Down in the Basementby Katie de Klee / Images by Matt Ginsburg / 20.05.2013
For a lover of language there is something erotic about a bookshop. It’s all the virgin editions with their uncreased spines and unhandled pages; all the books you can’t afford. And all the covers are prettier than the ones you have at home.
The Book Lounge is one of the most perverted bookshops I’ve had the pleasure of frequenting, deviating often from its chosen trade. I always leave satisfied and often empty handed; I’ve only bought a book there once. You see the Book Lounge doesn’t just sell books: the Book Lounge has been doing interesting things after hours.
Down in their basement a few Friday’s ago, with his back against the self-help and the poetry, I came across Lance Herman for the first time.
Herman was there for the third session of the Book Lounge’s Down in the Basement, a once-a-month evening that has nothing to do with books, and Herman had brought his guitar to perform as Eliezer.
‘Hush, this is a sacred place’ doesn’t really hold true of bookshops anymore. Books actually provide quite good acoustics; thousands of sentences absorb the echoes and soften the sound.
Eliezer’s music is clear and lyrical, and the evening had that unusually musical nakedness of just one man and his guitar. Amongst the wine and the books and the hypnosis of the guitar strings it was really a pleasurable evening. Just one thing Lance, don’t say ‘fuck’ when there are kids in the front row.
When did you start playing music?
10 yrs old.
What was the first instrument you picked up?
First time you performed in front of an audience?
My brother. Played him a song I wrote after I learnt my first 3 chords.
The first band or singer you liked? Who did your parents listen to?
My uncle in LA sent my brothers a package of CDs, that was just when CDs had come out in the States but were new to South Africa. Amongst others, I remember Dire Straits, and also Eric Clapton. Those two albums had a big effect on me at the time.
Why the name ‘Eliezer’? What does it mean and when did it start?
Eliezer is my Hebrew name. So technically it started when I received it, at the same time I was named Lance Herman.
Is Eliezer a one man show? Is it just you Lance, with occasional trumpeters?
I’m not quite sure at this point. Initially, Eliezer was a name for a performance outfit that would just be solo guitar and voice – it was born as an experiment, or natural progression, out of two other bands I’ve performed in, Fly Paper Jet and Ginsburg & Herman. I would like to see it evolve, changes form and style, go with the flow. So right now it’s still minimal folk. The addition of Lee on trumpet was really fun, and hopefully we do more of that. Currently, I’m into Thom Yorke and Frank Ocean, and maybe Eliezer gets some of that flavour. Or, maybe Eliezer becomes something that resembles landscape music. I’m also looking forward to making an album under the name Lance Herman, and seeing how that differs from Eliezer.
Do you write all your own music, and lyrics?
I do write my own music and lyrics. But also I have collaborated on these (in Fly Paper Jet, Ginsburg & Herman). I’d like to see the music being experimented with and treated on its own terms. And the lyrics. I used looked at “Songs”, as complete units, that more or less came in a single package, for example “Bus Station” – currently I’m quite keen to disaggregate the music from the lyrics, experiment with words, sounds, chord-colours, rhythms, as individual, constituent parts, and then find ways of bringing them all together again. There’s a new track I’m working on called “Rain”, it exists only as a repetitive-groove, something I play over and over again. And then there’s a single lyric, “When the trouble came, you split like the rain” – not sure where that’s going, but its nice to see something that is at the this point, un-realized potential. Open canvas. I look forward to doing more collaborations in the writing process.
Do you sing about experiences, or about thoughts?
It varies. In Fly Paper Jet, lyrics were more fantastic, absurd, object-material driven – singing about things like trumpets, chocolates, marshmallows, coffee shops; food, basically. Ginsburg & Herman became landscape driven, forests, subterranean creatures, in oceans, rivers. And Eliezer has been quiet abstract – yearning, metamorphosis, idealism – I suppose more pensive, philosophical even. I hope it hasn’t spiraled into maudlin. But if I look at the 3 projects I’ve been involved in, they have each had their own mood, maybe compatible to time in one’s life – playful, epic, philosophical. There’s some kind of progression, or at least, differences in lyrical subject matter, style, approach.
In terms of the new stuff, I’m trying to get quite close to the bone in terms of writing about actual experience, or people. I have a song I’m working on, it’s called Johannesburg. It’s about a guy who sells his car, buys a motor-cycle, and rides up to Johannesburg. Along the way, he finds himself dodging shadows of falling antelope. Overwhelmed at the clouds. Thinking about his son. It’s a song based on a person I know.
How would you describe your sound? Do you think you fit in to a genre?
Eliezer is folk. Fly Paper Jet was a collage of styles – funk, rap, indie, rock, folk, pop. Ginsburg & Herman is sort of meditative, electronic Indie-folk.
Who inspires you?
Lots of people. Family, friends, artists, writers. People.
Are you from Cape Town?
I am from Cape Town. There is a lot of creative energy about the place. Cape Town is very small, which is nice. And the music-art scene seems quite under-developed relative to Europe and America. Which makes it a challenge to practice as an artist, but also leaves room for great opportunity. I think there is a lot of encouraging development.
What do you do when you aren’t singing?
Figuring out ways to make it easier to sing more regularly.
If you won the lottery what would be the first thing you spent money on?
When you get home at the end of the day do you want a cold beer or a cup of tea?
Cup of tea.
What makes you angry?