Monday, 13 May 2013

Sons of Settlers take the scenic route to stardom

This article was originally published in Perdeby on 13 May 2013. 

                                                                                                                                                   PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage

Train. Gig. Drive. Gig. Drive. Gig.

Sons of Settlers are on their Playing The Fool Tour, a double-headlining endeavour with friends and fellow Cape Town musicians Holiday Murray. They decided to take a train that snakes all the way up north to Gauteng, choosing to ditch the airport drama for a scenic cross-country view and loud impromptu carriage jam sessions instead.

They’ve stopped at Park Acoustics on the Pretoria leg of their tour and, as the first act on the bill, Sons of Settlers delivered a lush, pop rock-laden set complete with the odd scattering of folk. It’s the perfect start to the day, despite two of the strings on lead vocalist Gerdus Oosthuizen’s guitar, Olivia, breaking.

Afterwards, they head to where the comedy show will later take place. Bassist Ryno Buckle, who his band mates affectionately call “Buckle”, flops onto the small stage like a rag doll. He’s the unlucky one who was tasked with driving the 600 km from the band’s gig in Durban the night before.

“Next time we’ll do it by boat,” jokes Oosthuizen. 

“Yes, I think so. Play coastal towns and then take the boat inland,” agrees lead guitarist Leroi Nel in jest. 
“We talk a lot of crap,” adds drummer Justin “Bossie” Bosman, almost apologetically.

Truth is, Sons of Settlers never intended on sharing their music with anyone when they began making tunes. It all came together when Oosthuizen (former lead guitarist of spacey indie rock outfit New Holland) and Nel (former lead vocalist of the wildly popular Afrikaans classical prog rock band Foto na Dans) would hang out and jam after yoga practice. Buckle (also of New Holland fame) had been playing in various bands with Oosthuizen since they were kids and joined them soon afterwards.
The trio’s previous bands were winding down and they were all looking for a much-needed creative outlet. After coming up with a few basic riffs, they decided to add a drummer to the mix and make it official. That’s where Bossie came in.

Were they worried about reintroducing themselves to audiences who already associated them with their previous bands?

                                                                                 PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage
“Not at all,” says Nel, followed by a synchronised “I don’t care” from the rest of the band.“There wasn’t an intention [to make our music public], so there wasn’t any pressure. There was no pressure to be launched as something new, or something different. We were enjoying what we were doing and thought that people would enjoy it too,” Nel explains.

Oosthuizen says that with their previous projects their measure of success involved certain things like getting a slot at Oppikoppi or getting nominated for a SAMA. Sons of Settlers, he says, is already successful. 

“Our success has been the fact that we have been able to play together, and have the union that we have on stage, and have the great experience that we do. We are already winning,” he says.
The foursome is very close to completing their debut album, which they’re looking at releasing in July. They’ve taken a totally DIY approach to it, starting with recording all the tracks at Oosthuizen’s parent’s house in Onrus, something Bossie says allowed the band to capture an energy that sounds better than if they were pressed to get everything done in a regular studio.

Sons of Settlers also chose to combine recording the album live with working on it in studio. This way, Oosthuizen maintains, the album has a temporal aspect to it. “You’ve got this real, organic, live, breathing thing but you can pretty it up and still buff it up,” he says.

When it comes to lyrical themes, Sons of Settlers say they touch on a couple of main ideas, but their first offering is in no way a concept album. Oosthuizen went through a break-up during the process of creating the album, which is reflected in songs like “Former Lover”. There are also the less amorous tracks which deal with how the band sees society working or not working.

“Something we brought up a lot is a consumerist society, the unsustainability of the way that the system is going,” explains Oosthuizen. 

Other songs are more frivolous though, like “I Know That You Want Me”, a song which consists entirely of the lyrics “I want your body / It makes me do karate / I know that you want me”.

Nel says that the collective concept that in some way ties the album together is self-empowerment. “The way we perceive things and the way we separate ourselves from it and we don’t necessarily agree with it, and that we don’t necessarily need it to feel like ourselves,” he says.

“I think the people that are most excited to have this record in their hands are these guys sitting right here,” adds Oosthuizen, looking at his band mates.

So where to next for Sons of Settlers? “We actually have a bunch of songs that we didn’t get to finish in time for this album and we were talking about it. We’re not tired of this set, but it’s time to move on. We’re not planning on riding this wave and seeing where it goes. We’re writing some kiff stuff now,” Oosthuizen says.

And the rest of the tour?

Break. Gig. Train.


  1. Loved this interview! Full of energy, nicely written. Makes me want to see the band.

  2. Thanks, Travis! I'm really glad that you enjoyed it:)