Have you been involved in previous projects before this one?
I have. None that went anywhere, though. It’s worth mentioning because before my own project, I just played lead or rhythm guitar. It took me ages to find my own voice.
What is your local scene like?
Dying. I know, morbid way to put it, but South Africa’s live band scene is struggling, with Cape Town’s especially on its knees. There’s a combination of factors – people’s taste in music have shifted to being predominantly urban, and Cape Town just reacted to this too late. There are huge market and economic factors that have put strain on too. Still, we’re rebuilding, and I think for others to be able to see what we’re doing, we’re serving as a reference point for what’s possible but also doing everything we can to uplift the scene ourselves as we go.
Are you playing any shows any time soon?
We’re actually on a world tour at the moment in support of my new album Critical As Water. We’ve wrapped Africa, Europe, and are wrapping North America. We’re off to Australia and New Zealand next, with stops in Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Wellington, and Auckland.
There’s a whole 80s/90s pop culture and music resurgence right now, are you into it?
I can’t say I am. I like looking to the future and what’s coming next. Our tour manager, who doubles as our driver, listens to super sugary 80s and 90s pop music and after hours of that in the van, I’ve had my fill. Also, seriously, there’s only so many re-runs of Friends and Seinfeld one can watch as well. SURELY?!
All touring bands no that no two venues are created equal. What is your favourite?
For a 500-cap room, there’s this venue in San Francisco called ‘The Independent’, which has some of the best sonics I’ve ever heard to this day. Thick, lush, forceful. It’s sensational. Jumping up to 1500, there’s a venue in Amsterdam called Paradiso, which is this old church that was turned into a theatre venue with two overhanging floors. Aesthetically, it’s one of the most beautiful venues in the world, and it feels like the crowd is right on top of you – right in the music with you. We love it there. Climbing all the way to 6000 is our home venue at Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town. The setting is this beautiful outdoor botanic garden and the stage’s backdrop is Table Mountain. You’ve never seen anything like it anywhere in the world.
Beatles or Rolling Stones and why?
While I have deep admiration for Keith Richards’ immortality and how he’s definitely going to outlive us all, The Beatles pip this one for me. Those guys had melodies for days and they’re the ultimate example of less is more. When I first starting playing guitar and began understanding chords and broke Beatles songs down to their chords, I’d be like ‘is that it?’ But to be able to do so much with so little is a legitimate form of genius. And far more of their songs have stood the test of time relative to Rolling Stones’ legitimately great catalogue.
Recently, creating more diversity within the Aus music scene has been a high priority for event organisers and music curators everywhere, what changes have you personally seen and how have they affected you/your band?
I’m a huge champion of diversity in all things in life. Across race, gender, orientation, the works. My band is super multi-cultural, in a genre that’s especially homogenous. The most senior employee in my business is a woman, roughly half of our support acts for our headline tours are women. There’s no righteousness here. Diversity leads to a more robust industry, and we as business leaders and just decent people have a responsibility to ensure opportunity is equal.
If the Australian music scene is seeing a deliberate push from within the ranks of decision makers and gate keepers to give under-represented people better visibility, on stage and off stage, and equal remuneration for their skill level, I’m all for it.
What festival is #1 on your list that you’d love to play one day?
I think all roads lead to the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, surely? That’s kind of the pinnacle for a band that makes the kind of music we do and works in the type of scene we do. There was a time when that felt like a pipe dream, but not so much anymore.
What is your proudest moment/greatest achievement as a band?
I was chatting with my manager late last year, looking over our rollout plans for my new album, Critical As Water. We were mapping out the major territories we work in across Europe, North America, Australia, and Africa, and mapping out all the people and teams we’ve hired to help us roll this album out. And seeing it all on paper was a proud moment for me. Just realising that we, a fully independent act, have built a career sustainable enough that we have 30 contractors directly on our pay roll across press, publicity, plugging, distro, art, and label services, and many more through our partners. Obviously I’ve had more obvious highlights like the first time we sold out a 5000-seater venue in our home town, or winning awards, or having a number one album, but that moment was huge for me, knowing that the music we make creates opportunities for so many others, and that we’ve done this without a major label ever having lifted a finger for us.
Tell us 3 bands to keep an eye out for
FIL BO RIVA
Ben Dey and the Concrete Lions