I meet Manchester duo The Tease in a small production studio, where I’m told the magic happens, for their first interview. There is no denying it - The Tease is an attractive band. Composer James Tozer, blonde-haired and vaguely reminiscent of Muse frontman Matt Bellamy, sits on a swivel chair sporadically spinning himself around and picking at the strings of a beaten-up guitar. His vocalist, Emma Ford, both beautiful and entirely approachable (a rare combination), mocks him endlessly. It is clear that they are on the same wavelength both musically and personally. But The Tease is not just a pretty face (or two). For the past year, they have been working together with producer Luke Warren to record and polish some truly inspiring music. Today they share with me their thoughts on genres, artistic differences and using their musical talents for evil...
James Tozer and Emma Ford
(credit: Babushka Koi Photos)
THIRSTY: Hello The Tease!
James Tozer and Emma Ford: Hello!
THIRSTY: My first question is always about the band’s name. Sorry about that, it’s just the way I roll.
Emma: (laughing) That’s fine. We came up with The Tease together didn’t we, really?
James: Yeah. Well...I was writing all of the music and stuff before I found Emma to sing over it and, at that point, the name was just Tozer, but when Emma joined, I thought it was a bit selfish to take all the credit, you know, under my name. We found out that the meaning of the name Tozer is ‘to tease’ so that’s where the current name came from. It suits us really ‘cos it sounds like quite a sexy name and obviously we have this sexy piece of Egyptian ass...
Emma: (laughs hysterically)
THIRSTY: You’re referring of course to Emma there!
James: The hot frontwoman, yeah!
THIRSTY: It’s just the two of you that make up the band then, is it?
James: Yes. Emma is the vocalist, as I said, and I write the music. Although really importantly, we have our producer Luke Warren. I think it’s paramount to have a good rapport with your producer because they’re there to help you better your music…
Emma: ...and help you realise what it is you actually want out of a particular song. He’s been very influential over what we’ve been doing.
James: When we first started, I had a really rough demo of a song which has become This Disease, and it was just me on acoustic. I think it even had like...seagulls in the background for some reason...I don’t really know why...and he was just like, “No!” He’s been a big part of how the sound has evolved!
THIRSTY: How did you two form The Tease then?
Emma: Well, we originally knew each other back when we were seventeen-years-old. We were friends during the school days. And we kinda lost touch for a few years after that because of university, but I moved back to Manchester really wanting to get back into music. Tozer asked me to come and sing some lyrics for a track he was composing to see if he liked the sound of it. I was really eager to give it a go, so I came over and it all just took off from there really.
James: It was kind of weird because...well, I knew I wanted a female vocalist and I actually held auditions for seven or so of them. Some of them didn’t turn up and I was getting a bit frantic, so it got to the point where I just decided to go on Facebook thinking “someone here’s gotta fucking sing!” And for some reason, I had this faint memory that Emma used to be a vocalist...or wanted to be...so out of the blue, I asked her to come and try out.
Emma: And the odd thing is that when I went round there, it was like we’d known each other for ages. We pretty much got This Disease finished on day one.
THIRSTY: Impressive. So Emma, you said before, that you wanted to get back into music, which is interesting as I’m told you’ve both been part of bands before. Is this right?
Emma: It is, yeah. I had to take some time out of it for university to get my degree and everything, so I see this as my first real commitment to being a musician. I have sung a lot before now, publicly, and done a lot of stage and musical theatre stuff in the past, but I had to leave it for a bit because of the studying.
(credit: Babushka Koi Photos)
THIRSTY: So in a way, this is your return, your triumphant return, to music?
Emma: Return slash first time at a studio - because mostly it’s been live stuff that I’ve done in the past.
THIRSTY: And Tozer, you were a bit of a local celebrity about Manchester weren’t you? In your other band, the beautifully named Piss Flaps?
James: Well yeah...in my teenage days I was in like a proper angry punk band. We used to throw our guitars around stage. I trashed one of my guitars, threw my amp onstage...completely unnecessary, but it was fun! That guitar is held together with duct tape, I still have it. But then we all fell out because everyone was taking themselves too seriously. After that I just wanted to make music and have a laugh, so I started a few comedy bands, one of which was Piss Flaps.
THIRSTY: And they were quite successful, although hopefully, not as much as The Tease will become.
James: Yeah. I got recognised in the street by this random guy for being in Piss Flaps and I just thought, “This isn’t how I wanna be remembered!”
THIRSTY: So how many songs have you guys finished, so far? I know you’re on the way to releasing an EP...
James: Actually, we’ve decided to release two EPs. There will be three tracks on each and the first one will be out in about a month.
THIRSTY: And what kind of genre would you say your music is?
Emma: We’re kind of exploring which genres work for us really. The thing is that both of us have very eclectic taste in music, everything from Bon Iver to Aesop Rock all the way to really heavy drum and bass. It varies so much that it’s really difficult to pinpoint what kind of sound you want. And even then, I don’t think anybody really wants to sound like they just churn out the same thing over and over again. So I would say at the minute, we’re enjoying doing a sort of Morcheeba/Zero Seven vibe, but who knows if it’s going to stay that way. We’ll have to wait and see, really.
