Meet the SA band that’s huge in a little American town

2016-03-15 13:39

Cape Town – If you’re an avid festivalgoer and live music enthusiast, then you will probably know or have heard of the band Crimson House Blues, or rather as they’re known now – Crimson House.

They’re a 7-piece Cape Town-based band who hails from Namibia. They give an explosive live performance and recently released their third album, Come Alive.

Sitting across from frontman and founding member Riaan Smit for a coffee, I kick things off by asking about a random fact I read just minutes before my interview: "Are you and Willim Welsyn really cousins?"

"Yes, we are! We only recently made the connection that both of us are in the music industry. So it’s quite weird. I recently had a chat with him on his WAT podcast where we delve very deeply into our family tree," says Riaan. (You can listen to the Podcast here.)

Big in Alpine Arizona

In 2014 Riaan and band member Nick Becker, who plays the alto saxophone, embarked on a trip to the US. And they will be going again this year for the third time.

"We’ve been going there every year now since two years ago. That time we did New York to Phoenix, Phoenix to San Diego, LA, San Francisco, Cayman Islands, up to the Caribbean. We went to New Orleans, then Memphis, then Memphis to Nashville and then New York again and came back. At first just two of us went over and this time three of us will be going," says Riaan.

"Wow that sounds amazing! Where will you be touring this time around?" I ask.

"We’re going to the US from 24 June to 23 July. We’re doing this festival we do every year in Alpine Arizona. It’s the smallest little town and we’ve sort of become 'celebs' there. Micro-celebrities because there’s only like 400 people in the town and maybe about 2000 during the weekend.

"Every year we’re the only people featured on the poster. They get us there, they fly us in, so that helps us as our landing point and then from there we can explore a bit," Riaan explains.

A Windhoek lager with Allen Sanderson

Not only are they famous in Alpine Arizona, but Riaan and Nick also got to meet Alan Sanderson, who had previously produced hit albums for Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, BBKing, and Elton John.

"Allen Sanderson invited us to a studio. This is the guy who produced Rolling Stones, Elton John and all these characters and you see their gold records on his walls. And all he wanted from us was to bring a cold Windhoek and a Tafel lager from Namibia, because he loves Namibia. He invited us by e-mail; ‘hey guys, I hear you’re coming to San Diego, can you bring me a Windhoek and n Tafel lager?’ We dragged these two beers across the states in a bag, and you’re not allowed to take booze across state lines. And we took it straight to him in a nice little cooler box, and then he put it on his two speakers and invited us in to have a recording session. It was great!" Riaan exclaims.

The band recently played Up The Creek, where they had another awesome experience in the form of crowd-surfing. "We crowd surfed a crowd on a surfboard. Which worked out from one end to the other. I got a video! Riaan says.

Then we watched this video: 

On changing their name to just Crimson House, Riaan says it makes sense. "We dropped the blues part because people got confused. They’d go like, ‘but wait a minute we booked a blues bands for like 14:00 in the afternoon’, and then we’d get up there and make a complete ruckus, and like this isn’t blues you know, it’s like gypsy rock. It’s amazing, now that we’ve dropped that we’re getting night time slots and put where the party is. It makes sense because we’re not the 12:00 in the afternoon let’s chill out band."

Riaan’s musical influences are a mix of things like blues, punk, metal and jazz. And while he doesn’t come from a musical family as such, he was exposed to a lot of music. "I think it all started with my father who was like, ‘Listen to Leonard Cohen, listen to Led Zeppelin’. My father just loved music so much that at two in the morning he would call me out of my room and say sit, and listen. Meneer luister na dit. And then he’d play pink Floyd’s show live on a DVD."

The band’s new album was created over a period of a year and a half, but the actual recording was done and dusted in just two weeks. "We recorded everything live. We’d go in and make half the stuff up in the studio. What you hear on the album is us, it’s not like to a click or any studio tricks, it’s just us, raw us," says Riaan.

"Can you describe your album sound in one sentence?" I ask.

"A grungy, genreless mix of gyspy  blues rock funk. There’s not a single genre on the album where you can go, 'oh that song sounds like that song'," says Riaan.

Quick questions:

Whiskey or bourbon?

Eating out or braaing?

Favourite venue in SA?
Hillcrest Quarry.

Your perfect date night?
Hillcrest Quarry

Best song to party to?
Turn Down for What by DJ Snake and Lil Jon.

What’s on your playlist at the moment?
Louis Armstrong.

For more info on Crimson House and what they're up to visit their website, like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.

Read more on:    riaan smit  |  local music

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