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Parlotones say cheers to SA, hello to LA

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Toasting the future: The Parlotones, from left, Paul Hodgson, Kahn Morbee, Glenn Hodgson and Neil Pauw.

‘I speak for most musicians when I say that everyone dreams of making it big in this business,” said Kahn Morbee, The Parlotones’ frontman.

“The US undoubtedly has the biggest music market because of its sheer size and power to dictate what the world should listen to. We can’t say in our first rehearsal we had this in mind, but as time went on and we learnt a lot about the global music industry we considered moving to the US,” he explained.

After having stepped on to the music scene in 1998, Morbee is happy with how the band has grown and will for ever be grateful for the fans’ support from the outset. However, he still wishes the new development of relocation had come at an earlier time in their lives.

“We wish it had come sooner. It has been a long, hard road and we are happy to have reached this stage in our careers,” he said.

But as you could have predicted, many South African fans are not happy with their favourite band relocating. Morbee and his boys are quite aware of this.

“While there were some people who were very happy for us, there was a bit of a backlash where some fans felt we were betraying the country. What they need to understand is we are not going out there to change accents and be a different group. We are going as a South African band that is planning to expand its reach,” he explained.

“We have the intention of coming back at least once every year so they will see us here. South Africa will always be home as we have our families and friends here,” he said.

Leaving some time at the end of this month, the rock quartet has been doing a farewell tour around the country which comes to an end on Saturday with a final show at Ellis Park in Joburg.

“I grew up in Joburg and I saw so many bands play at Ellis Park and I liked how the venue sounded. No matter where you are sitting you feel closer to the act on stage and the acoustic sound is perfect as well.

“This will not be an extravagant show, with smoking mirrors, fireworks and the like. It is just a simple show with us playing some of our greatest songs and some new material from our coming album,” Morbee said.

But don’t be fooled, while the show will be ordinary – as if The Parlotones know what that means – the build-up to it is something quite extraordinary.

Fans will gather at Mary Fitz-Gerald Square, at 11pm on Friday, and The Parlotones will be there, too. The fans will form a parade which will go to Ellis Park as their heroes play music on a moving platform. The event will be broadcast live to the international media and end at Ellis Park at 12.30am.

“It will be in typical Parlotones-larger-than-life fashion. There will be helicopters hovering above us and we will perform a new song, thereby making a music video out of the footage we will get from the event. We just hope fans come in their numbers to support us,” he said.

Perhaps, like me, you also want to know how this band manages to always come up with these crazy ideas. If you look back at their successful career you will realise that they are in a league of their own when it comes to marketing their music. From the black and red “corporate” colours, the outrageous CD covers and state-of-the-art animated music videos, there is nothing shabby about how these guys present their work. Every move is almost calculated and they rarely miss the mark.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to surround ourselves with creative people who are always offering us ideas for our next project. For example, the guy who did the animated video for us was a friend of mine I went to school with. Back in school he used to draw a lot and he then became an animator. He came to me and said he had a concept for a video and we liked it and had the video made,” he explained.

He also said the idea for this weekend’s parade was something they’d been sitting on for three years without finding the perfect venue to put it into action.

“There are people who always help us with out-of-the-box ideas and we try our best to keep good relationships with them so that we are always doing out-of-the-box things,” Morbee said.

With four Samas, four MK awards, a host of other accolades and the groundbreaking moves, it would be unfair to ask the band what their career highlight has been so far. But we had to ask and Morbee answered without hesitation.

“The show we did at the Coca-Cola Dome tops everything we have done, mainly because no South African band had ever done it before and no one has attempted it since,” he said.

Indeed, that is something to be happy about as some international acts cannot even draw the large crowds at the Dome and in turn settle for smaller venues.

That said, Morbee revealed the endeavour did not earn them money, they were just able to break even.

“We were shooting a DVD so that cost us a bit. We were happy, though, that the experience boosted our confidence and we believed in ourselves a lot more after that,” the singer explained.

Having been a Joburger all his life and now moving to Los Angeles, Morbee did not hide the fact that he will miss this city the most.

“I am going to miss the sense of familiarity here. We have many great attributes, from food to culture, and to be part of that is incredible. I am going to miss that sense of belonging,” he said.


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