James: One of the things I really didn’t want to do was pigeonhole us into one style. I mean, we’ve written dance stuff. There’s a really Prodigy sort of heavy dance rock song we’re working on. We’ve got some acoustic stuff, trip hop...and there’s never once been a moment where we’ve thought, “This song isn’t really working for us.” It’s going to be quite an interesting album when it comes out, because each song will be completely different to the others.
THIRSTY: Emma has mentioned Bon Iver and Morcheeba and Tozer you just mentioned the Prodigy there. Are there any other major influences on your music?
James: Anyone who knows me knows what’s coming now, which is Muse! They’re my favourite band. More than anything, I’m inspired by their creativity. Musically they’re all amazing, but what I like about them so much is that every album is done well, but they’ve never said to themselves, “Oh, this album’s sold lots so let’s just do that again!” They’ve always done a different sound and pushed their limits. That’s why I didn’t want us to have just one style. I wanted us to push ourselves and see how far we could go.
Emma: A really inspirational band for me would be Death in Vegas. They use a variety of vocal artists and they’re always pushing for a different sound, always trying to mould themselves into something different.
THIRSTY: You seem to have similar feelings about what makes a band great. Do you ever have any creative differences?
(credit: Babushka Koi Photos)
Emma: No, not really. It’s actually worked out quite well.
James: Yeah, we’ve never really had any clashes. As far as I know, I’ve never written anything that Emma thinks is crap. (Looking over at Emma) I’ve always received quite positive feedback from you.
Emma: And, if there’s something that I think we should try another way, you’re always really happy to hear what I’ve got to say, so I think we work quite well really.
James: Yeah for This Disease, we pretty much had the completely finished demo version done and dusted within the first twenty minutes of rehearsing together for the first time. Something to Fix was jammed out and rehearsed really quickly too...
Emma: And Across Your Arms was really fast. It was two hours rehearsing and it was done, the whole song.
THIRSTY: You’re talking a little about process here and saying it works well, but what does it involve exactly?
James: At the moment I’m writing the tracks. I compose the songs, write the lyrics and then get Emma in and we try out different ways of doing it.
Emma: For me, it’s a matter of listening to it a couple of times over and deciding what style of vocals is going to suit it. Then literally just going for it - giving it a go and seeing what sounds right. I do a lot of things by ear. I don’t look at sheet music or anything like that, so I just try to get a feel for what sounds right and go for it really.
James: And then we just work on the arrangement. I’ll have a few ideas for certain parts - guitar parts and things - and then we just discuss what we think works. Like, um, there’s a really nice piece of percussion sort of on the guitar and the second half of Across Your Arms is just me hitting and snapping the body of the guitar. It’s got a really nice sound to it.
Emma: When we double tracked the lyrics on that same song that worked really well too. We’re so pleased with it!
THIRSTY: So you should be. Now I just have one final question - saving the best for last. Have either of you ever used your status as “band member” for evil? Otherwise known as picking up hotties!
Emma: (laughing) As much as I like you, I’m not sure I can disclose that kind of information.
Emma: Oh, alright then...it’s true! I have used my musical talents for evil many times. But to tell you anything in detail would potentially put my life in jeopardy!
THIRSTY: I’m going to keep probing here...I need details. Do you just drop it into conversation that you’re a singer or have you actually seduced someone with your voice?
Emma: Serenading someone whilst they’re making me cups of tea works well.
THIRSTY: That’s half sexy, half very domesticated!
Emma: I can’t explain why it works, but it just does. A brew and a song!
THIRSTY: Tozer? Ever used your musical talents for evil?
James: (grinning) Yes. I’ve had a couple of people offer to buy me drinks and stuff, and I’ve let them...I don’t know how much I can say about the other time because the person in question might be reading...but there was an incident during the audition process for a vocalist...
Emma: (laughing) That is pretty much using music for evil really. I bet you had the same evil designs on me!
James: Why else would I want a female vocalist?
James Tozer and Emma Ford
(credit: Babushka Koi Photos)
THIRSTY: Have you two ever…?
Emma: Hell no!
James: (laughing) She wishes! She can’t get a bit of this.
Emma: I’m resistant to his charms!
James: Plus, as my dad said, when he first met her, “Son, don’t mix business and pleasure!”
Emma: (laughing) Did he seriously say that?
THIRSTY: And is that the best piece of advice you’ve received about working in a band?
Emma: It applies to any situation, really. Don’t shag the boss - it puts you in a difficult position.
THIRSTY: Any other pearls of wisdom to pass on?
Emma: Always follow your first instinct. Even if you think, “I’m not sure”...If you’ve had that spark of excitement about the possibility of it working, then just run with it.
James: And if you get stuck, just take drugs!
THIRSTY: Thanks for that, Tozer, very helpful. Finally, I just want to know what we can expect from you guys moving forward.
Emma: We’ve got an EP coming out hopefully within the month. We’re going to be doing some unplugged, acoustic gigs towards the end of this year in Manchester and London and then some bigger ones in the New Year.