The Smears


Sadie Rees Hales interviewed The Smears


The Smears are an upcoming tour de force in the Nottingham music scene. For some, being an all-girl punk group would perhaps be enough to make them stand out. With The Smears, however, add to this the fact that all three are highly attractive ladies who know how to rock and you start to understand why they regularly leave Notts crowds whooping and screaming for more. The band members are Emma O’Neil (guitar/vocals), Colette Hutton (drums) and Natalie Caulton (bass). After a few years of regular appearances at Junktion 7 and The Old Angel, they’re starting to branch out to other cities. We caught up with them to find out what the fuss is about…

Describe your music to people who haven’t seen you gig yet.. .
Emma: Like climbing over anti-vandal grease and getting a little bit on your clothes.
Colette: Punk with a bit of grunge.
Natalie: I’d scream until it’s clean, but I’d stop breathing.

What are your biggest achievements since you started playing together?
Emma: Playing gigs with hangovers! That’s an achievement in itself. Apart from that, I think another is getting to meet Jennifer Finch (from L7), because we were meant to support her band.
Colette: Playing with the UK Subs.
Natalie: Being Demo of the Week
in Organ magazine in London.

What is your favourite Nottingham venue to gig at?
Emma: Junction 7 or the Old Angel.
Natalie: The Old Angel. the punk vibe there is cool.
Colette: I agree with Nat, the Old Angel.
What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you at a gig?
Colette: Breaking my toe, just after we played.
Emma: Breaking someone’s toe just after we played.
Natalie: Watching someone break someone’s toe just after we played.

Do you feel sexism is still prevalent in the music industry?
Emma: Yes there is sexism in the music scene and industry, but it is discriminatory to ask us that. I can only be myself and if that helps, so be it. I get mistaken for a feminist all the time, but I grew up in a matriarchal family and have always been surrounded by strong women. I didn’t know anything about feminism until I was about twenty, and I still don’t have my head round it. I’m never going to answer this question again!

Despite all that’s going on in the world, many ‘punk’ bands no longer have a political opinion or message. What’s gone wrong?
Emma: With punk or politics?
Colette: Every individual has their own political views and opinions. It doesn’t mean we want to write about it all the time.
Emma: Are you referring to the new ‘punk’ bands that sing about looking up people’s skirts? They are just a joke, an embarrassing joke that has gone on way too long. Those bands are just puppets, like Take That with guitars.
Natalie: Real punks would not write about getting a ticket out of ‘loserville’. I feel dirty wearing a wrist sweatband nowadays!


You did a gig with UK Subs. How nerve-wracking was that?
Colette: It wasn’t too bad. It was our first gig after having a couple of months off and we were so happy to be playing again. We loved every minute of it.
Emma: It was brilliant! It was nerve-wracking playing so far away from ‘home’ but the crowd were so appreciative. I didn’t say more than two words to Charlie Harper though. I couldn’t think of anything to say. To be honest, I wasn’t that nervous… I get nervous at the smallest of gigs. I think we are supporting them again in January at Junktion 7.
Natalie: We had such a good time with The Subs, they’re brilliant fun. I had jawache from laughing!

Emma, you were the assistant director of The Diary Of Anne Frank at the Notts Arts Theatre. Which is more of a creative release, directing or music?
Emma: It was my first experience of directing and it was so good! I worked with a really good director, Nicola Curzon, who I’m hoping to work with again. We put so much into it. It was really great to be able to create something and then stand right back and watch it and see
people’s reactions to it.

There’s another band called The Smears in America. Ever heard of them?
Emma: I hadn’t even heard of them until we started this band. I did try and discuss the use of the name with them but I only got one email telling me to talk to such and such. They never got back to me so that’s why we put UK at the end of our name. But of course, we’re better!

Any words of wisdom for people thinking about starting a band?
Colette: Steer clear from egos and don’t be afraid to do what you want.
Natalie: Find the right people. These two girls are too cool!
Emma: Do what you think you should, not what other people tell you to do. Do your research, don’t forget to write set lists and do a checklist for your equipment before you leave the house. Return calls and always bite off more than you can chew.


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