South African rock group DURGE discuss how they formed, their debut EP, their lyric video for “Round and Round” and what’s next for the band
Formed in Cape Town, South Africa in 2016, rock band DURGE is an exciting new band in the South African music scene. Consisting of Mark Ellis, Francois Taljaardt, James lombard and Heinrich Wesson, the band plays what they describe as “Melandelic Rock”, a mix of melancholy and psychedelic sounds. They recently released their debut EP, DIRGE,about which Ellis says “Being very much a DIY project and the band’s first official release (with the help of some close friends), this EP is something close to the hearts of all four members. It also marks the start of an exploration into our sound which still has many dimensions to uncover. Dealing mostly with individualism and social issues, Dirge is a short statement to life. “. The band also recently released a lyric video for their song “Round and Round”, the first single from their EP. Having already started work on their first full-length album, the future is looking bright for the band! You can stay up-to-date with the band and all new music and upcoming tour dates, as well as stream and purchase their music via the links below. You can check out their lyric video for “Round and Round” below.
The four of you formed DURGE in 2016 in Cape Town. What led you to want to play music together and form the band?
Mark and Francois were playing in a band named Shotgun Wedding with another drummer and lead guitarist. Both decided to quit the band and… dramatic drum roll…. Heinrich and James joined the band. Although we still played Shotgun Wedding songs, which was more a blues rock outfit, we quickly realised that the four of us had different sound than what Shotgun Wedding aimed for. This led us to make the decision to start DURGE. DURGE was born when the four of us had our first jam together.
Your debut EP Dirge was recently released. You have mentioned that the EP is something that is close to your hearts. What was the inspiration behind the album and what was the writing and recording process like? What led you to record the drums and bass live? How did you guys come to meet and work with Wynand Fourie who recorded, mixed and mastered your EP?
The EP is a collection of songs written over a long period of time by Mark. The songs actually do not stand as a collective, or were not written with that purpose. But all the songs on the EP started to fit together as the sound of the band was being experimented with. This EP is very much our first thought, if you can call it that, as a band with regard to sound and how the lyrical content relates to it. Recording it was a blast. We were all just so excited to hear how everything sounds together outside of a rehearsal room or on stage. One reason the drums and bass were recorded live is because the drummer and bassist can actually do it, haha. No it just solidifies the groove and the basis of a song. Francois and James have been playing together for some time before DURGE and through that they solidified a mutual rhythmic understanding. We believe there is something rhythmically magical that happens when people lock together on a song. And so much more true for drums and bass. Wynand is a good friend of ours. Francois stayed together with him in a communal house. He has always been part of the music scene in cape town.
James-you have a Masters Degree in chemical engineering; Heinrich-you have a Masters Degree in electrical engineering; Mark-you have a degree in human resource management; Francois-you have a Bachelor’s Degree in fine arts. With the exception of Mark, you have all used your degrees to some extent. What kind of work have you done/do you do with your degrees outside of the band?
That’s funny…we gave that answer to a previous interview kind of as a joke.
Wess– Since finishing his studies he has been a full time software developer (Android) at a PBO that creates educational apps.
James– I have lectured in engineering at diploma level
-Worked for a company called Water Eco Treatment and Technologies, a rainwater harvesting company in Cape Town. Doing my bit to fight the drought, yep yep.
-I am currently working part time for Knowlead, a knowledge management consulting and training company in Cape Town.
Mark– I try and human resource manage the band. Just kidding
James- You toured abroad for a couple of years with big musical productions such as Evita and West Side Story. How did you come to drum for musical productions and what was the experience like for you? Do you have more tours planned with other productions or is your focus on the band right now?
I studied classical percussion extra-curriculary from the age of 12, so was always comfortable in the classical percussion setting, namely reading music and following a conductor. Despite being a legitimate rock-star (jokes) and into jazz, I have always cultivated a shameless, guilty (not-guilty) pleasure for show music. I like the larger-than-life, over-the-top nature of musicals. After playing for various bands from 2015 and 2016, I got a lucky break to play for the Joburg run of West Side Story in 2017 for the Fugard Theatre. The other shows flowed from that. I currently have no shows or tours lined up. My focus is currently on establishing a home base in Cape Town, including both following up on the engineering degree and more original music projects.
