The Tummies are: Judd Fuller, Philip Shouse, Dana Radford, Sandy Gennaro, and Jeremy Asbrock.Photo by Jeff Fasano/Courtesy of Ms. Jill PR
Nashville, Tennessee—the home of country music—might seem like an odd place to start a band writing and playing original music in the sonic style of mid-‘60s British Invasion bands. But that’s exactly what Judd Fuller and Dana Radford decided to do—albeit with a little help from copious amounts of fermented fruit.
The husband-and-wife songwriting duo had been in the city for years trying to make a name in country music. But their own tastes and much of the new music they were penning seemed more in line with early Beatles, Kinks, and the Dave Clark Five. They had also played with or knew others in the community with the same predilection, including guitarists Jeremy Asbrock and Philip Shouse and drummer Sandy Gennaro.
“We knew that they had a Beatles streak a mile wide in them. And when we wrote these songs, these guys popped in our head,” Fuller—who plays bass—says. Radford adds “We picked the band already. They were not only our first choices, but our only choices. So we had them over to the house and fed them and gave them wine and auditioned for them and that night they all agreed to join the band!”
That was essentially the birth of the Tummies in January 2016. Now, a little over five years later, the Tummies are releasing their debut record, 9:30 Girl. Out in physical, digital, and streaming formats on February 26, its 13 tracks running 33 minutes is pure power pop perfection, punctuated by the tight and time-traveling vocal harmonies of Fuller and Radford on most songs.
In fact, 9:30 Girl was ready for release a full year ago after the recording was “chipped away at” over the years. But the band held it back while Nashville and its citizens dealt with the effects of a devastating tornado, the pandemic, and an unsettling bomb explosion on Christmas Day. With that all behind, Radford says now is the time for the record to get out, even if they can't play live to promote it.
“Everyone is ready for music and to get out of their heads and homes. Things definitely haven’t been normal. So now is a good time for this,” she says “Everyone wants to feel good and move forward, and that’s what this album is.”
Lyrical ideas for many of the songs came from the couple’s own real-life experiences. The title track was inspired by the time of the morning that Radford usually awoke and came downstairs at their home. “Short Cuttin’” from an incident where they wanted to save time by taking a different route through a local park. That same park was where they saw some paint splotches in the shape of a heart on some concrete, inspiring the record’s lead single “Little Blue Heart.”
“That’s how we write everything. We’ll have a phrase and work on that, or Judd will have a melody,” Radford explains. “Sometimes it’s a title and sometimes it's a groove.”
For his part, Fuller says he’s also inspired by the music of Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, and the UK-based “Pub Rock” movement of the ‘70s. But it’s his and Radford’s beloved Beatles that he has the closest connection with. One tied to blood and geography.
“It’s really in my DNA. My mother was born and raised in Liverpool, so I’ve been listening to Beatles records since I was three years old,” he says. “I could always hear the music coming through my sibling’s bedroom walls. They were all in bands and all played Beatles covers. My cousins even used to go see the Beatles play early on at the Cavern Club, and my brothers saw them at Shea Stadium, one in 1965 and one in 1966. So it’s like an organic flow chart for me to dig into this music.” For her part, Radford remembers Christmas 1969 when she excitedly unwrapped the then-new release Abbey Road.
There’s an old adage with some truth that sometimes bands are much more loved and respected anywhere but their hometown. Houston often takes local boys done good ZZ Top for granted, while in France they’ll have rabid bootleg-collecting fans who don’t even understand the English lyrics.
Asked how the Beatles were seen in Liverpool, especially since they stopped belonging to port city and started belonging to the world in 1964, Fuller thinks for a moment.
“That’s an interesting question. My uncle once hired John and Paul to play a church function, and said ‘I didn’t like them too much. They were a couple of punks!’” Fuller laughs. “I really should dig in more with my family on that. You just gave me a new project, Bob!”
However, it’s one thing to have your music inspired by the sound of another band or genre, and another to simply ape it. Fuller and Radford are aware of the fine line. “Our music sounds that way just by dint of writing our own songs and calling up our influences. But I like to think we put a slightly original spin on the music,” Fuller says. “It comes so easy for us to write those melodies and chords in that [style].”
And there will be more of that music coming from the Tummies, as the songs for their sophomore release have already been written. They’ll return to Nashville’s Cygnus Studio (working again with co-producer Caleb Sherman) in April.
Finally, since it’s 2021, Marketing 101 for any band requires some savvy with the internet and social media. Fuller and Radford honestly admit they’re not really up on that part, but have others in their circle to handle that for the Tummies. In fact, when Fuller uploaded a copy of 9:30 Girl to the music-sharing/selling website Bandcamp.com, he did so under the assumption it would be a private listening experience for selected friends and family. He was wrong, but it worked out OK.
“We probably sold 25 digital downloads of the record, a store in Madrid, Spain ordered 10 copies, we got a small distribution deal in New Jersey, and an Italian blog named it one of their best records of 2020,” Fuller laughs. “And it hasn’t actually even been released yet!”
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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.