Tuff Love’s creative harmony

Julie Eisenstein (guitar/vocals) and Suse Bear (bass/vocals), write and record lo-fi pop songs. Picture: Graeme RobertsonJulie Eisenstein (guitar/vocals) and Suse Bear (bass/vocals), write and record lo-fi pop songs. Picture: Graeme Robertson
Julie Eisenstein (guitar/vocals) and Suse Bear (bass/vocals), write and record lo-fi pop songs. Picture: Graeme Robertson
Tuff Love’s infectious, catchy songs are bringing them the kind of notice that leads to big things, says Paul Whitelaw

‘I’M IN my pyjamas and we smell great!” This cosy, scented scene is where we find Glasgow fuzz-pop duo Tuff Love. Having just returned from their first gig of 2015, they’re in the mood for some homely calm.

It’s in this very flat that Tuff Love, alias Julie Eisenstein (guitar/vocals) and Suse Bear (bass/vocals), write and record their wonderfully infectious lo-fi pop songs. If you thought there was no mileage left in the quiet/loud dynamic, then just take a listen to a perfectly formed Tuff Love tune such as Slammer. It’s typical in that it rides an irresistible wave of distorted guitar and blissful female harmonies. It’s also catchy as hell.

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Given how young they are, their talent is almost alarming. Therefore it’s hardly surprising that former Fence Records chief Johnny Lynch, aka The Pictish Trail, signed them to his Eigg-based indie label Lost Map almost as soon as he discovered them on Soundcloud.

According to the band, it was simply a case of him approaching them and offering to release a record on vinyl. “We were like, okay! Great!” they exclaim, almost in unison.

That record was the Junk E.P., which was released to enormous acclaim in discerning circles last May. Pop-picking taste-makers such as Lauren Laverne, Steve Lamacq and Vic Galloway now count themselves as fans.

A charmingly self-effacing duo, they haven’t been turned by all this adulation. “It’s really hard to know how to respond appropriately,” admits Julie. “It’s quite difficult with negative things,” adds Suse, “because obviously we’re so personally involved. But having people react to your creations, whether it’s positive or negative, it’s still exciting.”

The Tuff Love adventure began a few years ago when they met through mutual friends at a party. Well, almost. “We didn’t actually speak to each other because we were too shy,” explains Suse. Their musical connection didn’t occur until a year after that first, faltering meeting.

Having recently seen her old band disintegrate, Suse was keen to find new collaborators. “Someone suggested I should jam with Julie, because Julie writes songs. The first time I went round it turned out she already had loads of them written.”

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While they were instantly united by a shared musical vision, they were not, as has often been assumed, influenced by their forebears in the Glasgow indie scene. They may sound like they were raised on a diet of C86 bands such as The Shop Assistants, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“I hadn’t actually heard The Shop Assistants until someone mentioned them,” says Suse. “I suppose people compare us because it’s soft singing and fuzzy guitars? I think it’s a nice mix, especially live, having loud instruments and quiet singing. Melodies and harmonies are where it’s at.”

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While Tuff Love aren’t knowingly indebted to those cherished 1980s bands, they do embrace their DIY sensibility. Hence why they’re a perfect fit for Lost Map. Such is his passionate belief in the band, Johnny Lynch – “and his magic charm” – has taken the unusual step of writing several adulatory, handwritten notes to journalists and DJs.

“He’s got no dignity, you see,” laughs Julie. “But he works really hard,” adds Suse. “Because we come from the same kind of set of DIY ethics, it’s nicer just to get in touch with people in person.”

While their music speaks for itself, Lynch has certainly done wonders for them in the last year. They’ve already embarked on tours of the UK and mainland Europe, and played countless summer festivals. The biggest one of all, however, wasn’t exactly a defining moment for Suse.

Glastonbury was amazing, but I found it very overwhelming. It’s just so big. I’d never even been to anything like that in my life, and I was playing there. Going to it would’ve been one thing, but I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I should’ve at the time.”

Nevertheless, they’re looking forward to another busy year. “We’re constantly working on stuff,” says Suse. “We’ve got a good workload, where we can record in my flat and stuff. Julie lives quite close, so she can come over whenever, or send ideas via e-mail. For me anyway, making new songs is the most exciting thing.”

“I think this year we’ll just have another small release,” she says. “For an album I think we’d quite like to go away for a wee while and write it all in a oner, as opposed to what we’re doing with the EPs, which is recording songs over a month or two. So perhaps early next year an album might come.”

Tuff Love’s DROSS E.P. is released on Lost Map on 9 February. It will be launched at Nice ‘n’ Sleazy in Glasgow on 6 February, http://lostmap.com/tickets/tuff-love-dross-ep-launch-party

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