Monday, 25 February 2013

A Jakkals expedition: who's new in the zoo?

I visited Joburg's Puma Social Club for the first time to interview Jakkals. Published in Perdeby on 25 February 2013.

Jakkals at Puma Social Club.

“We’re from Cape Town, but the funny thing is, by the end of this tour, we will have played more shows in Jo’burg,” says tousle-haired Jakkals lead singer and guitarist, James Boonzaier, to a rather rowdy crowd at the Puma Social Club. Some are playing table tennis, some foosball, but as Jakkals launch into another one of their syrupy spoonfuls of indie pop, the crowd slowly starts paying more attention.

Boonzaier, drummer Tim King and bassist Mark de Menezes are venturing up north for the first time as a mere three-month-old three-piece. The popular venue in Braamfontein is the third stop of their tour and, having played only two small acoustic shows so far, tonight’s considerably larger audience will be the barometer for how well their new sound is received.

Truth is, Jakkals has seen many incarnations over the years and with so many members coming and going, it’s quite tricky keeping up while Boonzaier tries to explain the band’s history.

Boonzaier and King first did a few small shows with session musicians before putting together a formal line-up for a gig at Purple Turtle in Cape Town. That’s when former bassist Patrick Skuce and guitarist Johnny Kotze (popularly known as Johnny Neon) came in. The members eventually went their separate ways for various reasons, leaving Boonzaier and King in the company of session musicians once again.

Fast-forward a few months to where popular alt-indie-rock band The Dirty Skirts was winding down and drummer of the band, Mark de Menezes, was keen to try his hand at playing the bass guitar. Boonzaier, who had been friends with De Menezes for years, invited him for a jam session and the rest, as they say, is history.

Have all these changes in Jakkals’s line-up affected the band’s sound? “Profoundly,” says Boonzaier. “The energy, the song-writing process has changed. Jakkals 1.0, let’s call it the first Jakkals, was very simplistic rock. I would call it less intricate, less interesting, perhaps. I think with this set-up, there’s been a lot more push and pull, a lot more people bringing in their opinions, rather than going along with what’s happening. There’s been a bit of a tug to and fro and that’s resulted in a more intricate and interesting sound, something I’d like to call a bit more fresh,” Boonzaier says.

King agrees. “I think this time around, we’ve all grown up a bit and become a lot more mature. Our whole process has been a lot cleaner and it’s resulted in a sound which is, I suppose, more mature,” he says.

Jakkals went into studio mid 2012 to record a three-track EP, Trifle, at Teejay Terreblanche’s Coffee Stained Vinyl Studio in Cape Town. “We had a discussion about it and we kind of feel that albums are possibly a bit in the past. People want singles,” says De Menezes, explaining why the band decided to record a mini-EP.

Another reason is that an album would be inappropriate to the style of writing that Jakkals is working on at the moment. “An album would just be a collection of songs rather than a themed collection of songs,” says Boonzaier.

So are there any lyrical themes on the EP then? “The way I often write lyrics, no individual song seems to be about a particular theme, but over a period all the songs I write are mixtures of current themes. I think those songs are deeply rooted in being love songs, but not in the generic sense. Love songs in the sense of relationships and your life reconciling, transition periods, coming of age, reaching adulthood and juggling things, changes, and making it work,” says a contemplative Boonzaier.

Their new set-up seems to be suiting Jakkals well, with the band gaining momentum quite quickly. Last year they were chosen as one of 12 bands to have a music video commissioned by the MK Music Video Project. They teamed up with Kelsey Egan from production company Crave Pictures to make a video for their track “Rum Trifle”. “She [Egan] is very passionate and has a lot of drive. I mean the team that she put together was completely insane. We were very lucky,” says De Menezes about the experience. “It was a hotshot crew, hotshot equipment,” adds Boonzaier.

Back at the Puma Social Club, Jakkals have just completed the final song of their set. Boonzaier props his guitar against a speaker on the side and heads straight to three girls who have been standing in front and who are easily the band’s most vociferous fans. He wraps his arms around each of them, whispering a soft “thank you”.

As the crowd erupts in a call for an encore, another group of girls head to the stage for a photograph with Jakkals, followed by another hug-seeker who squeals with delight when she gets what she is looking for.

If the Puma Social Club gig is supposed to be Jakkals’s likeability barometer, it’s safe to say that the forecast looks good.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Bittereinder: die masjien wil dans

I chatted to Bittereinder about their new album, Die Dinkdansmasjien, at the launch of Party At. Published in Perdebyon 18 February 2013. 

