Dive into the best kept secret of the music world…
Danilo Queirós is very passionate about about what he does and where he comes from. The bassist of South African indie-psych band DIAMOND THUG is more than happy to wax lyrical about his own musical endeavours and the creative scene in his native Cape Town, in fact, he does it with such gusto that you find yourself wholeheartedly happy to take his claims at face value.
However, you do not have to, for Queiros has happily provided a playlist of all of the South African artists that he feels do not get enough love outside of their continent. “This playlist showcases some of our favorite South African music and aims to be a platform for South African Indie bands to reach global audiences,” he states. “We update the list every month with new South African releases or older songs we feel like sharing, so if you’re into learning more about South African Indie, it’s a great place to start.”
So hit play and read on to find out more about Diamond Thug’s truly beautiful single ‘Eclipsed’, discover what they have planned for the rest of 2017 and why Cape Town is the under-appreciated best kept secret of the music world…
Your latest track ‘Eclipsed’ is exquisite! Can you tell us a little about what it means to you and how it came to life?
First of all thank you, we’ve been so stoked with the response the single has received! The song’s lyrics describe the feeling of being imprisoned by a destructive bi-directional emotional dependency. In its essence it’s about fighting that dependency in order to feel more like yourself. I guess it’s like battling an addiction that you know is bad for you.
‘Eclipsed’ is your boldest and most confident track yet! How do you feel your sound has matured since your EP Monday Will Have To Wait?
Well on Monday Will Have to Wait we had four songs we thought worked together and wanted to get a release out. I think at the time of Monday Will Have to Wait we were still ‘finding our sound’; it’s a cliche term, but is true when your goal is creating a distinct style. We’ve worked with a lot of really knowledgeable people who’ve all taught us so much, but it takes a while to really absorb their advice into our creative process.
At the time we were probably overthinking our compositions. With our new music we’ve let the songs come to fruition more naturally. We’ve workshopped them a lot in a live environment and really focused on trying to maintain the original feeling of each composition. That’s been one big change I can think of, besides for having hopefully just grown to be better composers.
We really liked the electronic elements in ‘Eclipsed’! Have you been experimenting with your songwriting and what can we expect from your next releases?
Yeah, totally. While Chantel was recording some of her solo work last year, Adrian and I sat down and wrote an ambient electronic album (under the name WVV) as a bit of a songwriting experiment. We wrote a lot of music that juxtaposes electronic and live elements, with no consideration of what anyone would think about the music. More than anything, we wanted to become better at creating interesting synth sounds and exploring a technical side of electronic music that most rock/alternative musicians never really get into. We’ve let a lot of what we learned in that process feed into our song-writing for Diamond Thug and it’s been a huge help in creating an expanded linear direction to our music. We’ve also been focusing on generating complexity in our music as the sum of simpler melodies and rhythms rather than layers of complexity. I think it’ll all feed into our upcoming releases.
Is there an EP or album in the works? If so, what can you tell us?
Yep! ‘Eclipsed’ is the first single off of our debut full length album. Adrian and I have produced the album alongside a long-time partner Andrew Rawbone-Viljoen at Digital Forest Studios, which is situated on a wine farm in Cape Town. We haven’t decided on a name or anything yet, but we’ve got the track-list all worked out and we’re in the process of mixing it. It’ll be 12 or 13 tracks, with four singles released before the album drops in February next year (hopefully).
We’ve written all our songs around a concept, but the music is pretty eclectic in style. Some songs are more electronic, others are more acoustic, but they all tie into a theme of an adventure in a parallel universe. I’m not sure if you can tell, but we’re very into space and science as a band. The next single is out at the end of July and it’s one of my favorites off of the album so keep an ear to the ground.
You worked with Dave Minehan of The Replacements on Monday Will Have To Wait. What did you learn from that experience? Do you feel that he understood what you were aiming for?
Yeah we worked with Dave at the Converse Rubber Tracks Studio in Boston. It was a great experience despite being rushed and pretty stressful. We recorded ‘Long Way’ and ‘Mind’s Eye’ during a two day session, while battling jet-lag and trying to take in the incredible experience of Boston. Dave is amazing. He’s easy going, accentuates what you’re striving for and gives great advice on the process. He totally understood the sound we were going for, probably better than we did and created such a relaxed environment in the studio.
