Death Yawn is available at:
4th January, 2016
MY promise to focus more on the men of music…
didn’t really last that long to be fair. Before I come to assessing my featured act; I have been reminded about the great duos emerging; the promise of Pop-Rock acts of the moment- in addition to the subject matter musicians employ; the way acts come together. Whilst I have spent a lot of time reviewing bands and solo acts; not a lot of my time has been dedicated to the duos of music- an area that is prosperous and growing. The two-piece band is that area of music that gains the least attention- how many duos can you name off the top of your head? Over the years I have reviewed awesome female duos say as Say Lou Lou and NONONO- two Electro./Synth.-Pop acts with big songs and bigger choruses. When it comes to this side of the music; perhaps it is the chaps that exude the most power. When it comes to the male duos; they tend to play the heavier side of things. If you take Royal Blood as the stand-out example; in the underground scene, many others are trying to replicate that hard-and-heavy sound. From Knuckle and Huxtable- two acts I have reviewed before- you have God Damn and their ilk- two chaps that go for the jugular and pen some epic songs. I am not sure why the male duos tend to play it heavier and more direct- it is the girls that have the most melody, Pop-inspired sounds and calm. Saying that, acts like Icona Pop have that stomp and power to get the feet moving and the voice singing. From The Veronicas to Tegan and Sara; there have been some notable duos emerging. When it comes to mixed-genre duos there are (favourites of mine) Gypsyfingers and Them & Us- there is a huge range of acts you can choose from. I am not sure why more musicians are not choosing to be part of a duo- it is a market that is relatively untapped. The bands are always going to be the most appealing proposition; solo artists perhaps the most common type of formation- why are duos lacking the same sort of support and numbers? I am not sure, but what I do know is that the likes of Rews are making the duo market hugely impressive and memorable. I guess you have to have a close bond with your ‘other half’- which is why a lot of duos are boyfriend-and-girlfriend couples or close friends- whereas bands do not need quite that solid a relationship. The London-based Rews are coming through at the moment and setting tongues wagging with their stunning musicianship and everyday-life tracks. Before I continue on my points; let me introduce them to you:
“REWS is the London/Belfast based high energy pop rock duo consisting of songstress Shauna Tohill and beat-maker Collette Williams.
Shauna was inspired to form REWS following a series of tours with previous bands and an inspirational artist retreat in late 2014. She met the fantastic Collette Williams in March 2015 and they have been a match made in heaven ever since.
REWS aim is to inspire people to be who they are, dance, sing, have fun yet address those deep issues that people face in everyday life. It might just be your medicine!”
Our intrepid duo plays Pop-Rock of the highest order. It is one of those genres that have many participants but few stand-outs. When it comes to duos, you get a split between Acoustic/Folk/Pop blends- usually the boy-and-girl formation- and Hard-Rock- the male duos tend to popularise this. When it comes to the all-girl duo; there is few that play Pop-Rock sounds. It is quite a hard balance to get right- that mainstream appeal of Pop tied with the heavier, grittier Rock vibe- but those who master it are among music’s finest. What REWS have are two musicians with a great passion for music; an understanding of their subject matter and how to make an impression- the connection between them is incredible. A lot of duos (bands for that matter too) have a rather boring backstory and way of working- there are few that stick in my mind at the moment. With our London two-piece you have a strong friendship that has resulted in songs that everyone can relate to- that stray beyond the well-worn boundaries of love and heartbreak. It is clear the duo has a fond affection and connection; they are among the tightest musicians I have heard in a while- their music is endlessly playable and repeatable. So many bands and solo artists do not walk far from those predictable themes and make fascinating music. It is important to pen universally-themed songs- so that the listener can relate- yet I feel there is a lot of cynicism and a lack of personality. So many acts are writing what the mainstream wants; songs that will get them the biggest listenership- compromising uniqueness and addressing themes that will gain respect rather than views/listens. Writing about love is all very well; it is vital to expand your horizons and concentrate on subjects in other areas. REWS are an act that takes inspiration from strange events and odd figures- their current single has a very distinct backstory. Of course relationships are on their mind; they go further and look at the more distinct and unusual side of things- whilst keeping it relatable and relevant. Being a relatively-new formation; I am not sure what the rest of the year holds in store- whether the girls are preparing an E.P. I know they have been performing live and are excited about the future- let’s hope this passion and momentum results in new music this year. The girls have been jammin’ and rocking all across the capital- bringing their hard-hitting songs to the people. Having performed across radio too; they are getting exposure and attention- their fan numbers are increasing; they are really speaking to the people. I will be fascinated to see what occurs for them next: perhaps an E.P. will come; they may choose to hit the road for a bit- whatever they decide a lot of eyes and ears will be fascinated. Death Yawn is a song that has been picked up and premiered across media and websites; so many are keen to lend praise to a wonderful song that has a fantastic sound.
