There comes, once every so often, bands that truly remain imprinted in your memory. Tweak was one of these bands. Their unique brand of proudly South African pop-punk was a searing burst of fresh air into a lethargic music scene shaking off the binding constraints of the oppressive National Party, and experimenting with a new-found musical freedom. They quickly became popular names in South Africa touring extensively locally and internationally. However, in 2005 – they vanished off the face of the music scene and became CrashCarBurn. Ten years down the line, and Tweak has decided to return for a reunion tour. I got the opportunity to send a few questions over to drummer Brendan Barnes. We discussed performing as Tweak again, the success that Tweak had, and the viability of the local music scene – among many other things.
You guys have already finished off your first couple of shows for your ten year anniversary tour. What have these first couple of shows been like for you?
It has been absolutely amazing. To hear an audience scream your lyrics back at you after 10 years of not playing is really special.
Is it a bit strange to perform Tweak’s signature sound once again after spending the past ten year’s developing CrashCarBurn’s sound in a manner that moved yourself away from being the “band that used to be Tweak”?
It definitely took some getting used to but I was surprised at how quickly it all came back. The last few shows felt authentically “Tweak” and have been tonnes of fun. It’s been great to act like a teenager again and just have a good time on stage.
Let’s actually center onto that particular topic. Tweak stop performing in 2005, but officially ended in 2006 after you guys were forced to change your name – thus CrashCarBurn was born. At that point in time, did you guys feel like it was necessary to start distancing yourself from being Tweak, or did that come about much later on as CrashCarBurn started gaining mainstream success within South Africa?
CrashCarBurn was formed when Garth (Barnes) and I were still living in London. By the time we came home to South Africa, it was a completely different band from Tweak. New songs, new band members, different genre. To start, it was tough getting people to realize that CrashCarBurn was an entirely new project. I look back at our early Tweak days and it was so incredibly fun but we had to grow up eventually. CrashCarBurn allowed us to grow up and progress musically.
Tweak has been around for close to two decades, granted that half of that time was spent on hiatus, but that is a pretty long period of time for a bunch of South Africans to make a career out of music. Did you ever have that expectation that you would be made able to make music for such a long period of time?
I’m really proud that we have been around for so long and (hopefully) remained relevant. So many bands have come and gone along the way and it’s sad to see some really talented musicians not playing anymore. I think the key to our longevity is that we only do the band for fun. It’s never been about money, about following trends or chasing the pop culture. We’ve stuck to our guns and made music that WE love and I reckon that’s why we’re still around.
In the aforementioned period of time, you guys as Tweak, and as CrashCarBurn, have gone on to experience a lot of success such as opening for Avril Lavinge, touring overseas, opening for 30 Seconds To Mars, and many other accolades. What was this journey from performing in a Battle of the Bands to being South African music superstars like? Did you think “Hey. I am going to be able to open for 30 Seconds To Mars one day and then share a stage with Brand New”?
It has literally been one highlight followed by the next and we’ve made so many awesome memories along the way. We’ve never really set out to achieve any specific accolades. These things really just fell into place as we did our thing as a band. Over such a long period we’ve met a lot of people who have helped us along the way and they are really the reason we have been able to do some of these awesome shows. I’m super thankful for all the people who have helped us over the years.
Here’s one that may hit a little bit close to home, but what made you decide to revive the Tweak banner and head on this tour? Was it a moment of sheer spontaneity, or was there a lot of preceding forethought to it?
We wanted this tour to capture the original spirit of Tweak that people remember from over 10 years ago. It wasn’t about trying to recreate a new “relevant” version of the band. We tried to keep that idea front and foremost with all the decisions we made about this tour.
At the height of your career, you were spear-heading a local pop punk movement that quickly crashed and burned (pardon the pun) after Tweak went silent. What are your thoughts on this particular matter? Do you think that if Tweak started today that your particular brand of pop punk would still be commercially viable, or would you just be doomed to fail in the current South African music scene?
There is no guaranteed recipe behind a successful band. The timing was definitely right when we hit the scene so many years ago. Who really knows what would have happened if Tweak only got started in 2015? If we could predict what sound is right for a time and place, we’d literally all be killing it! One thing I can tell you with 100% certainty – You can’t be a band that chases trends and then expect to be successful. If you try manipulate your sound into what is “hot” now, you’re already too late.
On that note, you’ve been in the local music scene for a while now. What are your honest thoughts on where the South African music scene currently stands?
The South African music scene has definitely grown massively over the last decade. Not in the direction that I would have hoped though! Ha!ha! The hip hop, dance & house market is huge and there are a lot of artists doing really well for themselves. Radio and TV are really supporting these genres and that’s OK. They have to do whatever keeps their business profitable…
The broader “rock” market is a different story altogether. We’ve witnessed the birth and death of TV stations, radio shows, festivals and clubs that have struggled to keep alive. All you can do as a musician is remain honest to yourself and make the music you love.
There has been a lot of opinions circulating South African social media about the demise of local venues with so many of them being at risk of closing down. A lot of blame has put onto nearly every aspect of the live music scene from the venue to the promoter to the actual fans. Do you think there is any single solution that could possibly save live music venues, or do you think that we’re on a downhill slope to a tragic demise?
After playing in touring bands for over 15 years, I could write a pretty knowledgeable essay on this topic… But I think the summary would read something like this: the entire music industry is changing. You can’t fight it. We can only do our best adapt and enjoy the ride.
Now, let us a bit optimistic – to an extent – what would you change about the music scene to make it a much better place for all struggling and major artists?
1 – Honest feedback. I wish there was a way to give bands honest feedback…
2 – From what I can tell, the department of arts and culture doesn’t do shit for bands in SA. That said, I don’t think the current government does shit in general. I’m dying to be proven wrong here…
Finally, if someone was looking to get some Tweak merchandise or perhaps meet the band – what would be the best way of approaching this? Just asking for a friend, of course.
You can find us at one of the following two bar fridges:
Aandklas – 21 August
Assembly – 22 August