The world being what it is, we tend to spend little time discussing the measurable, geographic divides that separate us, focusing rather less on the quantifiable differences, and more on the qualitative similarities we share in our love of music. Whatever our desire for an expanded weltanschauung, we remain with the belief in our ape-mind that we’re all one, dude.
Still, the very fact that a band from South Africa can capture out attention so fully, so quickly, in the way that The Very Wicked has, continues to fascinate us.
Not that it matters, in the abstract – we share a universal love of the kind of rock and roll that contains a slow-burn urgency, an easy, misfit’s swagger and the power to welcome us directly on to their slithering, sharp sonic wavelength from the first note, no matter where it originates from (as it surely originates from the same place, all of us being one and all). This, not coincidently, is the kind of rock and roll given by The Very Wicked among us.
Given is the appropriate word here, as The Very Wicked have made their first three songs available for download, gratis. It’s a kind gesture – or is it wickedness in disguise? Because we are now trapped in the state of anxious anticipation for what The Very Wicked come up with next – and there’s little price we wouldn’t pay to great that day sooner rather than later. “Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness …”
In our most sober moments, we would have considered ourselves lucky to name two records originating from The Republic of South Africa. We’re happy to say that our introduction to The Very Wicked coincides with that tally now being doubled. We’re equally happy to have several members of the band answer our ridiculous questions below. Enjoy.
What does the notion of “wickedness” mean to you? Do you believe that evil exists as a permanent force in our world? Do you see the world as a generally wicked place, a generally good place or something nuanced in between? What activity or belief do you feel is inappropriately thought of as wicked in your life? Would you say that “No Rest for the Wicked” was the last listenable Ozzy album?
Andre: I think people should acknowledge the wickedness/evil/darkness in the world and try to learn from it. Don’t let it overcome you, but try and benefit from it. A good friend of mine always says, ‘There is light in the darkness and there is darkness in the light.’ People who try to ignore the darkness and blindly live in the light their whole lives are pretty hard to be around, if you ask me.
It also makes me think of magic. Black magic, but magic nonetheless. I like to think that magic could/may have been a factor in peoples’ lives at some point.
I stopped listening after Sabbath. Is it worth it? I can’t imagine, to be honest …
Lucas: I heard “Changes” once long ago, and I remember thinking it was a pretty great ballad. Not sure what album that was from though. “The Osbournes” kinda made it hard for me to take Ozzy seriously. It’s sad how reality TV does that. I avoid it like the plague now.
Calvin: I think that living in SA also shapes our perception of ‘wicked’. I know evil is everywhere, but I think we are exposed to more than our fair share down here.
What band, artist or album has had the most enduring influence on you personally? How has the inspiration you’ve received from this evolved over time? Do you purposely set out to challenge yourself to take in new and possibly foreign sounds, or are you more likely to simply let music fall into yourself however and wherever it may?
Andre: We all come from different musical backgrounds, but it’s all pretty firmly rooted in artists like The Stones, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen …
I will say this: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club came to South Africa last year and that really had a heavy impact on all of us. It made it pretty clear that music was what we had to do. With this band still being very new, we are just seeing where the music takes us at this point. Everyone is still growing in their musical personalities.
We’d definitely love to explore some more ‘experimental’ sounds. I love bands like Psychic Ills, Indian Jewelry, etc. I’d love to venture in that direction … wherever that is. Haha!
Lucas: Growing up, there was a lot of Nirvana, Leonard Cohen, Radiohead, The White Stripes … I am open to letting music “fall in” however it may, but only the really worthwhile ones stick. There is a lot of bad music out there. And a lot of good. I like to think we have good taste.
Calvin: I have seen a lot of live bands, local and international when I was in the UK, but when I saw BRMC down here that really changed everything for me. It gave me a new sense of hope for music. The inspiration was always there but I wasn’t sure what to do with it – when I saw that band live, it all just made sense.
How do you think your surroundings – both the physical surroundings and perhaps the psychic surroundings, as well – in SA have impacted the musical outlook and development of The Very Wicked? What is the most beneficial thing about your location, in terms of its impact on your music? What is the most difficult?
Andre: I think the same answer goes for both questions: The SA “alternative” music scene is very young and support is less than desirable, albeit growing.
Lucas: Being part of a small, growing music scene is tough, but gratifying. It gives you room to stand on your own. The music we’re into is quite a small niche here, which strengthens our own personal attachment to it.
Andre: There are definitely some great acts around at the moment though. It’s an exciting time.
What can you tell us about the origin of The Very Wicked? Had the members had experience playing in other projects with each other in the past, and if so, how has this experience been different so far? What has been most unexpectedly pleasing about your time in The Very Wicked?
Andre: Myself and Lucas have been playing together since we were in high school, and were in The Pretty Blue Guns for about 4 years. PBG did pretty well on the local scene, actually. We had some number 1’s on local radio and video stations.
Calvin and Dirk have also played in bands in the past and Dom studies film, so she’s pretty comfortable with performance. The Very Wicked basically formed when the other half of PBG had to spend more time furthering their studies. So the two of us (Andre and Lucas) decided we should start afresh and put together a new venture. This was around the middle of last year.
We spent a couple of months scouting people and finally found the right ones. We have been jamming together with the full band since around February this year.
Lucas: The most unexpectedly pleasing thing for me is how smoothly everything has worked so far. I have also really enjoyed watching the video material that our friend Barry de Villiers has been putting together for us, through Roundabout Films, his production company. He did four “teaser” clips for us before we released the tracks, as well as the Winter Baby video. He only finished film school last year, so it’s been great to see how he develops his own style, much like we have been doing.
Andre and I learned most of what we know about recording, touring, playing shows, shooting videos and all that stuff through the work that we put in with The Pretty Blue Guns over a decent bunch of years, and I reckon that made things easier for us to put this band together. I had a few session gigs over the past few years too, but cut down on that to focus on what is really important to me. The only other project that I am personally attached to now is an artrock (for lack of a better word) collective called Lua Union.
Andre: I think the most exciting thing has been challenging ourselves musically, because there are no set expectations or rules to follow. We make sure everyone loves playing each song before we consider all the other bullshit – is it too long, will people like/get it, wtf are we doing?? Fuck that.
You know that we fell head-over-heels in love with your three-song EP immediately upon hearing it – not only are you very wicked, but very awesome and (perhaps as a rarity) very catchy as well. What does the EP represent to you as a beginning for the band? How would you like to see the EP followed up? Was there a certain feeling or atmosphere you were hoping to capture on the EP?
Andre: Thanks man, we’re really glad you like it. We actually don’t see it as an EP, really. More just three tracks that sum up where the band was at that time. It’s very difficult to capture a mood in just three tracks, but we had no money to record more.
Lucas: I think the EP is just a short taster of what’s to come. Or is it? I don’t know really. I’m very excited to see what happens next.
Andre: There are quite a few territories explored on those three tracks. We wanted to create something that people would have difficulty putting in a “box”. They love doing that around here. I think those tracks set us up to keep doing whatever we want with our sound. The band is constantly evolving, so we’ll have to see what comes next. You’ll be the first to get the demos…
Calvin: I think the hardest part so far was having to choose which three tracks to record, out of a whole bunch. I think we got the dynamic right though. We would like to follow it up with some sort of full length in the near future and take people on the full journey that is The Very Wicked.
What can you tell us about the song, “Winter Baby (The Valley)”? Do you think of the song as one that addresses a metaphorical mother and father (“Mother, father, why won’t you help me? I’ve got no hope, no place to go”) or actual, biological parents? What does the line “Load your gun and come undone, take a breath, sink your teeth in it” express to you?
Andre: It’s about leaving the safety, security, warmth of the home you grew up in and realizing that the grass isn’t always greener. I’ve seen a couple of friends sink pretty low and basically became outcasts to their friends and family. That kinda cold rejection leads to a pretty hard persona. “Load your gun and come undone, take a breath sink your teeth in it” – basically means if you shut yourself off to emotion, good or bad, you feel untouchable. Nothing can hurt you.
What has been your most unusual inspiration for a song? Does The Very Wicked tend to write through collaboration as a group, or is it more likely that individual members will bring pieces to the table? What have you discovered within yourself that was perhaps hidden from your own sight before you became a member of the band?
Andre: At the moment, it’s usually myself or Lucas that bring an idea to the band and we work on it in the studio, exploring different ways of playing it. But I see a lot more of us all writing together in the near future.
I don’t know about the others really, but for me it’s been playing guitar a lot more. In my previous band it was pretty straight forward stuff, while here I have space to explore various sounds, tunings, guitars etc.
I also realized that I have a great love for space. I love to be able to breathe. And I think that comes across in the music.
Lucas: I think inspiration is an unusual thing, by definition. It is an abstract process, and it always seems to happen at strange times. I don’t think I have ever been able to force myself to come up with anything at will. Usually when I get an idea for a song, most of the music is already formed before I get a chance to really think about it, if that makes any sense. In terms of discovery, I have rediscovered my love of noise. I used to get my fix by banging drums as loudly as a could (in Pretty Blue Guns), so when I played guitar it would usually be acoustic, with a totally different feel. It has been great for me to start channeling that louder, more expressive side with an electric guitar.
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, is the album “Time to Suck” by Suck the greatest album ever to come out of South Africa, or simply the great album period?
Andre: I love Psychic Ills’ whole discography. That’s been on pretty heavy rotation lately. Also a lot of the later Tom Waits albums. From Bone Machine onwards.
Lucas: I’m really enjoying The Antlers and Thee Oh Sees at the moment. As for “Time to Suck” … well, I have never heard of it before … There are some South African records that don’t suck though – this I know.
Calvin: The Growlers #nowplaying
G.K. Chesterton once said the following:
“For children are innocent and love justice, while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.”
Andre: I’ve seen some pretty wicked children, man…
What’s next for The Very Wicked?
Andre: We’re playing our first live show in September, so at the moment we’re getting all our ducks in a row for a little national tour down here. We’re filming a video for “Head In Heavens” soon, too. We also just want to collaborate with other like-minded thinkers/friends down here. We have our own little Psychedelic Community down here and it’s growing. We’d like to push that and bring it to people around the country.
I’m going with Mark to Austin Psych Fest next year. Pretty fucking excited to soak all that in.
Lucas: There’s very little that we wouldn’t do for a slot at that festival. It sounds amazing.