Jason Hinch: Bridging The Divide

Jason Hinch is a top South African rock drummer who’s worked with everyone from Arno Carstens to Zolani Mahola, Albert Frost to Francois van Coke, as well as countless others. The son of a Dr. Professor of music and a concert pianist, Jason has been immersed in music his entire life. After studying Jazz composition and Jazz drumming and obtaining his BA in Music in 2010, Jason pursued a full-time touring and recording career performing over 200 shows a year and recording on numerous albums. Recently Jason launched his solo project, though, which is far more electronic. We sat down with him to chat about the South African music industry, some of the challenges faced by bands and producers, the divide between rock and electronic musicians in South Africa and much more.

I understand that you grew up in a family of musicians – how much of a role did that play in causing you to gravitate towards picking up an instrument?

Oh totally. Some of my earliest memories are from underneath pianos, my mum and dad practising together or with orchestras etc. My dad studied music in London in the 60’s, can you imagine? And while we were growing up he would play us his favourite jazz and rock records. My mum, although a pianist, was always a rocker at heart and introduced us to bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. My oldest brother introduced me to bands like Nirvana and The Prodigy when I was like 10 and my other brother got me into punk at first with guys like NOFX etc and a little later on crazy stuff like Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan. After high school, I started getting into stuff like Justice and Aphex Twin.

I guess my point is that my family’s influence on me to want play music was huge. Any kind of music. Everything. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

I can imagine that it must have been tough at the beginning as there must have been a lot of pressure on you to succeed and be talented at playing music – was this initially the case?

It was never like that. It was always for the love of it. Always. Later on, I studied music and that brought with it it’s own set of pressures. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well but it never came from my family.

Out of your family members, who had the most influence on which instruments you chose to play and why? Were there any instruments you were forced to play or were you allowed to pick and choose?

My brother was definitely the one that got me into playing the drums. He played the guitar for a few bands who were pretty big in their day. He was the first person that taught me to play an instrument. Just messing around together. Those were good times.

In high school, drums wasn’t an instrument so I played the trumpet and did my Royal Schools exams like that. In university, I specialised in drums and jazz composition but we had to play the piano too. That along with the theory we did for big bands and orchestras etc has been insanely helpful. That bit of piano and all that theory. For my own writing mostly but also just being able to communicate with other players.

You’ve had a pretty amazing career as a musician but what was the catalyst that made you decided to actually pursue music as a career? (Besides having a family of musicians)

I started playing shows pretty young. Like 13. I was playing with older guys playing house parties and little fests and stuff at first but then by the time I was like 16 we were playing clubs and stuff and by 17/18 I was doing tours and festivals.

That was definitely the catalysts for me. I was just like; DAMN, THIS IS SO RAD. Haha.

You’ve played for countless artists – what has been the fondest memory of your musical career so far?

Touring Brazil last month was life changing. That was really incredible. Some of those first big stages I mentioned were super memorable. There are a lot of highlights. Getting nominated for a SAMA, winning an MK award. Some of the endorsements I’ve gotten were pretty huge for me. More recently there are a few main stages that stand out. Rocking the Daises, Innibos is huge, Up The Creek, Oppikoppi, The Standard Bank Jazz Fest, Table Mountain Blues Summit, STRAB in Mozambique is amazing too. Some incredible studios. There are lots of things man. It’s been real. Playing with all the incredible people I’ve been fortunate enough to get onto stages with is in itself a highlight. I’ve worked with some incredible human beings.

On the note of playing for many artists, you’ve also played for many artists across numerous genres which is something I find to be quite unique. Why do you choose to drum over such a wide spectrum of music, or rather – what made you decide to do this?

It was never really a choice. I grew up playing a lot of different styles, I studied a bunch of different styles and then played more different styles sessioning etc. I think it was just a matter of necessity. I wanted to be a working musician and you can’t just play for one artist if you want to do that. So yeah it started kind of naturally and later on it just kind of became my thing. My passion is music so that would include all genres.

When did your interest in electronic music start?

I first fell in love with electronic music listening to guys like Justice and Aphex Twin when I was around 16. Coming from a performance background I was always just like, “I HAVE TO DO THIS LIVE”. One of the reasons I studied music was because I wanted to do that stuff live. Eventually though drumming kind of took over and the electronic thing took a back seat. I wanted to do it again later on but the whole “EDM” thing just felt so fake. I dunno. I didn’t want to be a part of that. Right now though everything just just feels right. It feels really natural.

How did you get started doing live electronic music?

Originally, like 6 years ago, I was playing live drums and sampling electro and stuff but it just wasn’t practical. Drums are such a mission hahaa. Maybe the infrastructure just wasn’t really there for something like that in SA.

I always had this super old MPC that I would mess around with when I was writing but I started really digging playing around on it and started messing around with the idea more and more. Eventually it just kind of clicked; I could play any instrument with it. It was perfect.

That’s where the idea to do it on the NI Maschine I use now came from. The one I play on actually belonged to Zebra and Giraffe originally. I bought it from Stef who I play in another band with called Art Snakes. Stef’s rad. Thanks Stef!

There is a rather annoying culture in rock music where fans of rock music tend to look down upon electronic music as being an inferior genre due to it not being made with “real” instruments. What are your thoughts on this?

The definition of a musical instrument is something you use to make music.

You know there was a time the electric guitar wasn’t considered a “real instrument”? There was a time where every single instrument was brand new. Think about that. The electric guitar, responsible for rock music’s birth, was once basically the equivalent of a laptop some people now love to hate on so much. A blank canvas. Completely new territory waiting for someone to write it’s future. It’s quite beautiful actually.

Miles Davis’s mother wanted him to be a classical trumpet player. She didn’t think jazz music was “real” music. If Miles Davis had listened to his mother some of the greatest music ever recorded would not exist today. It was the same for Jimi Hendrix. I guarantee Beethoven’s parents/friends, were like; “what is this crap?”, you know?

My point is, If everyone listened to the generation that came before them we would probably still be banging rocks together in a cave. For real. It’s ridiculous. You’d think people would have learned by now to be open minded enough to accept the new as it stems from the old.

Why do you think there is this enormous divide between rock and electronic music in terms of what people within each culture think of the genre?

I think it’s fear. People fear what they don’t know. I think a lot of musicians hate on other genres because they don’t understand them. They don’t understand how they work and that scares them. It’s also a mind set and group thinking situation, “my buddies in the rock scene all agree that electro is shit, so I must too or else I look like an idiot”.

I feel like it becomes more and more entrenched each year. Do you think this is because rock fans only ever see the commercial (and average) side of the electronic scene?

You know that’s ironic right. You’re describing commercial music as inferior in some way. Which it’s not. Music has always served different purposes. Wether it’s prayer, dancing, going to war, whatever. Dance music is, wait for it, made for dancing. Pop music is; made to be popular. It does this by being, catchy and memorable. Just because something doesn’t give you what you want doesn’t make it “bad”. It’s just not your thing. If you gave it an honest chance in the first place. And that’s cool. We’re all different. It’s human. But if we go around persecuting everyone who doesn’t believe in the same things we do.. Well. We know where that gets us.. The crusades.

And actually I think the opposite. I think younger kids these days care less about genres than ever before. I think our generation are more eclectic than ever. It depends on so many things. The setting you’re in, the mood, the person you’re with..

I read this amazing article by a guy called Lefsetz. He’s amazing. Check him out. He was saying how people don’t need music anymore to define who they are. It used to be a necessity. You were a punk or a jazz cat, or a metal head or a jock or whatever. Then came technology and disrupted that. People could define themselves into really small or really huge communities using technology. Gaming, blogs, Instagram, whatever. And within each one of those categories a million subcategories. You didn’t need music to define who you were. Tech was the new rock ’n roll. Now though, the entry point to tech is so much lower than it was and the scarcity is gone. You wanna know what the next big thing is? Politics. That’s the next rock ’n roll.

A big part of the divide is this belief that if you listen to “x” then you can’t listen to “y”, and this actually applies to divides within the genre themselves. Do you think this is an incredibly backwards way of thinking? That you can’t listen to one genre if you listen to another?

Pop culture is something to be indulged in. It’s not meant to be taken so damn seriously. It’s not politics. It’s not life or death. It’s supposed to be fun. Go to a bar/club and get drunk and dance. Go to a metal show and head bang. Go see a proper jazz band and get your mind blown. People take it so seriously. Life’s too short. There’s so much cool stuff out there if you’re just open minded enough to listen out for it.

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Hendrik Joerges: On Harambe And Dance Music

Hendrik Joerges should not be an unfamiliar name to anyone following the local dance scene as he has been making waves over in Durban for  a while now and it is about time that he started getting national love. I first encountered him when I was initially writing for internatioanl sites and decided to do an article on him despite not knowing his music at all. He was just another 18 year old making music while I was an 18 year old writing about music. I finally got a chance to interview him about how he started producing, the nature of dance music in South Africa, dance trends, his plans for the future and he shed some insight on why Rick and Morty season 3 is taking so long to be released.

Let’s cut to the origins, seeing as that is your favourite club to perform at, how did you get into making electronic music at such a young age? What inspired you to decide to start producing? (I do not apologise for that pun.)

I actually began making hip hop and RnB before I started making electronic music. When I was in my early teens, however, I saw that I could also DJ if I made ‘EDM’, so I started doing that. Now I’ve gone back to my roots a bit, making hip-hop influenced pop / electronic music rather than full on club music or as some like to call it: EDM.

