When I think of rock acts that come from South Africa, right away Seether is the only one that broke big internationally. Where does The Parlotones fall? How do you plan to break the mold of what we know of South African rock and roll?
I think we’ve always had a very independent ethos, we’re not going to sit around and wait for a BIG label to sign us and then pretend to work on us and stall our aspirations. We’ve done this independently and we’ll continue to do so. We’re not basing what we do on anything else except that we’re hungry to succeed and we’ll keep pushing until we do, with or without the help of traditional industry. We cut our teeth in possibly ‘one of’ the hardest music environments because of sheer lack of industry and succeeded. Touring abroad is a breeze in comparison and we’re having too much doing what we love to actually fail.
In recent years, Civil Twilight and BLK JKS, two very different sounding bands have gained some attention here in America but never achieved the massive rise they should have. Do you feel that it is much harder to break it in this country coming from your country?
I think America is always going to be tough to ‘crack’. It’s a BIG country, it has a healthy and very competitive music culture and its very difficult to reach a mass amount of people simultaneously because the popular media structures differ from town to town, unlike the national media in smaller countries which disseminate songs and a message a lot faster. I cant speak for the other two bands as I’m not familiar with their working structures, they’re both great and I’m not sure how much of their career relies on a 3rd party (i.e. record label). It certainly is hard to break a country coming from another country because before you’ve even played a show you’ve invested bucket loads of money and time in VISA applications, flights and loss of income in shows back home to play a show for a few hundred dollars. This requires cash flow and obviously a resilience to not become jaded by the initial forays which are initially not well supported, only by the third tour does the progress and the prior perspiration seem to pay off, this investment in time can become disheartening when results are so delayed. Music is a tough game regardless of territory. Along the path, some give up and some don’t, I hope we’ll fall into the category of NOT quitting. The truth is our career has been about small progresses and that keeps us going.
The band has a very big British sound, was Britrock a major influence on your music?
Very much so. We grew up on a diet of The Smiths, the Cure, Radiohead and Queen but also R.E.M, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Crowded House and INXS. It wasn’t all British but I guess the way we naturally articulate stems from Britain so it certainly has that flavor.
What exactly is a Parlotone? How did you end up with the name?
It’s the tone you hear before leaving a message on a mobile phone! Just kidding, that’s what we used to tell people. We actually realized that 3 of our favourite bands (The Beatles, Radiohead and Coldplay) were signed to a label called Parlophone records and so we sort of morphed the name into The Parlotones.
Deep in your music, lies the sound of hope. Is that your main objective as songwriters and as a band to inspire your audience and give them some sort of hope?
I think we’ve always seen music as a cathartic experience. In order to be cathartic you need to reflect on the lows and highs synonymous with life but lace it with hope. At the core people are pretty much the same regardless of social standing or culture and share similar experiences and emotions. We all want something better and I guess what we’re writing about is that journey. We’re really just reflecting on the human experience and insinuating that the journey and the pursuit of something better is actually the enjoyment of life. Reflecting on both the good and the bad is what propels us forward.
You grew up during Apartheid and then during the Mandela reign, how did the shift in political and social power change you not just as a person but also as a musician?
If anything it made us very brave. In our short young lives, even though we were ignorant to most of it, there were massive changes, a sense of chaos, impending doom and fear. There was loads of anxiety within our borders and from abroad on the future of our country. The fact is there were and still are troubled times but the people that stayed behind have made it work and in a weird way South Africans kind of feel invincible, almost as if we can pull anything off because we thwarted what possibly could have resulted in civil war, and we’re rebuilding a nation. I think if anything I’ve learnt not to take my role as a musician in society too seriously, its just music which often gets revered or condemned as with as much fervor as a deity or demon. There really are bigger issues on our home and global stage. I’ve also accepted that life is short and the world is a chaotic place, not just South Africa. People around the world live in perpetual fear, why? Change, death and uncertainty are constant so as the cliché goes get busy living or get busy dying.
In 2010 you played alongside Shakira, Alicia Keys, BLK JKS and many others for the World Cup ceremonies, what was that experience like supporting your country and Bafana Bafana?
Incredible. It was a proud moment for us South Africans. The cherry on the top was that we got to be a part of it, representing our country, doing what we love most in the world, playing our music to our homeland and the world. We were a part of an historic moment in South Africa’s history. It was something our wildest rock star fantasies could never have imagined.
Now we know South Africa has amazing wine, but in 2009 you decided to launch your own label, why is that? Can we try some when you come to the States?
We’ve always loved wine and in an interview with a property mag they asked what my dream property would be and `I said to own a small vineyard and release a boutique wine. A maker of wine, who happened to be a fan, read the interview and contacted us with the idea of actually pursuing the making of our own wine, which we did and we now have 3 in the range, a red, white and rose’.
We’re trying to bring it out but it is proving a little difficult with the various import restrictions etc.
From playing and selling out major stadiums to coming to America to play clubs, will it be a bit different and bizarre for you when you arrive in the States to do these gigs?
We’re certainly going to come down from the high of just having played to 110,000 people over the last two nights to small crowds, but we’re familiar with the process because we’re always ‘newbies’ in some territory. We sort of build up to a certain level in one territory and then move onto the next so there’s a continuing process of playing big shows and then small shows. It kind of feels like we’re always starting over, it keeps us humble and makes us appreciate the successes. There is a pleasure to be derived from both types of shows, BIG shows is the dream, small shows the intimacy.
There is still a core part of America that has never heard of you before, how do you intend to change that?
To play in every town that will let us until we all fall down dead.
What has been the best thing about being a Parlotone?