Interview: Millie Manders and the Shut Up

Izzy Morris

Impact’s Izzy Morris spoke to Millie Manders, of Millie Manders and the Shut Up, about their new single Shut Your Mouth, musical politics and mine shaft festivals.

Self-identifying ‘cross-genre punks’ Millie Manders and the Shut Up have developed quite the reputation as a result of their electric live shows, where our front woman, Millie Manders (obviously) has been praised for her ferocious, high-octane energy on stage. Their community is growing bigger and bigger by the day, and their upcoming ‘Shut Your Mouth’ tour is extremely close to selling out completely – in fact, their upcoming appearance at The Bodega will be filled to the brim with Nottingham’s ska-punk fans. But what is Millie Manders and the Shut Up?

“It’s a band, if that helps,” Millie joked. “It’s punk, but it’s also ska and rock and dance and hip-hop and metal and all sorts of things. It’s bouncy, it’s fun, it’s a bit screamy and we WILL get you skanking.” Quite the promise.

That range of influences is particularly apparent in their latest track, Shut Your Mouth, which refuses to be pinned as any one thing. Of course, the ska-punk energy is undeniably there, but there’s so much more to it than that.

“Joe and I were discussing some of the elements of it before asking the rest of the band to write their parts, and I said ‘This feels like a Bitter track’ which is a song from my previous album with a lot of synths on it, so I really wanted to go down that route again. The trap beats that Pete made for it really go with the song, and I’m kind of slow-rapping with it which gives it a hip-hop edge. And the electronic vibes go with that late 90s, early 2000s vibes that are going on.”

Shut Your Mouth is all about cutting out that sort of toxicity

While it’s a fun track, it’s also got Millie Manders’ signature “anger and vitriol poured out into lyrics.” Inspired by a figure from her past that gave her none of their time when the band was starting out, the song pokes fun and serves as musical revenge.

“A few years later, when we’d just booked one of the biggest gigs of our career, they popped up on Facebook and said ‘Hey, can I have guest list?’ And I was like, ‘Uh, solid no.’ They weren’t engaging with us when we were small fry, and at the slightest hint of success, they were suddenly there.”

Shut Your Mouth is all about cutting out that sort of toxicity, and a frequent guest in Millie Manders and the Shut Up artwork makes a return on the single and tour designs.

“Angry Ted was born in 2016, or maybe more like 2019 when I was looking for some tour artwork. I have this song from years ago called Teddy and a lot of people really liked it, so I thought, ‘let’s bring Teddy back into play.’ And since then, our artwork has been a play on Angry Ted, so for instance he’s been on a rollercoaster, and he’s been Godzilla climbing the Blackpool tower… This time, I wanted it to be inspired by the ‘Speak No Evil’ emoji.” Maybe we’ll be seeing a familiar snot-green Teddy bear climbing up the Old Market Square clock tower soon.

It’s not their first time in Nottingham though; Millie has played here lots of times. “I like Nottingham a lot. The first time I went there was in 2005 to do management training for Schuh.” Just a bit of a career change then.

The ‘Shut Your Mouth’ tour is going all around the country, down a lot of lesser travelled paths as well, which is lovely to see. But over summer, the band were here there and everywhere, exploring the continent and heading to a whole host of festivals.

“One of my favourite gigs of the summer was actually in this festival in Germany. It was in a mine shaft, so all of the cliffs around us were sheer rock faces with dangling trailing plants and all of this cool stuff. And it was a biker festival, so there were all of these crazy motorbikes. This guy came in on this Barbie pink motorbike and I was like ‘Oh my God, I don’t wanna ride motorbikes but I want to ride that one.’ And when all of the lights went on, it looked like a set on Jurassic Park. It was one of the coolest settings I’ve ever played in. And of course, Rebellion is always like going home, and we got to spend the whole time there selling merch to raise money for our new album. It’s a bit like having a punk rock Christmas because all of the bands that you tour with, that you don’t get to see very often are all there and all of the fans from around the country, and some even from outside the country.”

“I just felt like it was time to start combining our political leanings and beliefs and causes that we are really passionate about into our tours”

This time around on the road, the band are going to be joined by the Hunt Saboteur’s Association – an animal rights charity against hunting with hounds. They are celebrating their 60th birthday this year, and so Millie Manders and the Shut Up have invited them to join the party. “Three of us are vegan, and one of us is Vegetarian. So, as a band, we have high morals about animal life and animal welfare. We’ve had a couple of shows with the Norwich Hunt Sabs before and I just felt like it was time to start combining our political leanings and beliefs and causes that we are really passionate about into our tours. So I gave them the dates and said, you can have a merch table and if that’s not possible you can have half of our merch table and reduce our merch so you have more space, but we want you there and we want you raising awareness.”

This is a band that is very aware of their platform, and aware that they have the power to bolster causes and create change. But Millie understands the drawbacks of shouting out about important causes. “Any leaning you have, any set of morals you have, there will always be somebody that believes the exact opposite of what you think and feel so having an opinion is always a political statement.” She does however, believe that musicians don’t have a responsibility to give those opinions or preach their beliefs. “I don’t think bands have a responsibility to do anything and I think too much of today’s celebritydom puts pressure on people to be aligned one way or another. If a celebrity or influencer feels pressured to do things and then they start to share disinformation – we’ve got enough of that already!”

And in supporting the Hunt Saboteur Association, the band has received some pushback from trolls online. “For me, the only way to deal with it is to go ‘Oh no, we’ve got another tit, what do we do?’ And today, we’ve had that and we ARE going to make a t-shirt to promote the Hunt Sabs and get them some more money so… backfired didn’t it, buddy?”

At the same time as believing that people shouldn’t speak out unless they “hardcore believe in it and absolutely are willing to stand in that space”, Millie still wishes that more bands would take a stand against misogyny, racism and sexual assault in the scene. “I think there are still too many punk bands who say they don’t align with those views but don’t stand up for it either.” The band don’t accept xenophobia in their community, which is very much reflected in what they do. I’m sure that those themes will transfer through to the new album.

“it’s been a completely different process because we’ve all been in the room together and working on all the parts together”

“We are going to the studio in December; it’s already booked. If everything goes to plan, we will be releasing our sophomore album in Spring 2024.” Discussing the way the band has changed since their debut, Millie hinted at “an evolution of sound, because there’s new influences of social constructs, personal experiences, and again, thoughts and beliefs are going to come into it.”

Also, in a key difference, Joe and Pete, were not a part of the band at debut, which is bound to impact the sound. “The album is also different because it has solely been written on writing retreats – it’s been a completely different process because we’ve all been in the room together and working on all the parts together, putting together that piecemeal, so I think there’s going to be a maturity in it.” All still with their signature ska-punk snarl.

We wrapped up with a fun quickfire round…

If you were a flavour what would you be?

“Marmite, you either love me or you hate me, and I really don’t give a shit which.”

What artists are on repeat at the minute?

“Ramona’s Tea Party, Vukovi, Hot Milk, Charlotte Sands, Delilah Bon and Stand Atlantic.”

What is your go to karaoke track?

“Mariah Carey’s Hero, but sung badly on purpose.”

Izzy Morris 

Featured image courtesy of Ian Cheek. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes made to this image.

In-article video and images courtesy of @milliemanders via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.

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