Collette Williams and Shauna Tohill started Rews last year and have a plan ahead of them. Their intention is to release a couple of new singles this year- maybe there will be E.P. coming to- and Death Yawn’s official release is on 19th February. The duo’s debut single Can You Feel It? was released last October and showcased enormous early promise. The song begins with a slamming and urgent swagger. With Tohill on lead- and letting her guitar shred and conquer- the song looks at letting out inner feelings; being left and hurt- unleashing that pain and hurt. Relying on some repeated lines and words- to highlight the urgency and emotion of what is being said- it is a song that gets inside the head and demands sing-along and repeated plays. The girls’ command and musicianship is apparent at every stage. Williams starts with a teasing and building percussion- it pitter-patters and smashes into the chorus; eliciting huge power and force. That chorus has a Pop-tinged sound that will appeal to mainstream listeners; gritty enough to get the Rock aficionados grinning. A song that has a smile at its heart- in spite of the heartache and anxiety of the verses- you cannot help but get caught up in the whirlwind that is unleashed. Resonating with fans across social media and YouTube- the track has accrued fond feedback and support- it was a stunningly assured and memorable first single from REWS.
Can’t Keep Up is also available; it starts with a catchy and uplifting wordless vocal- a composition that is tight and intoxicating. Our heroine cannot keep track with what’s happening; it seems life is causing issues and getting on top leads to headaches. It is impossible not to let that insatiable chorus do its work and intoxicate completely. Filled with energy and passion; it is the most immediate and memorable REWS have come up with. It would be interesting to know what inspired the track and lead to its creation. What you get throughout the song is that tight bond and understanding present itself. A lot of newer duos/acts have some nerves and take time to get going- usually hitting their peak a way down the line. With Rews you have an act that are completely in-line and complete from the very beginning.
Becoming more confident and stunning by the song; I know there are new singles mooted for this year. With every track you get new shades and sides to the girls. They do not just deal with run-of-the-mile heartache themes: their music digs deeper and has a wider range than most of their peers. Producing songs that inspire full-voiced singalong; I would love to see them continue on this path- who knows how far they can go from here. Being so solid and tight from the offset; you can hear the attention and detail that has been put in. The duo rehearse their songs to ensure they are as impactful and good as they can be- the music never sounds too rehearsed; it has loose edges and plenty of rawness.
With Death Yawn available via YouTube- the music video was funded using a crowd-sourcing website- the girls are a neologism with big intentions and an even-bigger sound. Whereas bands and artists are often inspired by relationship cessation and vague stresses- this track has a very unique and unusual backstory. Writer Tohill was inspired but a rather creepy and off-putting man she encountered whilst in an Edinburgh hostel. Someone that keep following her and letting his unique ‘charm’ do the work; it was something that stuck with her. Whilst hostels can house some unusual and strange human beings- I am sure most of us can attest to that- these coming-togethers do not often result in music. Given the (strange) charming origin of the song; you start to smile as the initial notes are played- knowing Tohill made it out safe and channeled that unease into something wonderful. The opening notes boast a fizzing and viper-like guitar attack; backed by a hard-hitting and passionate percussion slam- the song has a very urgent and meaningful introduction. It is clear the track means business; no time is spared to be vague and compromising. Even though the song kicks off with electric attack; there are Pop edges and some lightness within the notes- marrying Punk and Pop into an exhilarating opening salvo. With “eyes burning like fire” you are transported into that odd encounter; picturing what is transpiring- Tohill lets her voice punctuate the words and underline them. Having been affected and embarrassed by the encounter- I am sure she has some fruitier and harsher words- the song has great relevance and meaning to it. Backed by a disciplined and emotive beat- Williams perfectly elicits a sense of anxiety and tension in her percussion work- the vocal remains strong and clear. Death Yawn perfectly draws you in and compels you to imagine the story unfolding- that anti-hero and how he looked.
