Woodstock Mafia at Carnival Court - Photo; Laura McCullagh
Special Blog bulletin.
There’s a new mafia in town.
They have one aim…one goal: Assert musical dominance within the borders of this marvellous country! The jamming of their business, for the most part, takes place in Woodstock, and they are thusly known as, The Woodstock Mafia.
Be on the lookout for:
Joe – “I am sound engineer by day… by night… all the time. I’ve travelled a bit and am itching to do more. Its summer, so it’s all about going to the beach with my guitar. And a dream of mine is to play in front of 100 000 people in Hyde Park… just like the Foo Fighters did.”
Nick – “I’m 29, have big hair and soulful blue eyes, or at least I like to think so. The other me works as an editor for a publishing house in Cape Town, where I basically get to read about sport all day. It’s not a bad gig. I like to eat… and I hang to the left.”
Owen – “I’m a designer by day, drummer by night, beer anytime… kind of guy.”
Ryan – “For the first time in my life, I’m the old man in the band, if only by a few months. I struggle with this daily, even more than being mistaken for “ginger”. It’s strawberry-blond, people! I dream of peace and free beer.”
The Boys from Woodstock Mafia rocking out; Laura McCullagh
A couple of weeks ago, I was overcome and mobbed by the Woodstock Mafia sound. Having always had some sort of fascination with the mafia and such …my attention was naturally grabbed, and I carefully adventured my way into their social realm, to investigate the sound and vibe that was to blame for my mobbed state. Needless to say, their “post-rock-grunge” sound blew my socks out of the lagoon. The superb balance and quality of their sound was twilight zone stuff and the only question that navigated my brainwaves was… HOW ON EARTH HAS THIS BAND NOT YET MADE IT INTO THE BIG LEAGUES? THEY ARE SIMPLY PUT… ALL THAT GOOD! They have a fresh unique sound… the vocals are smooth and soothing …and there are some pretty exciting guitar riffs… allowing a goosebump or two to creep up on you when you least expect it. It is a fusion of strong 90’s grunge and post-grunge influences, with bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains and Incubus accredited… with a bit of old school 70’s rock and roll stirred in.… Credit here , given to Led Zeplin, ACDC and the more contemporary Wolfmother.
Woodstock Mafia, was initially born out of the long standing friendship between Nick and Ryan. According to Owen, Nick and Ryan’s decision to start the band came from the observation that,“… there is a lack of good local alt rock bands.” Owen goes further by adding, “They found Joe and I found them and the rest is recent history.” Pertaining to Owen’s statement, Ryan reacts with a slight altercation, “I actually found Joe when we were both part of another project, and Owen, we found you on that dating site, remember?”
Nevertheless, their Woodstock Baby was an unplanned one… with Nick and Ryan making the decision early in their friendship to avoid playing in the same band at all costs. For the 15 odd years they had known each other as friends, they actively tried to avoid what would later seem to be the inevitable. Their initial decision… thankfully… failed miserably. Ryan mockingly states, “We lost a bet !,” As the reason for their ultimate amalgamation. Nick adds a bit more flesh to the story, “The honest answer is that Ryan and I have quite combustible personalities and we wanted to avoid a situation where our friendship was compromised by playing together in a band – which can get emotional, to say the least. Also, Ryan has a penchant for bad pop music, something that I wanted nothing to do with. But I think as we got older we realised that playing together could be a lot of fun if we approached it in the right way. Our roles in this project are clearly defined, and at the end of the day Ryan is a very talented bass player, so we got over ourselves and made it happen.”
Woodstock Mafia at Carnival Court - Photo ; Laura McCullagh
Woodstock Mafia, functions like a well-oiled machine. Their functioning and approach to their musical career, reminds me a lot of the way in which Fokofpolisiekar approached their musical siege – with absolute precision; a well worked out plan. Running the band, like they’d run a business. They put a lot of thought into every aspect of every step they take. Every band member has a clear stated role and responsibility… and they utilise their everyday non-musical abilities and attributes to the benefit of the band.
Joe – Mainly responsible for the recording and mixing of the Woodstock Mafia EP, as well as the two sets of demo tracks.
Nick – Mainly responsible for coming up with basic music and lyrical ideas, which the band will then munch on… and either spit out or swallow.
Owen – Creative powers behind the band… uses his design powers to make the band look visually cool and appealing.
