Bringing brutal riffs, snarling vocals and a whole lot of attitude, The Smears are a welcome breath of fresh air in the Nottingham punk scene.
The trio recently helped to organise the Eastrogen Extravaganza, a lineup of all-girl bands from the East Midlands, playing venues in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester.
|The Smears (pic. Paul Carroll)|
We spoke to them about the Nottingham scene, their favourite detectives and why there aren't more girls in punk bands...
How old you are and where you are from?
Emma (guitar/vocals): Emma O'Neill, 26, originally from Liverpool.
Colette (drums): I'm 19 from Nottingham.
Nat (bass): Miss Caulton 25, Born and bred in Notts been musical since birth. I was born on Christmas Day, singing jingle bells batman smells...
Is Nottingham a good place to be in a punk band?
|" We're a Band and we're female - Get over it. And you had better take us seriously because we mean it!"|
|Nat, The Smears|
Colette: Nottingham's got a really good music scene in that there is a wide range of music of different genres with lots of up and coming bands. Punk's quite popular in Nottingham but I think the hardcore/metal scene is probably more prominent.
Nat: Nottingham is a good place to be in any kind of band. It's just a bonus to be in a band that plays good music.
To me, there seems to be a lack of British all girl punk bands around at the moment compared with 5 or 10 years ago - would you agree?
|Emma - The Smears (pic. Steve Fisher)|
Colette: There is a lack of British all girl bands full stop - where are you?
Emma: I don't think there are enough signed girl bands and only very few can represent those who can play well. You know a label once said they would sign us but would have if we could play like the Raincoats! Have you heard them? Anyway yes I agree. I think there is a lack of progressiveness in peoples views. Girls are girls, boys are boys so what? You know some feminists really like men... some men like feminists. I'm not sure if I care.
The music industry is generally dominated by middle aged men - do you think this is an advantage or a disadvantage for you? Is there any discrimination?
Nat: Its both an advantage and disadvantage. And yes there is some discrimination...
Colette: An advantage in that we stand out from the crowd being all-girl, yet you still get people who'll write you off before they've heard you just cos you're female.
Emma: I think that's kind of a discriminative question. When people start asking that to Westlife then you'll know there has been a move forward. Ask Bloc Party see what they say...
Do you ever suffer the problem of not being taken seriously...
Emma: We either ignore the snide, idiotic comments or we get on stage and play. That usually works. We sometimes challenge but it's best not to, as it's surprising how sensitive stupid people can be!
Colette: We do get people that'll automatically write us off for being an all-girl band, whereas others love the idea of an all-girl band. If we do get any stick off anyone we just get on with it and play-that usually shuts them up.
|Nat - The Smears (pic Steve Fisher)|
Nat: I get sick of rants about this... we are girls so what.. and I mean that on both parties. Men saying ooohhh you're rubbish and playing the girl card.. but also women saying... I don't want to play the girl card blah blah blah. We're a Band and we're female - Get over it. And you had better take us seriously because we mean it!
Outside of the mainstream, to an uninformed observer like myself, the DIY underground scene appears to be thriving - would you agree, is there a lot of creativity in the air?
Colette: There are a lot different genres of music around at the moment on the scene with lots of people and bands doing their own thing which is great. There certainly seem to be a lot of gigs being put on around and about the city at present.
Emma: The D.I.Y scene is where everything great comes from! People appreciate those who have worked at their craft much more than those who are manufactured. Oasis go straight to the charts because, even if you don't like their music, people can see integrity and worth in them because they work for it. It's important. Business, comedy, art, whatever... people have more respect for those who have come from grass roots because we all have to work for something. Manufactured bands can be fun but they are never going to have the life and death of real bands.
Nat: There is a lot of decent bands out there with little or no money that are not getting the recognition they should be doing, because they are a poor band. I suggest everyone should try and make it to at least one gig a month and support this underground scene. Stop paying big sweaty club owners and pay the bands.
