Sunday, 22 December 2013

Shadowclub's nod to the past

                                                                                                                                                                               PHOTO: AJ Howard

“Sorry to interrupt, guys,” says a nervy fan as he walks up to Shadowclub. “I just want to say awesome work on the new album.” 

He looks as if he’s mustered up all his courage to walk up to the band and recite the speech he has prepared. 

“Jacques, awesome vocals. Really sick lyrics,” he says to vocalist and guitarist Jacques Moolman.

As he moves on to drummer Isaac Klawansky, he looks up, as if searching for what he wants to say next. 

“Isaac, sweet drumming. I don’t know much about drumming, but it fits really well.”

And for the grand finale, he turns to bassist Louis Roux. “And, um, if you’re not the best bass player in South Africa, then I don’t know who is. I love your lines. I’m also a bass player. I love your work.”

“That’s so nice,” says Moolman as the declaration of adoration comes to an end. “That’s what’s happening at the moment. We haven’t had that in such a long time. It’s a nice morale boost to have these kids coming and saying, ‘Fucking great album.’”

Shadowclub is at Pretoria’s Arcade Empire for the launch of their new album, Goodbye Wild Child, their second offering since their 2011 debut, Guns and Money. When it came to their follow-up album, the band had it all mapped out. They were to record with label Just Music’s in-house producer Matthew Fink at the beginning of the year so that they could have the album out by mid-2013. But things didn’t go according to plan after another musician booked and paid for studio time before them and Just Music’s newly signed artists took precedence.

“You expect to go into studio and you start readying yourself. In that experience, you live in studio. You mentally and spiritually prepare yourself and then it never happened,” says Moolman.

Shadowclub was forced to put their plans on hold for a few months, although they admit that the delay was for the better as it allowed the songs for their forthcoming album to brood for longer. “I think it gave us time to hone the tracks more and just get them tight and realise more and more what was going to work and what wasn’t,” says Klawansky.

                                                                                                                                                                           PHOTO: AJ Howard

While the holdup was frustrating, Klawansky says that the timing worked out perfectly. “I don’t think we would have made the same album and I think we love the album that we made, so we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Having more time to polish the tracks for Goodbye Wild Child didn’t make writing the album any easier for Shadowclub as Roux says the prospect of coming up with new material was daunting. “But then we got into a good space and the tracks just came out,” he says.

For Moolman, the problem was a bout of writer’s block that left him in a quandary about what to write lyrically. “I had just gone through a huge emotional experience that I can pull a lot from. I had to channel the experience and put it into words the best way that I could,” he says.

The often fatal second-album slump didn’t get the better of Shadowclub though. Instead, questioning themselves and being able to deliver the album that they did despite this gave them the confidence boost that they needed. “I think that’s what the pressure was, whether it was going to come out nicely or whether anything would come out at all. Now what we know that it can happen we’ll be fine,explains Klawansky.

Like Guns and Money, Shadowclub recorded Goodbye Wild Child live so that they could capture the feel of their often sweaty, feverish live performances. What they did do differently was spend a lot more time on post-production to ensure that each track is perfect. They also worked on an entire song at a time, instead of recording guitar, bass, drums and vocals separately. “Before, maybe all the vocals sounded the same because they were done in one day, all the guitar tones sounded the same,” says Klawansky. “This time, everything has a bit of a different feel.”

This time around, Shadowclub has also experimented with writing some unexpected melodic ballads. Moolman says that he was tired of the raw punk-rock sound that characterised Guns and Money and wanted to try something different. The first step in this direction was with the track “Suddenly”, an inspired Radiohead-esque track that oscillates between a slow, chilling falsetto and a massive, hard-hitting roar of riffs. From there, the band moved on to writing songs like “Magic Wand” and “Mocking Bird”, realising that they had the ability to paint a different kind of picture without the dirty, fast-paced assault of sound that they are known for. Out of these ballads, “Dirt and the Rubble” has proved to be the most popular with fans. Initially written for Moolman’s solo project when he was out on his father’s farm, it sees him lamenting the loss of a girl to the nightlife.

