Johannesburg Alternative electronic/rock band Go The Rodeo discusses how they began, their video for “Glass Walls and what’s next for the band
By Emily May
Johannesburg alternative electronic/rock band Go The Rodeo is creating a buzz with their latest single “Give Me Black”, as well as with their previous single “Glass Walls” that features Matt and Trevor Wentworth from the US Post-Hardcore band Our Last Night. Consisting of Corne Van Niekerk (vocals/guitar), Robert Mitchley (bass/keys/backing vocals) and Craig Atkinson (drums), the band was formed in 2014 by Mitchley and Van Niekerk who, after a brief hiatus in 2016, re-emerged in 2017 with drummer Craig Atkinson and a new sound. With a blend of indie-rock, pop and blues influences with electronic elements mixed in, they are influenced by bands such as The Kills, Queens Of The Stone Age Twenty One Pilots, The Neighbourhood, The XX and Alt J. Since releasing their first single “Sea Dog” in May of 2017, they have been received with open arms by the South African music community and industry and have received critical acclaim for their singles thus far. Having toured South Africa with international bands such as Our Last Night, Hands Like Houses, Dance Gavin Dance, Secrets and Fit For A King, the band is gaining a steady following and garnering widespread airplay on South African radio. With plans to release a new video, write more music and play more shows, the band has no intentions of slowing down. They can be seen next playing with Our Last Night when the band heads to South Africa in November! Staff writer Emily May spoke recently by email to Van Niekerk and Atkinson about their beginnings as a band, their video for “Glass Walls” and what’s next for the band. You can stay up-to-date with Go The Rodeo and all upcoming shows, as well as stream and purchase their music via the following links. You can check out their video for “Glass Walls” and their lyric video for “Give Me Black” below.
I read that you and Robert have known each other since high school. Were you in bands together growing up? What led the two of you to form Go The Rodeo in 2014?
Pretty much every band we were in, we were in it together. Either from the beginning, or I’d find a way to sneak Rob into the band. Our passion for music started pretty much at the same time, and we both bought our first instruments at the same time – Rob on bass and me on drums. So we went through all the different stages of making crappy music together, and eventually we were brave enough to take the reigns and do our own thing.
The band took a bit of a hiatus in 2016 and re-emerged in 2017 with a fresh new sound. What inspired you both to experiment with electronic sounds and take the band in a different direction musically? You have mentioned that once you found sounds you liked, you pursued them, which changed the way you approached songwriting. What was your approach to songwriting before and how has it changed?
The biggest deciding factor was that we were tired of members not committing to the band, and this happened in every band before GTR. So we went with the idea of not getting other members at all, and just doing our own thing, with a drum backtrack for live shows. Once we entered the electronic spectrum, it opened a world of possibility, so we scrapped everything we had before (except our name). That was the point where Craig heard our new sound, and decided to join the band.
It was quite an adjustment in the beginning, especially because we knew so little about electronic music. Instead of starting a song with guitar or bass, we now started with piano, and changed that to a synth sound we liked. We’ve expanded a lot from our first tracks, and found a good balance, bringing back some grungy guitar and vibey bass-lines.
Craig- You have since joined the band as the drummer. How did you come to be a part of the band? You also play drums for the post hardcore/electronic band Bombs and Issues and co-founded Jam Packed Productions in Johannesburg. What led you to co-found the company? Having run several successful events, what sparked your interest in learning and being a part of the production side of the industry?
Corné was one of my drum pupils when he was in school, one of my first pupils actually. He approached me, asking for some guidance on electronic production and backtracks, knowing that we had the experience in Bombs and Issues. He sent me a track, and I was super impressed, so pitched the idea to come on board as a drummer, and that’s how two became three.
My interest in events started when we were working with Rocking 4 Rhinos. In 2015 me and Genevieve (the co-founder of Jam Packed Productions) helped Rocking 4 Rhinos put together their first Johannesburg event. It wasn’t successful at all and was very disheartening, if anything. Then we decided that if we were going to do this, then we should do it properly. We go in touch with Our Last Night a couple of years before that, and they were the first band to put their trust in our small company at the time, to come over to South Africa and perform shows to raise money and awareness for the Rhinos. That was in 2017 and was a huge success, and since that we started networking and booking other international bands in the same category, and it’s just been an awesome ride.
You guys are from the western outskirts of Johannesburg. Have you always had a love for and desire to play music? What is the music scene like in Johannesburg, especially for post-hardcore/electronic bands? Who are some of your favorite South African bands?
We all definitely had an interest in music from a young age, and as we got more involved, the love and desire to create music ourselves just grew more. It’s a strange passion to have in this part of the world, because everyone around us were obsessed with Rugby and bar fights, and a local rock scene was never really present, we’d have to take a drive to the city to see proper bands.
The Johannesburg music scene has taken a hit, because not a lot of people go out to see local bands unless it’s a big event, although we have some incredible bands. My favorite at this moment is the Hell Cats, a 2 piece stoner rock outfit, with a ridiculous amount of energy live.
Your music video for “Glass Walls” features Matt and Trevor Wentworth (who are also featured on the track) from the post-hardcore band Our Last Night. How did that collaboration come about and do you have any other collaborations in the works?
The collab was an idea that Craig had while joining them on Vans Warped tour in 2017. He’d become good friends with them after organizing and managing their previous South African tour and asked if they were keen to do some vocals on our track. We didn’t expect them to say yes, but we’re stoked that they did. Other collabs, yes. I think it’s something we’ll keep on doing. I love getting new ears on our tracks, and bringing in a sound they we wouldn’t necessarily have thought of ourselves. Our next track will feature the guitarist of Hell Cats, Warwick Rautenbach. So expect a dirty guitar riff in there.
The video was made by ACT Animation Films. Corne- I read that you are a freelance animator and are involved with ACT Films. How did you come to work with them? I read that the company recently released a horror film called Hell Trip at Comic Con Africa! Corne- I read that you designed the posters! How did your love for animation and design begin?
I’ve been with ACT for over 6 years now, mostly working on an animated film called the Body Defenders. Later on we expanded to live action film making, and shot our first Horror film in 2016. Hell Trip went on to cinemas in various countries and premiered at Comic Con Africa, and should be released in the US in the near future. I’ve always had a passion for design and creating things. I studied graphic design, and though it’s my main source of income, it’s still something I enjoy and a skill I can incorporate in the band.
How did the idea for the “Glass Walls” video come about? This was your first actual video, as your other songs are featured in lyric videos. What led to your decision to choose that particular song for your first video?
The reason we chose Glass Walls was because it had quite a commercial sound, but also because we wanted to do the Trevor and Matt feature justice. We sat down with Patrick Garcia, and built an idea around the masks we had already used as our image during that time.
You also work as a model. How did you get into modeling and what companies do you model for?
Well, it’s something that’s taken a backseat in my life since I became more involved in music. It’s something I pursued mainly for the traveling opportunities, but I’m still semi-involved. I’m currently with Ice models in Johannesburg, but also worked for Ave in Singapore.
What can you tell me about your latest song “Give Me Black”? It has a bit more of a dark wave vibe to it and you transitioned from electronic drums to full drums in the drop to get the heavier sound you were going for. Why did you go in a heavier direction for this song and do you have plans to experiment with a heavier sound going forward?
I’ve always been very open minded when it comes to music. If it sounds good then I’ll listen to it, and I don’t like to restrict creativity to a certain genre. So I guess this was just that influence of heavier music, and it made it sense at the time because this song came from a dark place. I don’t think we’ll go too heavy, but we’ll see what happens in the future.
Our Last Night will be performing in South Africa in November! How excited are you guys for the show?
We are super stoked! Both for OLN, and to perform ourselves. It’s probably our biggest show to date. So at the moment we’re just preparing, and planning our set so that we can blow people away.
What’s next for the band?
Next, we’re shooting a video for our next release, which should be finished in November. We’re very happy with how the track is sounding so far, it has a bit more of a rock ‘n roll vibe, less serious than most of our other tracks. Then the OLN show, after which we’ll keep on writing and playing shows.