CASSIDY BESSA AND SAM MUKWAMU
Shortstraw is one of South Africa’s most loved indie rock bands. They will be performing at the first-ever MIX Fest, taking place at the Cradle Moon Game Lodge, making this an event not to be missed. PDBY spoke to Shortstraw’s lead vocalist, Alastair Thomas, about the event as well as some of their upcoming plans for their career.
MIX FEST is just before your Japan tour. What does MIX FEST, as a charity event for deaf awareness month, mean to you?
It’s absolutely wonderful that MixFM is getting involved in charity for deaf awareness. It’s not our first event for a similar cause, and it means just as much to us as previous ones. We’re very grateful that we all have all of our senses, and I think that we often take it for granted. So it’s great to be able to take part in creating awareness for something that a lot of people won’t necessarily realise is an issue. And hopefully, it won’t be our last.
You have done lots of open-air festivals before. Do you still get excited to perform at them and why?
Hell yeah! Festivals are just always such a jol. There’s something in the air that makes everyone just stoked to be there and an awesome crowd to play to. We’re super honoured to be invited onto any big stage, and MIX FEST is no different. We’ll do our best to not disappoint (the crowd, not our parents).
In September 2016, you decided to release one song on every first Friday of every month for Those Meddling Kids. How did that experience go for you as a band and was it difficult for you to contain your excitement to hear feedback on each of your releases?
Yuss, it was hard work hey. Way harder than we realised it would be when we decided to do it. But at the same time, it was super rewarding. We were literally getting together in the first week of a month, writing as many ideas as we could, then the next week we’d record it, and the week after that we’d film the video. Rinse and repeat times 12, give or take a few we had planned in advance. The idea was to treat every track on the album as a single so that it could get the attention we felt it deserved – all killer, no filler as Sum 41 would say – so we were always hella amped to get any feedback on them.
When you are working on your music, what is your method? How do you get into your creative space?
For the music, we just get together in our practice space and riff off of each other until something comes together. We feed off of each other’s energies and that seems to work for us. We’re all really comfortable with each other (after all these years) so there’s no shame or nervousness about bringing any idea to the table. Seriously, some of them are terrible ideas! I’ll generally come up with a hook or a melody in that space, then I’ll refine the lyrics later. For TMK, that generally happened in bed, right after waking up, on the day of recording vocals. I tend to work best when I’m under a deadline, and I think (like most songwriters, I imagine) the best songs I’ve ever written were in my dreams and then I couldn’t remember them once I woke up. Hence…
Being one of South Africa’s most iconic bands, how do you balance work and play while still giving back to fans?
That’s a very generous thing to say. I mean, we try. We’re still trying to find the balance, but currently, the way we’re making it work is by not overdoing it on the amount of shows we’re playing. We’re trying to only play shows that are important to us and that we know will be worth the energy we put into them.
What drew you to the two-day music festival, MIX FEST and how is it different to anything you’ve done before?
MixFM is such a great station and has always been so supportive of all of our projects, as well as so many other local acts – it’s basically the glue that’s holding the music scene alive. So now that they’re throwing a festival, it was a no brainer for us to partake. We’re honoured and can’t wait for it.
How do you connect with MixFest’s theme, ‘nostalgia’?
Nostalgia is literally how I get through life. Our album, Youthless, was based on nostalgia and I’m a very nostalgic person. To the point that it’s a little detrimental to my progress as a human because nothing will ever be as good as the olden days. Gimme Jonty Rhodes cricket sets in the front garden with no walls and all the kids in the neighbourhood playing together with Pugwall blaring in the background. Any day.
Besides “Drinking. Smoking. Dogs. Your mother.” What else does the band like to do in their spare time?
We’re trying to drink less, give up smoking, adopt more dogs and be nicer to mothers everywhere.
Catch other acts such as Springbok Nude Girls, Mango Groove, Desmond and the Tutus, Watershed and more at MIX FEST on the 28 and 29 September at the Cradle Moon Game Lodge. The event is being held to raise deaf-awareness. Mix 93.8 FM will donate a portion of all ticket sales to the Rotary Club, and donations will also be accepted towards the charity organisation at the one of a kind Silent Mix private headphone party on the Saturday night.