BLACK ROCKERS UNITED MEDIA

 

#BRUTALK: SHEILA

by Nicole Kali (9/29/21)

INTRODUCTION | FROM THE TOP | PUSHING THROUGH PANDEMIC

Sheila is a phenomenal rock trifecta: Sha'Air Hawkins, Courtney Tucker and Rhea Tucker.
This is their story and our #BRUTalk!

 

INTRODUCTION

NK: Black Rockers United was created 15 years ago by Nate Oakley so kinfolk have somewhere to rock no matter where we live! D.C. rockers are our 25th guests for #BRUTalk. Hello!

Sha'Air: Yee, yeah!

NK: How are you, ladies? Thank you for joining us and being part of #BRU crew.

Courtney: Thanks for having us. We really appreciate it!

NK: [Rock horns]

Sha'Air: This is amazing. Yes! I'm feelin' good.

NK: Feelin' good? Vibin', looking good. Yas.

Rhea: Stop, I actually did my hair today [laughs]. I never look like this on the weekends.

NK: Hey, you amongst people. You amongst the fam, you know? We here. Sheila for those out there tuning in is a groovy dance-punk power trio: Sha'Air Hawkins, awesome vocalist and a whole vibe; guitar goddess Courtney Tucker and Renaissance woman Rhea Tucker—bassist, keyboardist and drummer.

Yes! We outchea. So when did Sheila start? Let's hear your whole story!

ORIGIN

Courtney: Ah, it's...oh, God, going way back! So we actually all—we actually all went to college together back in like, 20-umm, oh my God. When did we go to school?

Sha'Air: '11?

Courtney: Yeah. Sha'Air went before us but uh, WE were there from 2011 to 2015. And we all collectively met when we were in The Bad Band. And Sha'Air was the singer, and we were just kinda off on the side playing trumpet and saxophone.

Sha'Air: Y'all were in there!

Courtney: Yeah...it was embarassing, we don't wanna talk about it! But then—so that was, that was like, back in like, 2014? And then when we were trying to look for another singer for our group, we ended up trying to like...it was a whole thing: getting the run-around, trying to find somebody who'd fit!

And then out of nowhere, Rhea was like "You remember the singer of Bad Band, Sha'Air? She was like "We should ask her to be in our band!" I was like "We didn't talk to her!"

Rhea: No, Courtney said "She's not gonna remember us!"  I was like "Well, we could try!" [Laughs]

Courtney: I was like, it's awkward—what if we just ask "Oh, be in our band" and she's like "Who are you?" [Laughs] All embarrassed.

NK: [Laughs]

Sha'Air: Never, y'all the only Black twins in the whole school. How would I forget?

Courtney: Whole of NoVa!

NK: [Laughs]

Courtney: So then we asked Sha'Air and she was like "Oh, yeah, I'd love to do this! Only thing is I live in North Carolina!"

Sha'Air: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. And I was like "Wow, I've always wanted to be in a rock band!" But it was like how in the world are we gonna do this? I don't live there!

But oh my gosh. Technology is a beautiful thing, even though it's kind of shoddy sometimes. It worked! So we just started rehearsing. Like y'all would just send me music, right? And I would write to it and we would do a lot of covers in the beginning until we started writing our own songs together.

And we're here! How many years, y'all?

Courtney: Five!

Rhea: Five now.

Courtney: Going on six.

Sha'Air: Five years! So yeah.

NK: Wow! Like in college too, like around six years ago. How does that feel, for that long even though you live in North Carolina, Sha'Air?

Sha'Air: It's really interesting! It's umm...I don't even know how to explain it! But it feels really good and I like that Rhea and Courtney are very supportive. And they're just like "Yeah, yeah, let's just do it". Like—[laughs] they're, they can be so nonchalant. Like "yeah, yeah, let's just do that" or "we don't have to do that. Whatever."

Rhea: [Laughs]

Sha'Air: And even though we are apart, we have built such a bond. You know? Through these years. And I feel like we understand each other. Or I always attempt to understand them. And it's funny being with twins, and very close sisters. I'm close to my sister so I get it.

...So sometimes we'll be onstage and they'll just be like "No, I said no" [mimicking disagreement] and I'm just like

[Everyone laughs]

Sha'Air: I've just learned to just kind of go with the flow and I'm like "One of them's gon' make a decision and we just gon' go with it so [laughs] they're gonna reach a consensus.

