With Freedom Festival less than two weeks away, our South African writer Craig Roxburgh sat down to talk to Shortstraw regarding their recent success in South Africa, their new album, overseas tours, and their upcoming performance at Freedom Festival. Be sure to stayed tuned to Mind Equals Blown for all of his coverage of the festival.
A few days ago, you guys performed to a sold out crowd at Kirstenbosch. What was that experience like?
That was very much a big deal for us! We played Kirstenbosch last year with Desmond and the Tutus, and had an incredible experience then, but to be back almost exactly a year later and to close out the day with the sun setting and everyone standing up while we played “Couch Potato” was a very special experience.
The history of the band seems to be a bit of a mystery, or at least as far as inquisitive looks at your Facebook page and the depths of the web tell me. What is the story behind Shortstraw, and how did this indie-rock sensation came into existence?
The band was originally just Al and Ollie playing drums, over the years moments came and went, I on and Gad joined as we released our first album, then Jake came in a few months after we released our 2nd album. Youthless, our 3rd and current album is the first with the current lineup of the band.
It would be an understatement to say that your career has been anything but explosive. What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
Going overseas was amazing for us, we toured with the Jungle Giants in Australia, and played 5 cities in Japan; that was incredible! We also got to meet and hang out with some of of our favourite musicians, like Bombay Bicycle Club and Portugal, The Man.
Were you ever expecting to attain the level of success that you have reached today? Was there that moment of thinking that one day you’d be touring Australia, selling out Kirstenbosch, touring relentlessly across the country and playing on the same stages as massive international bands?
There are so many people trying to do exactly what we want to do, it would be foolish and pretty arrogant to expect anything in this industry. We worked hard, we played lots of shows, never complained about anything, and just treated everyone we dealt with with respect. Being nice goes a long way in this business
Speaking of international bands, are you looking forward to performing at Freedom Festival?
Absolutely! We played at Synergy festival with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and we’re fans of The Airborne Toxic Event!
Your sound has matured since the release of your debut album and that culminated in the radically different, yet mature, self-titled album that was released at the start of the year. It is almost like you guys have grown up, kind of like South Africa’s own Blink 182. What has that process been like for you guys?
First of all, thanks for saying we’ve matured *blush*. As a band we feel like all the albums are definitely connected to each other, especially the last 2, seeing as they were both recorded at High Seas Studios, but we definitely made an effort to make Youthless feel bigger, we got in more musicians, and spent a lot of time in the finishing processes getting to sound as good as an international product.
Is the recent album an indication of the future direction that Shortstraw would be taking with their sound?
We can’t really say for now. You’ll just have to wait and see, maybe we’ll go techno…
Like PHFAT, you guys have an affinity with Australia. Are there plans to return there on tour in the near future, or any international tours to eclectic places like Japan or Prague?
We are looking to go to Japan this year! We loved it so much and cannot wait to return. We are also looking into other international possibilities
Seeing as Shortstraw are a staple of the South African music scene, what are your thoughts on where the scene currently stands?
There are some really great bands emerging at the moment! Go Barefoot, Sol Gems, We Are Charlie are great up and coming bands, and Beatenberg, Gangs Of Ballet and Matthew Mole are doing amazing things!
[Brace yourself. Terrible pun coming] By picking the short straw, what unpleasant deed did you have to perform? For example, entering a dark, scary cave to find a lost treasure? Or perhaps crossing a rickety old rope bridge across a big river canyon?
I once picked the short straw and had to investigate where a strange smell was coming from. It turns out my brother had hidden a chicken egg in his room, hoping it would hatch. And that was 4 months before.
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