Bruised Fruitby Tecla Ciolfi, images by Matthew James Bow. / 18.07.2011
I stumbled into the Red Bull Studios in Jamieson Street knowing very little about, and expecting nothing from, Durban-based afro-punk rockers, Fruits and Veggies and I reckon it’s because of this that I was slightly more advantaged than the other yuppie media crew that left just as I pitched.
Still my first encounter with The Veggies was edgy. I was met by a tentative James (guitar, keys) and indifferent Terrible/Sweet Lu (drums) who explained that, because this was their last day recording, shit and time constraints had gotten real. “We just did an interview, so like, we’re going to the shop to get food and then when we come back… ja…”
Purity (vocalist) and Loopy (bassist) were next to shake my hand. For a band that fuck each other up when they’re drunk, shaking hands seemed a bit strange. Purity and I sat on one of the poofs – after Loopy had disappeared once she’d given me the giddiest of glad eyes – and chatted super casually about gwaais and their upcoming gigs at the Kimberly Hotel and Purple Turtle and as she handed me an EP, I notched my first Veggie smile.
I whipped out my phone to document James and Lu’s grocery-run return, but only ended up snapping some ultra dodgy pics of the “well-deserved” crotch-grabbing that ensued between the two. Lu’s silver PVC leggings (that left fokol to the imagination) and stripy multicoloured vest should’ve been a clear sign of unhinged tendencies. Rowan’s (guitar #2) subsequent appearance marked the end of the abrupt photo shoot and as several more Red Bulls were cracked open, I made a dash into the recording room to checkout Loopy’s bassline and hear the two tracks they’d been working on. My arrival was sanctioned by a dude called Steve (head engineer) and I was forewarned, “It’s our last day, so if I freak out or whatever, please excuse me.”
Loopy’s groovy, ska-rooted bass line, which she played repeatedly to the beat of the click track, bounced welcomingly around the studio. However my enthusiastic thumbs up did nothing to curb Steve’s ultimate point of proposed perfection, and as James leapt at the chance to lend a helping hand at polishing the bass parts, I got the hell outta there to let them work.
“Cape Town is amazing,” Lu grinned as I found the rest of The Veggies sunning themselves outside. “There’s always shit to do here, shit to see here. We need at least another month to really fuck shit up.” I suppose when you take into account that in the band’s three year existence they’ve lost a few members (one ex-member claiming the band “ruined his life”), been banned from several venues and have probably drunk enough to keep Brandhouse and DGB in business, clogging up sinks with their puke really just is another day on tour.
Sean then made an executive decision by announcing, like a boss, that the track needed to be finished by 4pm, at which point James and Lu went to smoke a joint. “I find I work better when there’re a whole lotta people around me, listening to me, staring at me.” Rowan commented as he sat prepping his riffs for his turn in the booth. His taurine-saturated eyes told the tale of a band who needed a little more than an extra push to get through this day.
Back in the recording room, Purity talked about what bands impact upon her the most as a vocalist, “You like Gogol Bordello? I’d lose my shit if I ever saw them live.” This sparked my sudden interest in how this very unique kind of gypsy influence would translate into her vocals. Even while Rowan was nailing the Waltz part of the track he said he was most worried about, the undulating sounds of Purity’s carnivalesque yodelling wafted between us.
Seeing them live, confirmed what I already knew – Purity is the spearhead of this debaucherous clique. Performing with the uncontrolled abandon of a woman who was born in a bohemian moshpit, she loses herself and her ridiculous range in several onstage contortions, providing the platform for the rest of the band to “fuck shit up” as the crowd reciprocated their onstage eccentricity through a decent amount of ska-stepping. The Veggies complete rejection of onstage protocol in the way they move, and the very obvious middle finger to civil society inherent in their lyrics, smacks of a punkier Mad Caddies, sans the brass, or closer to home – a more manic, afro-punk version of drunken veterans Half Price.
I got no sense of destination with this band though. There’s just no focal point. They exist day-to-day, song-to-song, gig-to-gig and so long as they have that extra bottle of whiskey they stole from the time they gate-crashed that house party and set that couch alight, that’ll probably always be enough for them, for now.