Interview: Tuskens

Photo Credit: Roberto Martinez-Cowles

Heartbreak, loss and the lack of acceptance to growing older are common themes in the world of pop punk but for Bristol outfit Tuskens their style rides on the coattails of thorough honesty, yet takes on an alternative perspective. New single ‘Paperweight’ borders on thinning patience and not wanting to change for the benefit of others.

The quintet are preparing to release their third EP, ‘No Easy Way To Say This’, and promises to be their more cohesive release yet. With a broadening sound and lyrical approach, Tuskens have all the traits of moving on to bigger things. Rooted firmly in the pop punk genre, songs like ‘Paperweight’ and ‘Dissolve’ are buoyant with intricate, favourable melodies. Whilst their unrelenting approach play shows when and where ever possible shows their hunger to succeed. They’re set to head out on a short UK tour with fellow emerging pop punk groups Best Years and Catch Fire in April.

As they release the video for ‘Paperweight’, Already Heard spoke to bassist Ashley Holbrook to find out more about Tuskens, the new EP, touring, and more.

AH: We hear Tuskens formed after you had played in bands in the Bristol area. How did the band come together?
We’ve each always been involved in bands in the Bristol area ever since we’ve known each other, in fact that’s how we know each other. Matt (Jenkinson – Drums) and Jack (Hewett – Guitar) have always been in and out of bands together so their playing chemistry is really comfortable. Old bands started to fall apart, but the guys that started Tuskens still had a drive to be in a serious band, so Tuskens was born. I joined recently on bass but have known the band for years.

AH: So with two EP’s under your belt, you’re set to release a new EP (‘No Easy Way To Say This’) on April 7th. What can you tell us about it?
Ashley: This EP is definitely more of a collaborative process. That’s not to say the others weren’t, but a lot of this EP was written with us all together in a practice room or at someone’s house. I think the music reflects the joint effort it took to make it. It sounds more like Tuskens than Tuskens ever have. Musically we have developed to incorporate the style of each member in the right way.

AH: The EP is preceded by a track called ‘Paperweight’. For new listeners, would you consider the track a good starting point to Tuskens’ style?
Ashley:I would definitely consider it an introduction for new listeners. As I’ve said, this EP is more “us” than we’ve been before and ‘Paperweight’ is sort of a summary of that. Its upbeat and energetic but the lyrics are really heartfelt and desperate. That’s Tuskens in a nutshell.

AH: It also follows up a single, ‘Dissolve’, that was released late last year. Do both tracks give fans an idea of what the new EP sounds like?
Ashley: They definitely do but there is still more to be heard. We’ve tried to broaden our style slightly with this EP so there is definitely some stuff people haven’t heard, but the same old Tuskens style is in there too.

‘Dissolve’ was the first song written with the new line up, which we think forced the song to sound fresh, at least to us, which was really inspiring.

Video produced by Out Of The Can Production.

AH: Do you consider the last two EP’s stepping stones to where Tuskens are now? Did they help find your feet as a band?
Ashley: Yes they definitely are! Writing and releasing new music is all about progression, and as long as with each EP we progress then that defines each EP as a point in time where we were a certain way, but have moved on since then if that makes any sense. Also those EP’s allowed us to play some really cool shows and meet some really cool people so in that way they are definitely stepping stones.

AH: With this being your third EP, how has Tuskens evolved on this release?
Ashley: We made a deliberate attempt to write this music together, that way the outcome could only be an accurate representation of us. It was something we created together and are all proud of whether listeners enjoy it or not. For any gear nerds out there, we experimented a lot more with head and cab choices, we used a lot of pedals and we spent a lot of time mixing, as we produced this EP ourselves. The use of pedals created a unique sound that cannot be recreated easily.

AH: Did recording the EP yourselves make you a more cohesive unit?
Ashley: For sure. We learned how to be constructively critical with each other over everything. Being able to be open about how you feel about a certain song/song name/guitar part etc only means the song will be come out better. Of course spending a lot of time together brings you closer together as friends too.

AH: Lyrically where are you coming from on these new songs?
Ashley: Lyrically the songs are very honest, which is in keeping with the lyrical themes of previous releases. However, this time we wanted to look at similar themes from different angles. ‘Dissolve’ is a song about a break up, but its also about what it’s like to be the person doing the breaking up, and in making that choice, realising that all things come to an end, good or bad.

AH: We’re constantly reading and hearing about emerging UK pop punk bands. What makes Tuskens, if anything, different?
Ashley: I’ve mentioned it a couple of times now but I think it’s the honesty. We are open and honest with our music, with our lyrics and our general lifestyle as a band. I’m not saying other UK pop punk bands aren’t honest, but I’d say that was our defining attribute, and hopefully that resonates with people enough that they can relate to us.

AH: You seem like a band who are more than willing to get out and play shows. How vital is having that work ethic for a band in Tuskens’ position?
Ashley: We look at playing shows as just another branch of the band, we have the part where we sit together and write, where we record, where we do interviews like this (which we enjoy) and we play shows. Each part is just as important as the next. Playing shows is vital if you want people to see you play live, but its also vital in showing people that you aren’t afraid to squeeze in a van, in the freezing cold weather and go and play some shows around the country, whether its a turn out of 1 or 100.

AH: In April you’re touring with Best Years and Catch Fire. Because the UK pop punk scene is constantly producing new bands, does it make it easier to get out there and tour?
Ashley: Something we’ve realised is that the UK Pop Punk scene not only produces amazing new bands, it produces bands that are made up of really nice people that are easy to be around when playing shows together. This makes it so much more enjoyable to get together and play some cool shows. We just did a weekender with Fierce Morgan and had loads of fun with those guys. So yeah it does make it easier.

AH: That tour coincides with the EP release. What can people expect from a Tuskens show?
Ashley: Lots of spins, lots of energy, new songs and cowbell.

AH: We are always keen to hear about a bands local music scene. How would you consider the state of Bristol’s scene right now?
Ashley: The best thing about Bristol’s music scene, and possibly the reason people move here to pursue music, is that there is such a diversity among musicians here. There are so many “scenes” and within those scenes there are well known bands that have been around for ages and new bands that are just up and coming. There’s always someone to go and see at any of Bristol’s cool venues. I’d say the scene is thriving just as much as it always has been, it just might not be immediately obvious outside of your preferred scene.

Tuskens links: Facebook|Twitter|YouTube

Already Heard Presents: Best Years & Tuskens with Catch Fire
1st Zoo, Manchester
2nd Rewind, Wrexham
3rd The Hop, Sheffield
4th Wagon & Horses, Birmingham

Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)

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