Ryan – Organizational brains behind the operation. Organises gigs… lines up press events… checks admin tasks off the list… handles all everything concerning publicity.
Woodstock Mafia released their debut self-titled EP on the 16th of September 2011. Joe confidently states, “People love the EP!” I can highlight this as a fact with a bright blue highlighter. All their songs on their EP are currently enjoying prime playtime on my iPod. More recently they released two new demo tracks – available for FREE download, from their bandpage, connected to their TwitFace pages – with Electric Light currently topping the list of my favourite tunes. This song has major hit… dripping off it …and I predict it will be riding airways and jumping holes through charts in the near future. A bold prediction, but one I confidently make based on… well… my knack for spotting real talent.
Upon the way forward, Owen says, “ We are definitely looking at a full length album, but first, we are focusing on releasing a single in the next month or two, and also shoot a video. Getting airplay on student, regional, even national stations is prime, as well as getting the video on channels like MK. We’ll start thinking about an album towards the end of the year, if all goes well. Our main, concern is getting a big song out there and getting on those festival stages. Our EP launch was awesome and we’re stoked with the product. Due to cash restrictions we had to do it all ourselves which was our only regret, as we’re not top-notch music producers … but hey, it still sounds fat!
And trust me –fat it sounds – if this is the sound these guys can produce on their own, can you imagine what they will be capable of doing when working with top notch producers.
Woodstock Mafia’s a down to earth band with big dreams and bigger aspirations. They know what they’re capable of… they know where they’re headed and they have a well-worked-out-plan on how to get there. Reading their honest – at times off beat – responses to my questions, have yet again fuelled me in my quest to help promote local musicians. When I listen to a band, with an almost international sound – for a lack of a better explanation – factoring in -that they are struggling to make a break into the industry… it just numbs my brain. The product is there and their music is top notch – in fact they have a better sound than many bands currently playing mainstream. They have an awesome vibe and great personality… they literally have every single component needed, to boost them into musical oblivion. It’s just a matter of getting their name and music out there … the rest will sell itself. As soon as the word of mouth ball gets rolling they’ll be set on their way.
Woodstock Mafia - Photo; Laura McCullagh
So as per usual…I urge you to take a TwitFace adventure… and make a connection with these stellar blokes. Download their awesome tunes – which I predict you’ll become enslaved by – and share and spread their rocking vibe. Keep an eye out for their life performances which is an experience by itself… and make sure you catch one when they rock your nearby vicinity. I am definitely keeping an eye on lampposts for a possible showdown in Bloemfontein… where I will be cheering from the frontlines.
As you’ve become accustomed to…here’s a few extra question they were nice enough to answer.
Sune: Woodstock Mafia, cool name.
How was the name decided on?
Nick – It was Owen who just blurted it out during a break at one of our first practices. We jam in Woodstock and we’re all tough and stuff… like the mob so it just stuck.
Joe – The name just captures you when you hear it. It sticks in your head.
Sune: Woodstock Mafia had the hype machine on full blast from the very beginning…
I read an online journalist commenting, that she thinks she read your press release before you even played your first gig. When you got the mafia ball rolling, what was the decided plan of action for the conquering of the beast that is our local music scene?
Joe – Play our hearts out on stage!!! Be the BEST you can be.
Owen – Dominate every channel and every social platform so we get the all-sacred word of mouth thing going.
Ryan – Haha, Owen, the master of social media. I guess from my side it was about doing the band thing right for the first time. I’ve been playing in bands since I was in standard six (grade eight to you laaities), and just wanted to do things differently, with passion and hard work. The thing is, the ball has just been budged and is starting to roll, and it makes it increasingly difficult to keep up. When little milestones creep up on you along the way, it’s important to not only gather, but maintain momentum.
Sune: You have this marvellous post-rock-grunge sound… a nice old school rock and roll feel. What are the musical influences behind your sound?
Owen – Hard rock and grunge. Hit those drums hard like Dave Grohl.
Joe – As a vocalist, Brandon Boyd from Incubus was a starting point, but the more we develop our sound, the more I take from other great rock vocalists.
Nick – I would say ACDC, Smashing Pumpkins, Taxi Violence and Led Zeppelin.
Ryan – I have played in several cover bands, and even some afro-jazz, but when I started playing bass it was all about Nirvana covers. I guess I have a strong 90s grunge influence in my playing, but it’s good to keep it simple.
