We chat to US band Our Last Night while on tour in SA

2017-02-13 22:01

Cape Town - Mercury Live Lounge was packed to the brim on Saturday, where Our Last Night, supported by local acts Facing The Gallows, Climate Control, Set For The Sky and OneDaySky, played a gig for Rocking For Rhinos, an organisation that's dedicated to fighting rhino poaching.

This was part of a three-gig tour, which included Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town. All the bands performed for free, and all ticket proceeds went to Rocking For Rhinos, which would use the money for anti-poaching efforts in South Africa. All three of the shows were sold out.

When we say Mercury was packed, we are not embellishing the facts. There was very little room to move around in the venue, it was stuffy, humid, and in between sets, everyone scurried outside to try and catch some fresh air.

Right after Climate Control finished their last song, the whole crowd started chanting for Our Last Night. The energy in Mercury was intense. Everyone knew that a special show was coming. Our Last Night entered the stage just after 00:00, and definitely rocked the house. Everyone sang along, and it seemed like the whole crowd knew every single song intricately. It was evident why all their shows sold out, and that they definitely had a massive following in South Africa.

We had a chance to sit down with brothers Trevor (vocals) and Matt Wentworth (guitars), Alex "Woody" Woodrow (bass) and Tim Molloy (drums) on Thursday night right after they landed in Cape Town to talk about their time in South Africa, kissing hippos, having a braai, their success on YouTube and their falling-out with their record label.

Welcome to Cape Town, did you guys land today? 
Yeah just a few hours ago. 
You sure chose the wrong day to land. It's the State of the Nation, President Jacob Zuma is going to address the country, so the whole city is on lock down.
Yes, we actually found out the hard way. We had to pee really bad, and what should have been a 15 minute trip from the airport to the guest house ended up taking an hour and a half. 
So how were your shows in Gauteng?
It was awesome man, we did Johannesburg and Pretoria, both shows sold out and they were crazy. Our show in Cape Town is also sold out. We've never been here before, this is our first visit to South Africa, and we had no idea what to expect.
Have you guys had any chance to do any touristy type things?
Oh yeah, we have done it all. Kissed a hippo, touched some monkeys, we saw a leopard on a game drive, which is supposedly really rare. We did four game drives. We saw some elephants, giraffes, baboons, warthog families, everything possible. It was really insane. 

Missing our girl Jessica the hippo. But heading to dive with sharks in Capetown today ????

A photo posted by Our Last Night (@olnband) on


And in Cape Town, do you plan to stay on after your show? 

Yes we are here until Sunday night, so we are going to try and do some things on Friday. We planned to go diving with sharks, but we heard that there are Orca whales in that area, which is the only thing that can really destroy a Great White Shark. And if a Great White Shark is scared of anything, you should stay away. Orcas are insane, they can tip your boat over, and open the shark cage. When I found out that we were doing the shark diving thing, I YouTubed it and saw some videos of shark cage diving gone wrong, which is something you should never do before you plan on doing something. But yeah, maybe we can go do it next time. 

So your shows in South Africa are in conjunction with Rocking for Rhinos. How did you guys get involved in the cause? 

Craig from Rocking the Rhinos messaged us on Facebook about 3 or 4 years ago, so it has been a long time. We've been trying to make it happen every year, but there's just a lot of planning that goes into it. We had to plan it into their schedule a year in advance, so we just weren't able to make it happen until now. And it's a good thing it is happening now, because now all the shows are sold out, and we just weren't as big of a band three years ago. 

You've garnered a lot of success on YouTube with your covers of popular songs. Is that something you actively decided to pursue to grow your audience? 

It's a really good and easy way to help spread your original music, and we saw some other people doing it and being really successful with it on YouTube, and usually the people who do it just focus on the covers, it's not actually a band doing it. The first cover we ever did was Skyfall by Adele. It's a good way to introduce your sound to people, let them hear the singer's voices so that people have already made up their opinion on you, so if they hear an original, they are already used to your sound. 

Also, in the US, it's really hard for a rock band to get on the radio, and YouTube is like another radio in a way. We've got almost 900 000 subscribers on YouTube, and something like 170 000 000 total channel views. It is really crazy dude, still even when I look at it I'm like: "Really?" So it has definitely helped us out.

Could you tell us why you chose to go the independent route, and what that has been like?

We've been on our own since 2013. We had a dispute with our label, Epitaph records, when we released the cover of Skyfall. We were still under contract with them, so they owned that cover. They were doing something really stupid. We put the video out on our YouTube channel, and it got like 50 000 views in the first day, and they mailed us and told us to remove the video from our YouTube, they want to put it on their channel. We told them that that would only hurt us and their label. They claimed the video too, so it killed the viral aspect of it. After they claimed it, the video was not viewable on mobile devices. The problem is that Sony actually owned the right to the song, as it was Adele's song, so it already had a copyright claim on it, and when you put a double claim on it, it just basically kills the video. 

We think their team just got kinda spooked, and just claimed the video because they didn't know what they were doing. We were just really fed up with out label at that point. 

It's a good thing that you guys were clued up on how YouTube worked then. Did you expect the massive success the cover would garner? 

It was an experiment, we had no idea that it would do so well. That's why we kept doing them, because it did so well, we decided that it would be stupid not continuing with it. 

Which covers are your favourite that you've done? 

Stressed Out by twenty one pilots, Hotel California by The Eagles, Alanis Morissette, it was our least popular cover, but it was definitely our favourite musically.

Did you guys have a chance hearing any of the local talent whilst you were here?
Yeah man, we tried to watch everyone while we were here. They do shows so late here. When we're headlining in the US, we are done by 22:00. Here we only go on stage after 00:00. So that took some getting used to. We also got to hang out with one band in particular, Facing The Gallows, because they showed us the area. Chase from Facing has been doing all the video for us on the tour, and all the bands helped us out big time. There are no bands in the US that would be that stoked to help out, so it was a whole new experience. Everyone was really nice. We'd be happy to put them in any show we ever play, because they sound awesome too. 
What is your favourite show you've ever played?

Probably when we played Moscow for the second time. We didn't really know how awesome it was going to be. They put us in this massive venue, and we thought no one would come and the show would look empty. But 1800 people ended up pitching up, people lit flares and shouted our lyrics from the top of their lungs. When we landed, there were about 100 fans waiting for us at the airport. Any time you come to a new country and the show is unbelievable, your mind is blown. We played Johannesburg in this field, I looked behind Tim playing drums, and there was just nothing except for the brightest stars you've ever seen, and then I looked and there was a Sold Out sign. And you're just like, where the fuck am I right now? It's moments like that when you just feel extremely lucky. 
One last thing, have you had a chance to sample to local cuisine?

We had a braai, and we ate everything. We were staying in the middle of the bush in Hoedspruit, with people singing around a fire. We had some lamb, chicken and beef, and it was all incredible. And that was after seeing a leopard too, so it was just unbelievable.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. It's been real.

Thanks for having us.

From left to right: Tim Molloy, Alex Woodrow, Neville Lennox (journalist), Trevor Wentworth and Matt Wentworth.

(Photos: Neville Lennox)

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