You had quite a bit of luck in almost instantly landing on the Do Work Records Roster – how did that come about so quickly?

Well, basically Das Kapital found my music on Soundcloud and I think he really liked it! So he contacted me and I got into contact with his management (which is now my management as well), and from there on out, I became a member of the Do Work family.

If I recall, I stumbled upon your music when we were both in Matric and I was looking for new South African talent to feature on a British site for which I was writing. I remember that you had already been DJing for a while prior to that – was it difficult DJing prior to turning 18 seeing as most clubs probably wouldn’t let you DJ due to your age?

It was a struggle for me. I only started really doing club gigs after I turned 18 because I wasn’t actually allowed into the clubs. It was extremely frustrating for me, but all that matters now is that I’m able to perform regularly, which I’m very thankful for.

What I find impressive is that you’re also student while being this super successful producer. How difficult is it to juggle the two, or do you do it with relative ease?

I used to always struggle in high school because I used to focus either completely on the one or the other, but now that I’m in university it is a lot easier to manage my time. During exam time, for instance, I don’t work on any music, but prior to and after exams, I work (almost excessively) on music. That way I don’t have to stress about taking a break from music during exams because I prioritised prior to the exams.

Let’s actually expand on that idea of age South Africa is nurturing a lot of talent within the u18 bracket, but this talent is not receiving the kind of exposure and support that would really help them grow. Do you think clubs, promoters and other producers should be doing a lot more to help nurture and grow this talent?

I think it is a duty as a DJ / Producer to share good music with others. There are a select few who are very supportive of the rising talent (Das Kapital for instance, with his #InDasWeTrust radio show), but I feel like the real issue as to why there isn’t more support in South Africa is because the influential DJs and producers don’t really have a platform on which they can share music, other than their gigs perhaps. Just playing young producers’ music isn’t going to change much, because the people listening won’t know who made the song. The bottom line is that there needs to be a better platform in order for solid support to even be possible.

 The South African music scene is at an interesting point of convergence where much introspection on the nature of the scene is occurring, while it is also growing at an absolutely exponential rate. So much so that many people feel like that there is widespread saturation occurring. What are your thoughts on this and the music scene as a whole?

I feel that due to the 90/10 ratio, there is a massive increase in supply when in reality there isn’t that big of a demand. However, it is also allowing for many talents to rise up (especially commercially – singers, rappers, etc.), and in the long run, this might benefit the music scene, but for now – unless handled correctly – it might actually be mildly destructive. Only time can tell, though. I’m optimistic!

More specifically, what are your thoughts on the current nature of the electronic scene? Where do you see it going this year in terms of musical trends?

I feel the international market hugely influences the local market here – many of the producers from overseas that made EDM are now moving on to making more pop influenced tracks (look at DJ Snake for example), so my theory is that the gap between club music (techno, deep house, etc.) and the more commercially viable dance music will increase.

African-influenced genres are starting to become a lot more prevalent with the EDM scene and I think that is pretty great. Do you think you may start bringing some African influences into your music or would you rather leave that to people like Black Coffee and so forth?

The tracks I’m currently working on all have elements of different genres in them. I’m busy working on a track with a very talented musician who recorded himself playing the guitar to add an organic indie vibe to the track. I’m all for incorporating new elements into my music, so I’ll definitely be trying to bring some African influences into my new tracks.

Finally, and this is a serious question, do you think Harambe is punishing us by delaying season 3 of Rick and Morty?

Well, with the loss of our big brother Harambe the world stopped turning for a little while. If the developers of Rick and Morty were as devastated as I was or am, then I’m pretty sure that Harambe’s passing is the reason for the delay. (RIP homey)

 

 

Dropkick Murphys: A Story Of Political Opposition

There is something special about talking to a legend within the punk scene, and even more so when it is one with a political opinion as strong as that Matt Kelly, the drummer of Celtic punk rock outfit Dropkick Murphys. They recently released their new album 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory – an incredibly introspective yet frantic punk album, and going full steam ahead with another album due to be released later this year. We spoke to Matt about his views on the American election, the state of the punk scene and possible plans to come to South Africa.

Dropkick Murphys are renowned for their staunch political views and I can imagine you were incredibly opposed to Donald Trump throughout the election process. So, what are your thoughts on Donald Trump being elected as President now that the nation has cooled down a bit since the election results?

I was opposed to both Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton and voted for neither of them; I voted for Gary Johnson.  Mrs Clinton has made a career of padding her own pockets and those of lobbyists, PAC’s, multinational corporate CEO’s, and supporting the out-of-control military industrial complex.  She has the blood of tens of thousands of people on her hands in her avaricious quest for power.  I’m relieved that she didn’t get elected.  People who argue that it would have been great to have a woman president need to seriously reanalyze their criteria for what is important, and get off the identity politics horse that seems to be clouding their judgment.

If the Democrats continued to hold executive office, there’d be no outcry against the countless drone strikes, missile strikes, or sending troops to fight endless wars in the Middle East.  So far, the people so critical of G.W. Bush foolish warmongering turn a blind eye to the horrors perpetrated under Mr Obama’s watch.

With Trump, I honestly don’t know.  I certainly don’t think he has the moral fibre to be POTUS, but time will tell.  I hope and pray that he is smarter than he’s letting on!  He seems to be the “bull in the china shop” type.  If he brings more middle-class jobs to America and tries to rid us of the draconian National Defense Authorization Act, that would be a big thumbs-up from me but I highly doubt he’ll even touch that but then again, what does he have to lose?  He’s not a career politician!  Time will tell.

A lot of people were throwing around the idea that the election of Trump may possibly do for punk rock what the election of George W. Bush did for punk and allow for a new wave of politically-charged punk rock to emerge. You were part of Punkvoter – do you think that these election results could revitalise the American punk scene and ultimately the global punk scene? Actually, let’s talk about modern punk music. To be perfectly blunt, as a prominent working-class punk band, do you think that punk is dead, or is rather just going through a jaded suburban phase?

I’d rather there not be a need for politically-charged punk rock; I’d rather a great nation.  I think revitalising a scene is a ridiculous payoff for the U.S.A. going to Hell in a hand basket… but yeah, neato mosquito.

Is punk dead?  There are more punk bands now than there ever were, and the suburbs is where hardcore basically originally came from and thrived.  The only reason for the whole “Punk Is Dead” cliché was to sell newspapers and try and push New Wave, etc.  Crap, crap, crap.  Everything is cyclical, and Punk rears its ugly head into the spotlight every decade or so in one form or another and then gets revitalised underground.  Wash, rinse, repeat…

The punk scene was recently set ablaze by the actions of  Joe Corré. People are divided over his actions. Some are praising him for “sticking it to the establishment” and rebelling against the mainstream consumption of punk while others are pointing out that his ability to not care about burning that much merch makes him no better than the establishment. What are your thoughts on these events? Do you think that things should have been done differently?

It really depends on one’s definition of “punk”.  Some people are into the nihilistic side of Punk Rock and in that case, it’s the “punkest” thing you could do to burn all that crap.  If you look at punk as simply a reinvigoration of rock and roll, taking it back from the shoe-gazing 1970s dinosaur-rockers, then the guy’s burning a piece of the history of rock and roll.

The way I personally look at it is that it’s ultimately his property and he can do whatever he wants with it.  I think the little publicity stunt (which is certainly what it is) will gain him many admirers and many enemies.  Like they say, “any press is good press”.

Most of the band probably grew up attending punk shows in the 80s and a slew of all-ages shows – something that has kind of faded from relevance in the modern punk scene and even the broader music scenes. How important do you think it is to have all-ages shows where young people can become excited about music that isn’t necessarily trendy pop music?

Haha, well, only two of the guys in the band are old enough to have gone to a lot of gigs in the ’80s.  My “career” as a gig-goer started just at the end of the ‘80s, as I turned 15 in 1990.  Here in Boston, and many cities in the USA, there is a thriving scene for basement gigs, small gigs in Elks lodges(and other halls people can rent out for cheap).  The thing is, any mainstream attention given to Punk is to bands like ourselves and the big bands like Rancid, Green Day, Social Distortion, etc. The mostly underground scene just gets ignored and maybe has become a bit incestuous because of a lack of new blood. However, if somebody scratches below the surface of bigger punk bands, there’s a whole slew of smaller, great bands to check out.

I think it’s very, very important to have a thriving all-ages scene for young kids to check out established bands, but also to start their own bands, put on gigs, interact on a human level— as opposed to “interacting” over social media —and make friends, find out about bands, and form their own unique local style, vernacular, sound, or whatever.  That DIY all-ages scene is very, very important as a social structure, and a great alternative for the less normal kids to hang out in and call their own.

It’s actually pretty cool that you guys have been together for the exact length of time as I have been alive. Looking back on your 20-year career, what moments stand out the most for you?

Wow, that sort of thing is really mind-blowing!  Some of the standout things are like when someone at one of our gigs comes up to us and introduces themselves as the child of one of our friends who used to come see us in 1997!

Also, the first time we played Australia in November 1999.  We made such good friends and were treated so well.  It left an indelible mark on our psyches.

To be honest, just being able to play in a band, travel the world, meet cool people, see cool places, and have people care about our music is the most amazing thing that has happened to us, really.  We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have this as a “career”…. I know scores of family, friends, and acquaintances who have been trying to do it for decades.

