Crowd Whisperingby Mahala High Five Brigade / 30.05.2013
If you don’t already know, Gangs of Ballet are a four piece band from Durban. Their sound is caught somewhere in between melodious and electronic, dance and rock, but they just call it ‘alternative’. This week they are playing at the Puma Social Club in Braamfontein. We caught up with frontman Brad Klynsmith to find out about the creative scene in Durban, who and what inspires them and how they really pay the bills.
Mahala: Gangs of Ballet… what’s in the name? How and why and what is a gang of ballet?
Brad: Nothing too profound, basically us messing around with a friend who was a professional ballerina while she was trying to explain how cut throat and hectic the industry was, made it sound like gang land, watch out for the Gangs of Ballet. It’s been interesting to have people come up to us an explain how profound our name is though. Ha! guess that’s art for you, people get to make up their own interpretation.
Durban has a reputation for having quite a small and stifled creative scene, but at the same time it produces some of SA’s best and brightest. How do you feel about this? And do you have to leave Durban in order to survive?
I don’t think you got to get out of Durban to survive, I think South Africa is a small enough place to travel quite easily from tip to tip. Granted it would be easier to live in JHB or CT but then I wouldn’t be living in Durban and that is a problem. I love this place!
Durban is on the rise creatively, it’s slow but certainly steady. Many of my friends are starting really amazing creative ventures and they are exploding! And it’s on so many different levels; from clothing to coffee to animation. Take Durban designer Sgt Pepper, 5 Stores in 5 months and people can’t get enough of it. I’m excited to be alive and in Durban at this point of history because it’s earmarked for greatness.
Tell us about your music. How do you describe it? And what is your motivation to make it?
I think a lot of our approach is this idea that you can have a connection with another person via this bridge called music. So we write anthemic, sing a long rock music that is hopefully also interesting to watch musically. As much as we’d like to win over the public, we’d love the respect of the industry as well and that comes with time and very hard work.
Is melodic rock (hate that description), but is it relevant in South Africa? Or are you guys tapping into a global flavour?
Our take on it is that people connect with ‘songs’, the genre is in someway irrelevant perhaps? So we have a particular style leaning but our focus is more trying to write quality songs. We certainly want to get oversees and we do keep that in mind when writing now.
What about inspiration, where do you draw it from? Who inspires you local and internationally?
Been so rad to see the step up of SA music in all areas in music and video production. Locally I’m inspired by the likes of Fokofpolisiekar, Mango Groove, Van Coke, Zebra and Giraffe and the list goes on. Internationally anything melodic like Muse, Coldplay, Aqualung, Radiohead. But the arts are all joined and we work around similar principles but different applications so if you know what your looking for you’ll find it in dance, theatre, painting. If I get the chance to go watch some of that stuff I’m first in line.
Tell us about your process? How do you write and record songs?
Generally starts with jamming my guitar and playing until my ear hears something it likes. I’ll go back and build on that and start the crafting process of melody and finally words. Then the painful job of culling anything that shouldnt be in there and polish the nugget of the song. My brother and I both write for Gangs so we’ll do all of the above together often. Recording for us is mostly about representing that song the best you can and making sure you translate the energy well, so we’ll track live as a band generaly and then add to that skeleton.
Do you live entirely off music? Or do you all have day jobs?
Well our first full length album drops really soon so we’ll be full time from that point.
How do you share your energy between work for money and the creative stuff you love?
Everything that is worth doing well requires hard work, so we’re not scared to work hard. Music isn’t all bliss and instead of fighting the hard part you need to settle it in your head so that you can enjoy the good parts. its a privilege for us to call making music work! It’s not always possible to have your passion provide for you.
What’s the difference between a musician and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family. Discuss
Ha ha ha! Ja I wish that joke didn’t cut me so deep… the reality is the SA market is small but it’s like anything, if you work hard and box smart you can make something of it. And that’s the plan.
I heard you guys are all classically trained and learned musicians? is this correct? If so how does that influence what you do in terms of structure and writing music?
Three of us have studied music, Josh now has a degree, and we’re greatful for the opportunity to have done that. The biggest thing about studying music is that it opens your understanding of what music is. It’s not locked into 4 chords and a 4/4 groove, but there are thousands of approaches to the same set of notes. Secondly you have to practice until your fingers bleed if you want to pass, which is highly underrated and unbelievably necessary!
Why is Durban so hit and miss when it comes to live events?
We are generally apathetic I guess, I know I can be, but there are a few bands that tour here and fill venues everytime and I cant tell you how or why. But I will say, if Durban turns up, Durban turns up! Best show you’ll play!
If you could share the stage with anyone who would it be?
Right now I reckon Foo Fighters… Dave Grohl is the crowd whisperer, would love to see him in action.
Groupies. Perks or pests?
Not a fan…
How do you feel about playing Jozi at the Puma Social Club?
Heard so many cool things about it, so hoping the crowd will be as rad as the venue and we’ll have a cool evening.
What can we expect from the performance?
We have had a little rest since recording so we got plenty of time and energy for some live shows. Hope people will sing along!