But I love, even though we've been far away, the bond that we have built and how this has really...the barriers have kind of like, challenged me to be a different artist in a different way and in collaboration. So it's been interesting, it's been really cool. How do y'all feel?

Rhea: Umm, for me it's just like...I don't know, our situation, it just works for us! And I don't know how we made it work 'cause y'know. I've heard about other bands. "Yeah, we tried to practice, like, over FaceTime and all this and it just didn't work out"—but for us, it literally, it just works for us.

And we don't even have to like, practice that much together, like it's just chemistry and it's like when we do get together, we just remember everything from the last time. And it just feels so natural, and it just like, comes together everytime.

Sha'Air: Yeah!

NK: That is amazing! Nice, so the dynamic like, absolutely works for you. You know, yeah. That's awesome. So this past year, y'know like...

PUSHING THROUGH PANDEMIC

It's been a blessing. It's been a challenge. It's been a revelation. What has it been like for each of you going through the past year and a half?

Courtney: It was stressful because we weren't, like just the fact that we couldn't do like, live performances (which we can't do all the time anyway). So it felt like it was taking something away from us, even...we would do, like, the umm...even from there?

Even the live stream events were like, really, REALLY big for us. There was this one—oh my God, we love them so much—they're called PUNK BLACK. And they're based out in Atlanta. And they reached out to us like, "Oh, do you want to be on our virtual tour thing? And we did that back in November.

And that was really big for us, like from there, we got so many more new viewers and they always shout us out too. They put us on their Top 40 Bands to watch for 2021. We were like #17!

[Everyone laughs]

Courtney: We were on the list with Meet Me at the Altar! And we got a lot more followers from there. So just like, really we're like "ugh", we're kinda "ugh" about virtual shows and stuff. We got so many more fans and a bigger viewership from that!

NK: Wow! Yo, that's rad for real.

Rhea: I was gonna say for me, this whole year and a half was like a time for us to just like, reset and think about where we want our direction to go. So even though we weren't like, playing a lot? I know for me, day in and day out, I would just like, sit down and write up a plan for us for 2021.

"Okay, this is what we're going to work on. This is what we can do. Let's go ahead and" then we made a decision to just completely rebrand.

Courtney: That shit ain't work! It didn't work.

Rhea: That shit did not work, I don't care! So I think it was just—it was just a good time to just decompress and start over, and have a new vision for us. So that's what I really liked about the break: was just sitting down, thinking about where we wanna go for the future. And it's coming into fruition now, and I love it!

Sha'Air: It really is! That rebrand, the rebrand has been really sweet and it's been...I'm a Scorpio so I like transformation! And I'm always changing my hair too so this felt meant to be [laughs]! It did!

It was kind of like pressing the Refresh button and just getting to show another side of Sheila. You know, we're not always just angry at the injustices. We like flowers and shit too. We like nature. We have a soft side.

Courtney and Rhea: [Laugh]

Sha'Air: I mean, you see—you hear it in the lyrics but you know...we can say things in a different tone, and I think we're changing it up and umm, adding more groove/fun elements too. Even if the words could be hardcore and I really like that.

But okay, I'm talking about somethin' else: the panny (pandemic)! The panny has been very tough for me. Like, my whole life changed! So I was in New York. Everything shut down, lost my job, y'know. I lost a theater contract 'cause I was doing some theater at the time.

Umm and then I moved back HOME [laughs], so it was just like "OH MY GOSH, this is a lot happenin'!" Like, "stop!" But umm, one great thing is because we were doing the virtual shows?

And Rhea and Courtney—I felt safe enough with them, they felt safe enough with me ('cause I was just in the house with my grandmother and my family, I wasn't going anywhere or seeing anybody). Those were the people that I got to see and hang out, and I got to perform again!

So it felt like, you know being with Sheila, kept the normalcy, kept me sane. You know, and then looking toward a future with the girls. And it just had, it gave me something to look forward to.

And that's really important during the pan', man, because you're just like "Is there an end?" It's still not even over. You know what I mean?

NK: Definitely. No, yeah.

Sha'Air: So I'm really grateful for the girls at this time and for Sheila during that whole crazy-ass transition [laughs]. Yeah!

NK: Yeah, thanks for sharing. You know? Like I know it wasn't easy for a lot of people, you know? For the most part, everyone had like, some extreme shift happen in their personal life.

So you know, shout out to you and y'know, I am glad that Sheila was able to keep it rockin' and support each other. I admire how you show up for each other and the truths that are going on right now.

Watch the rest on YouTube!

Sheila, the D.C. rock trio, are on   and !