With their light-hearted lyrics and some of the wildest dance moves in the local music industry, Desmond & the Tutus reminded their audience at Arcade Empire why, seven years after getting together, they are still incredibly popular. Perdeby caught up with the band to talk about their much-anticipated upcoming album, being Twitter buddies with The Parlotones and longing for their hometown, Pretoria.
You’ve just finished recording your second album. When can we expect to get our hands on it?
Shane: 8th of May.
Craig: No, end May.
Shane: End May. Beginning of May, hey?
Craig: Ja, beginning of May.
Doug: Winter. The beginning of winter.
Shane: Definitely after May.
Shane: I wouldn’t say soon. I would say earliest May.
Has the new album got a title yet?
Shane: Are we telling people that? No, we’re not telling people.
Craig: We haven’t decided on it. We’re very close to deciding on it but we haven’t got a final title yet.
How do you think your new album differs from your first one, Tuckshop?
Craig: I think the sound is a lot better. We got a cool producer [Eric Broucek], a really nice producer who’s produced and mixed some of our favourite bands’ [music] and so he worked on the songs with us. So the album is a lot less indulgent and the songs are a lot more concise than the last album.
What was it like working with American producer Eric Broucek on the album?
Craig: It was cool.
Doug: It was easy.
Shane: It was different to the way we’ve done it in the past. We’ve always just been a very tight unit of buddies. We’ve known each other for ages so our process is like, “This is our music. If you don’t like it, stuff you.” It was a different thing for us to have a fifth guy come in and have his input.
Why have you waited so long to release a follow-up album?
Craig: Initially, we wanted to release it last year but then the end of last year came around so quickly and we didn’t have an album. I don’t know, I think it has been four years since that first release.
Shane: I don’t feel like it’s been too long, you know. Our priorities aren’t to release an album every year and [to] keep selling albums. That’s not what we do. I don’t think having an album is such a vital part to being in a band. For us it’s about doing gigs, hanging out … .
Craig: The first record we waited three years to release it so it’s sort of the same – three years for the first record and now three, four years since the previous release, which was an EP. So I think three years is a pretty decent amount of time to tour. We’ve lost a bunch of fans, I suppose, just because people have gotten older or whatever but then this year we’ve played shows where people have seen us for the first time and the songs are super new to them, so I think it’s okay. We don’t really feel bad about it.
Are there any music videos in the pipeline for Desmond & the Tutus?
Shane: Ja, in the pipeline but we haven’t shot any of them yet.
Craig: Ja, we’ve got a few music videos and a sort of weird promo video and we’ll see about that (laughs). But ja, something super different.
Weird in what way?
Shane: Every way.
Doug: Name an example of something that’s weird.
Shane: Give us two things that are weird to you and we’ll tell you kind of where this thing is in comparison to those things.
Platypuses and Salad Fingers.
Shane: Ok, combine those two things and times it by 250 million and there you go.
Doug: I don’t even think it’s very funny, it’s just very strange.
Shane: We thought it was going to be funny but it’s actually just been more disturbing.
Craig: But it’s cool. I’m very sure no one’s ever done what we did.
Doug: I actually looked and I cannot find anything that is remotely similar.
Shane: No one has done this, I guarantee you.
When are we going to see this video?
Shane:[In] about two weeks’ time. Ja, it’s strange. It’s like an ad for our music.
You’re opening for Two Door Cinema Club next month. How did that come about?
Craig: We did a party last year sponsored by 5 Gum and it was very, very good. It was like very full and they liked us so they asked us to open for Two Door in Joburg.
With the exception of Nic, you’re all based in Johannesburg now. What do you miss the most about Pretoria?
Craig: I only moved to Joburg last year and I studied inPretoriaso I like [it] a lot. We all grew up here.
Doug: I can’t put my finger on what I miss aboutPretoria.
Shane: Ja, that’s how I feel. I left after school soPretoriato me is like my childhood, you know. I’ve never lived as an adult inPretoria.
Doug: Whenever I come toPretoriaand it’s, like, sunset in summer, it’s like hot and hectic and I’m driving back to Joburg – I always get a sense of longing. It’s like Pretoria, but what the f*** I miss about it, I don’t know.
Shane: The simple life.
You guys recently signed to Sony Music Africa. Why did you decide to shift to a major record label?
Shane: It wasn’t really a decision, it was kinda like … I guess it was a decision but we didn’t feel like it was a huge, life-changing decision, you know? The guy we’re in touch with there is really switched on and he’s got some really great ideas. And for us, we’ve been going for a long time. We’re not students anymore and stuff so we kind of got to make a call about our band and our career, so this is kind of like a shot for us to try and make a career out of this music industry, like a long-term thing.
Doug: I’m definitely going to get a job at Sony when this band breaks up.
Shane: You’ll get a sweet air conditioned, flipping open-planned office.
Doug: You get as many Cokes as you can drink at every meeting.
Craig: You’ll also get a dictionary with all the music industry jargon in it.
Has that been a difficult shift in terms of maintaining creative control over your music?
Craig: No, they let us do whatever we want.
Doug: I think this video is going to prove just how much we can push it.
Shane: They actually haven’t had anything to say about it. They haven’t had any input. They said, “Well, we know what you guys have been doing for the last however many years and so just keep doing it,” which has been cool. They haven’t given us any input on artwork or songs or anything. I think it would be a different story if we were coming up with 18-minute-long crowd rock anthems, you know.
You’ve said that the dance/DJ/remix scene really helped put your music on the map overseas. How is that so?
Shane: A good friend of ours, when we started out in Joburg, is a DJ and he remixed one of our songs and with some weird turn of events that song went really big in the dance scene inEuropeand what have you. Any kind of international success we’ve had, honestly, we can trace back to Paul’s remix. His name’s King of Town, Paul Holden and he did a remix and it got released inFranceand it went quite big and then some Japanese people got hold of us and released some more of our stuff. We got to tour around in a bunch of places. It wouldn’t have happened without Paul’s remix.
You toured Japan extensively in 2010. What was the response to your music – are you officially “big in Japan”?
Shane: I wouldn’t say “big inJapan” compared to other things that are big inJapan.
Craig: But it was cool.
Shane: There were people singing along and there were full shows.
Did the Japanese understand what you were singing?
Shane: Not really. But in the bigger cities their English is a bit better but mostly no one can speak English.
Craig: That was definitely one of the best parts of our career so far.
Doug: I think it is the best part.
Shane: Ja, it was super fun. It’s a completely different culture as well. You know likeEurope, we’re all the same just with different accents but inJapanthe people are completely different, the culture is totally different.
You dressed up as The Parlotones for Halloween. Did this elicit any response from the band?
Doug: It actually did. They were amped.
Shane: We’re Twitter buddies. We tweeted each other. They sent us a tweet after the gig saying, “I hear Desmond & the Tutus [are] looking stylish these days.” It was pretty sharp.
Craig: Then what did you say? You said, “Oh ja, we’re getting tons more chicks as well.”
Shane: We’ve ragged them before saying, “Yo, Parlotones, how do we get our own KFC box meals?” But they seem like cool guys. They don’t take themselves too seriously. I’ve never met any of them in real life.