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Durban: The Holiday Town Trying to Be a Big City

2010-08-31 13:51
 I sat down with Matt Wilson (Car Boot Vendors, Sibling Rivalry, Uprising Festival) and Raheem Abdul-Rasheed (Tree Houses On the Sea) to find out more. Car Boot Vendors have just released a new EP called Home Is Home, available from the band. And T.H.O.T.S’ debut full length Return of the Book Thief is available online and from Rhythmic Beat stores countrywide.

How long have you been involved with the Durban music scene?
Matt: Eish… Eleven years. Just under half my life.
Raheem: Same.

And how would you describe your relationship?
Raheem: She cheats on me sometimes. But she’s always there. She’s where home is. There are a lot of things you could say about her, good and bad.
Matt: I read this book about Durban. They were talking about the beachfront. How it’s been changed, built on, demolished again. They kind of described Durban as this faithful, misunderstood whore. Ha ha… She’s faithful, but a little bit seedy. It’s the holiday town that’s trying to be a big city.

Best thing about Durban?
Matt: The best thing for me is, like, Raheem will come to our shows and we’ll go to his. And we’re both doing something completely different.
Raheem: It’s a small town. We know each other. So it’s hard not to. In Durban, there’s no barriers. That’s why we can step up to a punk show and find out that we actually smaak this shit.

One thing you’d change?
Matt: More support. There’s definitely enough people with enough money to pack out four or five venues every Friday night. It’s just support.
Raheem: And more musicians, supporting each other.

So does it irritate you when thousands of people show up at Wave House to watch Locnville, Die Antwoord and Billy Talent, but they’ve never even heard of Car Boot Vendors and Tree Houses on the Sea?
Raheem: Yep! Pisses me off man. Ha ha…
Matt: How can it not irritate you a little bit? Durban artists have got the talent to get somewhere big. But it’s almost like this thing in Durban that if it’s from Durban it’s not as good.
Raheem: I hate that. It’s like the hometown doesn’t know its prophet unless he goes and comes back.

Besides T.H.O.T.S and The Vendors, who are some of the most active Durban bands at the moment?
Matt: The problem is, bands are active for a while then they’re quiet. Fruits & Veggies play a lot. The Otherwise play a lot…
Raheem: Spitmunky. Steve Fataar. Black Moss. Ewok…
Sheep Down. Go! Go! Bronco. The (City Bowl) Mizers are quite active from a touring point of view. That whole drum ‘n bass, Uber Cool vibe as well. And Syd Kitchen deserves a mention. He’s still going.

Do you both have jobs besides music?
Dude, I have an album out but I’m still looking for a job. And it sucks. I’d have to leave Durban for me to make it big. And I hate that.

Why do you think so few Durban bands give up their day jobs and dive into life as a full-time musician?
It takes guts and belief, man.
You’re either really brave or really stupid. It’s catch-22. You have to get out there on a national level. But every time you tour, you’re losing money. Maybe by your third or fourth tour, you’ll start making money…

But don’t you think it’s like that for every band in the world?
Probably. You just have to keep at it.
It sounds clichéd, but if you believe in your shit… Bands don’t make enough money so they find day jobs. Then the day job becomes the hardest thing to leave behind.

What kind of media support is there for Durban bands?
Sunday Tribune and Daily News always put out the shows.
There’s Mahala.
Still, the other night, Gary Thomas launched his new album at St. Clements. Someone should have been there from Mahala, the Mercury, the Tribune, the Daily News… He could be the best guitarist in the country at the moment, but there’s no one at his album launch. And he’s a Durbanite.
People just wanna party and step up in a club scene, instead of listening to live music. That’s the poison.

And what about radioplay?
East Coast Radio, my God. We’ve been hounding them for ages. The first time our stuff got played was by a Cape Town radio station. They played one of our hardest tracks. We stepped up to East Coast with one of our mellow, sort of radio-friendly tracks: “Nah, this doesn’t suit radio. It’s a bit too out there. It’s a bit too hard.”
There’s Durban Youth Radio. They’ll play anything as long as there’s no swearing. They played one of our first demos.
Raheem: Yeah, they bumped one of our tracks as well.

Favourite Durban venue?
I have to say it or I’ll get killed. The Winston.
Dockyard Theatre was dope but it closed down. You have your Burn stage, which is cool. Highfield House.

Strangest Durban show?
We played a folk night. The Northway Showcase. We played with only female vocalists. The average age of the crowd was about 45. And it was a sit down audience. It was very weird. But they kind of enjoyed it.
Outside a Spar in Kloof, busking with (T.H.O.T.S guitarist) Dylan (Silk).

Biggest Duran show?
We opened for Karen Zoid at the National Arts Festival, but it didn’t compare to Splashy.

Best new development?
I don’t know if there are any. There are a few new venues popping up. But we played Amsterdam on Friday and their sound wasn’t up to scratch. They don’t want to, or can’t, bring in bigger sound. And half their snake was broken. But things are happening. And that’s cool.

Any advice for out-of-town bands trying to hook up a tour?
Gimme a call, we’ll help you guys out. Speak to the venues, speak to the bands, speak to Taryn Fonseca.
Yeah, holler.

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So what’s going on in Durban besides the sea and the stadium? Live music, that’s what. It’s not always easy. Most of the time, it’s a hard fought battle to survive. But underneath it all, there’s a lot of heart. A lot of soul. And a lot of great local bands that go unappreciated.

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