Sunday, 26 May 2013

New video: Al Bairre | We Move On

                    Al Bairre at Park Acoustics                               PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage                    

My favourites, (I have no qualms about saying that on my blog) Al Bairre, have released a music video for their track "We Move On". It's the perfect example of how to make a super cool video with a small budget. Food fight, anyone?


Also watch Al Bairre's Splashy Fen video. It's good laugh: 


Saturday, 25 May 2013

New video: Goodnight Wembley | Bad Reputation

Goodnight Wembley have released a music video for their latest single, "Bad Reputation". The video is made up of footage from live performances, which really just makes me more bummed that I missed them the last time they were in Pretoria.


Where to find Goodnight Wembley:

Are You Charlie? now on Facebook

Are You Charlie? now has a Facebook page. 

Pretty please go on and give it a like by clicking here

Friday, 24 May 2013

Shortstraw: Good morning, success

This interview was originally published in Perdeby on 20 May 2013.

                                                                                                                                               PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage

Just over a year ago, quirky indie-kwela quipsters Shortstraw were the little-known band that was playing the opening slot on a bill, only really known for their spoof song that pays a hilarious homage to actor Keanu Reeves and for dropping the deplorable f-bomb in the chorus of “LYSAGFY”.

Fast-forward a bit and the picture looks quite different. First they nabbed the coveted award for best indie band at this year’s MK Awards after going head to head with local genre heavyweights like The Plastics and Ashtray Electric. Then they opened for Brighton rockers The Kooks, a night that turned out to be an icy battle of the elements under a bridge in downtown Jo’burg, easily the perfect setting to mark this pinnacle in their careers.

Most recently, and perhaps most importantly, Shortstraw have released their follow-up album, Good Morning, Sunshine. Not unlike their debut album, You’re Underfed, I’m Wonderful, it presents a collection of boogie-inducing beats that make any crowd jive joyously as they sing along to the bodacious hooks and choruses.

What they have done differently is up the afro-influence ante by making the distinctive skiffle-like beat that characterises kwela music prominent throughout the album. 

“We’ve made a concerted effort to take an influence for this new one, which was the kind of afro vibe, and that strung together some of the songs that weren’t necessarily influenced by that,” says frontman Alastair Thomas.

Good Morning, Sunshine was written collaboratively by the whole band, a process lead guitarist Tom Revington also credits in giving the album its dance sensibility. “Songs would start and finish in the band room,” he explains.

“If all five of us are contributing to a song, there’s a good chance it’s going to be loud,” bassist Russel Grant adds.

 By December last year, Shortstraw had about half the tracks for their second offering. To write the remainder, they went to Verkykerskop in the Free State, which allowed them the time to focus solely on making music. 

“It was about getting out of Johannesburg, which I think was very important because otherwise we would have been quite distracted,” says Russel of the reasons behind their platteland getaway.

                                                                                                                                                 PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage

                                                                                                                                                 PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage

“We would have been together [on tour] regardless, but it was nice to be in a creative space with creative people,” says Alastair.

But did the Shortstraw boys feel pressure to get the writing of the album done in a mere week? 

“We knew we wanted to organise this whole tour and have the album ready, so we kind of worked backwards from that deadline,” says synth and keyboard player Gad de Combes. Without that pressure, he says, it all came easily.

There was a great moment during that week in Verkykerskop, says Tom, when the band was narrowing down the tracks for the album. 

“I remember looking at the list and thinking, we’ve got a good selection. It’s not like we’re struggling to fill up an album. We’re struggling to choose which ones to put in, which is cool. It’s a good space to be in,” he explains.

For Russel, the great moment was during the week that Good Morning, Sunshine had to be ready and everyone in the band was ecstatic with the final product.

 “I think if we had problems, we would’ve delayed things and really made a point to change it, but it just worked out that we were all happy at the right time,” he says.

While Good Morning, Sunshine still offers the witty lyrics that characterise Shortstraw’s sound, some of the tracks on the album suggest that the band has grown into a more mature sense of humour. 

“We’ve been writing songs for quite a while now. I think it’s just a natural progression,” says Alastair. 

“The more you do anything ...”

“... the more refined it gets,” says Russel, completing his sentence.

Gad wants to clear something up. “Look, there are still things that make us laugh on the new album...”

“But it’s not as much toilet humour,” says Alastair, his bandmates laughing.

Another thing they all agree on is that the process of creating their second album has brought Shortstraw closer together something evident as they complete each other’s sentences.

 “I spend more time with these guys than I do with anyone else,” explains Alastair.

Says Russel: “I spend three, four times a week with them when I’m not working, so these dudes become your ...”

“... bros,” says Alastair.

“Your besties,” agrees Russel, provoking yet another explosion of laughter.