I get impressions a sparsely-populated hostel with a rather dank ‘charm’ to it; a no-thrills place that caters for those wanting something affordable and convenient. Perhaps lacking social boundaries; you envisage quite a loner-figure man; someone who probably means no real harm- the type of human that we all encounter occasionally. Being a trusting and warm person I often come into contact with the stranger element in society. Jeff Buckley- in an interview conducted before his death- stated he has had a similar issue: a “freak magnet” that attracted the weird and plain wacky wherever he went. In spite of the quasi-lightheartedness of the situation; the vocal and performance has a seriousness and intensity that reflects real fear and anger. Williams keeps her beats under-the-radar and nuanced- making sure there is an underlying nervousness and danger- whilst Tohill ensures her guitar is appropriately spiky and fraught. Both girls lend their voices in the words “you watch me/you watch me”- augmenting that sense of discomfort and creepiness. One of the greatest things about the song- in the early exchanges it is apparent- is how evocative and picturesque it is. Tohill has kept her language simple but effective; employing her words carefully to ensure you relate to the song and can appreciate what it is saying. Maybe the song’s villain has ideals and false expectations- perhaps he thinks his sense of allure is working magic- but our heroine has other ideas. Maybe pegging her for a ingénue and easy-to-conquer woman; we have a strong lead that will not take any of that crap- that declarative and rebellious personality is reflected in the vocal. Having found herself in a dangerous and unusual situation; other women may call the police or run- some might shout or confront the man. Our girl is simply flexing her death yawn- a new term that got my curious. If you Google the term ‘death yawn’ you get some rather humorous search results. The top few pose questions such as ‘Can someone die by yawning?’- something that worried me as I yawn non-stop. Another looked at how some people- when they have just died- let out a final yawn. I thought there was an actually phenomenon known as a death yawn; it is an apt term that mixes boredom and amusement with something menacing. Whilst Tohill lets her voice become lighter and more open- less tense than during the verses- Williams evokes the sound of said yawn- whilst keeping her drumming avalanching and attacking. Our lead gives the lyrics such a passionate delivery; her guitar burns and summons plenty of emotion. Having been cornered and stalked by this man- perhaps he is mentally undressing our heroine- the next verse looks at false expectations and misread signals. Our lead asks him “What is in your head?”- those words are slowed and stretched to give the impression of anger and confusion- and why he is acting this way.
Perhaps a man who has trouble with women- or has seen a relationship end recently- they may be ideas of a hook-up or relationship in his mind. The duo project a stunning quiet-loud dynamic that gives the song unexpectedness and contrasts. Letting her voice climb; Tohill is facing her man down and giving him the brush-off- he thinks he is worthy of her; that is certainly not the case. The guy claims to be just flirty; that is not what she sees- here is a figure that may not take ‘no’ for an answer. Getting angrier and less patient with every second; our lead sees it as “just creepy”- she wants the man to “stay the hell away from me”. The guitar-and-drum combination works wonderfully in evoking that sense of unease and nervousness; the anger and stress that is being felt. Before you start to guess the next step- and whether our heroine took her anger to the guy; walked away- that chorus comes back in and provides a little relief. Not one to back away and let the man get the better; that death yawn is unleashed and doing its work. With the second introduction the chorus seems even more addictive and captivating. The girls unite their instruments to give a raucous and sparkling whole- that has plenty of bounce and melody into the mix. At every stage the song sees a strong woman that is not going to let this man get the better of her. Ramping-up the volume and attack; becoming heavier and more direct- a wordless vocal come through; adding to that sense of unrest and unease. Our heroine wants the man to go away; the situation is becoming more fraught and disturbing- perhaps the guy has followed Tohill wherever she goes. Perhaps tolerating his quirks to be begin with; events have taken a turn and there is a tangible danger that has come in. Before the song comes to its end we get that chorus coming back in: The pop upbeat and Rock grit parabond wonderfully; nuanced and compelling you to sing along with it. I presume things worked out for the best- Tohill did manage to get away unscathed- but I was curious exactly how a resolution was created. Maybe the man got bored and got the message; perhaps word were had in the end- whatever it was; it has resulted in a wonderful and hugely memorable song.
You cannot deny the chemistry and bond Tohill and Williams have. Not having been friends for that long; they sound as though they’ve been mates for years- such is the connection within the music. Most new duos take time to find their feet and get into the groove; needing months on the road to get that discipline and togetherness cemented- REWS have this already; Death Yawn showcases the musicians at their very peak. Harrowing and unusual events can cause scars and bad memories; they can lead people to make bad decisions- if they result in great music; that is something almost cathartic. Tohill may have been keen to flee Edinburgh after her strange encounter; not willing to reflect too much on it- I am glad that fateful day/night has lead where it has. Healed and comfortable after the fact; you have a musical moment that shows originality and plenty of bite. Straying away from love and loss; here you have a duo that taps a rich vein and not-often-trod road. By harnessing and exploiting their misfortune and weird encounters; they are fresh and unique- few other acts can claim that distinction. The production values on the track allow it to be gritty and Punk-sounding. It is never polished or too gleaming; the sound allows those ragged edges and Rock rebelliousness to radiate. Tohill demonstrates herself to be one of the most impressive songwriters around. As a lyricist she mixes everyday language and simplicity with something personal and original- culminating in a song that simultaneously resonates directly and inspires you to imagine. As the song was playing I let my imagination run wild; got inside the song and tried to picture the situations as they unfolded. Although Shauna can best describe her unwanted admirer; each listener is free to drawn their own conclusions and story-line- such is the weight and drama of the song. As a guitarist she adds enormous authority and stun to the song. It might even have been nice to see her cut loose during the song; maybe unleash a solo at the half-way point- to highlight that sense of nervousness and distress. Her performance through Death Yawn is exhilarating and emotional without being overwrought and too heavy. Collette Williams lends her voice too; backing her sister musician and adding etherealness and passion to the piece. I would love to hear Williams’ voice exploited more on future releases; she has a beautiful and strong voice- perhaps the duo will link up vocally in future cuts. As a percussionist Williams adds plenty of oomph, attack and power- apologies my terminology is not as descriptive as it could be- ensuring the vocal and guitar is given appropriate support and drive. There are few female drummers working in new music; Williams stands out as one of the most vibrant and talented around. The girls have a simpatico and shared passion that has resulted in a tight and mesmerising song. Off the back of a rather unseemly experience we have a song that expertly blends Punk and Rock savagery with melody and Pop uplift- a perfect concoction that fizzes, explodes and seduces.