So this interview was actually set up to discuss your new album and to promote it in South Africa. This is your ninth studio album – how does it compare to your previous releases in terms of musical style?

This album reminds me of the Who, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, The Clash, maybe Bruce Springsteen, and stuff like The Faces and Kinks. Maybe some more of our rock and roll heroes’ influence coming through on it, more so than on Signed And Sealed In Blood.  The power of it seems less reliant on speed and franticness, more on deliberate, tough power and songwriting.

What was the recording process like for this album? Did you do anything different that you hadn’t done on your previous albums?

Yes, we went to Sonic Ranch studio in Tornillo, Texas, which is about 2,400 miles from Boston.  This, unfortunately, kept us from our wives and children, but it did manage to keep us free from the distractions of everyday life.  We were able to really “live” these songs and fully entrench ourselves into the creative process.  Living very simply at the studio, all we had to focus on was making an amazing album, and I, humbly, believe we succeeded. The ranch is on a pecan farm that borders the country of Mexico.  There is really nothing for miles around, so we basically worked 12-14 hours per day for about three weeks and cut nineteen tracks.  The place had an austere beauty to it, being in the desert and very far from anything(the closest city is El Paso, and that’s about forty miles away)… so it really was an inspiring place to record an album.

One of my favourite songs on this album is “First Class Loser” – what inspired this particular song and is it directed anybody in particular?

Haha, well everybody has that annoying neighbour or relative…. we won’t name names, but we know a lot of Mamalukes!

There is some degree of retrospectivity and introspection present on the album as it sort of feels like you’re taking a look at your career and where you’ve come from. Is there any degree of truth to this, and if so – what influenced this retrospectivity?

Maybe in the subject matter of the song “Blood” when we speak of Kenmore Square— which is where the band got its start, at the Rathskeller (now sadly gone).  Also the song “Sandlot”, which is about the innocence of youth.  Sometimes ideas just present themselves and you just run with them, sort of letting the album write itself in a way.

There is this kind of stereotype that Celtic punk is pretty much just about drinking and rebellion – what are your thoughts on this? Your music has always seemed to defy that stereotype.

Thanks, because we certainly don’t fit the stereotype.  We’re all in our thirties or forties.  If you’re an adult looking for fights and getting wasted every night, you need to reassess your life!

Now, I think that two facets of Irish music have to do with drinking and rebellion, but there’s so much more to it.  There’s pain, lament, poverty, love, love lost, pride, patriotism, wonder, aggression, crime, you name it.  I think so many bands and enthusiasts look to the Pogues, or specifically what they think Shane MacGowan is like while expanding and idolising two small facets of that (amazing) band.

I guess drinking and rebellion are the lowest common denominator in Irish music, and that’s what some people gravitate to.  Nothing wrong with them as part of a bigger whole.

Here’s the question most of our readers want us to ask you – are there any desires to head to South Africa in the near future or at least before you decide to call it quits as a band?

Yeah, I’d love to play there eventually.  But hey, we are certainly NOT calling it quits anytime soon!  We have most of another new album after “11 Stories” coming out, we hope, at the end of 2017.  We’re not slowing down, baby!

On the note of calling it quits, it is pretty amazing to see a punk band keeping it together for a solid two years. Most rock bands can hardly even stand existing for that long nevertheless a punk band – how have you managed to keep going strong?

I’m not sure.  I think it’s mostly “nose to the grindstone” and working hard.  Staying grounded and not letting success cloud our judgement.  There are always other bands and musicians out there who are so much more talented than you are, and there are millions who would give their right arm to be in the position of being in a popular, successful band.  I guess just do your best every day and don’t forget where you came from.

Finally, and this is out of pure curiosity – what would have to happen for you guys to decide to break-up?

I think it would take something very serious.  I really don’t know… I guess maybe a death in the band?  Tough question with morbid answers!

Thank you so much for your time and I do apologise for some of the more politically orientated and lengthy questions.

Yeah, thanks for the great interview.  Thank you to our South African supporters; may we someday meet!

SINGLE REVIEW: The Curious Incident – Behaviour Saviour

The Curious Incident are a unique success story of how two musicians from different sides of the world managed to find each other in England via the way of the Netherlands and come to form a band that would carve out their own little niche in the Brit-pop movement. The Curious Incident is a combination of a vocalist and guitarist from South Africa, known was Kairo, and a drummer from Indonesia, known as Diaz.

My first exposure to the band was in the form of their EP Penny Lonesome and the tour of South Africa that was spawned from that release. The band has somehow managed to constantly tour South Africa and find a unique place in the local music scene. This could be that they don’t seem to be much bigger than most of South Africa’s indie bands and can comfortably fit onto most tour line-ups without having to charge fans an arm and a leg to see them. Their EP was a jangling burst of Brit-pop and came from a time where Brit-pop, and indie rock, was focused on producing music with pronounced guitar riffs and jangling melodies.

Their latest single “Behaviour Saviour” sees them moving away from this kind of song structure and rather embracing something that is much more laid-back with tropical overtones. A lot of the single puts me in mind of the tropical dancehall indie-pop that La Roux delivered with Trouble In Paradise, but with a lot more guitars and a lot less synth. The guitar work takes on a much more intricate style and is often punctuated by neatly constructed guitar works. Diaz’s drumming has a lot more rhythm to it than previous releases and this gives the song a foot-stomping kind of energy while still sticking to quite a subdued atmosphere. It is the kind of song that you would just lightly sway to while occasionally breaking into frenzied dancing.

More of this please.

ALBUM REVIEW: You Me At Six – Night People

You Me At Six had a career built on defining the adolescent angst of emo teens on the back end of the mid-2000s emo movement. Pop punk and post-hardcore was being replaced with edgy alt-rock and mainstream metalcore. It was in here that You Me At Six gained traction and success with the new wave of emo kids who gravitated to a strange spectrum of easy-listening yet edgy alt -rock and angst-ridden metalcore that was dripping with just the right amount of abrasive riffs and screamo influences. Their first three albums positioned the band in the middle of this spectrum with their simplistic edgy alt-rock formula and occasional leanings towards metalcore influences. They even got Oli Sykes and Winston McCall to feature on songs in order to give them credibility with the edgier emo kids.

Fast forward to 2014, You Me At Six had just got their first number 1 album in the UK with the release of Cavalier Youth. The band performed a complete turn-around with their music and delivered a radio-friendly stadium rock album that would change the course of their career. The album saw them refining their songwriting and their entire approach to creating music. It was possibly the strongest album that they had released, until now. You Me At Six has just released their fifth studio album Night People – a dark and gritty stadium rock album that truly sees the band coming into their element.

They are at that stage in their career where they are finally finding their groove and defining their sound. This is apparent from how their songwriting has greatly improved since their debut album. That obviously comes with gaining experience but if the band had continued to purse writing angsty alternative rock they would have stuck to the lyrical tropes of love and failed romances that defined their earlier music. At face value, Night People would seem to be about nightlife in the UK, but upon deeper inspection – Night People delivers a multifaceted examination of the darker aspects of human existence. Lyrical themes hint at the doubt that is intrinsic to human existence, the darker thoughts that plagued the night hours, and they even tackle relationship problems with fine-tuned maturity.

The album opens on a gritty and loud note with title track “Night People” delivering a burst of loud stadium rock that has clearly been designed to induce mass singalongs with its meaty drumming and soaring choruses. It opens the album on a strong note and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Namely that this album is going to be wall-to-wall alternative rock designed for wooing major arenas. Intricate melodies and neatly constructed guitar riffs dripping with the grit of the London nightlife dominate the album on songs like “Heavy Soul” and “Swear”. These are neatly complemented by Josh Franeschi’s dynamic vocals which easily switch between melodic, soulful croonings and edgier alt-rock snarls.

However, Night People is not just a rowdy alt-rock album. It has a softer side that comes out on songs like “Take On The World” and “Give” which see You Me At Six pursuing a much softer sound as acoustic guitars and piano melodies come out to support Francheschi’s vocals. However, “Give” fades into electric guitar parts and this shows how dynamic You Me At Six can be as a band. They have several songs on Night People that transition from softer, melodic sections straight into bawdy stadium-rock singalongs. It is this dynamic that shows that they are a band truly in their prime.

 

 

 

Our Last Night: Gearing Up For Rocking For Rhinos

Our Last Night shall be visiting South Africa in early February in support of Rocking For Rhinos cause to help stop Rhino poaching in South Africa. They shall be performing in Johannesburg at Sundowners on 3 February, Arcade Empire on 4 February and in Cape Town at Mercury Live on 11 February. We briefly caught up with the bassist of post-hardcore outfit, Alex “Woody” Woodrow, ahead of their South African tour.

I had the privilege of interviewing you guys towards the end of 2015 and part of the interview focused on your desire to tour outside of the US. You’ve visited Asia and South America over the past year and now you’re finally about to head to South Africa. What bought about the decision to finally head to South Africa?

 We love travelling to new places. When we found out we had the offer to travel to South Africa, play for our fans that have been asking us to come there for years and support a great cause, we were quite excited.  

 You’re coming down here in support of an anti-Rhino poaching charity. Why anti-poaching in particular? Is it simply because the organisers of Rocking The Rhinos reached out to you or is it rather linked to a deep-seeded desire to bring about some kind of positive change with regards to how our endangered animals are protected?

