‘We were a four- piece for two days,” laughs Shadowclub bassist Louis Roux.
No wonder they reverted back to a three-piece. It suits their sound. With a four-piece there is a small margin for error. But with a three-piece it has to be precise, tight rock. It’s bass, guitar and drums. That’s it. For The Shadowclub it means Jacque Moolman on vocals and guitar, Louis Roux on bass and Isaac Klavansky on drums.
I attended the soundcheck for their launch of their debut album, Guns and Money. It was held in Greenside last month at Darryl Torr’s new studio, Open Room Productions. The studio faces the street and has a large window so passersby can see the band in action. Novel.
The band sound-checks with the haunting Ballad of Lucy. I nearly cried the first time I heard it. And experiencing it live evokes the same emotions. It’s not the angst of grunge. It is more raw and at the same time more sophisticated. Think Velvet Underground meets T Rex with a twist of Led Zeppelin. Dirty. Sexy. Rock.
Lead singer Moolman is total rock ’n’ roll. His voice ranges from deep and soulful to angry and wild. Klavansky is a tight drummer and it’s all held together by Roux.
Though the band only started in 2008 they have been playing together for 14 years through friendship and a love of music.
“We’re all very comfortable together,” says Moolman. “In terms of a three-piece we wanted to keep it simple. The original idea was to have a synth, but after the third practice we came up with these licks that kept us as a three-piece.”
The album was produced by Matthew Fink, who is also the synth player in The Black Hotels. Through this album methinks he has surpassed Theo Crous as the best rock producer in the country.
In fact, this album is the album of 2011… that is, until Big Nuz decide to release later this year.
“Fink has a vast taste in music,” says Klavansky. “In studio, if we wanted something over-produced he would flatly refuse. He grounded us, plus he has a great sense of humour.”
Guns and Money is under-produced, but at the same time it is warm and friendly. Tracks like Good Morning Killer are scary and absolutely excellent. In fact, every track is scary and excellent.
The Shadowclub, more than any other South African band in the past 10 years, have the potential to make it internationally.
Unfortunately, they’ll never really be taken seriously in this country. In terms of radio play, they are way too hard for the likes of Highveld and East Coast Radio, and as for 5Fm, well, the less said about them and their attitude to South African music, the better.
More’s the pity, then, that such good songs will never be heard by the public. The songs are catchy, their influence at times coming through quite obviously. However, they do not sound derivative.
“The live performance is where we are at,” says Moolman. “We love playing live and there is still that energy. This album was made to attract people to gigs.”
Later that night this is proved true. We are all seated on bean bags with rock royalty such as Zebra & Giraffe, Flash Republic, Louise Carver and Caroline Hillary present.
For the band there are no special lighting effects. It is straight up rock ’n’ roll and it is breath-takingly brilliant.
As a music journalist I would like to predict that Shadowclub will become the biggest band in the country. Their sound is fresh and new, yet takes its cue from old-school hard rock music.
They also look the part with their shaved, uneven hair cuts and black tight jeans. They’re sexy, they’re funny and they’re all about the rock music.
They will probably never get to play the Samas, or get a No 1 on 5FM. But they will one day headline Oppikoppi.
And they will, hopefully, one day be one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. In terms of being one of the greatest, Guns and Money proves just that.
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