Monday, May 26, 2014

Out of the box, into the Boxer

The weekly column on South African bands and live shows.
 by Omri Ismail Cassiem

Band this week: Boxer

Welcome to the fourth article. This one is about Boxer, an indie band from Johannesburg… Yes please! Just a quick background on the uniquely South African sound that is Johannesburg indie music: let’s start at a little-known band (well if you have ever been to a university party with live bands you would know them) called Desmond and the Tutus, who really influenced this genre with their fun lyrics and crazy nonsensical rhythm section. Fast forward a few years and we get bands such as Shortstaw making waves in the music industry with their mix of social commentary delivered in a way that makes light of the direst of situations and interesting musical compositions. The indie music of Johannesburg really is a genre in and of itself, making unique sounds and lyrical compositions which are there for simple fun. The characteristics of Johannesburg indie music include an upbeat rhythm section with light fun lyrical compositions. The eclectic sounds are derived from many genres including alternate and pop, which really makes it a unique listening experience. 
In case the short history lesson hasn’t made my love for the genre clear, the rest of the article should give you an idea. With all that being said, being unique, even for a short while, is really difficult to maintain. Especially in the world we live in where sequels are the name of the game (Seriously, Shrek was fine the way it was). That is where I point you to the band called Boxer, a truly unique sound in the world of unique sounds that is indie music. With their jazzy undertones and alternative style to soloing and rhythm switch-ups, they really do produce a unique sound. 

Visually they also put on quite a show with their fun approach to music. Usually when a lead singer doesn’t play rhythm guitar in every song, you expect them to be energetically moving around the stage engrossing you in their musical reality. Somehow Ari Brest, on the other hand, seems to be able to engross you by simply standing behind the mic stand, drawing your eye in and keeping it there. That being said, if your eyes happen to wander to his right you see Tyler Saunderson (bassist extraordinaire) putting K-Fed to shame with his backup dancing. Or if you have the inclination to look left you’ll see the tiny enigmatic Jake Padlanski rocking out while making sweet, sweet love to your ears with his guitar riffs. But if guys with guitars or lead singers don’t catch your eyes, you can always watch Justin Gent on the drums smiling maniacally as he leads you through the jazzy harder rhythm of each song. 

Sound-wise, if you listen to the lyrics you really get an authentic feel of who you are listening to. It was the first time in a while that I have actually chuckled during a live performance because of some of the lyrics. I went and sat down with the band members after the show and unsurprisingly I was in stitches the entire time we were talking. These guys are truly fun all the way through. “What makes them unique though?” I hear you asking… Well indie is usually light-hearted in composition as well as lyrics, but with this band you get a feeling of grit when you listen to their compositions, a bit like a battle tank with Hello Kitty painted on the side. You know it can completely demolish your house with one shot, but you can’t help but laugh.
I recommend going to watch them if you are a huge fan of alternate rock and want to know what indie is about; they are a great bridge into the world of brilliance that is indie music. I managed to catch them at a gig thrown by thefuss, which is a new organisation in the industry that is looking at making a difference, so I thought they deserved a shout out. Go check out their website at and see what all the fuss is about.