 We really enjoy supporting causes we are passionate about, especially ones that make a positive difference in the lives of others. We were in contact with Craig who works on behalf of Rocking For Rhinos; we are in full support.

 A lot of your newer music like your latest single “Common Ground” and other older songs like “A World Divided” are imbued with a wonderful message that promotes diversity and is anti-discrimination in nature. What brought about this choice of lyrical theme? Is it influenced by the widespread discrimination experienced by people on a daily basis as a result of their skin colour, religion and so forth?

 We are all equals and we think that acknowledging what has caused massive degrees of separation in the past can help us come together in the future. As we move forward it is important to be able to have conversations and meet with people on a level, even if they have different views or appearances.

  With that in mind, do you think it is even possible for us to get rid of discrimination, or rather – how you do you think humans could go about getting rid of discrimination even if it is just on a personal level?

 I think seeing everyone as a reflection of our self can help this. Similar to the golden rule treating others the way we would like to be treated when we see another as a reflection of our self our perspective can take a drastic shift towards unity, we can start to notice that we are not as different as some things make us seem.

 With 2017 having just begun, a lot of people are still reflecting on 2016. What was your own personal experience with 2016? Was it as bad as many people had experienced it or were there a lot of positive things to come out of it for the band?

 As a band it was great, we got to travel and play for our fans all over the world, create new music and work on making both our band and our business stronger.

 In terms of global affairs, do you think 2017 will be better than 2016 or was 2016 just a warm-up?

 That depends on how you view the world. We are always learning, getting better and more efficient. As far as being better I think we all have to ask ourselves if the glass is half full or half empty and have the faith that it will be better and then the drive to impose our will on it in a positive way so it does actually become better.

 Finally, what can South African fans expect from your set when you perform in South Africa? Is it going to be a good mix of old and new music, and are you going to throw a few cover into the mix?

 Expect a lot of new material, we do enjoy playing a few older tunes but we like to play recent songs in our live set. We are definitely planning for a cover or two.

Purchase your tickets here.

Emo Night Presents “From Under The Emo Tree” Featuring Dustland Express, Omar Morto and Young Hands

Photography courtesy of Aaron Polikoff. Artwork by Brett Allen-White.

2016 was a successful year for Emo Night South Africa. The brand appeared out of nowhere in early July and rapidly found a degree of success that many have to work for several years to obtain. Their successful DJ format was quickly altered to be inclusive of live bands and 17 February shall see Emo Night return to Mercury Live with their fourth event featuring indie-punks Young Hands, experimental rock outfit Dustland Express, and it shall mark a return of the Omar Morto to the decks for a special guest DJ slot.

 

The launch of the new event also marks the release of the first Emo Night Mixtape – a monthly mixtape that shall be released featuring songs from classic emo artists and other lesser known artists that were intrinsic to defining the emo genre. The mixtapes shall also feature bands that are currently shaping the modern emo and pop punk scenes. Volume One, which is named “From Under The Emo Tree” features music from Brand New, My Chemical Romance, +44, Man Overboard, Fall Out Boy, The Wonder Years, Taking Back Sunday, Paramore, A Day To Remember, American Hi-Fi, and nothing,nowhere.

Emo Night is a conceptually unique event. At its core is a desire to recapture the nostalgia that surrounded the mid-2000s emo subculture by playing all the music that was once, and still is, associated with the subculture. It is the kind of event that you can attend confident that you will know nearly all the songs playing because let’s face it – the mid-2000s were dominated by the music of the emo subculture. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing a Blink 182 chorus, the soaring rock opera of My Chemical Romance or a snarling Sum 41 guitar riff. You can step through the doors and enter an environment in which pop punk, alternative rock, metalcore and everything in-between is blaring while former and current emo kids lose their voices screaming each and every single lyric.

“From Under The Emo Tree” will see Dustland Express and Young Hands performing a plethora of covers alongside their original material. It is an apt event to kick-start the year and Emo Night’s ambition to bring the local punk and niche alternative scene to a much broader audience is palpable in this event. It marks the beginning of Emo Night’s yearlong plan to truly grow their brand and make a mark on the local music industry.

Details:

Line up: Dustland Express, Omar Morto, Young Hands and Emo Night DJs

Date: 17 February

Cover fee: R50

Location: Mercury Live, Cape Town

Event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1397514406934923/

YOH Presents MNDSGN Live In South Africa

Artwork by Tyla Mason

Late 2016 saw YOH introduce a new format for the parties for which they’ve become so popular. The new format sees them bringing an eclectic international artist to South Africa and having them perform in a unique and secret location. November 2016 saw YOH bringing Olubenga, one of the members of hit indie band Metronomy, to perform at a house party. 28 January shall see YOH bringing LA-based Stone Throw Records artist MNDSGN to perform a pool party somewhere in Cape Town. The secret location shall be announced to ticket holders a few days prior to the event. Further details and the support acts shall be announced in the build-up to the event. Tickets are limited to 500 people and can only be bought via Quicket. Ticket prices start out at R150 for early bird tickets limited to 50 people. There shall be a limited 100 tickets being sold at R200 and a general ticket shall set you back R250. Join the event on Facebook for more details and to keep up with the various acts that shall be performing.

 

Who is MNDSGN? Mndsgn (born Ringgo Ancheta) grew up in south New Jersey, raised with Gospel music at church, and B-Boy culture at home. Experimenting with beat-making, he befriended fellow producer Knxwledge and the two formed the influential Klipmode collective (along with Devonwho and Suzi Analogue). Mndsgn’s music flourished when he moved to Los Angeles, catching the attention of Stones Throw who released Yawn Zen (2014) and Body Wash (2016).

 

#BowsieChallenge: Shortstraw’s Compelling Charity Initiative

It can often be difficult for a charity to find compelling ways to engage their target audience and achieve their goals. We live in a country where people plead indifference and ignorance towards worthwhile causes and when we do find worthwhile causes we are plagued with fears of corruption and maladministration of funds. It is as if our society has been carefully constructed to generate widespread paranoia when it comes to charity organisations.

This particular environment means charities have to find unique and interesting ways to get people to engage with them in a manner that would allow them to generate revenue for their cause without actively asking people to donate money. Some charities, like Rocking For Rhinos, opt for creating music events from which all the proceeds shall be donated to a charity. Other charities team up with a brand or retailer and create a programme whereby a certain percentage of sales from a particular product will be donated to charity, or even the entirety of the revenue generated shall be donated to charity. However, even with these kinds of programmes, there is a degree of paranoia over whether the money actually ends up assisting the charity or lining the pockets of those that run the charity.

The question is then how does a charity go about generating money without actively asking people for money? It seems like a tricky situation but Shortstraw may have found a solution for that through the launching of the Bowsie Foundation, and more importantly through the charity event that is being launched concurrently with the launch of their music video for “Bowsie” – the new single from the These Meddling Kids collective. Alastair has always had a love for dogs and this love has often being reflected in numerous aspects of the band’s image and creative output. “Bowsie” is a tribute to his lost pet and is imbued with a sense of melancholia, reflecting Alastair’s sadness over her loss, but the song is still reflective of Shortstraw’s upbeat energy.

The launch of “Bowsie” shall also see Shortstraw launching The Bowsie Foundation. This is an initiative set up by the band as aa means to support animal charities in South Africa. The aim of the foundation is for the band to try their utmost best to ensure that animal charities in South Africa can receive whatever money and aid they can give them. This is a much more sustainable solution for the band as opposed to constantly performing numerous charity shows as this will allow them to focus their efforts on the charities in which they believe and ensure that these charities receive the right funding.

The launch of this charity shall also the launch of the 15 Day #BowsieChallenge – Shortstraw’s brilliant solution to generating revenue for a charity without actively asking their fans for money. The band is rather asking their fans for a small amount of time. The idea behind the #BowsieChallenge is to match the number of views on the video for “Bowsie” with a donation to a dog-related charity. The band has always wanted to do this but could never find the right song for it, but since “Bowsie” is a reflection of their love for dogs – it is only fitting that “Bowsie” should be a conduit for such a charity initiative.

Shortstraw has teamed up with Montego Pet Nutrition to bring this idea to life. Montego has come on board to pledge money for the #BowsieChallenge. Montego will be donating R1 for every view of the “Bowsie” music video received within 15 days, up until R15 000, so the band is setting out to achieve 15 000 views in 15 days. The band shall then donate this money to an animal charity of their choice and are giving fans the chance to recommend charities.

 

Essentially, instead of asking for your money – Shortstraw is just asking you to spend a small part of your day watching their music video. You get to enjoy some good music and watch a great music video, and Shortstraw gets to make a difference in the lives of needy animals. So, share this music video far and wide so that Shortstraw can achieve their goal of R15 000.

Watch the music video below and lets get this to 15 000 in less than 15 days!

 

IN REVIEW: Mother City Live

Photos and words by Cathelynne Walker

From the Old Biscuit Mill to the Old Castle Brewery, Woodstock is a suburb never seen without bustle on a bright Saturday afternoon. It was, therefore, surprising that what should have been a day out for the whole of Cape Town’s summer-body populace was instead a poorly attended showcase of brilliant artists without a muse.

