BILLY SUTER chats with Durban singer-guitarist ROB WARREN, of hit band The Black Lapels, about the group’s new EP, All Or Nothing. Some songs from the collection feature in the band’s new show, The Hits, which, after a Kloof run, is to be staged at Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo at 8pm on Friday and Saturday (March 15 and 16) and 2pm on Sunday (March 17). The show also features songs associated with Paul Simon, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash and others. Tickets cost R150 each and booking is at Computicket or by calling 082 499 8636.
How and why did the All Or Nothing EP come about – and is it The Black Lapels’ first ever recording?
We were performing a run of our Paul Simon tribute show. I remember hearing the band as we were playing, then walking off at interval and saying “We are sounding like a band, we have developed a unique sound… I think it’s time to do our own thing”. It was as easy as that.
We have recorded a number of our tribute shows, but this is the first ‘studio’ recording, so it is kind of special for us.
Are there any other recordings band members have done under other names?
I released a solo record when I was younger. My brother Garth and I then started a band called 33 and did two records with them.
Rusty Red, who also appears on the new EP, has been involved in numerous recordings as an engineer and session player. Plus he has all lots of stuff on his Youtube channel.
While Garth and I were recording and touring, our drummer Gareth Gale was in a band called Beth Reporting which made a record, Also, Gareth was part of a hip-hop group called The Big Idea a few years back, which made phenomenal music.
Why, a few years ago, did you change the band name from Zaffa to The Black Lapels?
We just felt it was time for a change. Zaffa was ‘early days’ for us. We went through line-up changes, so just felt we needed a reshuffle. It was around 2015.
Tell me more about the new EP and where and when it was recorded?
All Or Nothing was recorded during 2018 at various venues – from theatre stages, to a lapa at our family home in Cato Ridge, to the white room (our production space). It was an amazing thing to be able to get it done and released! Now for the next one.
How long did it take to record and what hassles/hiccups, if any?
We started it in December 2017 and finished in January 2019. I think we underestimated how long it would take.
What is the feel and origin/influence of the songs?
We have released five songs. If you buy a hardcopy (available at our shows) there is a bonus track.
The songs all have a theme, I would say. A lot of the inspiration came from doing our tribute shows over the past few years. You will hear influences from CCR, Paul Simon and Johnny Cash in the music.
What guests on the EP?
None on this EP but we have some guests coming in on our next batch of songs, which is going to be exciting. We are always recording and working on new music so there will definitely be some new music coming in 2019.
Break down each song on the new EP – its sound, who wrote it, its theme and if it has any special meaning?
I am the principle writer but all in the band have made input, both musically and lyrically.
Shakedown – this song has a distinct African feel and reflects, for me at least, on the importance of friends and family.
Danger – a song about realising what and who you are, and being honest about it.
Chemicals – a dark love song.
Other Side of Love – autobiographical would best describe this song.
All or Nothing – our anthem and tribute to country music, its about not giving up.
When and where was the album launched – and how has it been promoted?
We launched the EP on January 25 this year and are mostly promoting online. We are also sending it to all radio stations for playlisting.
Are all vocals by you (Rob) or shared?
I handled all the main vocal parts and all in the band did backing vocals and harmonies. I think the next batch of songs we do will see more main vocal features from the other guys.
Any airplay or chartings?
We have been playlisted on a few radio stations around the country. I think we are featured on five stations right now. We have also been playlisted in Australia, which is great!
What other plans to push the EP or perform it?
We are always on the hunt for opportunities to perform the songs. We are performing The Hits at the Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo, Durban, from March 15 to 17 On March 21 we will be playing at the Craft Fest at Shongweni farmers’ market, alongside Majozi and other local acts. Will also be playing at the South Coast Bike Festival on Saturday, April 27, which we are looking forward to a lot.
Other plans for the band this year?
Plans for 2019 are to just keep pushing and playing.