They’re undeniably South Africa’s biggest band and everybody from kidlings to grannies to hipsters to rugga buggas dig them. It’s cause they have persevered and pushed and written songs that get under your skin, and crawl. They’re currently in the studio recording their brand new studio album, which should be released in March 2012. We spent one morning with them in the studio and realized just why these boys are so successful. They are serious, committed, music businessmen who have hung like King Kong onto the success building, fighting off negative criticism one gorilla swipe at a time.
We asked Paul some questions about his studio time.
Why did you choose m3? Is it the best studio in Joburg?
It’s probably one of the best studios in Joburg. All the previous albums we’ve done with Theo have been at his home studio in Cape Town (which is a great studio), so you end up spending four or five weeks away from home but are only busy recording for maybe a week of that time, so there’s a lot of sitting around. The nice thing was this time we could come and go as we were needed, and spend some time at home when we weren’t busy. I think a change of scenery is also good for the creative spirit.
What is your most favourite part about being in the studio?
Leaving! …(laughs)… Nah, I’d say my favourite part is working out guitar parts for songs. Everyone has ideas and you come up with all sorts of cool things you’d never have thought of on your own.
The songs are sounding incredible – how many have you got down already and when do you think you will be finished?
Thanks! We’re getting pretty excited about this album, think it’s gonna be a little different but it’s sounding great so far. We’ve got about 15 songs recorded, and there’s a few left over because of time constraints and they didn’t “thematically” fit the sound of the album, but they’ll be recorded later for B-sides or something.
Why Theo Crous?
He is a great producer, and he’s done a good job on our last two albums, so we’ll stick with what works! We all know each other very well by now, and we work well together. Neal Snyman is the engineer, and all together we’re a pretty good team.
What are some of your favourite new songs you’ve been working on. What are they called, and why are they your best?
Hmm, good question… they’re all pretty new and all feel exciting, but I’d say my personal favourite is Soul and Body, I like the guitar parts we came up with, bit of a Jimi Hendrix feel to them. Also Halfway Down has some cool little country guitar riffs in. And there’s a song that’s got a heavy Bruce Springsteen vibe, but I forget what it’s called. So as you can see, lots of different influences this time round.
Do you ever write with attracting new fans in mind, or just making your current fans happy?
We kind of just write. If it sounds good to us, we go with it. If we like it, our fans should probably like it as well.
We kind of just write. If it sounds good to us, we go with it. If we like it, our fans should probably like it as well
If you could record in any studio in the world, with any producer who would it be and why?
Hmm, it would be cool to work with some of the big names (Rick Rubin, Butch Vig, Steve Albini) but I think I’d be too intimidated… I think Nigel Godrich would be cool though, he did The Bends and Ok Computer, two albums we all love.
Do you ever have a fun session in the studio, where you drink beers and get rock n roll, or is it all work work work?
Mostly it’s just work, but we sometimes indulge in some coffee. We don’t ever drink in studio, try stay focussed. And even though you’re in studio from 9am to 9pm, you’re not working every second. There’s a lot of sitting around and listening to stuff, it’s actually pretty relaxed.
Who are the SA bands you think making the biggest mark on the scene at the moment?
Wrestlerish and Ice Project. Two very cool bands with a unique style.
What is the working title of the album? Explain the concept behind it?
Our manager is pretty keen on “Journey Through the Shadows” but it sounds too emo for me. There’s a song called Ticket to the World which I think would be quite cool as an album title, and is relevant because of the all the international travelling we’re doing.
When will the album be out?
Probably around March next year.
Do you expect platinum sales again, or is the market changing?
We’re certainly hoping for platinum sales, but the download culture is spreading. And now with uncapped internet available, downloading is becoming more commonplace in South Africa. However, a lot of people still buy albums, especially of bands they love, so hopefully they love our new album enough to buy it.
The fact that we can do this as a full-time career and play music for a living is awesome, we intend on doing it for a long time still
Tell us a bit about the guy”s behaviour in the studio? Does everyone have a specific role?
Well Neal Snyman is the engineer, so he sets up everything, plugs everything in and does all the recording stuff on the computer. He likes to downplay his role, but it’s a big job. Theo Crous is the producer, so he listens to the songs as we’ve written them and then suggests changes. The song structure sometimes gets changed, but he also has ideas for each instrument and often we have to do two or three different versions of our parts for each song, so he has options for later when he is editing.
Do The Parlotones ever have band tiffs?
Nah, not really. There’s the occasional dumb argument and sulking session, but it’s never serious and over within a few hours.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far, and what is your ultimate achievement
I think our ultimate achievement is staying together this long. We’ve seen so many awesome bands start making a noise, getting some attention and then give up when things don’t happen soon enough. And the fact that we can do this as a full-time career and play music for a living is awesome, we intend on doing it for a long time still.
Neal Syman is a respected engineer. Why do you think he is so good at his job?
Yeah he is really great; we have a lot of fun with him in studio. He is very sarcastic and we (verbally) tear each other to pieces sometimes. He is pretty relaxed but also likes to get the best from the band, so you do things over and over. And he’s been doing it for years, so he has a lot of experience.
Any tips for new bands recording their albums? Any important things you have learnt over the years?
Don’t go into studio with too many songs, pick ten and go with those. Rather have enough time to make those songs great, instead of rushing to try finish too many songs. Practice to a metronome, it’s critical! And make sure you have your guitar set up and serviced before you go into studio, and check all your cables and pedals (get new cables if you can.) And take a spare guitar or two if you can, borrow from a friend if you must. Nothing worse than a recording grinding to a halt because your gear is causing problems.
Do you ever battle to write new songs, lyrics? Do you get writers block?
Yup, all the time. Well, I’m talking about guitar parts, it often feels like everything you’re doing is boring or the same as something else you’ve done in a previous song. I’m always buying guitar magazines and checking out lessons and stuff online, stealing ideas from everywhere!
Lastly, tell us one of your pet hates?
People who put up negative and sensational stuff, just to increase traffic to their stupid blog.