Sometimes in life it’s the coincidences, the accidents or unintended things that really strike you (writes Andy Wood). Not that I really believe in ‘fate’ but last December I had no plans to go along to Kid Canaveral’s annual show, Baubles. Tickets were long sold out and I wasn’t that fussed for whatever reason. Somehow Mike convinced me I ought to go and that there was a spare ticket available and so there I was, loitering outside Portobello Town Hall, waiting to meet someone I’d never met before to purchase a ticket for a show I’d never planned on going to. And you know something? I had a great time with some brilliant bands and stumbled across Tuff Love for the first time ever.
The first thing that struck me was just how young they appeared. It’s not like the Baubles crowd was particularly an old crowd it’s just that equally it wasn’t a gathering of youth either. And there’s nothing wrong with either being young or old, or in-between but Tuff Love seemed slightly out of place. Maybe a lack of beards or something?. There were a lot of beards at Baubles. They looked quite shy and nervous as though they didn’t expect to be on such a big stage.
Any shyness or nervousness was gone once they began playing and they played a veritable blinder. The most important thing that struck me though was how damn good they sounded. And the energy the songs have. Sure there are a hundred and one influences bouncing about in those songs but Tuff Love don’t let that overwhelm them, they have enough twists and turns in the songs to make them fresh, to make them Tuff Love. Snappy, short songs and though the term ‘pop’ is often seen as a pejorative term I think, in the right hands, pop is a great thing. And Tuff Love are a great thing.
I started this piece with a story of an accidental meeting, in part to set the scene, in part because Tuff Love seem to have themselves been a series of happy coincidences. They began writing songs with no other ambition than the act itself and, as a sort of challenge or dare began posting their recordings on the internet. With no plans to push these recordings or play live, just a sheer joy in the act itself self-promotion was negligible. And yet the songs began to find their own little audience. In a way, this shouldn’t be surprising, the songs are rather special but the world isn’t always a kind place and many fine bands struggle to get beyond this point. Yet as you’ll learn below (and are probably already aware of) the songs did start to make their way out into the wider world. Perhaps I should start to reconsider this notion of fate?
In May Lost Map released Tuff Love’s debut E.P. Junk. If you haven’t yet heard Junk you really ought to. Five beautiful songs of seemingly heartbreaking simplicity that are as sharp as a fresh razor and as sweet as honeycomb with possibly a hint of arsenic in there as well. Songs that should be played all the time on the radio (and I believe they have been played on the radio) and danced to and to make you fall in love with this whole damn silly pop thing again.
As a live band Tuff Love are pretty great fun, fiery as well and the songs from Junk seem to take on an extra quality live.
There’s a new E.P. due out next year called Dross. Which, if the current track ‘Slammer’ is anything to go by is a rather misleading title. The song is utterly infectious, multi-layered and gorgeous. It feels a little darker than the songs on Junk with a really catchy tune, hinting at a more intense but still beautiful side to Tuff Love. Lauren Laverne played it on the radio. It sounded great. I didn’t dance but I wanted to. If there is any justice this would be on every playlist and Tuff Love would be breaking hearts and causing music lovers to fall in love with their wonderful songs everywhere.
Ahead of their first headline tour Julie and Suse were kind enough to answer some questions.
Please introduce yourselves. Who are Tuff Love and how did the band get together?
“Hello! We are Julie and Suse. Julie plays guitar and sings and Suse plays bass and and sings sometimes also. We have a drummer when we play live but for songwriting purposes it’s just Suse and Julie. We met at our friends party and immediately started making music together… a year later.”
Why Tuff Love? What inspired the choice of name?
“One of my favourite bands as a teenager was The Unicorns. They had a song called Tuff Ghost which was my favourite song from their album and I always liked that spelling of tuff. Love seemed to go well with it. Before that we had lots of different name ideas, like we were called Motherless Daughters for a bit.”
Who and what are your influences, musical or otherwise?