Sune: Any acts within in our local music scene, you admire and aspire to?
Ryan – There are many great acts, from Desmond and the Tutus, to BLK JKS, Isochronous, Taxi Violence, Jax Panik, Gazelle, Van Coke Kartel, aKing… every year bands are lifting the bar higher and higher, which is fantastic. It keeps us on our toes.
Joe – at Rock the River, there was a band that gave me goosebumps six times over – Verona Walls. I hear they have been around for a while, but wow! I’m also quite fond of Kongos and Shadowclub.
Nick– Isochronous are great musicians and Van Coke Kartel for their professionalism.
Owen– Taxi Violence, Van Coke Kartel and Shadowclub are three bands I think are dominating the scene through great music and exceptional marketing.
Sune: Tell me a bit about the creative process that drives the creation of your awesome tunes. What’s the process you follow when writing new material?
Joe – Nick comes up with the idea for a track and the band writes their music around his idea at rehearsals and we all have an input on the structure of the track. Whatever works, works…
Owen – Normally Nick has a riff up his sleeve; we jam it out and put some structure down. Lyrics get written and bam! Our baby is born…
Ryan – Ha, over to Nick. I just play bass, and just sit back.
Nick – Most of my ideas comes from jamming on my acoustic guitar. I think it’s a better way to write because you’re not distracted by effects or tonal considerations like you would be with an electric instrument, which helps you focus on the basics. Once I have an idea, I’ll let it sit in my head and percolate for a while where other parts will start to form almost subconsciously. Generally I’ll take a verse and a chorus idea to practice, and we’ll jam it out as a band, which will then inform me as to how the final direction of the song should go.
Once the music is 80% completed, I’ll write the lyrics around one or two phrases that tend to stay in my head. Not all my ideas work out and we’ve had songs which have been scrapped after one or two performances. I think our best work comes when the songs happen quickly, and effortlessly.
Sune: In the modern era, what do you think are the most powerful tools upcoming bands and musicians can use to promote and drive their musical aspirations?
Joe – Record your music, even if it’s just a quick demo, and get it out there.
Nick – Nakedness and free beer.
Owen – Social media all the way.
Sune: Our music scene is popping out of its rims… the lines dividing genres and sub-genres have become paper-thin, which results in a surreal level of competition staring acts within the industry – literally, in some instances, down.
What will make Woodstock Mafia, not only a survivor but a super contender? What sets you guys apart from the rest?
Joe – Our rocking riffs and hard work as a band.
Owen – Well we’ve been told that we’re original, and we’ve also been told we’re not. Either way people dig it and that’s all that matters. We’re not precious about doing things that have never been done – that’s a tall order. If it’s catchy and grabs you by the balls that’s all that matters. We’re just going to be ourselves and see what happens…
Nick – A lot of bands focus on having a ‘sound’ or a look, especially in Cape Town. We focus purely on writing good songs, because at the end of the day, it’s the songs that will be the -make or break -of your potential success.
Sune: What is your definition of a true musician?
Nick – Kurt Cobain once said that good music could be defined as ‘any music played with integrity’. And I suppose you could apply that philosophy to musicians too. I think using technique as a measure of musicianship is too narrow; there are some bands that have made entire careers out of playing the same three chords, so I would define a musician as anyone who can evoke a feeling or emotion through sound.
Joe – I think somebody that is in tune with everything he does, in tune and aware of his surroundings. Music lets you live in the moment and express emotion. A true musician has the ability to make other people join in that moment, enhancing their emotions.
Owen – Someone who loves music, and who loves to play it to people.
Ryan – My father would say – looking directly at me – that a musician is someone who comes to borrow some cash and steel the cheese out the fridge.
Sune: Where do you guys see yourself in three years?
Joe – At the MTV Music awards! Haha!
Owen – I’d like us to have two super slick albums under our belt, headline all the major festivals, consistently touring SA… a tour or two abroad. Oh yes and I’d like a bevy of beauties in my water bed.
Ryan – What the other guys said. Haha, optimism is a good thing, eh guys?
Nick – Yeah. Haha.
Sune: What is your favourite venue to gig at?
Nick – Mercury Live is still one of the better venues to play at. It’s the right size for a good party and the sound is generally pretty consistent.
