front woman and lead vocalist in the London based two piece. “It means the tall people or the giant people. Collette (Williams, the ‘vocalising beatrocker’ and other half) and I aspire to be giants in the world of music, so why not call ourselves Rews?” Is it family name, or..? “No, I found the scribbled on the wall of a toilet at Corsica Studios.”
I talk a lot about words, and (irony withstanding) it can be an often self defeating endevour. You are heard less the louder you shout. But the verb that jumps onto the table tonight is ‘fun’; Rews are a punchy, pop punk, rock band who ‘make a lot of noise for two people’. But it’s addictive, powerhouse, ferocious and fun. The F word again. I’ve only just met them and I’m half thinking we should turn off the recorder, go outside and find something to climb.
“We’re experimenting at the minute,” explains Shauna Tohill when I ask for a self description, “it’s getting more rock”. “It’s naturally forming into a heavier sound,” continues Collette Williams, “from the instrumentation and set up, from pedals through to heavier grooves and the sound that we’re trying to create. Especially in a live environment.” Precisely why I’m here; Rews’ music videos were the siren call but I want to see this on stage. “People say we make a lot of noise for two people. But we love that.”
“After we first jammed together, we were deciding about whether to go for a bass player but then thought, you know we can cover this,” continues Tohill. “Also it’s difficult enough to arrange for more people to be in a rehearsal, especially when you’re working a lot. We love playing with other musicians but I think right now it’s good the way it is.” I’ve never understood how most bands stay together; like family board games, table wine and Christmas, the end is inevitable. “Everything’s easier with two,” adds Williams, “we can both fit in a car with all our gear, there’s one less mouth to feed. Plus there are some incredible two piece bands around, like Royal Blood, who make you want to up your game and be creative, to really utilise what you have. Because when it comes to pedals, when it comes to triggers, when it comes to duel vocals we can have this gigantic sound… so why not try and do that.”
Gigantic’s a good word. On the surface there’s nothing genre shattering about Rews, with the more accessible pop punk (itself an oxymoron) having reared its less than ugly head several times before. And like contemporary classical, I think we need a new term. But Rews are ‘really fucking good’ to quote Ceol Caint’s review of single ‘Death Yawn’. Their sound is gigantic. If they can deliver their infectious foot stamp on stage, live, tonight could be impressive. Plus there’s something brewing on the horizon that we’re only teased with at this stage, but it sounds like a game changer.*
Rews are relatively new to each other too. And whilst both Shauna Tohill and Collette Williams have been serious about their music for a while, as Rews they have only been writing and performing for a few years – finding each other after moving independently to London.
“Both of us had been in bands for years,” tells Tohill, “and I was doing my solo thing for a long time (Silhouette). Then I came across this artist retreat in Cirencester and I moved there for four months to write and decide which direction to go in and I wanted to do with music. That was my first move out of Belfast I guess. This was before I met Collette.” My toes curl at the term ‘Artist Retreat’ and the sneer that is my oldest foe sits clear on my face. I don’t even need to ask the question.
“It was a really amazing experience actually,” continues Tohill – mercifully sidestepping my frown. “I got free accommodation, free food, free studio space, all in exchange for working the land. So I learnt how to grow vegetables and worked on community projects with alcohol and drug abusers, elderly people. It was really such an eye opening experience.” This sounds better than my assumption, I wonder if they have a room for prose writers. Would you ever go back? “It was really amazing, a great place to go and be away from people and just focus on what you want to do creatively. Collette and I have been talking about going back there to do some writing together as well.”
Shauna Tohil’s also toured with Snow Patrol and Darwin Deez, to add some cherries on the CV, whilst Collette Williams has worked with the respected music director, Kojo Samuels. “That was with Sony,” explains Williams, “trying to find the next massive girl band type thing. I was touring the country, playing drums, and looking for ‘authentic female talent’. Which was fantatsic; I’m a massive advocate for finding inspirational females. That also led to some work with Gabrielle Aplin – appearing on one of her videos where 30 drummers get their kits lit up and everything.” Williams appears on the official video for Aplin’s ‘Sweet Nothing’ – front and centre for a while but hair colour might mislead you. “Then mainly some pop session stuff,” continues Williams, “I worked with the guys from Union J but my background has mainly been session work. Although at the time I met Shauna I was the front woman for a Surrey based band called Sonder. But that was like chalk and cheese to this.”
So jump forward, how did you physically meet? When did the Rews seed get sewn? “We were introduced by a sister of someone I went to university with,” explains Williams, “Shauna had just started going to a new church and met her there. She (Shauna) was looking for a drummer at the time and my friend’s sister, who’s an amazing drummer as well, was kind enough to mention me and thought that Shauna and I might get on.” Might be too late to ask, but do you get on? “Extraordinarily well,” answers Williams, just calm enough to be believed, “especially for two people who a lot of time together.”
“We’re like sisters now,” continues Tohill, “we are so close. We have our sister fights, but we also have our sister love time too… that sounds really weird. We love each other though.” Something going on; in under ten minutes I’ve picked up a clear sense of candor, camaraderie and media savvy. Rews are professional but personal. We began this conversation with toilet humor, jokes about citrus fruit, blue rose references and self deprecation; it’s difficult not to like this kind of company. And when I finally get to see Rews on stage later tonight this partnership manifests into something palpable and honestly endearing.
But a relentless tour schedule can go through brothers like butter, and Rews are in Birmingham for only gig five on a 15 date schedule. Although Williams assures me “even when we’re not gigging, when we’re back home, we’ll hang out and be writing. We’re so close anyway it’s kind of weird if we don’t hang out for a couple of days. It just kind of doesn’t work”. “We’ve kind of grown into each other’s pockets,” adds Tohill, before a final retort from Williams brings the interview to an appropriately tongue in cheek close. “What she means is she steals all my money.”
We take some pics by the pool table. I bitch about gender politics and almost perpetuate a conversation I’m sick of hearing in the first place. The only thing left is to see Rews live, so we drink up and go our separate ways – me to the bar and Rews to the stage.
At this point I’m rooting for them too; I often judge people by how they interview, and having been half on board before I got to The Flapper right now I want Rews to firmly succeed. The world needs credible inspiration, role models and some ‘really fucking good’ music. Plus it’s a ferocious gig and there’s potentially something truly special here.
But time, tour circuits and another festival season will tell. And as Collette Williams patiently established, “people listen to our music, come to see us live, and it speaks for itself. That’s so important.”
‘Can You Feel It?’ – Rews
*About a week after this interview, Rews announced they had signed to Marshall Records – the newly set up label from the amp manufacturer and rock retail giants. For more on this, click here and visit our Rews feature in THE GALLERY.
To read Damien Russel’s BREVIEW of Rews at The Flapper, click here.
For more on Rews, visit www.rewsmusic1.wordpress.com
For more from The Flapper, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.theflapper.co.uk
For more from Birmingham promoters, visit www.birminghampromoters.com