“I (Suse) grew up listening to punk music (or pop punk or whatever) then my musical tastes got a bit more diverse. My brother influenced me a lot, as in I used to just copy exactly what he did and what he liked.”
“I (Julie) have been strongly influenced by feelings of inadequacy, heartache, misanthropy, a strong distaste for school, and the song Debora by Tyrannosaurus Rex. Also love.”
How did you end up signing for Lost Map?
“I (Suse) play in another Lost Map band called Monoganon and last year at Monoganon’s album launch I met Johnny Lynch (of Lost Map) properly. He came up and said hello and that he was enjoying listening to the Tuff Love stuff we had up on Soundcloud.
“I thought he was just being nice for the sake of it.. but turns out he actually DID like it and he asked us to play a Lost Map event in December then said he’d like to put the E.P we had on Soundcloud out on vinyl. We were like oh my god yes please”.
What things have Lost Map made possible for you that you couldn’t have achieved on your own?
“Pre-Lost Map we never pushed our music too much, we just put it online for our friends to listen to and anyone else that stumbled across it. The whole reason we were making songs is because we wanted these songs to exist so we could listen to them in their finished form – that’s very satisfying.
“But when Lost Map came along, Johnny thought other people would like it too and wanted other people to hear our music and that was really cool but also sort of embarrassing because you don’t want to be like hey everyone LISTEN TO THIS THING WE MADE, but then again that’s kind of what you’re meant to do? But it’s weird.”
What has been the best moment or moments about being in Tuff Love to date?
“Errrrrrr, I suppose every time we finish a song it’s an amazing feeling. Also getting to go to Glastonbury was AMAZING. We’d never been, it’s so big. And other festivals too. Basically this has been the best year ever…”
And the most awkward or embarrassing?
“Every time we stop at a motorway service station on tour and we get kicked out the girls toilets because people think we’ve gone in to the wrong one…”
You released your debut E.P. Junk in May. How do you feel about your debut recording and how has the response been to it so far?
“We recorded Junk because we love writing songs. For a while we put a song a week up on Soundcloud. We announced that we were going to do that on Facebook, so we couldn’t back out, even though we felt a bit shy about having people hear our stuff. The response to Junk has been totally awesome and unexpected.”
Can you please tell us a little bit about your second release Dross?
“Dross I think is colder sounding, but that was kind of intentional. It’s probably got more dynamics, more loud and quiets, more soft and hard than Junk.”
What makes you happy?
“Bathtime, eating, my computer. We both like baths but we don’t have them together. Julie’s favourite thing at the moment is Inspector Norse by Todd Terje. My favourite thing at the moment is Tony Molina’s cover of Orion by Metallica. Julie likes it too. Also the thought that there are infinite universes and that space is infinite and humans are completely insignificant. That’s my comforting thought just now.”
What makes you angry?
“Stuff like X Factor, aka the hunger games. People being mean. Hair in sponges when you’re washing up. The song price tag because it’s shit and everyone pretends it isn’t because it’s been shoved in their faces so much, they don’t know anything else and can’t imagine life without it. Oh yeah also inequality, injustice and poverty (actually.)”
You’ve toured quite a lot recently as a support act but this month will see your first headlining tour. How do you feel about this?
What is next for Tuff Love? Have you already got plans for 2015?
“We’re always recording and there will definitely be more releases coming up. We’ll be touring more next year too. We both need haircuts, and we’re currently working on our upper-body strength(‘s).”
What question would you most like to be asked? And what would your answer be?
“Q: Which question in this interview has been most difficult to answer?
A: This one. “
Anything else you would like to add?
“These questions were good and fun to answer. Thank you. Here is a picture of us after answering these questions. Good day.x”
You can catch Tuff Love at the following times and places:
Sunday 16th November – London, Old Blue Last
Friday 21st November – Aberdeen, Cellar 35
Saturday 22nd November – Edinburgh, Henderson Halls (Leith)
For more information check out http://lostmap.com/tuff-love/
Having featured ‘Slammer’ the other week, here#s a slightly older video from the Junk E.P.: