IT’S apparent that in South Africa, instrumental bands are not popular and not much attention is given to this genre of music. However, after watching the four-piece instrumental outfit, The Sir Walrus Band, I believe that this category can grow and actually make it big in South Africa.
The band members are Sebastian Goldswain (electric guitar), Jonathan Judge (saxophone), Brian Stone (drums) and Ruben Thomas (bass guitar). Their music is a combination of electric, jazz and classical.
I recently attended one of their gigs at the BAT Centre in Durban and was blown away by the immense talent that each member demonstrated.
The audience were spellbound and the guys definitely got the cheers and applause that they deserved.
Chatting to Goldswain and Stone over drinks, the young and friendly gentlemen explained how The Sir Walrus Band came together.
“It started when I met Jonathan, who’s the saxophone player. We went to school together and once we finished school, we studied jazz at UKZN,” said Goldswain.
“So we both have a love for the same music and we thought we should put together a band.
“We also met Brian at campus and officially started the band in January last year.”
The band members label their sound as electric chamber music.
Goldswain says that electric classical music doesn’t sound that good when each part is performed separately, but together it makes for a great composition.
The boys are not oblivious to how much of a challenge it is being an instrumental band.
“It’s difficult in that it’s hard to sell it. But in terms of music, it’s liberating because you don’t have to worry about words; it’s not just playing a song, it’s making music. That’s the point of music – to actually make music, and we do just that. A lot of our music is based on improvisation and music exploration, so we don’t want to over rehearse it,” they say.
Although being a fairly new band on the scene, the Sir Walrus Band have already performed at major gigs such as The White Mountain Festival, Splashy Fen, the Kokstad Route 56 Music Festival and the UKZN Youth Jazz Festival last year.
Shedding light on what they are up to at the moment, Stone and Goldswain said they have been rehearsing, getting a business plan together and working on their brand image as a band.
Goldswain elaborates: “We have a wonderful concept, kind of like a Gorillaz style concept. We have a band mascot, it’s a jester. Sir Walrus is a jester and it’s a whole visual thing. And our music video will be about Sir Walrus and he’s like a fifth member of the band that we’re going to work on.”
Sharing their thoughts on the best part about being musicians, Goldswain says: “It’s when you have a really good solo and you feel you’ve put yourself across in a really good way and someone says that it’s affected them or helped them through a difficult time. And seeing the reaction that people get from your music, that’s great.”
Stone enjoys the freedom and being his own boss. “…Being privileged enough to play music and the never-ending quest to get better. Playing music and sometimes you get paid and it ends up being an even bigger bonus,” he jokes.
The band’s influences extend broadly from the Dixie Dregs, Stevie Wonder, Tower of Power to Jamiroquai.
Asked what’s their goal and dreams for The Sir Walrus Band, they say: “To create a South African instrumental sound. South Africa has a strong identity, but it doesn’t have much of an identity for instrumental. So through our music and The Sir Walrus band, we want to give South African instrumental bands the identity they deserve.”