I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Maha, the lead vocalist and guitarist for UK-based basement rock band The Kut. Check out the interview below where we discuss their newest release, "Make Up".
How did the band originally come together? Initially, who approached who?
I guess that in the early stages, it was like a group of mates. It was previous members of the band, actually. I’d actually met Aly (Alison) out at shows because I used to do so many shows before in London, for different upcoming bands and things like that. Me and Alison kept in touch. I kind of branched off and did a few bits and pieces here and there, and then when the time came, I messaged her and said “Hey do you wanna come for a jam?” At the time, me and the drummer had already known each of them, so we had kind of gotten together from that.
In the press release that I got, it said that you consider yourselves “basement rock”. I’m curious to know where you came up with that genre name, as it’s usually the press that generates the genre titles instead of the band.
Well you know, I think that some other people had already said that about us, because the spaces that we had been rehearsing in had all been basements. I don’t know…I guess when we were rehearsing in places like The Coffee Shop, which is in Southeast London, I guess that we were the band in the basement. It was always the case of “who are those guys? Oh yeah, they’re playing basement rock.” We like it! I think it kind of explains…it’s rock, what we’re doing obviously, but in the same way we’ve got something a bit gritty and underground.
How long did the writing process for the “Make Up EP” initially take?
The thing is, since we’d taken so much time out, you know, it was kind of slightly different. We had the first couple of tracks, and that was over four years ago. We had released that stuff. We were always writing and stuff like that, but it just never became a full EP. We’ve never had a shortage of material, it’s not like we were waiting so long until we had an EP ready. It was more a case of waiting to see when we were going to release stuff. There was a lot of stuff going on at the time for us. We had just started working with a manager. We still keep in touch with him and things like that. But we had a really good response from Warner in the States and stuff. It became a bit of wait, thinking “oh are we going to go out and showcase over there? What happens now?” We didn’t want to jeopardize ourselves by releasing material that could potentially be released later.
The process really took a long time, in that way. But the tracks themselves were quick. I think “No Trace” was like, finished as a track after we had already booked the studio session we were in. It was kind of like “okay, we’re going into the studio.”. I’d be like “Okay, I’m just going to write another track for that.” Just to get something new and fresh in. “No Trace” had been around as an idea for quite awhile, but it wasn’t complete as a track. It took a bit of thinking about it. It’s quite grunge-y and alternative, but it wasn’t there yet as a track. Once the drums and everything came into place, it became a lot clearer, and then we ended up just putting it down within a week. The first time Alison ever played it was in the studio, to put the bass down. It was awesome! She had literally just listened to it and said “Oh, it needs this!”. Eventually, we just went with it and it sounded really good.
I guess that the writing process for us is normally quite quick, but it was just the release process that was absolutely killing us. A lot of frustration was there because we had so much material to put out, and it just wasn’t doing anything. We were just playing gigs. I kind of feel like we lost a bit of time there.
Out of the five songs on this EP, which one you say either took the longest or was the hardest to work on for whatever reason?
I think that “Make Up” was probably the hardest one to work on. I wasn’t able to go into the studio as much, so the time that I had working on it I was rushing around and messaging clips on an iPhone. You have so many parts in “Make Up.” It’s got the verses, the prechorus, the bridge, and then the chorus. I didn’t want to sacrifice any of the parts, but I wanted to make sure that they were in the right order, just to get the idea across. It’s got quite a lot of parts in it. That one probably took the longest to come together.
You’ve said before in interviews that, “it’s a shame that being an all-girl band is still seen as a gimmick.” Personally, I’ve never seen it that way because I’ve always focused on the music and performances over anything else. However, what do you think will get music listeners to break away from this really stupid stereotype that has been coined in the music scene?
It’s definitely a thing, in terms of getting to gigs and such. It hasn’t been happening much now, because obviously we’ve been going a lot longer, but there would be cases where you would turn up at a show, and the engineer would be like, “do you know how to work your amp?” (laughs). It was quite frustrating. Some of the nicest compliments have usually always been followed up with “for a girl”. It’s like, you know, we are musicians. Me and Alison, we’re multi-instrumentalists. I play the drums, bass, guitar. She’s a grade A piano player, drummer, bass player. It’s quite frustrating to be put in that box, where people kind of assume that you’re just not going to be good. And people shouldn’t feel that way, being female musicians.
There’s a lot of really talented female musicians out there! I guess, maybe, instead of holding back all female bands….there are certain girl bands like L7 that were so good at what they did, and I can’t understand why they didn’t get bigger then they did. You could say that maybe it was because of internal politics or because they weren’t trying, but I also kept thinking that maybe they were fighting a similar uphill battle. Maybe a lot of people, within the industry, were saying “oh, they’re an all girl band.” So I mean, it’s difficult, because we love playing together, and we’re all female. I love all female bands, and I’m really inspired by that.
Aly has always said, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” And I feel like that’s really important. I think if people see more female musicians over time, I think people are going to decide that, “oh yeah! Well maybe my daughter should pick up the drum kit, or an instrument!” It will be a gradual process, but I guess giving female musicians the same opportunities. It’s about the music, it’s not about the gender.
When you listen to a band, you don’t know the gender of the instrumentalist. I mean, if it’s the vocalist, you can tell when it’s female, in most cases. Other than that, it should be purely about the music. It’s difficult because people will pre-judge you on that. I’m not saying that everybody will. I mean, at first, I didn’t even understand that as a concept. It’s only with numerous conversations with different about that, that I can see the label of being an all-female band may be kind of sexist in itself. It’s something that shouldn’t be the case, basically.
These next two questions I ask to every artist that I interview. What kind of message would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
With the “Make Up” EP, and it’s got a lot of elements and emotions in there… for example, in Mario, the song goes through a few different emotions in that. Just to know that someone out there is feeling something similar to how you’re feeling… There was a bit of confusion as to whether or not to put the song “DMA.” on there, but that’s got a pretty clear message on it as well, to just do what you’re doing, and not worry about what other people are saying, to just carry on with it. Just don’t take everything to heart so much, and keep on fighting. Don’t worry about the outside world so much.
What does music mean to you?
That’s a tough one. Music’s really important to me in my life. I listen to a lot of music. I’ve got kind of A.D.D., so I don’t find it really easy to focus on anything particularly, but with music, it’s something for me personally where I can channel all of my energy, and escape from everything that’s not really important. Or it might be important, but you just have to escape from it anyway. I guess it’s just one of those things where there’s very few people that don’t like music, I guess. It’s pretty important in my life.
Is there anything else you would like to promote to fans, other than the EP, which will be released on August 18th?
Currently, we’re in the middle of an unplugged tour. We do it every couple of years. We’ve got some full band shows as well that start towards the twenty-third of this month. And then we’re just going to be playing through until people stop booking us for it, really. (laughs). Yeah, it’s all been really exciting with the new video that we just did. We’ve got a new video, which should be coming out in September, for “Make Up”, the main track for the EP. We really like it, and it’s a pretty cool idea for a video, so we can’t wait to finish that one.
The Kut's newest EP, "Make Up", is available now.
This has been another Shameless Promotion