Fokofpolisiekar (FPK) is no ordinary band. It’s not only done just that - it smashed its own target of R500000 in a crowdfunding initiative this year that hit R500000 in nine days and eventually amassed more than R1million.
The result is Self Medikasie, the band’s third album, self-produced and self-recorded in lead guitarist Johnny De Ridder’s Cape Town studio - and done to please themselves into the bargain.
“We’ve never had a record deal,” says drummer Jaco “Snakehead” Venter, “it was always done as a joint venture with producers.”
Looking at the costs of other albums the band members had been involved in through their other projects, they knew they would need about R500000 realistically, to make the time, pay for the recordings, get the artwork done, the CD covers printed, the CDs pressed and guarantee the distribution.
Bassist and manager Wynand Myburgh says: “We could have funded the album ourselves, if we had needed too, in fact we were prepared too, but we never got around to it. There was always an issue co-ordinating everyone’s schedules as we’re all involved with our own projects all the time, only getting together for the annual FPK tours. We needed to find a month to get into the studio to actually do it.
“The success of the crowdfunding though meant we had no excuses left.”
Venter agrees: “It became a marketing tool all by itself, after the media started treating the crowdfunding as a news story.”
The album was quickly recorded in an intense session mid-year, made more hectic by the fact that only two of the 13 tracks had been written beforehand, plus the commitment made by Die Bende (the gang) to reward fans with special FPK shows across the country, each time a crowdfunding milestone was crossed.
The result is an album that is true to the band’s original DNA, at times raging with manic drumming and Francois van Coke’s angry vocals, but one that also pays homage to the directions the band members have taken over the last decade with their own projects - and the challenges they face, no longer as rebellious teens but as adults, even if some of them can’t believe it.
“I still feel like a child raising a child,” says FPK song writer and guitarist Hunter Kennedy.
The band has been a stepping stone for him - for all of them: Van Coke, De Ridder, Myburgh, Venter and Kennedy and the other bands they’ve formed: Van Coke Kartel, A-King, die Heuwels Fantasties.
FPK, though, has remained the glue that’s held them together.
“FPK had a therapeutic, almost cathartic influence on my life. It helped me over the years to shout to people night after night at our shows. It helped me to calm down.
“Fokofpolisiekar was our church, our family and our medication,” says the dominee’s son. “It helped us move from being lighties to adults.”
Naming an album has always been a tradition for the band. Normally they would get together and choose the name after one of the songs on the album or the EP because they liked it.
Afterwards they would discover how right their instincts had been when they found other meanings that could apply.
As Myburgh says: “We’ve discovered afterwards that there are all sorts of references to Self Medikasie (self-medication), it refers to our views of the band and what it meant to us, it’s also a play on substance abuse, which we did plenty of too.”
The album’s cover is an Ouroborus, the ancient symbol of a serpent eating its own tail. “It represents the eternal cycle of self-destruction and rebirth,” says Hunter Kennedy.
The music reflects this with a track list that ranges from the existential to downright frivolous, with melodies to match.
It’s been an 11-year wait. It’s been worth every moment.
The secret of FPK has been the ability of its members to follow their own directions and come back every time to regroup, play to the fans, play a kind of music and say the kind of things that might not sit as well with their own projects.
Afterwards they would then go off to follow their own successful and busy lives. This time it will be no different.
There’s a fumusocll launch tour planned for this week, with The Mystic Boer in Potchefstroom tonight, The Mystic Boer in Bloemfontein tomorrow night and then Johannesburg’s Good Luck Bar on Saturday before moving to Pretoria’s Atterbury Theatre on Sunday.
Then Die Bende have almost a fortnight off before returning to start in Nelspruit and moving across to Pretoria.
* Look out for an in-depth interview with Fokofpolisiekar in the Saturday Star on October 14.