MILLIE MANDERS OF MILLIE MANDERS AND THE SHUTUP
By Erin Marie 22/8/18
Having seen Millie Manders and the Shutup perform at Rebellion this past month, before the end of their first song, I knew I HAD to interview Millie! The set was so charged, passionate, fun and the music and presentation done so well, that it is clear this is a woman and group to be reckoned with! Formed in 2015, Millie and the Shutup have released two EP’s, The Free-P and Obsession Transgression, to critical acclaim. Their latest EP, SHUTUP is being released September 21, and having heard a few songs off it played at Rebellion, it’s going to be a great record! Cross-genre punk is what they create. Combining ska, punk, rock, dance and grindcore all in one band. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see them live yet, the article includes their tour dates through the end of this year (of which there are plenty, so no excuses!)… so get up and go!
Erin: Hi Millie!
Erin: Have you recovered from Rebellion and everything?
Millie: It took me a few days to get over BoomTown (they played the BoomTown Fair in Hampshire right after Rebellion,) but I’m ok now.
Erin: How was that?
Millie: It was amazing. For me, it was four sets in three days at two festivals. I came home literally with no voice for about four days.
Erin: I bet you just collapsed in bed!
Millie: Pretty much. I had to stop all work and just sleep for a day but it was very much worth it.
Erin: I’ve read that you started your musical journey at the age of five. How did you end up so musically inclined? What made you want to play music?
Millie: I grew up in a very musical household and there was always music playing. My dad was always buying the latest releases and my mom was very much into culturing us with classical music, old school R&B and soul. We were constantly listening to different styles of music. I say ‘we’ because I’ve got three sisters. My mom felt it was very important that if we wanted to have some form of extracurricular activity, that we did. I loved playing the recorder at primary school and I ended up having a few piano lessons and that’s where it really started. I hated the piano.
Millie: Yes. That two-handed business, doing different things at the same time, just awful. When I was seven I discovered the clarinet listening to Acker Bilk. I was told I shouldn’t be playing the clarinet because at seven your hands are too small to handle the instrument and I should wait until I was nine. But I persevered anyway as I am a very determined person. If I want to do something, I bloody well will! By the time I was eleven, I had passed my grade five.
Erin: How many instruments do you play?
Millie: I haven’t played the clarinet in many years so if I picked that up now, it would take me a bit to get back to the standard I was at. Currently, I play saxophone, ukulele and vocal.
Erin: I thought your saxophone playing at Rebellion was fantastic! I took notice of that.
Millie: Thank you very much. I wouldn’t say its “fantastic.” I’m more at an intermediate level. My sax players in the band are so good and I get them to sound check my saxophone because I am quite frankly embarrassed to do it myself!
Erin: Speaking of the band, how did you assemble your current line up?
Millie: It’s been a real journey of working with lots of different musicians. I went solo in 2011 and the second year I was solo I started using session musicians, the third year I tried to piece together a solid band and that line up changed several times and has changed again recently. I do now have a solid six people around me that are brilliant. They come from all over. I’ve met people at jam nights; I’ve met people through FreeAds in Gumtree. I met my trumpet player because I reviewed him and his band The Stiff Joints for The Punk Archive. My saxophonist saw him busking in the street in Brixton when we were looking for a trumpet player so I gave him my card and he got in contact with me. I love that the punk industry is quite small and that everybody sort of knows everybody and you end up finding really good friends and great musicians just by meeting people within the scene. I’ve found most of my musicians in those kinds of circumstances and it’s wonderful.
Erin: I met your drummer Alessandro and he’s a really nice guy! He was the one that introduced me to you after your set at Rebellion.
Millie: He met us coming to one of our gigs. I had a session drummer at the time and Alessandro messaged me and said, “I can do it better.”
Erin: Good for him! Who are your influences today?
Millie: I would say that the influences I have vocally have remained the same for many years and that would be people like Gwen Stefani, Aretha Franklin, Dolores O’ Riordan, Skin from Skunk Anansie. Big, strong, independent and very unique vocalists. I’ve always loved things that really punch through. In terms of musically today, bands I’m really enjoying are Stand Atlantic, Dream State. I love Feed the Rhino because I love melodic metal and I think that comes through in a lot of the guitars that we have. Alex is very much a pop-punk guy and he absolutely adores bands like Blink-182 and Neck Deep. A lot of our unsigned friends’ bands we find ourselves looking up to them and taking stock from the crazy stuff that they’re doing. There’s a band called Riskee and the Ridicule that are just incredible. They are sort of a grime-punk mix. There’s also Popes of Chillitown that use very mathematical rhythms in their songwriting. I feel like at the moment there is so much incredible underground music that is so fresh and exciting that it’s important to look at those bands first rather than looking to the bands that are just recycling or rehashing what we’ve already heard for quite some time.
Erin: I agree with you. When I was over in the UK this summer, I discovered there is a ton of new music in all different genres. I was blown away by all the types of musical experimentation that is going on and newer artists exploring uncharted musical realms instead of just taking the same old safe road. I think it’s really important and that it needs to be taken more notice of. What inspires you to make music?
Millie: All sorts of things. I think the best inspiration for me has always been anger. Anything that gets on my nerves is something that I’ll easily be able to write about. Anger is one of the most passionate feelings, isn’t it? I’ve never been one for love songs. I just can’t write them. As much I’d love to be one of those pop kinds of writers and making millions from writing love songs for other people, I just can’t. Anger is my absolute favourite. If you irritate me I will immortalize you. And that’s how it goes really. It can be political, it can be personal, and it can just be social commentary or what I observe.