Read my review of Shortstraw's album, Good Morning Sunshine, here

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Review: Shortstraw's Good Morning, Sunshine

This review was originally published in Perdeby on 20 May 2013.


“Woooo, woooo, you’re such a bitch in the morning,” sings Shortstraw frontman Alastair Thomas, launching a sputter of insults on “Good Morning, Sunshine”, the title track of their second offering.

Similar to their debut album, You’re Underfed, I’m Wonderful, it’s a collection of songs that conjure hair-whipping, hip-thrusting, booty-jiggling jiving that is so wrong that it’s right. Why? Simple. It’s practically impossible not to.

But don’t make a mistake in thinking Shortstraw’s sound has remained stagnant this time around. While Good Morning, Sunshine may still be doused with droll lyrics, it also reveals more introspective wordsmithing, the type that only sinks in later when you find yourself belting songs out in tedious traffic or when you’re elbow-deep in a sink of grimy dishes.

“Couch Potato” lambasts a generation of square-eyed youth who spend their lives in front of the TV, while “Cold Shoulder” admits that “There’s a wounded soldier to mend / So hold me closer tonight.”

And then there’s “LCBSS”, with its contrite chorus: “Sorry for everything / Sorry for everything else too / Sorry for the disappointment / Sorry for the fact that you’re alone / Life can be so shitty sometimes / I can be so shitty sometimes.”

Shortstraw is well aware of the value of putting swear words in the chorus of a song. People sing louder, as if collective cussing somehow gives the proverbial middle finger to everything that irks them in life: the neighbour’s podgy pooch that yelps at all hours, the ever-increasing petrol price, the fact that the Guptas landed their plane where they weren’t supposed to.

The familiar punch of fun is supplied by tracks like “127 Hours”, a song about that awkward moment when you see someone for the first time after some one-night loving.

“Mo Money”, a collaboration with rapper Zubz, is a hedonistic celebration of hitting the bar with an inhibition-less girl (“Now fill up your cup, it’s getting empty / You’re getting drunk, I’m getting thirsty”), while “Gimme My Fix (It’s Only Recreational)” is a song about how a person can be addictive (“Snap back, heart attack / You’re just like a ticket to the sun”).

“The Wedding Blues” is, perhaps, a song that finds itself somewhere in the middle, featuring Desmond & The Tutus frontman Shane Durrant as the best man rapping an embarrassing speech. It pokes fun at the convention of getting married, while at the same time pleading for you not to take it too seriously.

Does Shortstraw completely manage to translate their live energy, made all the more palpable by guitarist Tom Revington, into their recorded material? Not entirely, but this is only in praise of their live performances, which have morphed into high-octane spectaculars that prove that Shortstraw is a band to keep a beady eye on.

Listen to Good Morning, Sunshine below and then head on over to Shortstraw's Bandcamp page to download the album at a price of your choosing.


Read the interview I did with Shortstraw here

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Introducing: The Mamelodi Voice

For those of you who don't know, I'm currently doing my Honours in Journalism. Every year the programme brings out The Mamelodi Voice, a newspaper for the community of Mamelodi, which is a township near Pretoria. This is the third edition that I am working on (previous as a copy editor and a layout artist) and this year I am super excited to be at the helm as editor. The 2013 edition will be printed in July, so I've decided to keep you updated on this here blog about the progress we make as we put the paper together.

Here are some photos when I was in Mamelodi on Tuesday.

Entering Alaska, one of the poorer areas in Mamelodi East.


Beautifully painted shacks outside Viva Village in Mamelodi.

Hair salon. There are lots of these.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Good Morning, Sunshine- Shortstraw (Official video)

The lovely Shortstraw have released their music video for "Good Morning, Sunshine", the title track off their second album.

I interviewed the band on Friday, so watch this space for the article (and a review of their album) which will be out in Perdeby next week.

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.

The return of Holiday Murray

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

                                                                                                                                                PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage

“With any creative relationship, it requires some time to get perspective. That’s definitely made us realise how important it is to play music together and also to give us time to soak up more inspiration.”
Holiday Murray’s bassist Chris Carter is talking about the Cape Town band’s six-month hiatus, a sabbatical of sorts, while he ventured off to India for a while.
Soak up inspiration they did, and now, with mysterious Tanzanian stick man traveller Murray in tow, and a 600 km journey through the night from Durban behind them, they are at Park Acoustics. Arms woven together, the band huddles ritualistically before taking to the stage.

