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The Rew model

Shauna Tohill of Rews tells David Hennessy about supporting The Darkness, rocking Glastonbury and that girls can play guitar.

She has toured with Snow Patrol and lent her music to a Northern Irish tourism campaign. Now Shauna Tohill from Derry and Rews are touring the UK as support to rock powerhouse The Darkness.

Shauna told The Irish World she’s enjoying being on the road with Justin Hawkins and the lads: “It’s really fun. It’s just been nice to be on a longer tour with an awesome big band. I think it’s just the beginning really and hopefully there will be more which would be awesome.”

Shauna told us the support slot came their way from a cheeky question she put to guitarist, Dan Hawkins when they happened to be staying in the same hotel for a promotional gig: “We became quite friendly with him and I just happened to mention one day, ‘Dan, are you going on any tours at the end of the year or anything?’ And he was like, ‘Actually yeah, we’re just about to announce our headline tour’. And I was like, ‘Oh, if you still need a support band, we would be totally up for it’. He was like, ‘Yeah, that sounds cool’. Didn’t think anything more of it and then about four weeks later, we got the offer and here we are.”

Shauna has previously recorded as Silhouette and the track Can’t Keep Up was chosen for a Northern Irish tourism campaign. She also toured with Snow Patrol doing their backing vocals. She came to London in 2015 to start her new project and formed Rews.

“London gave me the inspiration to work my butt off and just make stuff happen. I really believe that if you believe in something enough, things work with you to make it happen.”

She was joined in Rews by drummer Collette Williams.

“We met our manager at our second gig in London. It was very, very lucky that things kind of kicked off as quickly as they did.”

The duo recorded the band’s first album Pyro which was released to critical acclaim in 2017.

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The success of Pyro earned the band a spot at Glastonbury. How was that for an experience? “It was amazing, it was just class. We had done a gig at Glastonbury the year before but it was at like 2am and it was in the backstage area. To go from there to being on the John Peel Stage playing to an entirely full tent was absolutely mind blowing. It was definitely one of the memories I’ll have on my death bed, I think.”

BBC’s Mark Radcliffe  gushed about Rews being one of the festival’s highlights and called them a ‘female Royal Blood’: “It’s nice to be compared to Royal Blood, it’s just the female thing sometimes is not great.”

This is something that Shauna has had to deal with since she started playing music. She has said before that she has been carrying in her gear to play when she has heard comments like ‘they’re girls, they’re going to be crap’: “It was certainly a thing when I was younger.

“I grew up in a predominantly female family. I’ve got three sisters and my mum and the whole stereotype thing was never really a thing for me because my mum was doing all the DIY and things that now I hear are more men tasks.

“I think for a long time whenever I was carrying in big heavy amps, I was just learning from my mother basically so whenever I was walking into different bars with big heavy amps and people were like, ‘Oh, look, isn’t that cute? The girlfriends are carrying their boyfriends’ gear’. And I was like, ‘What? Why would you even think that?’ It just really baffled me. I wasn’t offended. I was more just like, ‘You’re obviously stupid’.

“It just became a bit stranger after a while. I was like, ‘Oh people genuinely believe this. Well, I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing. Hopefully people will realise that girls do play instruments and carry their own gear’.

“I think there’s a lot more of it than people realise. I think you just have to get on with it because there are going to be people who have opinions about everybody and you have to keep doing what you do.

“There have been some people who are like, ‘Oh wow, you make a lot of noise for two little girls’. I’m like, ‘Okay, you make a lot of noise for one big man’.”

Collette left the band at the start of the year: “Collette was in the band for four years and we had great times together. It was all amicable. We just decided to separate at the start of this year.”

Rews is now a three piece with Ele Lucas on bass and Scott Hislop on drums making up the line-up.

From Magherafelt, Shauna had an early experience with TV talent shows when she was invited to audition for Channel 4’s Musicool but lost interest when they wouldn’t let her play guitar: “I think the music industry is not suited to people who want to do it just because they want praise for something, you have to do it because you love it and you have a real passion for it because it becomes more of a way of life.

“I think that’s the kind of attitude I’ve been going with the whole time, just working my butt off to hopefully spread positive words and music, that’s kind of my inspiration. I want to help people with my music so even if that is just a couple of people in the audience, that’s made my day but if I become successful, that’s even better. “

Traditional singer Eileen Donaghy is Shauna’s grandmother.

Shauna comes from a famous musical family with her maternal grandmother being the renowned traditional singer from Tyrone Eileen Donaghy. Eileen was known for ballads like The Oul Lammas Fair and married Tyrone footballer Pat Donaghy: “My grandmother was really well known. She toured all over America and everywhere. My mum and dad were in bands growing up. My mum is a wonderful singer and my dad is an amazing guitarist.”

Anthony Tohill won an All-Ireland with Derry.

Shauna has more relations who are well known from GAA. Her uncle Plunkett Donaghy won three Ulster titles with Tyrone. She is also related more distantly to Anthony Tohill who won an All-Ireland with Derry in 1991 and Anton Tohill who is in Australia with AFL Club Collingwood.

However, that doesn’t mean Shauna can play herself: “Unfortunately I’m really terrible, can’t play to save my life.”

Rews are touring the UK with The Darkness, the play The Roundhouse in London on Friday 20 December.

Rews also play Camden Assembly on 19 March 2020.

For more information, go to rewsmusic.com

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