When Medicine Boy announced their move to Berlin in September 2018 no one was too surprised.
Their mood music had hit an unfortunate ceiling in South Africa, one they knew was coming from the outset. But it mattered little. From the moment they created Medicine Boy, Andre Leo (guitar & vox) and Lucy Kruger (keyboard & vox) had their sights sets on Europe, even keeping the outfit a duo at its core in order to be more mobile.
“Medicine Boy can be a 2 piece – or it can be a 22 piece,” Leo smirks, Jack Daniels in hand. He and Kruger are back in Cape Town for a short stint, gigging and recharging before heading back to their new home.
And while taking a short break before Endless Daze’s after-movie screening at Raptor Room (which premiers online on the 14th of April), we talk about how Medicine Boy’s self-financed relocation to Berlin didn’t exactly come easily.
After a year-long visa application process even the most upbeat can become disheartened. However their process was made a tad smoother after they signed to London-based indie label, Fuzz Club Records.
“The first time we met the core label team was at a festival in Eindhoven, which is their [Fuzz Club’s] festival and they had Black Angels and A Place to Bury Strangers playing. We were the new kids. And from the first band that started playing I was like – oh my god these guys are so good. It gave me this crazy motivation to step my game up, which is great that’s what you really want. It’s not a competition, it’s more that I feel pretty privileged to be part of this and I better not fuck it up,” Leo laughs.
We discuss the pros of being signed to Fuzz Club and Leo is quick to note that they come with a weighty reputation. It seems their name opens doors. Now people give Medicine Boy the benefit of the doubt, as opposed to when Leo was sending 400 emails to promoters and venues and praying to the rock ‘n’ roll gods for some semblance of a reply.
And now that they’re actually living there? Leo’s honesty about his and Kruger’s general dynamic and living situation is refreshing.
“The secret with us is that we genuinely like each other,” he explains. “Although on this trip back home we really haven’t seen that much of each other. Not for any particular reason, it’s just because we both know that space is good.”
“When we moved to Berlin I had an almost pirate-like idea of how we were going to live, like, in a shed. I thought we could do anything so long as we had a studio where we could leave our amps, we could live on the floor, whatever man.”
“A little further down the line Lucy was like, maybe it’s a good idea if we a) don’t live in a shed and b) don’t live together. And that ended up being a very wise move on her part,” he smiles.
Somewhere around my second tequila I realise that I’ve known Leo for over a decade and this is the first time we’ve sat down to shoot the shit. From Pretty Blue Guns, to The Very Wicked, to Medicine Boy (with his solo stuff thrown in for good measure) it’s been quite a trip to watch him grow as a musician but more specially, a guitarist. He’s got a very unique swagger of sorts when he plays that makes him a weighty focal point onstage.
“The way I’ve always seen my guitar playing is a sort of colouring outside of the lines,” he declares. “I hate regimented guitar playing, like Dire Straits or whatever. You can really wrap and stretch and elongate an electric guitar when you play it because there’s so much going on – it’s like a wild thing.”
At this point The Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” kicks onto the playlist and it couldn’t be more poignant. Leo’s love for The Stones is legendary and hearing them for the first time at 13-years-old is pretty much the reason he’s even in this bizz.
“I feel like I have a responsibility towards my playing – one that I didn’t even sign up for, but we’re here now. I love the primitive and pedestrian nature of playing electric guitar.”
I tell Leo that I’ve always thought he looks like a mad scientist onstage, hunched over all his chemicals (pedals). He nods slowly.
“I like that analogy because there’s the real possibility that someone might get hurt.”
Check out their premiere of “Water Girl” live from Endless Daze below.
Also check out Andre Leo’s tip to managing expectation and yourself when arranging an overseas tour.
Check your ego, always.
Plan ahead. Set a date and stick to it. Each trip we’ve done has taken about a year of planning.
Know what your visa requirements are. This is one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to doing this thing. Savings, accommodation, reference letters, transport… there are a lot of things to consider and they can be (will be) overwhelming at times.
Be thick-skinned. You’ll be dealing with a lot of rejection. Mostly in the form of unanswered emails. Don’t take it personally.
Keep emails and EPKs simple and to the point. Include live videos, if possible. And for the love of God stay away from the “known for their high-energy performances and crazy stage antics” shit. This is more of a personal peeve but still…
Reach out to bands personally. Find artists that you feel connected to musically and try organize a few shows with them.
Make your set adaptable to different spaces and settings. Sometimes you’ll be playing a beautiful old club somewhere in France with perfect sound and lovely French people everywhere and sometimes you’ll be playing a fridge at noon on the outskirts of Fucksville. Your usual set that you played in the former location probably wouldn’t go down as well in the latter. This is a reality of touring for the first time – you take what you can get – so you might as well see it as a positive challenge. Songs are alive and can shape-shift. Sometimes they grow by doing that. We’ve done about 10 different versions of E.V.I.L throughout our travels.
Travel with your own backline, if you can. This is a bit of a luxury but it will raise the quality of your shows so much, especially considering the above point. If you feel comfortable with your onstage sound before the PA is even switched on, you’re in good shape. On our first trip we assumed venues would all have backline but 80% of the time, that’s not the case.
Be nice to sound engineers. I’m still amazed at how snappy and bitchy bands can be in this regard. Big mistake, dude.