Feature Interview

On A Mission To Make You Dance

Tomorrow sees the launch of Red Tape Riot’s debut album “Almost Yesterday” at the Sideshow. Along with The Liminals, Paintclub and The Kiffness, it’s definitely going to be an event to remember and one that they’ve been working on getting just right.

I was lucky enough to have the guys invite me to their band room to listen to some of their youngest songs this week. Already working on album number twp, there is one undeniable truth when it comes to Red Tape Riot – they are riding a serious wave of momentum. We went to “Africa’s smallest pub”, The Workshop in Hout Bay, to chat about their journey so far and what lies ahead for them.

Jessica Kramer: Your first big single “Love is a Feeling” was released in 2012 and you have been writing music ever since. Have you been working on the recording of this album since then or was it a once-off recording session?

Red Tape Riot: Tracking started in May, and basically lasted for the month of May. So yeah, it didn’t take us two years to make the album – it took us two years to get to the position where we could make the album.

JK: You had a massive list of songs on the board in the band room. How many songs did you have to cut to get to the 10 tracks on the album?

RTR: Well we cut anything that isn’t amazing. We write it, we jam it and it’s a kiff song and it works, and then we write something better. It’s never an easy decision to make. If we get halfway through a song and it’s not working we chuck it out and move on to the next one. So our final call list may have only been 14 songs but we kicked out 7 or 8 before they even became songs.

JK: Where did you record it?
RTR: At Coffee Stained Vinyl in Durbanville with Teejay Terblanche and Rian Loubser. So we went in and did scratch tracks for them which was literally just a band practice where they recorded everything. Then we kind of left it up to them and they came back with a couple of ideas, which we then reviewed. There were a couple of curve balls thrown at us, like when we went into studio some of the songs we were playing to different structures. So that was interesting and some of got left that way, some went back to the originals. But for the most part the songs naturally matured as we went along. I mean they were written a long time ago, so we have been building them since then.

JK: Red Tape Riot in it’s current form, has gone through a couple of changes in terms of band members, sound etc. Was there a defining moment for you guys, where you felt like “this is it”?
RTR: There have been defining moments along the way, like one specific hour at a particular gig; but I think the time we spent in Knysna was the defining moment for this band. Things changed, band members changed, and then it just felt like we needed a new beginning. So for 5 or 6 days we went to Peace Of Eden, and we had a little studio there, in the forest. So we basically just drank and played music for a week. It was an incredible experience and 6 or 7 months ago that defined where we are going now. If we are being really truly honest, I feel like we are a band as of 6 months ago. A new band, a new thing, a different energy, and I’ve never felt so good in a group of people before, just jamming music and having fun.

JK: What would you say is the best part of this job at the moment.
RTR: I think the moments in the room, where you come up with a new song and for like a day after that you just fall in love with a piece of music. I think those moments are actually more defining for us than times at a gig. Obviously there have been incredible times at gigs – you know like playing with aKING was awesome – we had really cool times with ISO and Shadowclub and they were all cool, but I think honestly the best moment has been creating a song.

JK: What is the big dream for you guys?
RTR: Europe! Europe tour is the plan. A strategy has been on the table for about a year now. We had a 2 year goal that said “in 2 years we want to be in Germany” so next year in the UK summer, so June, July, August, we want to go tour Germany and the UK. That’s the dream, that’s the target, and right now everything we are doing is part of working towards that goal.

JK: Are there any specific South African artists that you would like to work with?

RTR: We really want to work with Miriam Makeba’s old guitarist, (who simply goes by Pondo). He’s like 70 now and I met him the other day. He said he would be keen to do some stuff and I mean, he’s incredible, he’s just class. It’s also not your normal average collaboration. People may not even know his name, but it will be really awesome to gig with a guy who is a hero in South African music, but no one knows who he is. Heuwels Fantasties ‘cause they have this cool dreamy dance sound so it’ll be cool to work with them. Maybe a couple of DJs, do some cool remixes of our stuff.

JK: If you had to describe your sound, without using any musical terms, what would it be?
RTR: For me “heartfelt” is the best word I can think of. Everything that’s made is something so true, like we are putting so much of ourselves into the music. It’s jumpy, there’s always a beat going and people are moving. Contrast is definitely a word I would use, cause even though our music is dancy and fun, there’s an element that is quite dark and melancholic as well. It’s rad cause it means that people can dance and have fun at gigs, but if they really want to investigate the band they can listen to the songs and find all the undertones etc. It’s rad cause we really don’t have any pretenses. We just want people to have fun, so we say, “come to the gig, come have fun, dance, jump around, have a lekker time, but if you want more talk to us and check out the songs.”

JK: So the album is being launched on Saturday night at the Sideshow. How did you pick the other bands playing on the night?
RTR: The Liminals were like a complete no brainer. We played with them at the Manilla Bar and they are the closest band to what we love doing. As soon as they played I was sold, and then they turned out to be really awesome people as well. Paintclub opened at Reburn’s launch at Aandklas and we played after them. Also really great people and we were keen to do something with them so we told them about the launch, they were really keen to play so we invited them then and there, on the night. And then the third act came about cause I wanted people to leave the night dancing to like a cool DJ and The Kiffness was just perfect for that. So yeah it’s going to be Paintclub, The Liminals, us and then The Kiffness.

Check out the event page for Red Tape Riot’s album launch here.

Red Tape Riot