Erin: Have you experienced any challenges in the recording, booking, promotion, and touring industry being a strong and empowered female?
Millie: I’m very ballsy and I don’t take shit lightly and I do not suffer fools. I’ve got a load of management experience in my background so I’m used to being quite vocal. If somebody treats me in any way, shape or form differently than they would a male they get my wrath straight away. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing I can’t say, but at least I’m usually eloquent about it. Yes, there are still problems in the industry. I have problems with regards to people trying to touch me inappropriately or taking advantage of me giving them a hug but I call that out more and more these days in order not just to put them in their place, but to show other women in the industry that it’s ok to say something about it if something is drastically wrong. I think I’m quite lucky that I don’t get treated like a weak, little waif because I’m so gutsy and I present myself as someone quite forward and take-no-shit. It can be a blessing and a curse.
Erin: I completely understand. I always ask that question to my female interview subjects in the industry to sort of get it out there and show what women musicians have to deal with sometimes.
Millie: I think women in the industry in general still have to deal with this stigma that if you are a strong, outspoken woman, you’re seen as this feminazi. Whereas a strong, outspoken man is just seen as independent.
Erin: Or just “climbing the ladder” of whatever success they are trying to achieve.
Millie: Exactly. It is a stigma that women are breaking down quite quickly. It’s more acceptable to be an outspoken woman these days as opposed to twenty years ago, which is lovely and really cool to see happening.
Erin: Whether it has to do with gender or sexuality, there are so many walls that are starting to come down. I have to applaud the younger generation who have taken a harsher stance against and brought certain injustices to light. It’s really fantastic to see.
Millie: It’s a very exciting time to be in any industry with regards to that sort of thing at the moment. Obviously, there are still some horrific things going on out there. We are in a very exciting time socially where things are starting to really change and it’s great.
Erin: What are you currently working on?
Millie: Currently, I’m concentrating on the promotional train of the new EP. “SHUTUP” is being released September 21. We do have some writing sessions booked later this year, so we are going to start writing again pretty much straight away once the EP is released to keep the momentum rolling. We have twenty-four dates coming up before the end of the year. My main focus at the moment is making sure the logistics of the tour are sorted, hotels and travel situations as well as the PR for all of that. It’s completely DIY at the moment. We’ve only just started working with a few smaller, independent labels so everything is still very much in our hands. We will be working on new material very shortly.
Erin: What’s your favourite song to play live?
Millie: At the moment, it is “One That Got Away,” which is the lead single on the new EP and a really fun one to sing and I get to jump around a lot. Second to that would be “Right to Life,” which is the opening track, because I often go out into the audience and have a little skank after the acapella bit is finished.
Erin: What do you prefer? Vinyl, CD, cassette or digital music and why?
Millie: Cassettes I don’t really play anymore. I got rid of all of mine a long time ago. I thought about going to car boots and picking some more up but the quality of the tape is horrible. Trying to bring back cassettes is really a bit of a niche or for the vintage aspect of it.
Erin: Thank you! That’s what I keep telling new bands, especially in America, as the quality sucks!
Millie: It’s awful but it also deteriorates really quickly. The more you play it, the more that tape gets stretched out and it really doesn’t have a very long shelf life. Vinyl does deteriorate but nowhere near the same way as cassettes. I think vinyl is fantastic because of the warmth and the crackle that you get and it’s really lovely to hear on a record player when you’re chilling at home. Digital by all standards is just so easy. You get the quality of the recording from the studio consistently every time you listen to it. There’s so much merit in that at the moment. There is still too much focus on that golden era (in music sales,) where people think you have to have physical sales. I think physical sales are fantastic at gigs, as a memento. I pick up CDs from many bands. I’ve just ordered another vinyl from an unsigned band called Eat Defeat who you totally should check out. There’s a quote I always come back to when I’m talking to bands that are sort of lamenting the loss of the golden era of physical sales, and it was David Bowie back in 2002 in a New York Times interview who predicted that “Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. It’s terribly exciting. But on the other hand, it doesn’t matter if you think it’s exciting or not; it’s what’s going to happen.” He predicted that would be the way the music industry would move forward. I think people need to realize that everything should be going into that digital stream and we should be thinking about how to maximize that and how to get more of it out to the people that really want to hear it. A lot of kids these days don’t go see live music, or if they do, they’ve listened to you first online, haven’t they?
Erin: Yes, exactly! Do you think the internet enhances or destroys the creativity of the mind?
Millie: It depends on which way you’re using the internet, I guess. Yes, I would say there is a massive drop in creativity if you constantly have to be online. I, myself struggle sometimes to be creative because so much of my life is spent doing the marketing and PR of the band. You end up going down the rabbit hole of Facebook or YouTube and watching a video of a cat getting fed a cucumber and then later you wonder where your life went.
Erin: I call it the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole effect.
Millie: The Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole was probably more interesting. I think there is a massive danger if you don’t have the discipline to reign yourself in, which then allows your creativity to completely diminish what you do as an artist.
Erin: Great answer! Thank you so much for doing this interview with me and I cannot wait for the new EP and also see you guys live some more!
Millie: You’re welcome! See you soon!
PR: Domino PR/Steph Knight
Twitter : @milliemanders
IG : @milliemanders