Over the past two years you have been creating your sound that you have called “Melandelic Rock”, a fusion of melancholy and psychedelic sounds. How did you come to create the sound you wanted for the band? Who would you count as your musical influences? Did you all bring different influences to the band or do you all have similar tastes?
We never really aimed for a specific sound, so the different influences we all have and the freedom the band gave all of us to express that formed the sound which we described for the EP. We all have very different influences and musical styles which we play, ie. James has a very thorough jazz background and his influence definitely drove the band to a more open and experimental direction, and the same goes for the other three members. Heinrich brought a stoner rock feel to the band. Francois, being a multi instrumentalist and playing different genres fits very good as a bass player between James and Heinrich. For the Dirge EP , Mark wrote all of the songs on an acoustic and the sound was born when the four of us jammed together. But between the four of us there really isn’t any genre or style that we won’t be open to try and bring into the band.
Your EP is the start to your exploration into your sound, which you say still has many dimensions to uncover. What has the exploration been like for you guys and what upcoming goals do you have for your sound? How do you feel that your songwriting process is evolving?
We spent a lot of time together and we did work together at the end stages of the songs to make them all fit together with regard to feel and the “melandelic rock” vibe. And this stands true to the EP. We have already started on our first full length which from the beginning already followed a different recipe, like writing the songs more collaboratively from the start. This has a different sound to what the EP had but still has the DURGE sound.
Francois- You also play in the band Indika Black. Is it challenging to juggle your time between the two? James, Heinrich and Mark- Do you have other bands you play in as well?
Mark– I am answering on behalf of the other members)
Fran- Indika black
James- Mostly session work for the likes of: The Betsie Beers
Heinrich- Riaan Niuewenhuys: Collaborator
Mark- Some session work and full time for- Riaan Niuewenhuys: Collaborator, Riku Latti en die Wasgoedlyn, Churchill Naude, Sugar Rush,Jake GUNN, Nhoza, THe Gambles
What can you tell me about “Round and Round”, the first single from your EP, as well as the lyric video you made for the song?
We felt Round and Round is the best song on the EP to release as a single because it’s our shortest song and also the most accessible song to a larger audience. Although the song nicely ties together the first and third song on the EP and works well with the other songs, we have always felt that its the one song which really different to others regarding its progression and feel. Francois created the lyric video to promote Round and Round.
Mark- You also do sound engineering and teach bass at Tunes Studio in South Africa. How long have been doing sound engineering and what do you enjoy about working in that part of the industry? What inspired you to start teaching and what have been some of your most rewarding moments?
Sound engineering, both live and studio, is awesome and I really love it. Both give me the same creative outlet that writing and performing music does. Whether it’s just getting a live mix to sound really good or being in studio and producing a song, the process is very stimulating. It also helps being involved in more aspects of music. I get to see and really listen to different genres and focus on different approaches to music. It is also rewarding working with other musicians outside of your own band and getting to experience their creative process and outlet. I’ve been doing it full time for the past 3 years, but did some freelance work and personal projects for the last 7. Teaching came as way to generate some cash flow for myself, but I have started enjoying it. Rewarding moments would be anytime you get that breakthrough with a student and can see the progress that they have made.
Mark- You started out in music at the age of 13 when you learned to play the guitar. You later picked up bass guitar and loved it, making the switch to that instrument. What did you love about the bass that made you choose to play it over the guitar? What led you to decide to play guitar in DURGE, rather then the bass?
I do not prefer one instrument above the other at all, but the main reason why I ended playing more bass was because there was a band who needed a bassist and decided it can only be fun. I soon realized how different the bass is to guitar and how much more I could learn about music through playing bass. In DURGE, so far I have been writing the songs which I usually write on an acoustic guitar which we then work on together in a band context. So I’ve always had the guitar in hand for DURGE.
You guys are anxious to get back on the circuit and start playing gigs again in full force! I read that you are already at work on a full-length album! What can people expect from the new material?
Yes, we are very excited to start playing more gigs. We are planning to play as much as possible in 2019 now that the full band is available and ready. Our new album is still in the early stages of writing so we cannot exactly say what it will end up being, but what we can say is that it will be a concept album, which we already have the theme of and the music written is directly influenced by the theme. But shhhh! It’s a secret.
What’s next for the band? What are your goals going forward?
For 2019 we are focusing on gigging as much as possible and finishing the album. We also have plans to release our first music video for one of the songs on the EP and we will be recording a new single as well.