                                                                                                                                                                             PHOTO: AJ Howard

Roux says he knew that it would be a hit when the band performed the song at Brickfields in Carfax. “There was this girl in the front row. She had her boyfriend behind her with his arms around her shoulder and he was kissing her neck and she was just staring at Jacques throughout the whole song,” he says to an explosion of laughter that erupts from his bandmates.

“Our mate Gareth Wilson went from calling it a tear-jerker to a panty-thrower,” adds Moolman, who says that while “Dirt and the Rubble” is incredibly simple, it’s essentially a love song that everyone seems to be able to relate to.

Moolman’s lyrics have always centred on a character who comes into some kind of conflict with the world. But compared to Guns and Money, the character who penned the lyrics on Goodbye Wild Child is quite different. “For the first album, it was booze and drugs and sex and the nightlife. I think I lived in the night. It was that guy telling all the stories. But these? I mean, I wrote about stuff that I’ve gone through, and coming into my new life, my new way of seeing things and believing in things,” he says.

In this way, Shadowclub has used their second album to bid farewell to the more reckless versions of themselves. “We’ve all had aspects of craziness in our past and we’re all a lot more settled and mature. It’s a nod to what’s happened and where we are now,” says Klawansky.

“I used to call myself a wild child,” says Moolman. “I was going for the wild child experience and I got it and it almost killed me. And I was like, ‘Cool, I’m shaking your hand. Goodbye.’”

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Best of 2013: Albums

I've put together another list to add to your list of annoying year-end lists. Behold the best South African albums of 2013, in no particular order. This is a high five to the year's most beautifully crafted, well-executed records that showcase the best in local talent and make me very proud to be able to write about South African music. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

New video: Arno Carstens | Highway to Hell (AC/DC cover)

Arno Carstens has released a cover of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" as the first single off his new solo album, Lightning Prevails. Carstens tones it down for his take on the classic rock 'n' roll track, a clever move that puts the focus on his gravelly voice which has a beautiful depth to it.

The song has also been covered by the likes of Marilyn Manson, Green Day, The Darkness, Pink and, strangely, Maroon 5. I'm guessing it was before Adam Levine acquired moves like Jagger and his Sexiest Man Alive title.


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

New video: Gangs of Ballet | Don't Let Me Go

Gangs of Ballet have released a new music video for their track "Don't Let Me Go". Sure to be a bit of a tearjerker, it tells the story of an elderly couple who go on a joyride.


Monday, 16 December 2013

Nader Rahmani's caricatures

Nader Rahmani is an Iranian 2D illustrator and caricaturist with a very unique style. His drawings of world leaders and celebrities have been published in a number of Iranian newspapers and magazines. Rahmani has done two caricatures of Madiba, so I thought it would be fitting to feature his work after South Africa's most beloved president was buried yesterday.

Nelson Mandela

Che Guevara

Benjamin Netanyahu
Hugo Chavez

John F. Kennedy

John Kerry
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
 Vladimir Putin
Yasser Arafat

Saturday, 14 December 2013

A bookworm's guide to finding rare reads

One of my favourite things to do is shop for second-hand books. I love the thrill of scouring dusty shelves for rare gems that end up costing a fraction of their original price because they once belonged to someone else. I've put together a little guide of the best places to go second-hand bookshopping in Pretoria. Each shop has been rated out of five based on the variety, price, organisation and condition of books.  







New video: Shadowclub | Melanielectriclove

Shadowclub have released a music video for "Melanielectriclove", the first single off their new album, Goodbye Wild Child. It's a short, quick song that packs in a lot of energy making this live performance setup directed by Mark Middlewick perfect.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Julia Geiser's surreal collages

Swiss artist Julia Geiser creates surreal collages with modern and vintage motifs. Sourcing the pictures she uses on the internet, Geiser's work is purely digital and on her website she warns that it is not made for print as it will lose its quality. Geiser also explains that her work oscillates between legal and aesthetic boundaries and that this "online voyeurism is an inspiration."

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

New Music: Bye Beneco | Overwhelm EP

                                                                                                                                                             PHOTO: Christelle Duvenage

Bye Beneco has released their first EP after signing with independent label Just Music. Overwhelm is an enchanting five track bouquet of blues-infused gypsy jazz that was recorded live when the band performed at the last Just Music Sessions. Overwhelm will be available for purchase on iTunes soon but you can enjoy listening to it on Soundcloud in the meantime.

