South-African Band, The Parlotones Open Up!
Posted On 02 Jul 2014
Tag: Airborne Toxic Event, Biffy Clyro, Blue October, Brazil, ColdPlay, Crayon, Crowded House, Dave Grohl, Dinner & A Suit, Foo Fighters, Jimi Hendrix, Jo'burg, Led Zeppelin, Lillian Duval, Machester Orchestra, MUSE, Radiohead, Raphael Domalik, Scars on 45, Silent Comedy, Snow Patrol, Sound City, South Africa, Starsailor, The Cure, The Daylights, The Killers, The Parlotones, The Smiths
Kahn Morbee (vocals & guitar), Glenn Hodgson (bass & piano), Paul Hodgson (guitar & keyboard) and Neil Pauw (drums) make up The Parlotones. This rock band hailing from Johannesburg, South Africa have achieved multiplatinum-selling status there and are quickly developing a strong fan-base here in the states.
In the following interview, Paul opens up about the band’s past, present and future.
Can you offer us a brief journey of your musical career thus far from your perspective? Please tell us how you got you to this point in your career?
The band got together toward the end of 1998, and were originally called Crayon. None of us had been in a band before or played an instrument seriously. After a few years of learning together we changed our name to The Parlotones. Over the last 10 years we have recorded six studio albums and toured all over South Africa, UK, Europe, Canada and USA. We’ve also traveled to Japan, Russia, South America and Australia. It’s been a long journey and we’ve come a long way since first getting together in our drummer’s parent’s garage. We got to where we are now with a mixture of hard work and luck!
You guys seem to travel a lot between South Africa, Los Angeles and perhaps other countries. Which city do you enjoy the most and why?
It’s impossible to pick a favorite! Sometimes while in LA it feels like the greatest city in the world, and then the next day you’re missing home and can’t wait to get back to Jo’burg. San Paulo in Brazil was mind-blowing and we’ve had amazing times in New York and London as well. We’ve enjoyed every place we’ve been to and have been lucky enough to see most of the world, but I think home is always going to Jo’burg, that’s where our hearts are.
How different are your fans in South Africa from the ones here in the US?
Well there’s not really a huge difference, except for the fact that in America most fans are still discovering the band, while in South Africa people know every word of every song and sing along the entire set. American audiences are very devoted though, on every tour we have people who drive crazy distances to get to a show, or even fly to a couple of shows outside their home city.
“We appreciate every single one of our fans, that’s for sure! Our fans have given us the best job in the world.”
Who are some of your musical influences? Who are some of the new artists who inspire you and who do you think are going to be the next big artists in the future?
Well our influences initially were mostly British bands like The Cure, The Smiths and the early Radiohead, Coldplay and Muse albums. Eventually everything you’re listening to influences you in some way or another. Glen loves punk, Paul listens to a lot of Americana bands, and all those influences sneak in here and there. We get compared to The Killers, Crowded House and Coldplay a lot, which are all bands we love. New-ish bands we’ve discovered are Manchester Orchestra, Airborne Toxic Event and although they’re not really new, we’ve been listening to a lot of Biffy Clyro, their latest album is amazing.
How exactly are you using social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and others to interact with your fans? How important has it been your success as a band?
All those things help grow a band’s biggest resource: fans. Without fans a band is nothing. Social Media is important, but only because it helps a band keep in touch with their fans, it’s not the ultimate recipe for success. What really matters is are fans coming to your shows and listening to your music? And with social media you can reach more people than ever before. It’s also important to keep a balance, you have to post regularly, but it must be relevant. Fans don’t want random crap every few hours.
What is the band’s approach to songwriting? How do you capture the inspiration when it comes?
We are on tour most of the year, but while on the road and in hotel rooms we are always working on bits and pieces of songs. Albums used to come in 2 year cycles but those gaps are closing as singles are replacing albums, so bands need to be writing all the time. Even if a song isn’t that great, a portion of it might inspire another song that turns out great.
“A band needs to be exercising their musical and creative brains all the time, it’s the only way to bring that spark to life.”
With all the technology today, it’s easy to capture songs. We all have iPads and laptops with recording software so you can be recording almost anywhere: backstage, in the van, in the lounge, anywhere.
How are you using new music technologies to record music and in your personal life?
Well as I mentioned, recording technology is getting more and more accessible. On your iPad or laptop you can create drum loops to play guitar over while you’re trying to work some chords into a song, or noodling a riff for hours without the need for your drummer to be there playing the same thing over and over. Even YouTube is an amazing resource, there are guitar lessons where you can learn theory or be taught how to play Led Zeppelin songs. Almost anything you need is right there. And of course now we can stay in contact with friends and family no matter where in the world we are. In our early days of touring we needed to find public telephones and have a few quick minutes to talk before your money ran out.
If you had the opportunity to work with any artist/band from the past, present or future, who would it be and why?
Well I’d normally say someone like Radiohead or Jimi Hendrix or any of our heroes, but we’ve learned it’s sometimes best to not meet your heroes, but after watching “Sound City” and the Foo Fighters documentary it seems like Dave Grohl is an awesome guy and really just all about the music, so at this point it would have to be him.
You guys have toured a bunch! Who have you all loved touring with the most? What made it so awesome?
We’ve made some good friends with bands we’ve toured with over the years, bands like The Daylights, Scars on 45, Silent Comedy and Dinner & A Suit. It was great because they were amazing bands and we all got along really well. We’ve also toured with Starsailor, Snow Patrol, Blue October and Coldplay and that was also awesome because they’re really successful bands with huge audiences.
What was it like having your manager, Raphael Domalik, write the band’s story last year?
Well we actually weren’t really involved in that at all. Raphael and an American author called Lilian Duval wrote the book and it’s mostly about his history and the business strategies behind his work as a manager and record label. There wasn’t much input asked for from the band, but it was pretty cool reading some of the stories of our early tours as we’d forgotten some of those things. There were some crazy times.
Why is this lifestyle (recording, singing, traveling) one that you’re willing to follow?
We’d rather be doing this than getting a “regular” job. It’s sometimes a lot harder, the industry is unpredictable and you spend long periods away from home, but it’s all we want to do and we’re going to carry on doing it for as long as we can.
What are the band’s favorite songs to perform live and why?
It changes all the time, normally it’s the newer songs, but often playing the hits is great because the audience sings along and goes mad. We’re happy just to be playing!
When you aren’t performing and writing new material, what do you all like to do for fun?
Just relax and do as little as possible! 🙂 We play some golf, hang out with friends and family, catch up on some reading. Neil is a great artist and likes to paint in his free time.
Do you have any interesting road stories you’d like to share? Any crazy fan experiences?
There are many, but one we remembered recently was when Kahn was about to board a plane and decided to stick the ticket to his forehead instead of hand it to the flight attendant. Of course it blew off as we were about to enter the plane and they wouldn’t let him onto the plane. They had to search around the runway near the plane until he found it, and then he realized he had swapped tickets with Glen to get the window seat and had to try explain why he had someone else’s ticket!
Do you have any advice for upcoming musicians?
Write everything down and take tons of photos! Paul is busy working on a book about The Parlotones told from the band’s perspective, and it’s difficult enough to remember what happened last year, never mind ten years ago…
Also, the song is king. Guitar solos, complicated drumming, fancy keyboards and vintage amps, all that stuff is cool but ultimately people want to hear a cool song.
What’s next up for you guys?
To write some more songs, keep playing gigs, and have a blast while do it. Cheers!