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Beaten(berg) a path to your ear

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Beatenberg & Clock (Pluto)

INLSA

Feebearing - Cape Town - 140520 - Interview with Beatenberg at FORK in Long Street. Pictured: Ross Dorkin - Bass. REPORTER: THERESE OWEN. PICTURE: WILLEM LAW.

Pluto (Remember You) is the biggest crossover song since Mandoza’s Nkalakatha and has spent 14 weeks as the most-played song on radio in South Africa. It is a collaboration between house producer DJ Clock and newcomers on the block, Beatenberg. Therese Owen met the Beatenberg trio on Cape Town’s famous Long Street to find out if they really are as hipster as they look – and if Pluto is a fluke.

 

Beatenberg first came to our attention with their cute song, Chelsea Blakemore. These three young musicians, dressed in their very hipster outfits, made a very hipster video, possibly the first South African one.

Now the problem is that hipster culture is a culture about nothing. Back in the day, there was nothing worse than rave culture. They listened to “doef-doef” music, took drugs which made their eyes roll to the back of their heads, all the while massaging their buddies with Vicks, and they loved anything that was plastic and Day-Glo. It tormented my punk/metal psyche.

Then along came hipsters, who really are a culture of nothing, absolutely nothing. They hang out at tiny coffee shops in the mistaken belief that they are being obscure. They drink craft beer in even more obscure organic restaurants and attend overcrowded organic food markets.

Outside of their studied intellectual second-hand clothing, they wear Ramones T-shirts like they were the only punk band in the world and their preferred listening pleasure is slightly out of key singer-songwriters singing about quirky unrequited love. The end.

But the reality is, Beatenberg are not hipsters.

Lead singer and guitarist Matthew Field and bassist Ross Dorkin studied music at UCT. They are serious musicians who, right now, have decided to explore the pop side of music.

And then the collaboration with DJ Clock (pictured with the band) turned them into superstars overnight. Pluto has been the most played song across all radio stations for the past 14 weeks. From Umhlobo Wenene to East Coast Radio to Metro FM, this song is a huge hit.

Pluto broke the record for the most plays over a seven-day period in Media Guide. In fact, since the inception of Media Guide, Pluto has enjoyed the longest stay in the No 1 position compared to any South African single.

It is also nominated for Best Song in the MTVbase Africa Awards which will take place next Saturday night in Durban.

The various videos for Pluto have had more than 400 000 hits on YouTube. Not since Nkalakatha in 2000 has there been such a major crossover hit, with Malaika’s Destiny, JR’s Make the Circle Bigger and Mi Casa’s hit Jika close seconds.

Beatenberg explained how it all happened. They are signed to Universal Music, the same label as DJ Clock. Their label manager, Neil Sinclair, suggested a collaboration between themselves and a house producer.

Beatenberg, being firm favourites of local house music, were keen as mustard. Their first choice was DJ Clock and he had also expressed an interest in working with the boys.

But it was only on the second try in the studio that Pluto was born. Clock supplied the beats. Field then started jamming on his guitar and came up with that melancholic African acoustic pop melody. He took another two hours on lyrics in the booth. In fact, the song was created and recorded in a day.

Surprisingly, the song was left for a year and finally released on Clock’s latest album. The 4th Tick – The Clockumentary is a six-CD album featuring top artists from around the country with Clock. But it will be hard to beat the success of Pluto.

In the meantime, Beatenberg have just finished recording their second album, Hanging Gardens of Beatenberg. It is set for release at the end of August.

The album is produced by the three members and was recorded at the heavenly Sunset Studios in Stellenbosch.

“We produced it because we haven’t met anyone we trust for production choices,” explained Field. “Our music doesn’t fall into your standard categories. No one else is doing what we are doing.”

“We are into music production as a craft,” added Dorkin. “It’s a pop record which we spent a lot of time on. The material spans three years but there are also songs we wrote three months ago. There are 13 songs on the album with great lyrics.”

“It is an ambitious album,” said Brink.

 

Getting to know Beatenberg

 

Matthew Field (vocalist, guitarist)

Why music?
I never chose music. I received a guitar when I was seven and started messing around with it. I took piano and guitar lessons and kept on with the guitar throughout high school. When I was given music hardware at 15 I began writing and have written ever since. Sting was my first role model. Then I revolted against pop and studied jazz, but have now gone back to pop. I do music because it is easy and I can do it really well.

Who are you as an artist?
I recently discovered that I am a self-centred person and being creative helps me to redeem that self-centred-ness. It is a way of communicating with people. I have always wanted to create worlds that don’t exist. I was always designing as a kid. At the heart of most creatives is a desire to create something where you have your own rules. It is a space where I can be self-indulgent and isolated and emerge with something that speaks to people.

What is your favourite coffee?
It was my birthday recently and I have so many devices to make coffee. For the best coffee there is Truth Coffee here in Cape Town. It is good. I always heat my milk when I drink coffee. It gets sweeter when it heats.

What is your view on organic food markets?
I don’t go to organic food markets. It’s not the most important thing in the world. As a kid I was concerned with ecology. I think organic food is a brand as much as anything else.

Robin Brink (Drums)

Why music?
My dad played music in his 20s. When I was 15 I watched the Woodstock DVD and saw the Santana drummer. My father then told me that he had drums his friend had left him.

Who are you as an artist?
I am a pop drummer who wished he was a jazz drummer.

What is your favourite coffee?
Tamboers Winkel on Kloof Street here in Cape Town. It’s really good.

What is your view on organic food markets?
Sometimes I am hungover on a Saturday morning so I will go. I do that maybe six times a year.

Ross Dorkin (bassist)

Why music?
I started playing guitar when I was 10. My father was a musician in KZN. I studied a BMus in composition at UCT and that’s where I met the guys.

Who are you as an artist?
My creative world within the band is quite particular because I have work outside of it. We all do, which is why we work so well together. I am involved in an avant garde classical European project. Beatenberg is a very aesthetic genre for us because within three or four minutes we have to explain a whole song. We want to make pop music we can play for lots of people. People who play rock and indie think they can push boundaries – and they don’t. Pop music can be so much more cutting-edge than those genres.

What is you favourite coffee?
Delux Coffee in a mocha pot at home. In terms of good coffee shops, Raw is a relatively new shop in the Cape Town CBD.

What is your view on organic food markets?
Recently haven’t been going to them. I love cooking. It makes me so happy. I would have been a chef if I wasn’t a musician. There is a really good food market at St George’s Mall in the Cape Town CBD. I would go there if I wasn’t so busy. I also love cooking three times a day.


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