Bye Beneco have also released an EPK for their new EP. Watch it below. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

MK Awards 2014: who should win, who will win & who got snubbed

MK may be off air but that doesn't mean the MK Awards are no longer. With the nominations announced today, it looks as if MK is doing things a bit differently this year. Categories like Best Group, Best Solo, Best SFX/Animation, Best Dance, Best Rock and Best Indie have been scrapped, while new categories like Album of the Year, Best Music Video Under R15k, and Best Afrikaans Group have been added. I'm happy about the inclusion of Album of the Year but I'm afraid that without the genre categories, some really great musicians will get looked over.

Below is a list of the nominees as well as who I think should win, will win and who got snubbed in each category.

Best Live Act: 

Van Coke Kartel
Zebra & Giraffe
Desmond & The Tutus
Jeremy Loops
PH Fat

Who should win: It's a tough one. Bittereinder pay an enormous amount of detail to their live shows with spellbounding visuals and Peach and Louis always sporting fun masks. On the other hand, Jeremy Loops has developed a following that makes every one of his performances super special as the crowd sings and dances along. If either of them win, I'll be happy.

Who will win: Van Coke Kartel. They've taken the award home twice before and they have a throng of dedicated fans that will make sure they get enough votes to win.

Who got snubbed: As last year's Best Newcomer, Gangs of Ballet have developed a phenomenal live show. Brad Klynsmith is also an incredibly charismatic front man.

Album of the Year: 

Gangs of Ballet- Yes/No/Grey
Shortstraw- Good Morning, Sunshine
The Plastics- Pyramid
Bittereinder- Die Dinkdansmasjien
Taxi Violence- Soul Shake

Who should win: Bittereinder. Die Dinkdansmasjien is magical.

Who will win: With their popular appeal, I think Shortstraw will take this one.

Who got snubbed: Nakhane Toure. His debut album, Brave Confusion, is one of my favourite of the year.

Best Newcomer:

Al Bairre
Matthew Mole
Michael Lowman
Die Skynmaagde
Bye Beneco

Who should win: Matthew Mole.

Who will win: Matthew Mole. It's a no-brainer. Although I wouldn't mind if Al Bairre takes it too. [Side note: keep an eye out for Bye Beneco in 2014. I predict great things from them.]

Who got snubbed: Nakhane Toure. I'm a fan. Can you tell?

Best Festival:

Up The Creek
Rocking The Daisies

Who should win: It's tricky to say because I didn't go to all these festivals. I'm guessing Oppikoppi, though.

Best Music Video:

Van Coke Kartel ft. Jack Parow- Chaos
Bicycle Thief- Goodbye Ian Curtis
Haezer ft Tumi- Troublemaker
The Plastics- Best Pretenders
PH Fat- House of Clashes
Wrestlerish- Battleground
Shortstraw- Waterworks
Bittereinder- Kwaad Naas

Who should win: I love the animation used in The Plastics's Best Pretenders but for me, Haezer and Tumi's Troublemaker is the most memorable.

Who will win: Everything Van Coke Kartel touches turns to gold. Add Jack Parow to the mix and I'd be surprised if anybody else stands a chance.

Who got snubbed: I think MK has it covered.

Best music video under R15 000:

Al Bairre- We Move On
Bye Beneco- On The Line
Moving House- Tongue in Cheek
The Plastics- Occasional Lies
Desmond & The Tutus- The Future

Who should win: Bye Beneco. On The Line is a splendidly trippy video.

Who will win: Al Bairre. Have you seen how many YouTube hits We Move On has gotten?

Who got snubbed: Nakhane Toure's video for Fog. It's like a piece of performance art.

Best Afrikaans Group:

Van Coke Kartel
Jack Parow
Die Skynmaagde
Dans Dans Lisa
Die Heuwels Fantasties

Who should win: I'm a bit confused by this category. It's not as if Afrikaans bands aren't allowed to be nominated in the other categories, so I'm not quite sure why they need one of their own. Van Coke Kartel are the most deserving, I rate.

Who will win: Jack Parow. His fans are formidable.

Who got snubbed: Bittereinder


The awards will take place on 15 February at the State Theatre in Pretoria.The public has from 9 December till 20 January to vote on MK's website or their Facebook page.