What’s the huddle all about? “It’s a secret,” says lead guitarist Justin Davenport later with a mischievous smile. “Something happens.”
Whatever it is, the foursome delivers a labyrinth of intricate sound, a declaration of intent, an invitation to go on an illusory journey.
Their particular journey started when the band released their self-titled debut album in 2011. Two years later, Holiday Murray is five tracks into their follow-up release. The band is toying with the idea of recording two EPs this time around, with the money from the first one intended to fund the second. A limited vinyl edition is also on the cards.
“I think it’s going to be a double-headed album and we want to look at the interplay between two different styles,” explains Davenport.
                                                                          PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage
The band wants to delve into two worlds with these different styles, the one exploring a velvety, complex sound while the other dips into a bigger, boisterous, rock ‘n’ roll one. “We’re still exploring, we’re just playing. We’re not too serious. We’re still young,” says Davenport.

                                                                           PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage
They’re recording their new material with producer TeeJay Terblanche at his Coffee Stained Vinyl Studios in Cape Town, but they are thinking of experimenting with their own recording methods too. The band is still throwing around the idea of
having a more produced sound with bigger, edgier songs and then taking a DIY approach to the rest of the material.
Either way, they are steering their sound into a direction quite different from the one that their immensely popular first song “Jirey” pushed them into.
“It’s not necessarily that we don’t want to make happy music, but there are a whole range of devotions and ideas that we want to come through that aren’t just happy-go-lucky, make-you-dance music,” explains Carter.

“As different as it is to us, it might be different to other people and that’s cool. We want to keep on surprising people. We’re going to continue making music that makes us happy and if it makes other people happy, then it’s an absolute bonus,” says drummer Ellis Silverman.
When it comes to lyrical content, Davenport says, Holiday Murray’s music has always been quite metaphorical. A lot of the time it gets lost in the spaces between the band’s multi-layered sound.
“We talk about a lot of things that have relevance to us and the way we see the world,” says Davenport. “They often come out quite ...”
 “... abstract,” offers Carter.

Overall, though, Holiday Murray have never chosen to tackle any specific topic through their music. “It’s just a journey of words and poetry,” says Davenport.
And to finish this new journey that they are embarking on, they are heading back home to Cape Town. Rather unconventionally, they’re doing so by train.
“The scenery is absolutely unbelievable,” says Silverman. “The number of times you look out into the absolute nothingness and just think, ‘F**k!’ That’s all you really think. Well I do, at least.”
“I had a few deeper thoughts,” retorts Carter comically. “I bet you did. Do you care to share?” says Silverman looking back at him.
“Not really,” is the reply he gets.

Watch a live performance video of Holiday Murray playing two of their new songs at Kirstenbosch in Cape Town, courtesy of we-are-awesome. 

BOOTLEG | Holiday Murray - Live at Kirstenbosch from we-are-awesome on Vimeo.

The Shining Girls: Beukes's constellation of murder

This review was originally published in Perdeby on 6 May 2013.

A tweet about a time-travelling serial killer is the saucy idea behind Lauren Beukes’s new novel. After her lightbulb moment, the darling of South African modern fiction quickly deleted the tweet and promptly got to work on The Shining Girls

Set in Chicago, it tells the story of Harper Curtis, a twisted, despicable sort of man who stumbles upon a house that allows him to travel through time. He uses it to stalk and kill “the shining girls”, women who beam gloriously with potential. 

When one of his victims survives, Harper’s plan unravels horribly. With the help of cynical sports hack Dan Velasquez, gutsy Kirby Mazrachi doggedly tries to find the man who almost took her life and she won’t let anything stop her. What ensues is a grim, disturbing tale about a serial killer’s insatiable bloodlust and what happens when the roles of the hunter and the hunted become violently entangled. 

Each chapter of The Shining Girls is told from a different person’s perspective, providing a ticket to the inner workings of every character’s mind. We learn that the kooky Kirby is deeply frayed by her kiss with death and this triggers her unrelenting mission to find her would-be killer. Beukes offers another strong female protagonist, much like the flawed Zinzi December in Zoo City, who ultimately displays quite heroic and admirable qualities. 

Lauren Beukes reading an extract from The Shining Girls. 
In this way, we also co-inhabit Harper’s perverse mind. This insight into what makes him tick and what fuels his killing spree through the decades offers a refreshing take on the archetype serial killer because Harper is in no way glamorised. Throughout the novel, there is no doubt that he is an appalling human being and this makes him all the more frightening. 

Similarly, the deaths of Harper’s victims aren’t glamorised either. Beukes devotes at least one chapter to each victim, which allows their minds to be interrogated. The focus is more on their lives and what made them shine, rather than their grisly deaths. 

At the heart of it, The Shining Girls is a novel about violence against women and how this violence has a ripple effect through a community, even though the extent to which it is a socially corrective can be debated. It’s a novel that reflects who we are and interrogates the present by transporting us to an alternate world that is, in many ways, not too different from our own. This is perhaps a difficult pill to swallow, but The Shining Girls is the sweet spoonful of sugar that helps the bitter medicine go down.