Ryan – We like to get around a lot, and I hope we get to play some great venues out of town. But locally, I would say Mercury Live is going through a rebirth, and the smaller venues we play, like Pakalolo, Banned Rock Lounge and The Jolly Roger have all been good.
Owen – Mine is the first venue we played at, ROAR. Super dark and dingy but rad people and always awesome sound. Plus we all have great memories there.
Joe – Carnival Court. It’s a small backpackers in Long Street, Cape Town.
Sune: Best vibed and most memorable performance thus far?
Nick – Rock the River was fun. Having space to run around, suits our vibe, and the response from the crowd and organisers was great. We definitely want to secure more festival dates.
Joe – Carnival Court! Haha, was my first stage dive! And the stage was only about 20cm high!
Ryan – Our EP launch at Zula – Joe took a monstrous stage-dive, must have been a good two or three meters into the crowd. Epic!
Owen – I would say Synergy 2011, we rocked the LMG tent and chucked some ice-cold beers into the crowd. It was so hot, but damn was it awesome.
Sune: Any foot-in-mouth scenarios…meeting a music great… or celeb… saying/doing something questionable?
Joe – Kept my cool when I met Inge Beckmann from LARK for the first time. She has such a beautiful voice. But I kept my cool and didn’t choke.
Ryan – I know the guy who played Woofles in Pumpkin Patch. Played my cool, we’re tight now.
Sune: Any embarrassing moments you can share… something going horribly wrong at a show maybe?
Owen – There’ve been a couple of broken strings, dropped drum sticks and forgotten lyrics, of course but nothing too disastrous yet!
Nick – We played at a house party in Hout Bay, and every time I tried to click on one of my pedals the electricity would cut out. It led to a couple anti-climactic moments. That was probably our worst performance so far.
Ryan – I think Owen’s drums fell apart at Synergy. Literally the kit fell to piece while he was playing. Fortunately a mate of ours (Kyle Gary from Fox Comet) was on hand to pull it together again.
Sune: Ryan… just quickly… apparently you are the bands appointed “beer logistics office”. What a stellar title… and heavy burden to carry but I guess someone has to do it.
What does it entail?
Ryan – This is the most important role in the band. I try making sure that we have beer for nearly every practice, that bar tabs are arranged at gigs, but most importantly that I sample as many brands as possible.
Sune: What your idea of a perfect night out?
Nick– I’m a homeboy. My couch, a DVD, and a bottle of something, – something is generally high on my priority list.
Ryan– I think I had it the other week at the Sabretooth album launch at Mercury Live. Crazy jam session with seasoned musos, beer, braai, more beer, mosh pits and stage-diving, followed by more beer.
Owen– A spontaneous one. With beer.
Joe– To get my bare feet dirty at a rock festival, enjoying the local talent.
Sune: If not music…what would you be doing?
Owen – I reckon, running a backpackers in Jeffery’s Bay.
Joe– I would probably run for President… seriously.
Nick– I’d probably be in a padded cell somewhere in the confines of Valkenburg mental hospital…
Ryan – Hmmm, maybe a yoga instructor or a disco enthusiast.
Sune: What advice do you have for young muso’s in the making?
Joe– Play your instrument as much as you can and always play your heart out when you perform.
Nick– Never allow your ego to get in the way of the song, especially if you’re a guitarist. Think about the basics of a good song – melody, groove – before you try to come up with cool riffs or solos, that you think are going to make you look good. If something isn’t working, make it simpler.
And if you’re starting a band, make sure the objectives among the group are clearly defined. You need to know what it is you actually want to achieve as a band, and once you do, it’s important to have a plan of attack.Lastly, don’t get stoned at practice. It makes you sound better than you actually are.
Owen – Don’t suck.
Ryan – Haha! Nice one Owen. I would add to that, “If you think you suck, get a hot vocalist”.
Sune: Lastly…upcoming bands and musicians that excite you?
Joe – A totally new band? Them Birds. Quirky and unique.
Ryan – So many… Um, Newtown Knife Gang, Fox Comet, Red Huxley, Juke Royal, Peachy Keen, Shadowclub… I suppose these are all bands I’ve grown to enjoy more over the past 12 months.
Nick – There is a band called My Flawless Ending we’ve played with a couple of times. They do rock ‘n’ roll pretty well.
Owen – There are just too many to mention.