Photography courtesy of Bryan De Kocks
Peasant are this small Cape Town-based hardcore act that has been making waves in the South African hardcore scene. Fresh off a recent tour with hardcore legends Comeback Kid and the release of their debut EP Dead Hand which is available for download here. MEB staffer Craig Roxburgh had the chance to catch up with the band and chat to them about the South African hardcore scene and their debut EP.
MEB: Could you please give me a brief history of the band?
Pieter: I used to play bass for JHB’s Conqueror, and being a guitarist first, I sometimes wrote some riffs, which at that stage were just for messing around. When I moved down to Cape Town around March last year Pete got hold of me asking if I was keen to start a band, as he had kind of moved from Durban to Cape Town around the same time. We had known each other through our mutual friend Richard Staub (Guitarist for Conqueror and Mixing Engineer on our EP) and shows with his previous band Provider. He told me about this idea that he and and Byron had to start a band called Peasant, so I finished up the songs and we took it from there. Around the same time we met Sheldon at a Conqueror show at ROAR, starting practicing as a band from about June last year, and here we are.
The South African hardcore scene has always been relegated to play in the shadows. What is your opinion of the scene as it stands today?
Pieter: I think Hardcore and truly ‘underground’ music by its very nature means that it will always be relegated to play in the shadows. I think its a bit naive to expect, that in a country where such a small amount of people listen to underground/heavy music to begin with, we should be expecting a couple hundred kids to be going to a local hardcore/metal/whatever show every night. Most touring Hardcore bands around the world don’t even sell out every night, so what makes here different?
With that said, It’s super exciting to see that there have been a couple quality local releases from across the board over the last couple months. Conqueror, Brafcharge, Wildernessking, Take Hand, Hours, Black Math, The Moths and Make Overs come to mind. If this ball keeps rolling who knows what could happen next.
Pete: It means that the fans are more ‘real’ if that makes sense. The reason we support hardcore is because we legitimately love it, not because the radio told us to. We like it ‘underground’. Hardcore is almost more of an ideology than a genre. Lots of people have come and gone, but it is encouraging to see a lot of the same faces at shows still. I honestly think that the South African hardcore community is made up of some of the most resourceful, talented, creative and genuine hard-working people in the world.
Byron: One crap thing with the current state of live music for me would be – shows happening here nowadays rarely allow people under the age of 18 to attend. Going to shows when I was in high school had a huge positive impact on my life. In terms of the actual bands and the music being produced – so much good stuff is going down and I’d say things are in a really great place in that regard… the world would be a better place if everybody could go to those shows though. Having people excluded sucks.
What are some of the major themes present on Dead Hand?
Pieter: Dead Hand for me, deals alot with a feeling of isolation. I guess each song has its own theme but as a whole, I take away a strong sense of being detached from certain aspects of society, people, the city, politics etc.
Byron: Suffering caused by stupid mistakes and selfish deeds of others. Being unnecessarily tied to and dragged down with the results of those deeds, that’s something that’s pretty common in the songs. 3 dudes in the band wrote lyrics, for the 5 non-instrumental tracks on our E.P. It makes me stoked that we’re all on the same page with the sound of the music instrumentally, but also on the same page in terms of what we’re saying on the songs.
Dead Hand makes numerous references to the state of affairs within South Africa, especially within the track “Done”. Do you guys think that this song has a particular significance considering that elections are just around the corner?
Pieter: I guess so. “Done” kind of broadly deals with issues both within people and the country as a whole, so I guess it could be directly related to anything politically within South Africa. Essentially it’s about how damaged people are from both past and current governments, and that there is very little worth arguing about that could help bring about immediate change.
Pete: I also see “Done” as having a comment on the way that human beings have destroyed such a vast quantity of the Earth’s environment, and it could very well be that we have come too far to turn back. We have raped the Earth’s surface in the interest of profit, without regard to long-term consequence. And personally I think that this is largely because we have removed ourselves from Nature, seeing ourselves as separate from it in some way.
One can feel the anger oozing from “Ender”. What is the track about and from what kind of space did it come from?
Byron: “Ender” is about a piece of Cape Town history, often overlooked and unacknowledged. History told from the point of view of families that once lived in District 6, and a few other areas around the Cape, who were removed and relocated by the government – out of view, on the outskirts. People whose lives were screwed-around with for so long, even before being removed. It’s a song acknowledging what they’ve gone through.
What inspired the writing of “Blackslider”?
Pete: “Backslider” is a song that Byron and I came up with. I wrote the lyrics. Basically, Byron and I were both involved in youth/church when we were younger, and looking back now, can see a lot of the harm that came from careless words and encouraged ignorance. The title came from this stupid dance/song we’ve seen done, where they go “Slide to the left, slide to the right, backslide…” which obviously references someone who has “backslidden” from faith in God. It pretty much all references that and our personal experiences. Read more books.
The track “Dead Hand” makes reference to a “cold, dead hand”. What is meant by this particular lyric?
Pieter: The song is about a loss of faith in others, a dead hand being a metaphor for getting back nothing after trying to ask for help or way out.
Before recording this EP, you guys got to open for Comeback Kid during their tour of South Africa. What was that experience like?
Pieter: Yeah it was great. We knew from the start of the band that the show would be happening, so we saw it as a goal to play. Being a new band and playing to that many people did us good I think. Never mind getting to see and play with a band that we’ve been fans of since we were kids. Great vibes. Great night.
Pete: Comeback Kid were one of the first hardcore bands I ever got into, so it was super rad to be able to open for them. It was also rad to meet Kyle and Jeremy, who are inspirations for me.
Byron: That show was amazing. Had been hoping to see them play live since I heard their first release over a decade ago. It’s a good feeling seeing a packed venue with people going nuts, when a band from the other side of the world makes a mission to get down here. CBK’s vocalist Andrew Neufeld had been quite a big inspiration for me ever since I heard him in his previous band Figure Four. It was a really fun show.
What moral values does Peasant stand for?
Pieter: As with any band, we have 4 different people with 4 different lifestyles, so I personally can’t say that we necessarily all see things in exactly the same way. With that said, certain ideals play a big part in the band, so we make it well known in the lyrics. All the values are there.
Pete: Yeah I’d say that we’re on the same page when it comes to things like injustice, racism and the other things you will read about in our lyrics.
What is your ambition as a band?
Pieter: I guess to play more shows, tour and put out a couple quality releases. We’re a new band so hopefully the road ahead of us will be long.
Byron: Have fun, make friends all over the planet, make people sweaty…
Where do you guys hope to be ten years from now?
Pieter: Ten years hey? Older, fatter, slower and happier.
Byron: I’d say Pieter’s answer hit the nail on the head.
This may be a bit of a personal question but what is your favourite thing about being in a band?
Pieter: Getting to play every week with three skollies, making friends, seeing the country.
Pete: Meeting up once or twice a week with friends to be creative and constructive, working out relationship issues, working on new song ideas, discussing future plans, touring, and putting hundreds of hours into something that makes absolutely no sense, haha.
Byron: Hanging out with friends who make music I really enjoy. ( also I find screaming at the top of my lungs at practice and shows really therapeutic – it’s an awesome stress killer.)
And your least favourite thing?
Pieter: Carrying shit. I once heard someone say that you don’t get paid for the hour you’re on stage, you get paid for the 23 it takes to get your shit there. That’s if you even get paid.
Pete: Yeah, carrying shit! Especially as a drummer. I sometimes get bummed when people misunderstand our motives e.g. making ourselves a brand, or wanting to get popular. But I guess those are their issues.
Byron: Playing shows when the sound onstage and to the audience is poor – that’s a joy-killer…