2015 has been a great year for Cape Town indie-pop outfit Al Bairre with a recently completed tour of the UK and a performance at The Great Escape Festival, and a recently released single that has broken into the top ten of the Top 40 charts premiere South African radio station 5FM. We have our South African correspondent, Craig Roxburgh, to send a couple of questions over to guitarist Kyle Davis to discuss the band’s success, the pressures of new-found fame, whether band’s need to create a unique South African sound, and the possibility of some new music.
We’re halfway into 2015, and you have already had an absolutely massive year after touring in the UK, performing at The Great Escape Festival, and being announced to perform at both Oppikoppi and Rocking The Daisies. How has this year been for you guys so far?
Thank you very much. I bet you say that to all the bands.
Only some of them.
2015 has been divine so far. The UK Tour was amazing and the shows were even better. We had a lot of fun. Then to get back and hear that we got booked for Oppikoppi and Daisies was just too much for us. We are over the moon and are definitely going to try to make those shows futuristic.
I called it last year that 2015 would be the year of Al Bairre, and seems that my prediction isn’t far from the truth. You’ve experienced a vast amount of success in such a small period of time. Has this experience been overwhelming for you guys? If so, how do you cope with the pressures that your newfound fame has created?
Yeah, I actually remember reading that prediction and thinking “It would be so nice if he is right”. So thank you. Would you be open to maybe predicting us some fancy cars or an iPad? Okay, excellent.
The amount of sheer luck we have had is overwhelming. We are forever just seeming to be in the right place at the right time. As for the pressure, we have ourselves the best manager this side of the North Pole so he deals with all the stressful things we don’t want to deal with.
Are we famous? Nobody tells us anything.
Al Bairre released their brand new single “Bungalow” in April, and it quickly found its way onto the 5FM Top 40 charts – which was also your first time in the 5FM Charts. Along with this, your single was also the second most popular song on BRIP’s playlist in May – an internationally recognised indie playlist. Were you expecting this kind of response when you were recording “Bungalow”?
We definitely did not expect it at all. We obviously thought the song was stunning. But we are also very aware that every band thinks their songs are the best songs ever. Like how parents with ugly looking babies think they are the best looking baby to have ever been born.
We just came about selecting “Bungalow” as the first release to radio because we had just recorded a music video for it so it made sense. Then it got playlisted and then entered into the Top 40 which was huge for us and 2 weeks ago it just entered the Top 10 (reaching number 8) which blew our minds completely. Julia Johnson (cello, violin and backup vocals) messaged our Whatsapp group and said that she has been listening to the Top 40 and that they have just played number 11 and we haven’t been played yet. She was concerned that we had maybe dropped off the chart completely since last week. But then a few songs later “Bungalow” came on and we all celebrated by running around and sending those cute Whatsapp high-fives. Top 10 was not on our list of expectations at all. We couldn’t be more chuffed though.
The release of “Bungalow” renewed the stream of hopeful rumours that Al Bairre are working on an EP. In the light of these rumours, is Al Bairre possibly releasing a new EP or even a full length album in the near future?
Yeah. “Bungalow” is one of a batch of songs we recorded for the release of little something special. But we can’t reveal what or when at this point in time. For the time being though, we are going to keep releasing singles leading up to the release. We are also heading back into studio again come the beginning of July to record some more tracks. This time we are flying our producer down from Potchefstroom to work with us in the actual studio. We have never done this before so we will see how that goes.
You’ve experienced a fair share of success in South Africa’s indie scene – one that is often criticised for being over-saturated by a lot of bands that all sound the same, and do very little to make their unique sound. What advice do you have for bands trying to make it in this particular music scene?
Set goals. Lay out a plan of how you want to go about achieving those goals. Then put that plan into action. If you are good then that’s perfect. Good bands are the best bands. Also don’t just sign anything.
A lot of people seem to think that South African bands should not draw influence from so-called Western bands, and should rather develop their own unique “South African” sound. Do you think it will ever be possible for South African bands to develop a sound that will truly reflect South Africa as whole, considering the myriad of cultural groups we have in South Africa?
I think we should do whatever we want. My body’s nobody’s body but mine.
Die Antwoord made something that was pretty uniquely South African and a lot of people here in South Africa hated them. So they say we should make something that is more unique, but then when a band actually does then we say “no thanks”. It’s very impolite actually. But just as long as you don’t put on an American accent when you sing. I think it’s going to be alright.
On a less serious note, it was announced recently that you will be collaborating with PHFAT on the renewed 5FM Xperia Mashlab series. Are you looking forward to this collaboration that will ultimately be driven by what the fans want?
Yeah it has been a very educational experience. We all look at is as an exercise in being less selfish. We usually all sit in our band room and we write whatever we think sounds cool and if we all like it then radical, we have a new song. But now we have to take into account what PHFAT think and then we have to write our lyrics to fit into one of the topics that the public submitted. It’s been fun so far though.
Finally, what are the plans for the latter half of 2015?
Oppikoppi, Daisies, a tour, more singles, recording, more photos, more videos, more Facebook posts, more tweets, more salads, 6 packs, season 2 of The Al Bairre Show With Al Bairre and this is the year Nicholas (Preen, Vocals) is going to learn how to land that backflip.