Interview from the Bootby Leila Bloch. Images by Sam Burrows / 03.02.2011
The instigators of the Uprising Festival, of Sibling Rivalry Fame, Beard, Skollie, Meaty One and Justin have played at just about every small pub there is, from Umbilo to Obs. Beard is immediate and honest without being in your face. As I attempt to define what they do, he prepares me, on the gritty balcony of the Waiting Room, for an intimate night of hard-hitting folk/punk/rock. This, apparently, is going to be a full-blown, Cirque de Soleil of new wave punk – jamming, just for the sake of it. That’s just how the Car Boot Vendors play it.
Mahala: You already had quite the reputation as Sibling Rivalry, sharing the stage with the likes of Fuzigish, Springbok Nude girls and starting the Uprising festival. Why did you leave while things were good?
Beard: Hey, we’re still doing Sibling Rivalry but we burnt-out after we went travelling to Thailand, we wanted to do something new. Strip our music down to its bare essentials and it’s cool to have mates we can make these changes with.
Durban has a long history of iconoclastic punk, how do you find the rest of the country?
Beard: We still rock with people from the 70s. Andrew Pienkes from Bad Murphy, his son is in the City Bowl Mizers. We’re all connected. Cape Town is awesome compared to Durban- there it would be a full-on chicken run, a gauntlet. The streets would be empty, full of crime but we want to stay patriotic you know. Not necessarily wearing leopard skins but still making South Africa a part of our music. On the other hand we are just doing what we do, if we only have a few friends to jam with then that’s also cool.
Patriotic Punks then. What does it mean to be a “middle class hero” in South Africa? Is that actually possible?
Beard: It’s completely personal you know, but we do ask ourselves how you can make a difference for those who aren’t in our positions. Yeah middle class heroes, Model C schools, it’s been hard. Also, it doesn’t really matter what class you’re in there’s no pretence or class when it comes to crime. That’s what our lyrics speak about too. It’s the feeling you get after you’ve been mugged with a knife to your throat. We’re reflecting on some of that apathy. We just don’t want to grow up, we want to delay having real jobs for as long as possible.
Peter pan complex?
Beard: No, the Paedo-pan complexes, we still want to be reeling in the young chicks even when we grow up!
There’s a lot of cross-genreing (and cross dressing?). Rock, punk, folk and even pop in your repeated choruses. Is this a reinvention or rebellion against punk?
Skollie: Hey, we have no problem with pop music. Beard auditioned for Idols and we love Blink 182. Pop is just an abbreviation of popular, we don’t care we are making music for the sake of it. We just want to jam and we want the music to sound nice, in whatever possible way.
Bob Dylan was unpopular in Newport 73 after moving from acoustic to electric. You guys seem to be doing the opposite. To what extent have you moved from electric to acoustic?
Beard: Yeah he got mangled bru. We’re not really an acoustic band but I guess we could totally bullshit people into thinking we’re a mellow rock band. We’re pretty much a normal punk rock or rock ‘n roll band, we just happen to be playing with some acoustic variation. This style hasn’t taken off in South Africa yet. It’s got a DIY feel- anyone can be a rock star. We don’t need pedals, big amps, it’s just playing with a fucking guitar. There’s a close link to what punk rock did in the 70’s for acoustic music, bringing it back to its basics, making music for the sake of it. What we’re trying to do is get punk back to its roots. Our acoustics are still plugged into their amps, but if we are left with nothing but an amp and an empty room we’d still be jamming with our friends. The folk thing has become linked with the punk thing. It’s all about bringing music back to its roots, playing music for the sake of it, making it accessible, immediate.
If you could jam with any one of your influences?
Beard: Joe Strummer, Nicholas James and Johnny Cash and Loopy.
And the names?
Beard: Skollie is our bass player extraordinaire, let loose while waiting for a mate, missed the toilet, went straight to his foot, but at least he missed his pants.
Meaty One: I’m here by default, Skollie set me on this path and I’m in charge of the ukelele and hustling.
Skollie: Beard is in charge of guitar, harmonica and the vocals. Justin is the drummer and breaks tambourines as performance art.
Justin: Just remember if you’re feeling down your going down.
In an atomised Waiting Room, mid-gig, I’m caught between all the flailing arms and bare-feet, in very close proximity to James Klopper- part of the Forgotten Heroes supporting act and Captain Stu fame. He wants to tell me how these guys started his career and introduced him to the accommodating Durban punk scene. I want to talk about anarchy like a thirteen year-old. He gets up, dives on stage and yanks Beard’s shirt off. Enough said. Is there any point in probing deeper into their streams of social consciousness? In trying to grapple with the labels and definitions of a group who are clearly trying to defy them. Like the Dadaists they scream for immediacy, honesty and humour but in what context? With a combination of punk nihilism and folk roots, Car Boot Vendors, express the bare necessities of making music for music’s sake? And me, I’m just here to enjoy the show.
All images © Sam Burrows