Fire it Upby Mahala High Five Brigade / Images by Hanro Havenga / 19.04.2013
Jozi indie rockers Dance You’re On Fire have been kicking around the live music scene since 2007 and are no strangers to MK or 5FM airplay, they produce a brand of catchy pop-infused indie rock, have just added Wrestlerish’s pianist Jacques du Plessis to their line-up and they’re playing the Puma Social Club tonight. We caught up with frontman Tom Manners for a spot of Q&A.
Mahala: What are you gonna bring to the PSC tomorrow night? What can we expect?
Tom Manners: Well we’ve just changed our line-up, so you can expect a few new members and some songs we haven’t played for a while!
What are you guys busy with at the moment? Recording, touring, jolling?
Right now we’re just trying to get back into the groove of things with our new line-up, which means a lot of touring.
How big is indie rock in SA?
Indie can really mean a few things, I suppose. I think the rock market as a whole is definitely growing. We’re seeing lots of new bands come through now, which is great.
Has indie rock ever been relevant to a South African audience? It’s always felt like a handed down genre or style of music, from an overseas trend. Is this fair?
I think we’re playing what we like to hear, but also localising it. If you look at acts like Shortstraw or Desmond and the Tutus there’s definitely a local influence there.
Where’s the best place for DYOF to perform?
Oppikoppi, without a doubt!
Do you have any plans for international tours?
None at the moment, life keeps us pretty busy these days.
What’s the best international act you’ve seen play in SA?
That’s a tough one. I’d have to say Coldplay. They were absolutely incredible.
Indie rock seems to be on the wane internationally, does it ever feel like you’re pushing a dying genre?
I don’t really like the idea of brandishing ‘indie’ as a genre. Initially, it represented underground artists who were coming up and has recently been associated with a particular sound. I don’t think that sound is dying, but I do think it’s important not to have a narrow view of rock music, or music as a whole.
You seem to be steadily evolving your sound towards a more pop rock direction. Is that intentional?
Not really. When we started out we were being influenced by progressive rock. These days, I tend towards well-constructed songs with melody. If that’s pop rock then so be it. We simply make the music we like, and hope that other people like it too.
DYOF has been around for a few years now; do you ever feel like you’re pressing against the glass ceiling of the South African live music scene? Or do you feel like you are just taking off?
I think there’s definitely a glass ceiling element if you don’t reimagine or reinvent what you’re doing. At the moment, we’re going where the wind takes us. I think our new music will be considerably different from our first two albums.
Do you make a living from music alone, or do you guys have a plan B? What is the plan B?
No we all have jobs. Making a living from music in South Africa is really difficult. I run a communications company, Jethro works in a bookstore, Josh is a draftsman and Tyrone is in IT.
Who are your biggest inspirations in SA music and internationally?
Locally I would have to say anyone who is really focussing on song craft over gimmick. I appreciate bands who focus on creating music which has longevity, rather than that which appeals to a passing trend.
Internationally we are really into Biffy Clyro, Foals, Circa Survive, Alt J and the like. The list really goes on and on.
What are the chances of you guys going all Parlotones on our asses? The selling out question.
I don’t think The Parlotones have sold out at all. They always appealed to a particular market and worked their buts off to get where they are. Building an international following like that takes guts and determination. You spend weeks on the road playing small bars in middle America, away from your friends and families. I respect that.
We have no intention of ‘selling out’. We’re simply doing what we enjoy. If other people enjoy the kind of music we produce, then we’re extremely grateful.
You’re a dyed in the wool Joburg band. How much does the city influence your music and your outlook?
I think it’s made our music more frantic? I’m not sure, there’s definitely an intangible difference between the music emanating out of respective South African cities. I’m not sure what it is, but being from Johannesburg has definitely influenced us.
Are your songs based on personal experiences? Whose? How do you feel about sharing them?
Most of our songs are based on a personal experience, thought or feeling. I don’t mind sharing them because it’s extremely cathartic for me to pen lyrics like that. They are also open to interpretation, so if someone else finds something that resonates with them in a happy, sad, confused lucid point of their life then that’s great. I truly believe that music is an emotional medium. It’s that emotional connection that reaches people.
What’s your weirdest groupie experience?
Haha, now that’s a question. It’s hard to answer, but the time someone brought a box and a stuffed tiger to Oppikoppi just for our show was pretty nuts.
* All images © Hanro Havenga