Jaco van der Merwe at Hatfield Square                                                                      PHOTO: Hendro van der Merwe

“Ek rap vir die eer van eerlik wees, elke lyn soos die pyn van `n geweer teen jou neus / ek weet dis als te hectic, maar ek skryf wat ek sien, Bittereinder vat jou orals soos `n dink-en-dans masjien,” says Bittereinder’s Jaco van der Merwe as he spits out the lyrics of “Die Dinkdansmasjien” to a sea of smitten gangster arms in Hatfield Square.

It was the launch of PartyAt, a new mobile application that shows you where all the events and specials are happening in your area. It was also the start of RAG weekend and the audience, which consisted mostly of cherub-faced first years, was being schooled in fat beats and thought-provoking lyrics.

It’s exactly what the Afrikaans hip-hop trio hope to do with their second offering, Die Dinkdansmasjien: make you ponder their expressive lyrics and have a good time while doing so.

“Instead of it being very intellectual, conscious rap, [some] people can come to the show to party and not get into the lyrics, and other people can get into it. It offers both without detracting from the other,” says Peach van Pletzen, one half of Bittereinder’s beat-making part of the machine.

This idea of the multi-faceted machine has taken on a presence of its own, almost as if it is the invisible fourth member of the band which has steered Bittereinder’s sound into a slightly darker, more menacing direction.

“There’s this machine presence, which kind of has a deep voice and I think that was kind of a running theme for a lot of the stuff we did. A lot of the stuff is kind of hard, gritty and industrial, and a lot of it is also quite fast,” says Louis Minnaar, the other cog that drives the beat-making piece of the machine and the man responsible for all the band’s visual elements.

“I just think it often makes for us, as producers, more sense to make a texture for lyrics that are slightly darker as opposed to quirky. We did the quirky, happy thing with `n Ware Verhaal and I think now we’re looking for something more dramatic,” says Van Pletzen.

Like `n Ware Verhaal, Die Dinkdansmasjien boasts a number of collaborations with music-industry heavyweights. “Jaco always says that part of hip hop is collaboration. He loves collaborating with people who are not particularly in the hip-hop genre,” says van Pletzen.

Cue Shane Durrant, the charismatic front man of indie band Desmond & The Tutus, the man whose loony stage antics have been described as “what Mick Jagger would be capable of had he grown up listening to kwela,” and probably the least obvious person to appear on an Afrikaans rap track.

But rap he does, under the alias of Kwaad Naas, the man who skops the track dood as he explains, “I grew up in the Moot, but my Afrikaans is limited to net `n paar woorde.” The song “Kwaad Naas”, which is about how Afrikaans and English people both slaughter each other’s languages, has become Bittereinder’s cross-over song of sorts into the English market, explains Minnaar.

Van Pletzen agrees: “It wasn’t the plan, but it’s important for English people to just take note. What they do with it is up to them. A lot of them are now listening to the album and some of them are getting into it and some aren’t, but at least they’ll give it a try.”

Another striking collaboration is an almost eight-minute-long track which features eight well-known South African writers’ thoughts on a particular subject. The impressive list consists of The Buckfever Underground’s Toast Coetzee, Hunter Kennedy, Ilze Ontong, MJ du Preez, Andries Bezuidenhout, Mavis Vermaak and Tom Gouws.

Were the Bittereinder boys worried about the risk involved in making a track so different to anything they, and anyone else really, has ever done before? “If you make an entire album of three-and-a-half-minute singles and hits, three, four months later, there’s nothing to hold onto. I felt ‘Regstreeks’ gave the album a certain depth and that’s very important,” explains van Pletzen.

One thing that certainly hasn’t changed is Bittereinder’s ability to put on an unmatched live performance (they have been nominated for Best Live Act at this year’s MK Awards). How can Bittereinder convince their fans to vote for them? “We’ll come to every little town and play a personal thank-you show, whether it’s to 30 people or 300 or 3 000,” says Van Pletzen with a smile.

Now if that’s not motivation, what is?

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Turns out I'm back

You will notice that I've started posting articles that I've written for Perdeby again when, in fact, I bid my sad farewells on this here blog last year. Truth is, I've decided to stay on for another year. I more or less made the decision on New Year's Eve while watching The Plastics' incredible set. I found myself reminiscing about the interview I had had with the band a few months before, and just how much I enjoyed it. I absolutely love my job and the thought of not being able to do another interview was almost depressing and, I must admit, a little bit frightening. At the end of the year, I'll be looking for a job that won't necessarily involve me writing about music. It's something that I adore doing, so while I have the opportunity to, why the hell not?

Review: Beast's "Smoke Swig Swear"

Here's the review I did of Beast's debut album, Smoke Swig Swear for Perdeby. Published on 18 February 2013.

Taxi Violence drummer Louis Nel and guitarist Rian Zietsman wondered what a rock band would sound like if they ditched the electric guitar and had two basses instead. They plugged one of the basses into a guitar amp creating, rather ingeniously, a quick, formidable punch of grunge-laden rock ‘n’ roll.