Tell us about the Eastrogen Extravaganza
Colette: We organised it alongside Firebrand (of Leicester) and the Mothers (of Derby). We thought it would be a good and original idea to put on a few dates around the Midlands as we are some of the very few all girl punk bands around this area. It's very rare that you'll see an all-girl line-up.
Nat: It went down a treat, and were are thinking of putting another tour on... I am thinking of calling it: Now that's what I call Eastrogen Extravaganza 2 or Eastrogen Extravaganza extra...
You are a three piece - how do you make decisions? Is one of you the band leader? Do you argue?
Colette: We all have an input into the band. We all write our own parts to the songs, but we tend to write together to see how stuff fits. We never argue, we're just really honest with each other which I think works. We're all very opinionated so we don't always agree but we'll always work around it and/or compromise.
Have you got a lot of fans? What are they like?
Nat: Our fans rock... I love our mosh pits.
|Colette - The Smears (pic. Paul Carroll)|
Emma: Yes we have quite a few. I don't know if I can call them fans... that's a bit weird. They dance, they heckle, they are really well dressed. Sometimes they can upset people.... genuinely ace.
Colette: We seem to have built up quite a following over time-our gigs are always great to play because the crowd are always so involved.
What do you think about illegal MP3 filesharing? Would you be annoyed if everyone just downloaded your tracks for free without buying them?
Emma: Yes I would. Would you be annoyed if you you bought really great Christmas presents for everyone you know and on Christmas Day they gave them to you instead and expected you to happy? Totally ruined your surprise and left you with nothing. But people who really love bands want the whole package. Having the CD/T-shirt/poster in your collection has a different feel to it. Its not going to stop people going to gigs and buying T-shirts and showing they love a band. Its that type a thing that can forge friendships. Basically I don't think I've made up my mind... I'll let you know...
Colette: Obviously you have to draw a line when it comes to this, as a lot of time, effort and money goes into recording tracks, but I think the Internet is a key way to promote your band and your music. We have a couple of MP3s on our website for people to download in order to get a taste of our music. After that, people will just have to buy our CDs if they want to hear more.
There seems to be a lot of manufactured punk bands around at the moment...your thoughts?
Emma: I'm just sick of manufactured bands full stop. Manufactured punk made my blood run cold when it first happened, you know all those 'punk' T-shirts and everything, but its for the drones and little kids so it's not to be taken seriously. For some people it might have been the lead to finding some really good bands and that can only be a good thing.
Colette: That's cool but it's kind of frustrating that bands like that just seem to get straight into it while so many other bands slog it out and never really get anywhere.
Nat: Pffffttt idiots.
What about Charlie from Busted now being in Fightstar? Should he be welcomed into the world of punk - or should he be kicked back to pop where he belongs?
Emma: I think almost everyone deserves a chance. Fightstar I don't really know to much about. I saw them on some show on TV and they where really out of tune. Anyway, no-one is EVER welcomed into the world of punk! It's a fight. So no! No open arms for Charlie boy.
Where will The Smears be in five years?
Emma: Older, wiser, a few albums better off... I don't know!
Colette: Hopefully rich, travelling around the world playing gigs.
Nat: Hell yeah! And I am hoping there will be mini Smears and I want to grow old and wrinkly with these two girls. I want to see Em falling over her zimmer frame from one too many gin and tonics...
Who is your favourite TV detective and why?
Nat: Colombo, he's got that cheeky grin...
Emma: Danger Mouse! He was funny, naked, always on a great adventure and his voice was done by David Jason.
Colette: Inspector Gadget, he was cool!
If The Smears were a vegetable, which one would it be?
Colette: Asaparagus, mysterious and classy, ha!
Emma: A chili. Some are hot, some are sweet and not everyone can handle them.
Nat: I don't want to be a vegetable... I want to be a piece of fruit!
You can see The Smears play at the following venues:
- Sunday, 11th May - Nottingham Junktion 7
- Sunday, 29th May - Mansfield Town Mill
- Saturday, 4th June - Nottinghan Junktion 7
- Wednesday, 8th June - Nottingham The Old Angel