I would love to work with him again over a longer period of time, because there is so much more we could learn from him. We also worked on the EP with a Grammy Award Winning South African producer Darryl Torr, who has always been a huge support to our band. Darryl helped us workshop ‘Long Way’ and then produced the other two tracks on the EP. He sort of unlocked a bunch of doors that we didn’t even know were holding us back. Adrian looping on guitar, for example, was something he suggested, which has really opened up our songwriting.
You’re from Cape Town. What is the creative scene like there? Is there a supportive atmosphere?
Cape Town is bustling with creativity. It’s a city set amid beautiful mountains and a cold ocean. It’s full of sometimes highly underrated entrepreneurs, designers, architects, musicians, artists and a really impressive film industry. I think here creativity is not limited to the arts, people take a creative approach to social upliftment, which is desperately needed as there’s huge financial inequality in the city that stems from the structural legacy of Apartheid.
I think support for the music industry is growing as the talent grows, the Psych-scene here is getting bigger by the day and the Deep House/Techno scene too. There’s not a lot of support for local alternative bands on radio, so it’s difficult to reach people who don’t frequent the venues you perform at and that creates a bit of a ceiling on growth. But I think there’s definitely a feeling in the air that a lot of the acts Cape Town is producing are world class and the support is starting to follow that.
Do you feel that it is difficult for artists from Cape Town to gain an international audience?
Yeah I do, but I think that it can be just as difficult to gain a solid local audience because the market for alternative music locally is pretty small. Whether you’re looking at a local or international audience, you’re competing with the same bands for their listenership. Through platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Soundcloud we’ve been able to increase our international listenership substantially. Spotify and it’s algorithms make it so that if you can generate enough excitement about your music organically, your songs can really get to ears anywhere in the world. Our biggest listenership is New York and we’ve never even been there as a band, so it’s sort of defenestrating the traditional means of reaching people.
What other musicians or creatives from Cape Town should we be aware of? Who was on your playlist and why?
Well I sort of cheated and gave you a South African Indie Playlist I curate instead of a purely Cape Town based playlist, because I want to promote SA music as a whole. Some stand out acts for me would be BCUC (currently touring Europe – you should definitely get to their shows if you can, their energy is unparalleled), Bongeziwe Mabandla (a fresh sound that infuses traditional South African music with a great alternative sound), Sol Gems (awesome psych musicians), Bye Beneco (who have just released a killer new single), The Brother Moves On (you could call it Art Rock) and Medicine Boy (rad psych-based rock). On top of that there are some other great acts in the list including Alice Phoebe Lou and Petite Noir who have really made a name for themselves internationally.
Your imagery accompanying ‘Eclipsed’ is very striking. Who was involved in creating it?
Isn’t it great! We worked with two incredible women on the project. The photographer, Kelly Makropoulos (@kellymakropoulos) is a friend who’s recently launched a photographic career and has made quite a splash. We love her style because it’s unique and that’s something we admire most in artists. We’ve worked our music to sound unique and having that unique-ness cross into the imagery only strengthens people’s perception of our music. Another really good friend of the band, Robyn Keyser styled the shoot. She runs her own gender-neutral clothing brand, Artclub & Friends.
Do you have any tour dates in the pipeline? What sort of atmosphere do you hope to create with your live show?
We’re desperately working towards getting to Europe later this year or early next year. We’re hoping to be there for an extended period to really build up a listenership. As a band we’re constantly trying to be better than we are the day before and our live performance is what we’re most proud of. We learnt a lot at SXSW this year, both from our own shows and other acts as well as from a lot of the talks we went to.
I think creating a live show is about getting the music sounding great first, then about translating the emotion and experience you hope to create as best you can through the supporting elements. We don’t try to get people jumping or moving too much, but we try our best to get our audience to feel our music. We remain authentic on stage – we don’t put on personas or anything and I think that stems from our music being very honest. We don’t pretend to feel things we don’t feel and we hope that authenticity resonates with.
What else can we expect from you in 2017?
A bunch of singles, remixes and a really interesting series of local shows in non-traditional spaces.
Diamond Thug’s latest single ‘Eclipse’ is available now.