Mother City Live was held on the 26th of November at Trafalgar Park in Woodstock, or so it seemed. Despite the well-organized and enthusiastic event staff, the largest audience that this event would see was only around one hundred people strong – and that was nearly midnight. This lack of numbers was amplified by the fact that the venue was simply miles too big for the turnout.

MCL 2

Carrying the burden of this slow start, The Liminals were keen to unite the drips and drabs of scattered festival-goers in their bass-heavy, moody funk – and they were taking no prisoners. The talented front-man and backup vocals contributed seamlessly to the synergy of blues, bringing with it a wave of sound best suited to sunset. It was only a pity, then, that their set was scheduled so early, so as to fade away against the background of the blazing heat and a small crowd of ten.

Good music and good food are often coupled together, and in the mother city, this should be no exception. Unfortunately, Mother City Live fell short here again, offering very few food choices and all very far-removed from the main festival area.  The bar area, small and poorly cordoned-off, was similarly not suited to accommodate for crowds, and it is with this information that one wonders whether or not the organisers anticipated many attendees or not. In between the food court and music area were the lonely tables of two to three artists, whose works, undoubtedly beautiful, would mingle only with one another for lack of new discourse. While these factors cannot solely be blamed for the overall poor turnout, they must nonetheless be taken into account. Warm beer never made a happy hipster.

MCL 1

Where other features failed, music came to the rescue. With sounds like Janice and Lana Crowster mixing in with Opposite the Other, good energy and variety were the words of the day. When it comes to attracting the largest crowd, the likes of Tehn Diamond must be accredited with the opening of the faucet. Introducing a sound that was pure energy and shamelessly black, the trio succeeded in opening the floodgates to what seemed like the beginning of the event. It is a great task that stands before any band that must open for the main act, and Tehn Diamond did not hold back in ticking any of the boxes. It was by the end of this performance that the MCs handed over the audience, whose eyes glittered with the colours of Africa, to Jimmy Nevis.

It is one thing to be introduced as constituting the main act, and another entirely to act as such. Jimmy Nevis succeeded in laying the lights for his own runway, guiding the plane safely and taking off into the air with splendour, energy and poise. A performer at heart, Jimmy succeeded in capturing the audience as if each individually by the hand, whispering sweet nothings into their ear and allowing them the favour of calling his name into the night.

MCL 4

It was therefore with a heavy heart that the talented and upbeat Grassy Spark saw only half of the audience remain for their performance. Diverse in sound and teaming with eclectic energy, the two front-men took no notice of this slight and continued to entertain, with the comfortability and ease of a band practice in the garage.

The night was still far from over, and many more artists such as Phresh Clique and Simmysimmynya graced the stage, regrouping the audience for the final few acts, ended with a bang by DJ Diggy Bongz. Even this was not enough, and it was with light feet and bright eyes that festival-goers skipped their way into town to various unofficial and official after parties.

MCL 3

There are rough patches – plenty of them. The venue needed some second thought; the food needed a major boost and the bar: some market research. Improvement in these areas is sorely needed, but with those few changes, I am confident that this festival will go to new heights to unite and showcase great African talent. While it can definitely not be called an Arts festival at this stage, Mother City Live 2016 was a big reminder to all that as long as the music is good, everything else can be excused.

INTERVIEW AND MIX: RVWR

Cape Town’s elusive king of Trap RVWR is back with a new EP entitled Cupcake which was just released. We caught up with RVWR to talk about electronic music in South Africa, his new EP and his plans for 2017. He also decided to give us an exclusive mix to publish as a bit of a Christmas present. It is a truly brilliant mix that will fit in perfectly with your summer festivities. Listen to it at the end of the interview.

Let’s cut straight to what I regard to be a rather important issue. You’ve just released your new EP Cupcake and so far no South African media outlet has picked up on the EP while a few international ones have done so. Why do you think this is the case?

I think it’s partly because the genre or style of tracks that are on the EP aren’t really being pushed so much in South Africa as they were a couple of years ago.  The general public’s taste in music in South Africa has changed in the past year or two as well (possibly because of the lack of support and push) and that means Bass music has taken a bit of a hit, to be honest. I am confident that will change in the near future though and even if it doesn’t, nobody is stopping me making what I make and playing what I want to play.

Let’s actually take it further – do you see it as an issue that many of South Africa’s innovative electronic artists are often swept under the rug and ignore by the general public due to the lack of media support?

I agree with you and do think that a lot of the slightly leftfield styles of music – those not played in Ultra commercial festivals and the like – aren’t getting the local recognition that they really should.  South African music is killing it worldwide with GQOM being a big deal in Europe, Hip Hop acts breaking out across Africa, acts like Chee, Muzi having international deals, and of course Das Kapital breaking boundaries too over the last 4 years.  Goldfish and Black Coffee are pushing things too and yet I know quite a few guys writing such awesome music locally like Dunn Kidda, Hawkword and Freer to name a few that aren’t getting the deserved push in their respective areas and are not getting fully supported.

On the other hand, many media outlets face intense staffing issues and the people that do decide to try their hand at music journalism don’t tend to have much interest in electronic music and so forth. How do you propose that media outlets start tackling electronic music and featuring electronic music when they are faced with such staffing issues?

How many of those media outlets approach people in the scenes to say they would like someone to be the mouthpiece of that scene?  It’s very much a two-way street although I do fully appreciate everyone is massively stretched right now.  The best bet is to have people who want to talk to electronic artists – a lot of whom have something to say – and to search out the stories and the music.  You don’t have to be an uber fan of electronic music, you do need to have an inquisitive mind and be open to new things and have a desire to want to find out about things and be the first there.  If you can have that you don’t really need to have every electronic track ever released on your playlist.  But you should want to document what is happening across the boards because the reality might surprise you.

 Let’s talk about your new EP, Cupcake. It is a rather eclectic mash-up of genres and doesn’t necessarily stick to one particular sound. What inspired you or influenced you to create the EP in this particular fashion?

I don’t want to be known as a one genre producer, I want to be versatile and do many different sounds and mash up genres. Saying that all 3 tracks on the EP came from a different space and feel and the “Cupcake” track was me trying something different to what I am used to. I had this idea that I needed to create a new “identity” to release more music similar under, hence the “Mubla” reference just before the first drop. With “Stroke” and “Untl I” wanted to be more “RVWR” and take more left field approach to it. With “Stroke” it is the weird unconventional stereo field and “Untl” the general grimey feel as I was listening to a ton of grime at the time and still am.

What is your creation and production method when it comes to creating new music? Is there a set formula you follow, or is it a spur of the moment type thing?

Every time I open up Ableton I have a template waiting for me which I like to use, it has got my sends/returns set up with Plugins & midi/audio tracks ready to drop samples in. I tend to start with percussion & drums (try to stray from midi and just use audio samples I can manipulate to my liking) and add on synths and extra bits thereafter. There is a general idea of what Genre direction I am taking while writing, from there I just let the production goes where it wants to go really. If I end up think about it too much then it loses the fun aspect of the work for me. At the same time, I want something that will work and bang on the dancefloor, but I am also trying to make them listening experiences as well so people can tune in and out at home.

You’ve put together an insane mix for us – could tell us a little more about it and the kind of influences you had around you when going about creating it?

You will hear Trap, Bass House and moombahton in the mix and it is something I threw together quite quickly. It is basically a playlist of what I am listening to at the moment and I love the tracks I chose and they all intrigue me as they all have something that I enjoy whether it be something technical, groove orientated or general rhythm of the track and I picked them hoping that the listeners will pick up on what I am talking about.

You contributed some tracks to Das Kapital’s Overtime compilation earlier this year. What was that entire process like and what are your thoughts on more compilations with such diversity of sound being released?

I sent a few tracks to the label they listened to it, they gave feedback, I did a few minor changes here and there such a small mixing tweaks without changing my general sound I am pushing. But it is awesome to be on the compilation with such a diversity of sound. I haven’t heard of many compilations come out of South Africa lately with such diversity as the Overtime Compilation and I hope to see more in 2017 and years to follow.

 I feel like this year has seen a lot of discussion regarding diversity in the music scene especially from the perspective of line-ups. Do you think it is important for promoters from every genre to start investigating the possibility of make line-ups more inclusive of multiple genres instead of sticking to singular static genre boundaries?

I think it’s very important that they start making lineups more diverse as it helps the scene grow. Otherwise, its gonna be the same line up everywhere with the same sound.  It will take one promoter to take a risk, throwing a more diverse line up together and becoming successful with the night to make everyone else look up and take notice.  At that point, a lot more promoters will do the same &   No question that the audience is out there but they just don’t go out as often because the same music is being played everywhere.  Diverse lineups also bring a diversity of ideas and competition which makes the music better.

Finally, what does 2017 hold for you? Are we going to see you start performing a lot more club shows in the near future?

2017 will see more music and more productions released.  There is a vault of music lined up to come out, some of which need vocalists and MCs (just putting that out there!), which should be an exciting prospect.  DJ gigs are coming and you should hear me a lot more off the back of the tracks, but it’s always good to do more and take my sound around South Africa a bit more too. I predict a new “saga” is coming for SA music scene and it is exciting to know we can expect to see some more left field and bass parties in the upcoming year and further.

Top 15 Local Releases Of 2016

This year was probably one of the strongest years for South Africa music. There were so many consistently brilliant releases over the course of the year and there is a very good chance that we left many out by limiting it to 15, but we’ll never be completely right. Anyway, this is probably one of our final posts for the year and we just wanted to say thank you to all our readers for sticking by us throughout the year. It is because of all of you, and the love for music, that we keep doing what we are doing and we hope to do it even better next year. Have a fantastic festive season.