Few people can deny the importance of new music and the artists coming through. The mainstream has produced some great albums/acts this year- the finest records have come from non-U.K. acts; straying away from Pop and Rock- and has left 2015 with a high. This year there is uncertainty about the ‘big albums’ coming through- which legendary acts are releasing records; whether any great new acts are unveiling albums. What I do know is there is a lot of passion and movement in the underground. So many hot and hungry young acts are planting their flags and making their claims. The bands are doing what they do; there are some fantastic ones emerging right now- there are also quite a few mediocre and plain horrible ones too. The same could be applied to solo acts; the quality is variable yet the best of them are going to be names to watch for sure. What I love about music is the sheer diversity of sounds you can discover. Whatever your proclivities and tastes; however you like music presented to you- there are options a-plenty; you will never be short-changed. What is going to be interesting is to see the duos emerging through the scene in 2016. Always second-best to bands and solo acts- third-best I guess; semantics be damned- there is so much brilliance and quality to be found in their ranks. Being in the minority they always have to fight harder; allow those gilded and strong relationships to do the talking- critics and the media are always going to favour the bands and solo artists. With the likes of REWS coming through; I am sure other musicians out there will want to form duos- follow in their footsteps and take inspiration.
The thing with duos is that central relationship has to be rock-solid and unwavering. Whereas bands have four or more members- there are buffers and safety in numbers to an extent- the solo artist is just them alone- it is harder to break them up and cause dissolution. With the duos there is less breathing room. A great deal of duos is either terrific friends or lovers- they have that solid connection that means already stamped. Our London duo met last year and have been making music ever since; there is a wonderful connection and friendship- it results in some tremendous music. It is perhaps unusual to see a female duo that play Pop-Rock- preferring the heavier side of things. I hope that more like-minded duos come along as REWS are among the most arresting and stunning acts of the moment. With Tohill providing an exhilarating and impassioned lead; Williams that stunning beat-maker- you have a duo that will inspire many. Before concluding I wanted to come back to themes of Pop-Rock and song subject matter- a bit about what is to come this year in music. Last year provided some wonderfully rich and diverse acts- I was amazed by the confidence and quality of so many- but this year is starting off with a bang. I can see some soon-to-be-legends making their mark and making their way through the ranks. With so much competition and players out there; the pressure at its very peak- who are going to be the musicians making their name heard come December? If you want something that strays away from predictable mainstream sounds- to give something edgier and more original- then there is plenty to choose from. With a lot of genres becoming more gentrified; others not up to their past standards- the arena of Pop-Rock is starting to rise and impress. Marrying the harder and heavier Rock elements together with something more dance-able, let’s say. REWS are that duo that perfectly blends these sides together. They make music to dance to and get lost inside; sounds that compel you to lose yourself in the moment- they do not concatenate on getting the sound right. Their lyrics look at everyday issues; not just focusing on love and relationship strife. Because of this; so many fans and followers have taken the music to heart- it will lead to a very successful year for the girls. London is a busy and never-ending centre for great music and intrigue. It is hard to get on top of all the great London artists coming through; it is the area to watch as we go through 2016. Our intrepid duo is among the capital’s biggest up-and-coming artists; it will be interesting to see what move they make next. I know there will be touring and more radio appearances coming through. Given the strength of the song- and the fact they are have a fond affection for one another- that will surely translate into new tunes and fresh promise. Listeners and fans are hungry so we shall see what the girls have in mind. Death Yawn is a song that looks at seedy characters and stalker-type figures that can be found on every street- perhaps a harsh reality but one the girls utilise to stunning effect. If you have not heard the track then it’s the perfect starting gambit from a duo with a huge future ahead. Extraordinary musicians and writers with an unbreakable bond; such an original and fresh sound- I cannot wait to hear what comes next. Death Yawn may produce images of lifelessness and boredom but when it comes to our Irish-English girls, their music is far from it-
IT’s filled with life and hugely exciting.