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‘Who are these guys? You heard of ’em? Wood-stock-ma-fi-a,” an Italian mobster accent pierces the silence. So begins the hidden track on Woodstock Mafia’s debut album, Defiance. “What the f*** is that? Mafia! That’s bulls***. There’s only four guys in the gang. That’s not a gang! It’s about as useful as a deaf kid playing f****** Marco Polo.”
The mobster in the music is evidence of the kind of humour this Cape Town grunge “gang” – Joe Theron (vocals), Ryan Matthews (bass), Owen Ingarfield (drums) and Nick van Rensburg (guitar) – is into.
It’s also evidence of growing up in the 1990s – the era of skits.
“In the 1990s,” Van Rensburg begins, “the albums were conceptual. There were things like hidden tracks.
“We’re good friends with (Cape Town comedian) Paul Snodgrass and he was gracious enough to come into the studio. We gave him some key words and asked him to write a speech, which is what you hear in the hidden track. It’s one of those surprises that you just don’t get on albums any more and it was important for us to include that.
“Back in the 1990s,” he adds, “people thought of albums as entire experiences. But now, especially with albums from international artists, the album is made up of 10 singles. On our album, we were keen to do something with a beginning, middle and end.”
This is exactly what the band, formed two years ago, managed to do with Defiance. From Trigger and Gun, the band’s third single, to The Abyss, a percussion-driven instrumental right down to the end, this album has rocked audiences at Synergy Live, Rocking the Daisies and Up The Creek. It’s safe to assume that these audiences have helped the band record and release this 12-track album – even if it can be bought only online while the band find a distribution deal.
The band reached out to relatives and friends by e-mail for helping in raising the funds to record the album. Woodstock Mafia also enlisted their fans in a crowd-sourcing campaign that allowed people to order albums in advance, have their names printed on the sleeve and more, depending on how much money they pledged.
About R80 000 was raised.
Van Rensburg says one of the greatest things that came out of that experience was that “it helped us cover costs, but it also helped us engage with our fans and interact with them in a meaningful way. There may be four of us in the band, but there are about 300 people closely associated with us.”
When they started out, the four were often described as emulating Taxi Violence. But, as Van Rensburg notes: “We probably had one or two songs that were Taxi Violence-ish, but lots of bands go through those growing pains when writing songs when they are trying to get known.
“We were already out there while our sound was developing, so our growing pains were public. Except for Joe, who is the youngest in the group, we’re all about 30 and we now have our style, we know our sound and it’s not going to change drastically. I feel our best work is still in front of us.”
• To order Woodstock Mafia’s Defiance album go to www.woodstockmafia.com