1. Grassy SparkPortal

I do this thing each year where I like to predict which local band will leap forward in terms of success, and it usually always comes true. Last year, I predicted that Al Bairre will leap into mainstream success, and they did. This year I predicted that Grassy Spark would have the same fate and with their headline local slot at Rocking The Daisies, their opening for UB40 and their stunning debut album Portal – I would like to think I was right once again. Craig Roxburgh

2. Past HauntsAfterthoughts

Past Haunts never fails to impress me with their stunning fusion of emo, punk and post-hardcore elements. Afterthoughts was an EP that I just kept coming back to for its rich lyrical content and its anguish-laden sonic landscape. Craig Roxburgh

 3PeasantIII: No Love

It seems to have been a universally brilliant year for hardcore releases. It is like the deities controlling the hardcore scene said “let there be more great hardcore then one could possibly handle”, and that just seemed to trickle down into South Africa with the release of Peasant’s vitriol-laden EP. Angular, snarling guitars, groovy bass riffs and pent-up aggression is the name of the game with this EP. Craig Roxburgh

Veladraco cover

 4. VeladracoVeladraco

Veladraco only just released their self-titled EP and they’ve already receive a shout-out from AKA and made it to the top of 5FM Indie Chart. The band skipped into my heart with their aloof pop-punk melodies, clever song-writing and repressed adolescent angst. Craig Roxburgh

5. Caroline LeisegangSimple Circles

Classical music isn’t exactly a booming genre in South Africa but Caroline Leisegang’s latest release managed to slip into my radar with her minimalistic approach to composing. Her simple yet beautiful melodies are steeped in emotional depth and I can guarantee that they shall improve your productivity immensely. Craig Roxburgh

6. Gavin and KrehanThe New Dope

Gavin and Krehan may be newcomers to the rap game, but as their EP title suggests: they are the new dope. The New Dope is a raw, honest exploration of anxiety and depression – something that many rap artists don’t do. Craig Roxburgh

7. Black MathDeath, Existing & Other Joys Of Life

Black Math only just released this and it already shot straight into my Top 20 with its chaotic fusion of punk and psych-rock. Black Math is just more proof that Durban is becoming a hotbed for local talent. Craig Roxburgh

The Liminals - Come Closer PNG

8. The LiminalsCome Closer

Infectious beats – check. Groovy basslines – check. Funky guitar work – check. The Liminals have everything you need to get through the blazing heat of summer and feel good about it. Come Closer radiates with talent.  Craig Roxburgh

9. Made For BroadwayLife Lessons

Pop punk is everything for me, and Made For Broadway managed to deliver the purest, most distilled version of pop punk possible with Life Lessons. Punchy four-chord riffs and semi-hardcore breakdowns dominate the album while the lyrics teeter between introspective musings and wild parodies. Craig Roxburgh

10. ISOPolydimension

2016 heralded the arrival of ISO’s Polydimension: An album of tasteful musical integrity and complexity. The album balances the difficult line between catchiness and progressiveness, complexity and memorability, technicality and atmosphere. This album speaks through all of its instrumentalists and the vocalist and gives us musical variety that does more than tick boxes- they make new ones. The band masterfully jumps from heavier to light tones in order to create atmospheres that are delicate and intimate, yet create riffs that are worthy of a heavy metal band and combine it with jazz-like drumming. ISO’s Polydimension is an album of the year because it brings intelligence, integrity, emotional depth and a fresh sound to South Africa’s growing music scene. Matthew Fuller

11. DangerfieldsEmbers

Embers is a gorgeous piece of post-punk with its angular guitar riffs and synth tones that ebb and flow like the tide of the ocean. It is an EP that is so easy to get lost in and is the perfect match for a hazy summer day. Craig Roxburgh

hezron-chetty

12. Hezron ChettyThe Fallacy of Composition

Hezron Chetty is possibly one the most unique and interesting artists to come out of South Africa in a long time. His ability to generate the aggression and energy of punk music with a violin captivated me upon the release of his debut album. Craig Roxburgh

13. The ShabeenFolk Is Dead

Folksy punk rock is the name of the game on The Shabeen’s new album. Rowdy punk singalongs are juxtaposed next to poetic musings that rival that of Frank Turner. The band even took a pretty socially conscious move by renaming themselves to The Shabs in light of the connotations carried by “The Shabeen”.

14. Ohgod!Forest Feuds

Without any vocals, Ohgod! managed to weave a complex tapestry of emotion through their use of intricate, needling guitar work layered over abrasive bass riffs and snarling licks of guitar. Their focus on the complexity and intricacies of their music is what allows them to elicit such deep emotional responses.

15. All We’ve Known – Human Nature

All We’ve Known is a young up-and-coming band from Port Elizabeth who are not afraid of hard work and it shows clearly in their debut EP release with their crisp sound and progressive tunes. Electronicore has not been around for that long nor has it been popular in South Africa, but
Human Nature is one of the first quality products to endorse this fun-loving, bouncing hardcore sound locally.With catchy, jumping techno beats, heartfelt lyrics and musical talent for days, this is well worth a listen. Turn it up to 11 and enjoy the rage! James Robert

 

Editor’s Pick: Top 30 International Releases Of 2016

Some may regard 2016 to be an utterly abysmal year and others would say otherwise, but from a musical perspective – 2016 has been amazing if you look past the numerous musicians that died this year. Our editor-in-chief Craig Roxburgh lays out his Top 30 albums below and attempts to give some kind of reasoning. Tune in tomorrow for our list of the Top 20 local releases.

1. Trophy EyesChemical Miracles

This was the pinnacle of my musical experience this year. Chemical Miracles delivers a healthy dose of emo-tinged melodic hardcore punctuated by occasional moments of angst-ridden pop punk. The album is a stunning angst-ridden vista of dealing with mental illness and the stress of adulthood. Songs like “Home Is” find themselves dealing with the concept of loss, loneliness and self-loathing while others like “Rain On Me” explore the intricacies of the emotional spectrum of depression. This is Trophy Eyes at their most raw and authentic as they strive to reinvent the world of emo and melodic hardcore.

2. Every Time I DieLow Teens

Every Time I Die is one of those bands that just get better with each album that they release. They started their career by delivering bursts of brutal and uncompromising hardcore and have constantly improved on that formula throughout their career. Low Teens is Every Time I Die at their utmost best as they weave intricate melodies into their brash, in-your-face brand of music. Rapid bursts of guitar riffs and frantic drumming are the name of the game on Low Teens and lead vocalist Keith Buckley shows no sign of restraint while delivering his rapid-fire hardcore vocals. The band even finds time to sneak a feature from Brendon Urie onto the album in the form of the slow-burning southern rock belter that is “It Remembers”. Plus, the merch associated with this album is truly amazing.

3. DaughterNot To Disappear

When it comes to emotionally drenched ambient synth-pop – Daughter are masters at their craft. Not To Disappear pushes them from the wistful, ethereal world of their debut album Youth to a much dark and more brooding world. Brooding synth tones, intricate guitar work and ominous, self-depreciating lyrics dominate the album. The album is a stunning dissection of the struggle of maintaining personal relationships from the perspective of someone suffering from any kind of mental illness. It is difficult to listen to this album without it tugging on your heartstrings with its evocative melodies and brooding atmosphere.

4. Blink 182California

There are going to be a few people that aren’t going to like the placement of this Blink 182 but that is the beauty of an end of the year list: it is purely subjective and usually based on sheer enjoyment as opposed to technical aspects. Sure, California had technical faults but there wasn’t a single other album that replayed as much as I did California, and I kept returning to it even after it had been released which is uncommon for someone that consumes as much music as I do.

Panic_at_the_Disco_Death_of_a_Bachelor

5. Panic! At The DiscoDeath of a Bachelor

This was Panic! At The Disco back to their eccentric and avant-garde self, but with a much more refined pop edge while still playing into the weird subcategory of pop-punk meets alternative rock that the band was placed into upon the release of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. It is a burst of pop rock enthusiasm wrapped up in layers of driving synth tones and bass riffs supporting carefully constructed lyrics drenched in wit. Panic! At The Disco may have been reduced to virtually being a solo outfit in the studio, but they are still on top of their game.

6. Storm The SkySin Will Find You

Storm The Sky throughout the rulebook for this album. Their rise to moderate fame in the global metalcore scene was born from Permanence – ta stunning fusion of melody and aggression interspersed with modern post-hardcore influences. Sin Will Find You completely did away with that as they morphed into a fusion of ambient synth-pop, soul music and punchy metalcore. Soaring synth tones wrap themselves around snarling guitar riff as the vocals leap from melodic soulful vocals to blistering screams in the blink of an eye. Sin Will Find You is the metalcore version of Brand New’s Daisy but slightly less weird and eccentric.

7. Jimmy Eat WorldIntegrity Blues

Jimmy Eat World is one of those bands that constantly release astounding albums. Few will ever match the intense emotional attachment I have Bleed American and others receive polite nods of approval because let’s face it – a bad Jimmy Eat World is still pretty amazing. However, Integrity Blues nearly knocked Bleed American off its pedestal by returning to the very roots that established Jimmy Eat World and then infusing that with the melody and technical prowess of modern alternative rock.