They needed an indispensable backbone for their sound and so invited drummer Sasha Righini of The Plastics fame to join them. Knowing they wanted a female vocalist, Nel and Zietsman then approached Lark’s mesmeric siren, Inge Beckmann, to polish off their creation.

The result of this deliciously dark sonic experiment? The musically brazen creature that is Beast was unleashed.

Now, after teasing audiences around the country with their ferocious sound, they have finally released their free debut album, Smoke Swig Swear.

“And all the idols will topple over / And the fair maidens will be reformed / And all the men will know their worth when earth implodes,” intones Beckmann menacingly on “Hand of God”, an ill-omened foreboding about the wicked ways of mankind.

On “Fill The Hole”, we are introduced to a boisterous Beckmann who masterfully manipulates her usual operatic voice to scream and howl, to yelp and shout. The song also uncovers the hypnotic front woman’s impeccable songwriting skills in a series of chilling commands that are set against an aggressive force of guitars.

Title track of the album “Smoke Swig Swear” takes you on a contemplative stroll through town while “Walls” is a vertigo-inducing guitar frenzy that speaks of a self-consuming desire for freedom as Beckmann incites, “Kick down the door. Make space for more and rise.”

Make no mistake in thinking that you will find sweet songs that encourage a forest of swaying lighters on Smoke Swig Swear. It’s all about frenetic slabs of raw, unadulterated music that grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you savagely before delivering a stinging slap across the face and heading for the door.

Beast is the sound of brooding in a bar that smells of stale cigarettes and beer-infused sweat, the sound of waking up in a bizarre place the next day, and the sound of no regret.

It’s hot and it’s dirty, and best of all, it’s a command to let loose and indulge in some guiltless abandon.

RATING: 8.5/10

Monday, 18 February 2013

I want:

All images found via my latest obsession, Fancy.

Bittereinder- Die Dinkdansmasjien (Official video)

 Bittereinder at Arcade Empire                                                                                                   PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage

Bittereinder's video for "Die Dinkdansmasjien" was released this morning. It's a wonderful live video, which kind of looks like it has an Instagram filter on it. Here's what the electronic rap trio had to say about it:

Bittereinder lovingly dedicate this video to TUKS FM 107.2, Pretoria's finest radio station, who made this song #1 in February 2013 before anybody else even had it on a chart. All 3 of us grew up listening to TUKS FM: respect to Elvis Hitler, The Preacher, Stav, Jaco Smit amongst many others. Pretoria in ons hart.

No, Bittereinder in ons hart.

Jet Black Camaro- Pass it on John (Official video)

Jet Black Camaro at Arcade Empire                                                                                          PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage

Jet Black Camaro have finally released another music video, and this time it's for "Pass it on John". It's a rather odd one that follows the day of car mechanics. Take a look!


Where to find Jet Black Camaro:

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Tony Bennet and Lady Gaga do "The Lady Is a Tramp"

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga have done a rendition of "The Lady Is a Tramp", a popular show tune from musical Babes in Arms. I love that it reveals another side to Gaga and showcases her beautiful voice that doesn't always come through in her pop-laden songs.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Two Door Cinema Club- Next Year (Official video)

The boys from Two Door Cinema Club have released their music video for "Next Year", the third single off their second album, Beacon. Wouldn't mind seeing these chaps again, they are fantastic live.

Read by review of Beacon here

Monday, 4 February 2013

Haezer ft. Tumi Molekane- Troublemaker (Official video)

Hundreds of sweaty electroheads crammed into Arcade Empire for the release of Haezer's 'Troublemaker' video on Friday night. Tumi Molekane lends his distinctive rhymes to the track, which tells the story of four badass kids from Khayelitsha with superpowers that they use to wreak havoc in the township. Good news is that the video was officially released today for everyone to see. Have a look, it really is impeccable.

Where to find Haezer: 

Beast release debut album

Beast, the self-described "four-nippled rock and roll aberration" released their debut album, Smoke Swig Swear today. I've been looking forward to this baby since the band's electrifying set at Oppikoppi last year. For all you naysayers that said two basses is a simply crazy idea, this should prove you wrong.

Download Smoke Swig Swear over here.

Where to find Beast:

Moving House- Tongue in Cheek (Official Video)

Andre Gideon Montgomery Pienaar (Ashtray Electric) and Rob Davidson (ex Zebra & Giraffe and Blind Watchmen) of Moving House released both their album and their debut music video today. 

According to the band's Facebook page, "The two overcame the barriers of staying on opposite sides of the country by constantly having to buy more bandwidth to fuel the process of writing over the internet, and by using every open minute on tour to construct and record all the parts." 

Download the album off iTunes here

Where to find Moving House: