Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Boosh 22

 The weekly column on South African bands and live shows.
 by Omri Ismail Cassiem
This week: Shortstraw @ Boosh 22

I was fortunate enough to catch up with a band from South Africa that is really making waves on the world stage recently. They are called Shortstraw; you might know them from their hit single “Good Morning, Sunshine”. It was after their free showcase event called Boosh (this one was the 22nd iteration) that I managed to get an interview with the band. This is what they had to say for themselves.

First of all, congratulations. Boosh 22 was an awesome event with many talented local acts. Could you explain what Boosh is and how it started for anyone who doesn’t know about the event?

Thanks. Boosh is a free show we put together once a month that started in 2011 as a sort of mini festival at a restaurant in Greenside called Mamma's Shebeen. The idea was for it always to be free and to host a bunch of bands, some that people knew and some that people probably didn't. Just a platform for bands to play to a guaranteed crowd (because it's free). We just hosted the 22nd one, so we're super chuffed with how it's grown over the years. We've moved locations from Mamma's with 100 people, to the Zoo Lake Bowls Club with 500 and now to Mark's Park where the last one had around 800 people there.

What was the first CD you bought with your own money? And I won’t believe you if you say Backstreet Boys!

Al: I can't answer for all of us, but the first CD I spent actual money on was the 'Around the World' single by Daft Punk when I was 14. I think I bought the Run DMC vs. Jason Nevins 'It's Like That' single at the same time. No jokes though, the first two CDs I 'owned' were the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls' first albums cos my dad reviewed albums for some magazine and they were two of the first actual CDs he got (not cassettes) and thought we'd appreciate them more than him, I guess. I think we had them for about six months before my mom eventually bought us a CD player. They were ullage.

Have you noticed any changes in the South African music scene over the past 2 years? If so, what are the three most notable ones?

Yeah totally. Two years ago, bands struggled to get people to shows because all anyone was interested in was going to watch DJs and have a party. In those two years, I think bands have maybe started taking a more 'dance-y' approach to their songwriting and in so doing have attracted the attention of concert-goers again. There's a pretty even crowd that goes to both types of events and that's awesome. With social media becoming more and more optimised for bands to promote their music and shows, people are now able to know exactly what they're going to see, which puts an extra pressure on the musicians to work hard on their craft so that people will definitely come to the shows. With that being said, I think the calibre of bands in the country is just getting better and better. That's the beauty of hosting an event like Boosh as well, in that we get to choose the bands that play, and for the most part, they're all pretty fuckin' cool! Oh, you asked for three. I didn't see that 'til now. Was that three?

How do you guys stay so grounded and excited by fans after the phenomenal success that you have achieved?

Look, we've been really lucky to get where we are now and we're super grateful and stoked that it's happened, but we've by no means made it. There is still so much left for us to achieve and places for us to go, and we're really excited about that. This industry has no room for cunts, because everyone's on the same page. As soon as you think you're better than someone else, you'll get called out on it and everyone will think you're a doos. We wouldn't be where we are without our fans, so why would we not be excited by them? We're not better than anyone else; let's all just drink a beer together.

A little birdie told me, well I was at Boosh so, you have a new album coming up. What can we expect from this album?

Yeah, we're so amped to be writing new stuff at the moment. I think we're influenced by everything we hear, how can you not be!? So every band we've shared the stage with has a certain influence on us, whether we do it on purpose or not. Hell, most shitty pop songs we hear on the radio are probably subconsciously influencing us too. We're trying to take a more mature approach to this album, both musically and lyrically. We all grew up listening to a shitload of grunge music, so we're trying to let that shine through as well, but we also don't want to take out the 'dance-y' element that most people know us for. But there's probably quite an obvious influence from the Australian indie scene (we spent a little time there and have since been listening to loads of Aussie indie bands) and even a touch of the Japanese rock scene, namely an incredible band called Sawagi, who we had the privilege of touring with in Japan. But deep down we'll always try and keep it South African, cos that's who we are.

Finally, what would you say to any young band wanting to make a name for themselves in South Africa?

Don't be a cunt. Seriously, it'll get you nowhere. And, as cliched as it, don't give up. Shortstraw has been going for almost 7 years now and most people only know us for that 'bitch in the morning' song. And don't do it unless you're really fuckin' passionate about it, because as soon as it stops being enjoyable, it's a waste of time.

A very down to earth band that just loves music. I am glad that they have gotten so far and I look forward to seeing more of them in the future.

As always, follow me on twitter @Omri_Cassiem and I will keep you up to date with all the latest music news.

Check out the video for 'Good Morning, Sunshine' below, and leave your thoughts in the comments.