8. PolarNo Cure No Saviour

No Cure No Saviour is melodic hardcore at its utmost best. The album is uncompromisingly savage as thundering guitar riffs and explosive drum beats dominate the album. These elements are barely reined in by the strong sense of melody that undercuts the album, but this merely lends itself to accentuating the anger and aggression present on the album. In some ways, No Cure No Saviour probably encapsulates much of people’s emotions regarding 2016.

9. Dance, Gavin DanceMothership

2016 has been a surprisingly decent year for post-hardcore once you look past the bands displaying faux metalcore exteriors. Dance, Gavin Dance has been at the forefront of technical post-hardcore for several years now. The band has always departed from the mainstream norms of the genre and Mothership is no exception from their rule. The album is a smorgasbord of intricate guitar riffs, soaring soulful vocals and screamed vocals that seem like they were pulled straight from a hardcore album. Mothership is a post-hardcore album in the truest sense of the genre, and it gives me so much hope for the future of the genre.

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10. Lonely The BraveThings Will Matter

There is a special kind of beauty to slow-burning, emotive alternative rock. This is exactly what Lonely The Brave delivers with their sophomore album Things Will Matter. Soaring anthems are not the name of the game on this album. Brooding synth and guitar elements dominate this album while the band occasionally ventures into the realm of stadium-filling rock anthems.

11. Twin AtlanticGLA

On the flip side, GLA is a flurry of stadium-rock anthems laden with a faint degree of grit and aggression as Twin Atlantic pays tribute to their hometown of Glasgow. The album is occasionally visited by softer, more melancholic songs but these are rather infrequent and Twin Atlantic rather decides to bare the alternative rock snarls that they showed us when they toured here last year.

12. Night VersesInto The Vanishing Light

Into The Vanishing Light is a beautiful, twisted hybrid of the abrasive energy of hardcore, the sweeping melodic angst of post-hardcore, and the intricate technical aspects of a progressive metal. Night Verses delivers one of the most astounding and quite possibly underrated albums of the year. It defines a new path for heavy music – one that is free from any degree of conformity to modern metal norms. It puts me in mind of what Coheed and Cambria did for post-hardcore, but without the over-reaching story arc that Coheed and Cambria incorporated into their albums.

13. Hands Like HouseDissonants

This is one of the most engaging and socially aware alternative rock releases of the year. Hands Like Houses have persistently proven to be a dominant name in alternative rock and Dissonants is yet another example of the band being at the top of their game. It is a seamless fusion of strong, thought-engaging lyrical content and loud, anthemic rock music peppered by occasional leanings towards punk and post-hardcore.

 14. Emarosa131

Perhaps the only fault with Versus, Emarosa’s first album with new vocalist Bradley Walden, was that it had far too many ballads on it. Emarosa decided to build on that piece of criticism and released 131 – an album that is equal parts blistering alternative rock anthems and equal parts slow, emotionally-laden ballads. The album is a kaleidoscope of emotions that all tied together by the singular thread that is Emarosa’s unique brand of alternative rock. It is an album that effortlessly fuses synthetic elements with traditional rock elements to create one of the most powerful albums of the year.

joyce-manor-cody

15. Joyce ManorCody

The emo revival continued to be strong this year with more and more people embracing events like Emo Night, and more once defunct emo bands returning to create albums that bring the genre back to its hey-day of being awkwardly placed between punk and emotionally-charged indie rock. Cody follows the typical chaotic and angsty formula Joyce Manor albums, but with much better production and a much more mature outlook on life. I think I am just here for the rowdy choruses and the subtle digs at Kanye West on “Fake I.D.”

16. Childish Gambino“Awaken My Love”

Childish Gambino managed to anger much of the rap community that was built around Because The Internet with “Awaken My Love”. Some were angry because he didn’t create a sequel to the album. Others were angry because he turned away from rap music on this album and delivered what can ultimately be described as a fusion of 70s psych rock, soul and funk. There were no well-thought rhymes or bars, but it rather featured Donald Glover singing with the gusto and prowess of a psych rock vocalist. “Awaken My Love” is an evocate exploration of Glover’s creative sound. Here is to hoping that Glover is able to fuse these elements with rap on future albums.

17. The Dillinger Escape PlanDissociation

Dissociation is tinged with a degree of sadness. Every time I listen to it – I am reminded that this is the band’s last album. The Dillinger Escape Plan has defined new heights for modern hardcore with their own eccentric and technical approach to creating music. The albums have constantly defined whatever constraints people attempted to place on them with a genre. So much so that people just gave up and threw them into the weird box that is mathcore. Dissociation may be their final album but it is also their best to date. It is a complex flurry of abrasive guitar riffs, intricate guitar work, frantic drumming and vitriol-laden vocals.

18. Boston ManorBe Nothing

Boston Manor is modern emo at its utmost finest. It is an angst-ridden fusion of the pop-punk elements that came to dominate the later iterations of emo, but it also hangs onto much of the angst and gloomy musical structure that originally defined the genre. Be Nothing  is a mess of crippling angst and self-deprecation peppered with songs that occasionally lean towards being tragically romantic. The guitar work is a fusion of intricate needling and powerful bursts of riffs as the vocals oscillate between brooding whispers and restrained snarls dripping with angst.

19. WaterparksDouble Dare

Double Dare found itself on repeat for at least a week after I had published my review on the album. It may not be the most technically creative album hence why it isn’t higher up on this list, but the sheer enjoyment I gained from the album made it worthy of making its way into the top 20 of this list. It is a wonderful fusion of pop punk and pop rock, and while some may see this as a sign of the genre declining – I see it as a sign of the genre morphing and evolving to expand past niche angst-ridden ripoffs of emo bands. Waterparks delivers equal amounts angst and infectious joy on this album by juxtaposing dark lyrics to upbeat synth tones and catchy four-chord riffs.

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20. Moose BloodBlush

Moose Blood first entered my radar with the release I’ll Keep You In Mind From Time To Time – a rough and emotional pop punk album. Blush seems like a natural evolution from their debut. It retains much of the emotional content but the melodies are crisper and there is a much more refined feeling to their sound. The album is still packed full of heartfelt pop punk anthems, but they now seem like a band that is more comfortable with their sound and are more confident with their songwriting. I am excited to see what the future holds for Moose Blood.

21. Landscapes – Modern Earth

I don’t really know what to say about this album. It is a caustic and cathartic melodic hardcore album that shook me to the core when I listened to it. I think a big theme to my AOTY list is that many of the albums have deep emotional content with which I resonated quite strongly. Modern Earth was an album that placed the listener in a narrative world filled with nihilism and cynicism, as droning bass riffs and needling guitar work wrapped itself around grating, aggressive vocals.

22. Biffy ClyroEllipsis

This one is a bit of a staff entry as the vast majority of the team here at South African Music Scene is absolutely besotted with this album, and rightfully so. Biffy Clyro wowed us with the ballad-laden world of Opposites but Ellipsis makes a return to a sound that is more reminiscent of their early days while still maintaining their stadium rock status. Soaring melodic riffs and gigantic choruses are tempered by a degree of punk aggression and political vitriol. Hell, they even throw in a folk-punk song for good measure.

23. Grouplove Big Mess

A year or two ago, my AOTY lists would have been jam-packed full of indie rock and indie-pop releases as I tried desperately to maintain some kind of hipster façade. This year, it seems that the only vaguely indie release on this list is that of Grouplove’s Big Mess and even that cannot really be regarded as being indie – in the true sense of the word. Grouplove, however, is one of those bands that consistently deliver magnificent albums. It is the perfect synthesis of indie-pop melodies, synth-pop idiosyncrasies and the upbeat punchiness of indie rock. The band even manages to work in the body-rocking rhythm of hip-hop beats.

24. GRiZGood Will Prevail

Forget Justice. Good Will Prevail is the electronic album everyone should have been listening to this year. GRiZ approached this album with an entire swing-band to accompany his afro-house meets electro-soul beats. Trumpets and saxophones greet the listener at every turn while GRiZ lays down the most delectable bass lines. He even weaves funk-laden electric guitar riffs into his production work while soulful smoky jazz house vocals curl themselves around throbbing tendrils of bass.

modern-baseball-holy-ghost

25. Modern BaseballHoly Ghost

That’s right – another emo band found its way onto my AOTY list and you really shouldn’t be surprised. Holy Ghost is a reiteration of the emo genre that pushes the genre back to its indie-punk roots while weaving in modern pop-punk and indie rock influences. Modern Baseball proves that they are a band that is not content on being a footnote in the history of the emo genre.

26. A Day To RememberBad Vibrations

A Day To Remember took a few risks on this album by bringing in a multitude of genre influences that caused Bad Vibrations to oscillate between hard-hitting melodic hardcore, first-pumping pop-punk anthems, and then something in-between those two genres. It is typical of the band to incorporate so many different genre influences but the have never had an album that was so varied in its sound. Its inconsistencies are not flaws, but rather merits that allow the album to be layered in a way that produces the kind of depth that is needed in modern mainstream metal.

27. Chance The RapperColoring Book

This was the rap album of the year for me and I suppose many could disagree with me, but both Kanye West and Frank Ocean disappointed me with their overhyped releases. Chance The Rapper rather dropped Coloring Book almost out of nowhere and made it free to the public. It personal, heartfelt hip-hop at its finest and sees Chance weaving lyrical narratives that are drenched in personal anecdotes while still being able to connect with his audience across a broad racial demographic.

