Members of Mastodon, Queens of the Stone Age, and At the Drive-In recently teamed up to form a new band, Gone Is Gone.
It is quite typical for many well-established rock bands to come out with their own branded craft beers. Usually these bands are ones that have gained worldwide popularity, and are household names for their respective genres. Bands like ACDC, Mastodon, Iron Maiden and Pearl Jam have all released their own branded craft beers, and often had a hands-on approach in creating the beers. In Fokofpolisiekar’s case, it is a bit different. They are not a band that is known worldwide, and did not necessarily play a role in the creation of the “Dagdronk” blonde ale. It was rather case of the Sir Thomas Brewing Co, run by a friend of the band, coming forth with several craft beer recipes and asking Fokofpolisiekar if they would like to brand the series of craft beers. Naturally, with beer being an important part of South African culture and loved by Fokofpolisiekar fans, and the band themselves, they agreed to have their name put onto the beer. In the words of Hunter Kennedy: “We love beer. Beer has been a major inspiration for our music.” “Dagdronk” is soon to be followed by several other beers, with an Indian Pale Ale labelled “Antibiotika” to be released in March.
Fokofpolisiekar may not be a worldwide and heavily established band, but there is no doubt that they are a household name in South Africa. When asked about how it feels to be considered as a bit of cultural revolution in South Africa – Francois Van Coke and Hunter Kennedy both promptly replied in the most humbling way possible that they really don’t regard themselves to be a cultural revolution as they don’t regard themselves to be on the same level as what they would consider to be a cultural revolution. When Fokofpolsiekar started off thirteen years ago in the dingy backstreets of Belville; they were just creating the kind of music they wanted to hear in Afrikaans. “Our friends loved it from the beginning. We had a tape from the recordings we did in the band room, and our friends loved that shit.”
When they started out, it was not a career decision to be in a band, but then obviously something changed later on in their career. “We just wanted to create music as a career, and it seem wholly impossible. In hindsight, we had nothing to lose so we just went balls-to-the-wall.” Hunter aptly notes that there was a point when their fame coincided with the popularity of skating in South Africa, and then when skating died out – the presence of MK preserved Fokofpolisiekar’s and other Afrikaans rock bands presence in the South African music scene. Now, it seems with the demise of MK that the scene has come a full circle with Fokofpolisiekar being one of the few prominent Afrikaans rock bands that still exist. The beautiful thing about Fokofpolisiekar is how they have still managed to maintain a level of relevance among the younger crowd, and especially the crowds at university. François acknowledges how much of a privilege it is to see eighteen year olds relate to their music. “We’ve got the songs, and when we play them live and people get into them; it doesn’t matter to be on the top of our game.”
There is no doubt that the lives of each member of Fokofpolisiekar is pretty crazy. Each one of them is involved in several side projects. François Van Coke fronts Van Coke Kartel, and now has his own solo project, Hunter Kennedy performs in Die Huewels Fantasties, Jaco Venter also drums for aKING, Wynard Myburgh plays bass for Van Coke Kartel, and Johnny de Ridder has own studio where he writes music for advertisements. This has made the creation of new Fokofpolisiekar music to be incredibly difficult, especially since de Ridder writes a lot of the new music. However, the fact that they have side projects has actually, in Hunter’s words, “allowed [them] to live normal lives] as opposed to the insane life they had lived before taking a break from performing in Fokofpolisiekar in 2006.
There is a certain reassurance you get when old hands in the music scene have not become jaded with their music scene. There is a shared understanding within the band that the South African music scene is actually doing pretty well, and they cite Beatenberg and Jeremy Loops as two artists they enjoy. However, there is a bittersweet tone to it as Hunters remark that it is a shame that none of the commercial platforms are giving South African music the attention it deserves, and rather laments the demise of MK as a platform for the growth of South African music. The interesting thing is that this has almost reverted the scene to where it was a decade ago when Fokofpolisiekar where just starting out and trying to make a career out of music, except now the scene is saturated with bands. “Now it also feels like it is a little bit more difficult for younger bands to get exposure.”