Cape Town – Johannesburg based folk-rock band, Lunatic Wolf, recently made their way into our office via their debut album, To The Adventure.
And we must say, after listening to the album, we were blown away by this six-piece group – consisting of members Gavin van den Berg, Richard Oldfield, Jacques du Plessis, Gavin Flaks, Adrian Erasmus and David Grevler - with their fresh, new sound. While they describe their album and music as folk/alternative, it really doesn’t fall into a specific genre.
Gavin van den Berg’s soothing vocals leads you through an album that keeps it simple with comfortable guitars and melodic piano. Musically sound and not trying to hard, To The Adventure will have you hooked on its nostalgic honesty.
We got to ask Gavin some questions about the band, their music and their Oppikoppi debut.
Channel24: Tell us more about the band, when did you guys start the band and how did you decide on your name?
Gavin: Lunatic Wolf started as a studio project between myself and our guitarist/pianist Richard. Following the breakup of our previous band Your Name in Neon in early 2012, Richard and I set out to write and demo new material to be released under a new band name. The writing process continued for just over a year where we assembled and refined a collection of musical ideas, which ultimately gave rise to the ten songs that you hear on our debut album To the Adventure. We entered the studio in late 2013 to record those ten songs with the assistance of our good friend Jacques du Plessis at High Seas Studios.
The band name Lunatic Wolf was conceived after the recording of To the Adventure. We had a number band names in the running, but finally settled on Lunatic Wolf. The name doesn’t have any real meaning or significance other than the combination of the two words being relatively unique.
C24: Your debut album, To The Adventure, has quite a unique folk sound to it, was it a conscious decision to create this sound?
Gavin: As musicians we’ve never really made a conscious decision to go for any sound in particular. We draw inspiration from a variety of places but none of us are particularly fixated on any genre or sound. Having said that, it’s taken Richard and myself a number of years of collaborative writing to find a sound that personally resonates with us in a metaphysical kind of way.
C24: How long did you guys work on the album and what inspired the songs?
Gavin: The bulk of the ideas for the album were written over the course of one year in a temporary creative space set up in Richard’s garage. Here we wrote and demoed a number of ideas until we had accumulated enough material for a full album. Personally, it was a very memorable time for me and definitely helped me re-discover myself musically. The production phase for the album was a little more time consuming and took just over two years to finalise. We wanted to take our time and be absolutely satisfied with the album before we put anything out. That’s always been our philosophy when writing music.
Richard and I have always been drawn to the notion of childhood nostalgia and a longing for the past. We are both relatively sentimental people and I think this sentimentality came out in a strong way when writing To the Adventure. Much of our inspiration was taken from our own lives and our own "coming of age" as you will. So you will see themes of growth, introspection, lost love, found love and the end of life. The album isn’t particularly grim though, and there’s a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel kind of thread that run throughout.
C24: What are your musical backgrounds? Did any of you study music?
Gavin: We’ve all played music from a relatively young age. I took music as a subject at school and completed my grade 7 in Classical Guitar at the Trinity College in London. Our drummer did a drum apprenticeship with local drum legend Neill Ettridge. The rest of the guys don’t have a formal education in music but have played and performed music for most of their teenage and adult lives. Bands that we’ve played in or played for include Walt, RIFE, Your Name In Neon, Kings Don’t Marry Queens, The Night Light Six, Trevor Rebello, Shortstraw, Wrestlerish, DanceYou’reOnFire, The Jumper, Anchors Up, Ross Jack, Lacey May and We Shall Embrace.
C24: What do you if you’re not making music?
Gavin: I enjoy reading and quality time with my fiancée. At the moment I’m in the wedding organising phase and that consumes much of my free time.
C24: You are 6 guys in the band, do you guys all get along all the time, or do you have a few fights every now and then? And if you do fight, what to you fight about?
Gavin: We haven’t spent any extended periods of time around each other aside from rehearsal time, so it’s been pretty smooth sailing up until now. We’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out once we hit the road!
C24: If you could collaborate with any local artist, who would it be and why?
Gavin: Personally I would love to collaborate with solo guitarist Dave Baudains. Dave is an incredible solo guitarist and always has an array of counter-intuitive musical ideas up his sleeve.
C24: Do you have any rituals before you go on stage?
Gavin: I have a lengthy vocal warmup exercise that I follow before a show. It consists of a series of lip rolls, tongue trills and neh neh neh neh’s that most people would find annoying under normal circumstances!
C24: You guys will be playing Oppikoppi for the first time, what are you looking forward to most and what can people expect from your show? Gavin: Personally I'm excited to be playing in front of an audience again. We've been away from the live circuit for a while now and have been itching to get back. We recently incorporated a visual element to our show which we're really looking forward to using. On a different note, we're all really excited to see Brand New. We've been long-time fans!
Biggest music inspiration?It’s a close call between Ryan Adams and Noah Gundersen.
Best act you’ve ever seen live?The Milk Carton Kids at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City.
Best venue in SA?The Civic Theatre.
Best winter drink?Gluhwein.
Best winter date?Light dinner on a blanket in front of the fireplace with a bottle of Cab Sav and a sweet delight to follow.
*Catch Lunatic Wolf at Oppkoppi, which is taking place from 7-9 August in Northam. Tickets for the festival cost R750 and are available here.
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