28. Young GunsEchoes

Young Guns remained consistent with delivering powerful albums and this time delivered an album that truly accounts for how much they have grown over the past couple years. It fuses the hard-hitting alternative rock of their earlier release with the more radio-friendly and melodic material that accompanied last year’s Ones and Zeroes.

29. WeezerWhite Album

Look, Weezer are pretty much flawless in my eyes. They’re band that has cycled through multiple genres throughout their career but have always managed to come back to their weird and wonderful hybrid of emo and alternative rock. White Album takes a pop rock meets indie rock approach to their traditional formula. It is an album filled with astounding technical talent and enough singalong anthems to make your Summer road trips the most fun possible.

 

artifex-pereo-passengers

30. Artifex PereoPassengers

This band never ceases to amaze me. Passengers is such an underrated release and I suppose that makes sense as Artifex Pereo aren’t exactly creating music that gets thrust into their limelight. Passengers is a hybrid of alternative rock melodies, post-hardcore catharsis and the technical aspects of post-rock. The sheer technical skill of the album marks it as a landmark for post-hardcore music and it is just great to see bands embracing the early days of post-hardcore and fusing that core sound with modern elements.

Richard Stirton: From Honours To The Music Industry

This year has been pretty great for the contestants of The Voice in terms of finding their feet quickly in the music industry but no-one did it better than the winner of the Voice: Richard Stirton. Entering The Voice was his first attempt at entering the music industry and it landed him straight in the deep end upon winning. We spoke to the artist about transitioning from The Voice to the actual music industry, his debut album Middle Ground and we delve into some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the show.

Your performances on The Voice featured a lot of alternative songs yet your debut album Middle Ground is rooted in a lot of pop influences while occasionally leaning to slightly alternative sounds. What influenced this choice of sound?

The name of the album is based on the relationship between myself and the A&R team at Universal Music. It was the process we went through in finding the happy medium with regards to the albums sound between my more alternative tendencies and the more pop, commercial sound that the label was looking for. We went for a range of different sounds and tested the waters n a few aspects because I am very new to the industry and did want to keep an open mind when it came to the style of the songs. This being said, however. We tried to make sure that the songs were all able to sit under the same roof with regards to their core sonic elements.

You have stated in previous interviews that you have an immense love for alternative music. Could we possibly see create an alternative album in the future?

I genuinely hope so. I really would love to release a deeply expressive alternative album.

With that in mind, what kind of alternative music album would you make? Which artists or bands would you draw influence from if you entered the studio with the intention of making alternative music?

Probably an alternative indie-rock sounding album. That’s the direction in which I am naturally drawn. I look to the likes of Matt Corby, Bon Iver, Jeff Buckley, Amber Run. The more emotionally expressive, the better.

Middle Ground hit number one on iTunes practically instantly – where you even expecting that to happen and what was your reaction when that happened?

I obviously was wanting it to happen but I didn’t think it would. I was very excited and relieved when it did chart at number 1. I felt very honoured and lucky to be at the top spot and am just exceptionally grateful to everyone who supported and have been supporting the album.

Prior to entering The Voice, did you even have any aspirations of trying to make it as a musician? What pushed you to actually enter?

I did, but I had no idea where to start. I was going to get my honours degree and then begin trying to do it full time. That was the ‘plan’. My girlfriend told me it was coming to South Africa and encouraged me to enter, once my family found out they also encouraged me to enter.

Throughout the course of the show, did you ever expect to actually win the show especially since you were not necessarily delivering traditional pop performances like many of your fellow contestants?

No. I was just trying to give my best each week. The talent on the show was outrageous so I never really thought of myself winning.

Everyone just assumes that talent shows are these cutthroat affairs where everyone hates everyone. What was it like behind the scenes of The Voice?

It was an amazing show, beautifully run from top to bottom. It was like a massive family and everyone involved, no matter which aspect of the show, had a mutual respect for one and other as well as a generally good relationship. From the director to the executive producers, to the stage crew, to the ushers, to the wardrobe, to the coaches, to the talent, everybody got along very well. I feel very blessed to have been a part of such an amazingly positive production.

The Voice comes with the added bonus of a fixed schedule and the ability to constantly reach a large audience which is something that fades away the moment the contest ends. Has it been difficult to adjust from the schedule of The Voice to the chaotic uncertainty of the South African music industry?

It has been quite an experience. It is a lot of hard work and you have to constantly be on the go but at the end of the day it is all worth it. When you finally get on stage and you deliver a performance that resonates with others, you are reminded why you started doing music in the first place. Yes, the industry is hard, but I am a firm believer in the saying “What you put in is what you get out” and we’ve been putting a lot of effort into the music and getting the brand and the name out there. We just want to reach as many people as possible.

As the inaugural winner of the Voice, do you feel like there is a lot of pressure on you to succeed as an artist and not fall into the usual trap of minimal success that is often faced by the winners of talent shows?

I don’t feel the pressure in the sense that other talent show winners don’t see much success after the show, but more about the fact that I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. I am a very competitive human being and I always strive to my best in everything I can do, so there is more that pressure from myself than anything else.

There is this weird culture in South Africa (or even the world) where people bash artists for getting a break via talent shows while other artists that have been grinding in the scene for longer get little to none recognition. What are your thoughts on this?

I don’t agree with it at all. The people who win talent shows don’t just wake up on the morning of auditions and say “Hey, I wonder what I should do today… I could mow the lawn, watch the rugby, or maybe I’ll audition for that talent show down the road”. You can guarantee that anybody entering a talent show and taking it seriously has put a lot of time and effort into working at their craft and are merely looking for a boost that they have not found whilst performing elsewhere. Just because a guy wins a talent show doesn’t mean he isn’t as hard working as the guy singing every night in a dingy pub, in fact very often they are one in the same. Ben Haenow, winner of X-Factor UK 2015 had sung in pubs for 12 years before he got his lucky break on X-Factor, so he clearly had paid his dues when it comes to grinding it out. As they say, it takes many years to create an overnight success, and I think that is something that most people forget.

Finally, do you have any rad plans for the festive season?

Yes, plenty of time with the loved ones at some beautiful spots up the coast. Super excited to put the feet up, spend some time in the water and just chill, eat and sleep.

 

Win Tickets To The Most Fun New Year’s Eve Party

New Years Eve parties exist in their multitude in Cape Town, but there are only a select few that are actually worth attending. YOH’s Most Fun New Year’s Eve Party is one of those parties you just have to attend. My experiences with YOH events have been some of the best events of my life. The line-up that YOH is presenting on NYE makes it even more worthwhile as it currently features LoveAllUppercutStrictly 2000sThe TRAPBUTTER and Night Show. YOH promises to add more to the line-up shortly and shall be taking over Fiction with their unique brand of partying. Expect champagne and good times, and you can experience all those good times free of charge with a little help from us. We are giving away a set of double tickets for the person that can craft the best possible NYE festivities that must naturally include The Most Fun New Year’s Eve Party. Leave those plans in the comments below!

Details

Venue: Fiction

Time: 9pm till late

Tickets:
Tickets are available exclusively via Quicket:
R80 Early Bird (Available now, limited to 100 tickets):
R100 Pre-Sale
R120 Last Minute

Tickets will be limited and should go quickly so make sure you don’t miss out by getting your tickets now:
https://www.quicket.co.za/events/23346-the-most-fun-new-years-eve-party-ever/#/

 

The Vamps To Tour South Africa In March 2017

Big Concerts confirmed today that The Vamps will be touring South Africa for the very first time performing in Cape Town on 18th March 2017 at Kirstenbosch Gardens and Johannesburg on 20thMarch 2017 at the TicketPro Dome.

Tickets go on sale Monday 12th December at 9am. For further information, visitwww.bigconcerts.co.za 

When James McVey and Brad Simpson first started writing music a few years ago, little did they know, that along with soon-to-be-found new members Tristan Evans and Connor Ball, The Vamps would soon become one of the UK’s biggest exports in music.

With five top 10 hits and prestigious tour support slots with Taylor Swift, McFly and Austin Mahone, The Vamps joined forces with Demi Lovato to release “Somebody To You” and then went onto release a cover of “Oh Cecelia” with Vine sensation Shawn Mendes.

With an incredible 450 million views across YouTube and VEVO, almost a million Youtube subscribers, 4.4 million Facebook likes and 3 million followers on Twitter, The Vamps are excited to visit all their fans in South Africa in March 2017.

www.thevamps.net

Tour Information:

Cape Town

Saturday 18th March 2017

Kirstenbosch Gardens

Ticket Price: R570

Tickets go on sale Monday 12th December at 9am. Go to www.bigconcerts.co.za for all the information.

Please note the following ticketing polices: all fans attending the concerts that are younger than 14 years must be accompanied by a parent/legal guardian.

 

Johannesburg

Monday 20th March 2017 * next day is a public holiday

The Ticketpro Dome

Ticket Price:  R340 – R745

Tickets go on sale Monday 12th December at 9am. Go to www.bigconcerts.co.za for all the information.

Please note the following ticketing policies: all fans attending the concerts that are younger than 14 years must be accompanied by a parent/legal guardian. There is also an age restriction on Golden Circle and General Admission standing tickets– no one under 12 years and shorter than 1.2 metres will be permitted into the standing zones.