Two Wits University music students are releasing a new EP that is exclusively written, recorded and produced by themselves in their home studio.
New band on the Wits block, Playing Brave are not just your average boozing brood. Only six months old, their love for music shows in the way they speak, sing and act.
All Wits students, the band, which is an indie-garage rock genre, came together after meeting at a party where two of the members, Tish Singh and Stevan Johnson had already started playing acoustic music together a few weeks before.
Through Singh they met their bassist, Luke van Aardt and his “good mate”, drummer Ryan Deacon (who I must mention, is of Irish decent).
“Ryan is probably the best guitarist, drummer … you name it of the band!” said lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Johnson, “Ryan actually started out as a guitarist until we realised we needed a drummer.”
“And I was like ‘Hey, I can play drums too’ and that was it,” Deacon said.
Their music is inspired by art, contemporary cinema “especially films like Whiplash”, happy times and “of course break-ups”.
“We’re also inspired by other musicians, especially Josh Homme. He’s a phenomenal musician!” said Van Aardt
Playing Brave toured in Durban for a week recently and has also played at Cool Runnings, Smugglers and the Living Room in Maboneng.
The band hopes to eventually make it to the Oppikoppi music festival because it’s one of the “best local rock festivals”.
“It’s the best place to be as a musician,” Johnson said. “We also hope to get an album out soon as well.”
Deacon told Wits Vuvuzela that conflict and rivalry within the band is kept to the bare minimum.
“If we have an issue with someone in the band, we hash it out there and then,” he said.
“Ja, we don’t let it build up. We’re all mates!” said Singh.
To chill out the band enjoy partying together, square-mosh dancing and rocking out to music which is what keeps them motivated.
“We just do things that remind us of why we are doing this, I love it,” said Singh.
The band’s favourite food is “Ryan’s moms’ spaghetti bolognaise” and when asked about what one would find in their garage fridge where they practice, Johnson joked, “lots of Baileys and Beer”.
The band wants to appeal to “young, fun and alternative” audiences who are willing to “dance their asses off”.
“Truth be told, none of us really want to be studying, if we could really make it as musicians we’d make that our full-time career,” Johnson said.
The bands next gig will be on March 20 at Sundowners.
Thomas “Tom” Revington is a long-haired indie kid, who is a student by day and a rock star by night.
The fourth year film student is the guitarist and ukulele player in indie-bele band Shortstraw. His other talents include beat boxing and playing on an electric drum kit.
He lives in a commune in Emmarentia with other musicians, which allows him to jam whenever the urge arises.
Why did you choose to study film?
‘Cause it’s cool. No I’m joking. I wanted to do architecture, but apparently my maths marks weren’t good enough so film was the next best thing. Glad I did though, I get to experience life in its entirety and love the creative process and being able to produce a product at the end.
How did you get involved with the band Shortstraw?
I used to be in a band called The Uncut, but that ended. I just posted a Facebook status saying that I was bored and wanted to jam with people looking for a guitarist.
Jason Heartman, the band’s ex-guitarist, saw it and let the guys know and, yeah, two and a half years later, I’m still the guitarist.
You just went to Oppikoppi with the band. How was that?
It was awesome, dusty and crazy, but I managed to survive it. I particularly enjoyed the performances by Manchester Orchestra and Matthew Mole. He’s a buddy of ours. Also our show was crazy cool, just an amazing experience.
How do you juggle being in a band and being a full-time student?
Yo, it’s hard hey. I do that and I have to work to pay for rent and stuff. Last year my first day of exams coincided with the band’s first day of tour, so I had to fly back and forth a lot and did a lot of studying on planes.
But everything works out somehow.
Are girls very forthcoming with their advance because you’re in a band?
Ha ha ja, but I‘m just not that kind of guy. I have signed a boob though. There’s a lot of temptation I suppose, but I am single and I’m just really awkward anyway. My awkwardness generally just puts girls off.
What are some of your favourite spots in Braamfontein?
Music is not something that can be placed in a box. It was never meant to be labelled or categorized, but rather to be enjoyed and experienced. Music, especially in the main stream, tries to be too generic and often loses something on an emotional level as a result. That is why Donkey, a band of Wits musicians and lecturers, is so refreshing.
Consisting of Janus van der Merwe on saxophone, Roger Hobbs on bass, Johnathan Crossley on guitar and Justin Badenhorst behind the drums, this band views the boundaries that separate genres as a challenge.
“We’re not a jazz band, nor are we a hip-hop band, or a rock band, or a drum and bass band,” explains Van der Merwe. “We incorporate all elements in our music, but first and foremost we’re an improve band, an experimental band.”
According to Badenhorst, improvisation doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no rules or structure. What it does mean however is that there is more freedom when expressing their music.
“There are more solos, more spontaneity,” Badenhorst says. “We just go with it, the same way someone opening up about their emotions without too much thought would. We use our instruments to portray what we are feeling at that particular time, and when one member solos, the others respond and support him. It works the same way as a spontaneous conversation that has emotion.”
However, this spontaneity and merging of genres can alienate the audience and can often lead to a band developing a taste that has to be acquired. This suits the band just fine.
“People who listen to our music, and any other band that is trying to push the boundaries is reaching a level that requires thought,” says Badenhorst. “We try and challenge the audience and shake their foundations. Our aim is to create a connection that can get lost sometimes.”
This is art for art’s sake.
Donkey are performing tonight (20 May) at Tanz Café in Fourwyas alongside Isochronos and Wrestlerish.