It was a Tuesday evening and I was dancing around the kitchen to ‘Sleepwalker’ when suddenly it hit me, what if I could interview The Parlotones? Here I interview the band about their career, their success, and their legacy.
Vada: How would you describe yourselves as a group and your music to readers who perhaps are not too familiar with your music?
Paul: We’re basically a melodic rock band, perhaps melodic indie rock is the best label you could apply.
How did it all begin?
Paul: We all knew each other from school and from working in the same mall, but were never friends. Somehow we all ended up together in a garage with the dream of starting a band.
What have been the biggest trials you as a group have faced on your journey thus far?
Paul: Well there are many, ranging from the lack of venues to the struggle for airplay, but we’ve met every challenge with a positive “let’s just go for it” attitude. It’s been a long journey with many up’s and down’s, but I’d stay the biggest challenge we’re facing right now is how to remain relevant. We’ve been a successful band for over a decade, and in this age of entertainment there are so many other options for people to spend their time and money on. And there are more and more big international bands coming into the country, so that also has an impact on local music. Do you watch a South African band, or go to the once-off opportunity of seeing Coldplay or Eminem?
Kahn your vocals are amazing in the sense that you have such power, yet you can also sing with such gentleness. How did you learn this? And do you see your voice as an instrument?
Kahn: I don’t know how one learns something, I guess I try to feel what I’m singing and bring that feeling through the delivery. A voice is a funny thing because it’s part of you and so feels more natural (for me at least), an instrument is not attached to you, it’s something thats been created and has to then be learnt. Singing is something I do everyday, all the time, so it feels a lot more natural to me ,than say guitar. The voice has become a creative tool and way for me to deliver a message.
Kahn you are known for your facial make-up, what is its purpose? What is the message you wish to portray through it?
Kahn: It was initially an excuse to stand out from the crowd of bands at a festival or concert, we knew that being on stage gave you a license to do stuff you wouldn’t usually do in ‘normal’ life so we took advantage of that license. I guess the only message is one of escapism, freedom from inhibitions, it’s kinda saying feel free to do what you like, don’t be confined to societies staus quo, make your own. Thats why people like the arts it offers them escape through someone else’s risks, and I guess in a way thats what the make-up is about.
What is the ultimate goal of The Parlotones? When people look back on your music, what would you like to be known for?
Paul: Wow, that’s a good question! I think our ultimate goal is to simply carry on playing music as a career for the rest of our lives. Obviously to establish a legacy as strong as some legendary bands is something we’d love to accomplish, but we don’t consciously aim for such lofty goals. We just want to carry on playing music as a ‘job’ for as long as we can, and not have to eventually give it up and go work at the bank or something.
Where do you look to for inspiration? Or whom do you see as a musical influence?
Paul: There’s so much inspiring music out there, and every year you discover some new amazing band that blows you away. We were initially influenced by bands like The Smiths, The Cure, REM, Radiohead, Muse, Coldplay… We are still influenced by those bands, but we’ve also been exposed to a lot of other music through the years that your influences grow. I think if you’re making music you should have a look around at what’s happening all over the world. You can be inspired by Rancid or Taylor Swift.
Why did you move to California and was it a difficult decision to relocate your lives? Do you think this move has altered your “sound”?
Paul: It was a difficult decision, but was ultimately unavoidable. America is the ultimate destination for any band. South Africa is a small market compared to almost anywhere else in the world, and in order to grow as a band and not stagnate we knew we needed to spend more time outside of South Africa. We’ve toured a lot in the UK and Germany, but we always knew America was the place to go.
I wouldn’t say it has consciously altered our sound, but as I said earlier you’re always soaking up everything that’s around you, and I’m sure some new stuff is seeping into our subconscious.
For each of you, which was your favourite song off your new album “Stand like Giants” and why?
Paul: Chinese Vase, probably my favourite Parlotones song, especially to play live.
Neil: Never Stand Alone, Hollow Men, Spellbound
Kahn: Songs of Whales, Lazy Sunny Days, Hollow Men, Spellbound
Brett (one of the roadies): Songs of Whales, Start a Fire (off the Shake it Up EP, we play it live a lot.)
Are you planning a European Tour? If so when will we find out dates?
Paul: We’re seriously hoping to be back in the UK and Germany in 2014, it’s been way too long since we were there.