Constance Keane, better known as Fears, has been in the music industry for some time now. From being a drummer in an Irish, all-female band, to now changing the industry from within through her label. Launched at the end of 2020, TULLE releases music by female and non-binary musicians only, and one of the first singles on the label is Fears’ own ‘tonnta’. With her unique voice and ethereal sound, Fears is one of our artists to watch for this year. We had a chat with her about her music, her label and the future of the industry.
RC: What made you start your own record label?
F: From working in music the last few years, I was having these conversations with amazing women about the need for spaces run and dominated by underrepresented genders. We’re still very much operating in an ecosystem run by predominantly white straight cis wealthy men.
When I was finishing up work on my upcoming album, I was thinking about where would be the right home for it, and unfortunately kind of drawing a blank. I wanted it to be released on a label owned by women, due to the subject matter and who I would feel most comfortable working with. I think there are some amazing labels owned and run by women that already exist, but I couldn’t find one that would suit the music I make.
Starting a label and collective is something I knew I wanted to do, but I hadn’t thought about doing it right now until my friend Katie, who works at Domino and helped record some of the record, and my friend Emily, who works at XL and is doing TULLE with me, encouraged me. I think last year was so awful and bizarre that I just kind of thought “why not give it a go”, and then it spiralled and before I knew it, I was already doing it.
RC: What are the responses you got so far and do you feel there is a divide in response from different genders?
F: Honestly really good. I mean there’s the odd lad who decides what I’m doing is unfair on them and how dare I want to provide an alternative that isn’t directly benefiting them, but overall people have been really positive and encouraging.
RC: You just released your own single on the label, how did the song come about?
F: Yes, I just released ‘tonnta’ in mid-December. It’s a song I’ve had for a few years now, but took me that long to figure out the most appropriate way to release it. It’s about my Nana, and dementia, and the experience of loving someone as the disease develops.
RC: Your grandma inspired the song, how was the process of making something very personal? Did you feel it helped you deal with your own personal feelings?
F: I wrote it when she was still alive, about how even though she didn’t remember who exactly I was, I still felt her care and love for me when we’d hang out. The word ‘tonnta’ is the Irish for ‘waves’, which is kind of what caring for someone dementia can feel like – getting hit by waves of their condition worsening.
Making the video, and the dresses, and having my family involved in the whole process was really healing. I felt really lucky to get to tell the story of my Nana, and it meant that we got to share memories of her and feel her spirit again.
RC: Throughout lockdown, you’ve had several projects going, how did they help you in your creative musical process?
F: Haha yes I do not know how to stop apparently. I have taken Christmas and New Year off though, and kind of crashed.
I started making dresses, these big tulle ball gowns, back in Spring. I had wanted one to perform in for a while, and that first lockdown seemed like a good time to give it a go. My Nana had taught me how to sew as a child, so picking that back up years later also felt like a connection to her. I ended up making three dresses for myself, and then I started taking commissions from other people. Working with my hands is something that’s good for my brain I think. It’s where I got the name for the label, TULLE. The idea of all these tiny connections that come together and create something beautiful that takes up a lot of space. It looks soft from far away, but feels more robust and durable up close.
RC: What do you hope for the future of the label?
F: I hope to be able to support and release as much music by underrepresented voices in music as possible. My album, which will be the label’s first full-length release, will be out in Spring and I can’t wait for that. From there, it’s about building a supportive community that can nurture and encourage artists. We’d love to throw some parties when everyones vaccinated also haha.
RC: You’ve played in bands as well, how do you feel your style changes compared to your solo work?
F: Yes, I’m the drummer in a feminist post-punk band called M(h)aol (another Irish word, pronounced male) also. It is literally opposite of Fears in almost every sense and I love it.
RC: What changes do you hope to see in the music industry?
F: Diversity, equality, and job security.
tonnta is out now on all streaming services. See more of Fears here.
Photography by Bríd O’Donovan.