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Francois Van Coke’s new album, Dagdrome In Suburbia, is a brilliant snapshot of where he’s at in his life and it’s his best work to-date

Francois Van Coke’s third solo album, Dagdrome In Suburbia, is an amalgamation of every external factor that has made him the man and musician that he is today.

On this album, Van Coke has managed to plait several unique strands into a complete musical braid and because of this, it’s near-impossible to fault this offering.

I catch Van Coke on the phone in-between the shooting of a new music video and there’s crazy commotion going on in the background. I ask him how long we’ve got and he says that we’ve got time, which I find ironic for one of the busiest musos on the scene.

I open by asking about the album’s closing track “Hey Babe”, Van Coke’s love letter to his wife Lauren, and his duet with Voice SA winner Tasché. “I asked Tasché if she wanted to sing on the track because I knew she’d do wonders with it. So we booked a day in studio with Fred [den Hartog] and she went in alongside Wynand [Myburgh], Hunter [Kennedy] and a whole bunch of people who have been making music forever. She hasn’t recorded in studio since she was 13 and she went in there and nailed it with all these people around her and after everything it made me go, ‘Wow this girl really is something super special’.” 

Collaboration really is the name of the game on this album, with Van Coke reinforcing his “En Vriende” mantra hard with the album’s title-track featuring Spoegwolf.

“I think that they are the musical voice of the Afrikaans youth at the moment,” Van Coke explains earnestly. “I only got into them recently but they’ve been around since 2012. We played the MK Awards with them when VCK was still around. So I realised over the last while that Spoegwolf were becoming this massive presence and after I got into their tunes I thought it would be awesome to have them on the Francois En Vriende line-up. I contacted Danie [du Toit] and sat down with him and they explained that they grew up with Fokofpolisiekar’s tunes, so maybe it would be a good idea to write a song together, and I think it turned out great. We captured something special with that one.”

Apart from Riaan Cruywagen’s epic opening line on Dagdrome In Surburbia, another track that stands, out for its semi-sarcastic, cheeky lyrical tone is “Daarsy Boys” featuring Hunter Kennedy. Van Coke immediately starts laughing when I mention it, “It’s like, we’re the punk dads now in the ‘burbs taking our kids to The Spur.”

“We actually had a night at The Spur with my family and Hunter’s family and the song originated after that because it was funny and ironic that it actually happened that way. We wanted to write a grungy song with a ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ tone to it and that’s how ‘Daarsy Boys’ was born. There’s also a bit of a Beastie Boys mind-set to it,” he explains.

The album also picks at day-to-day life in a precarious South Africa through “Wilde Tye” and “Bomskok”, with both tracks tapping into how a section of the population feel about, and view, the current state of the country. This kind of lyrical exploration is nothing new to Van Coke, who’s been doing it alongside Kennedy for years in Fokof and incidentally, Kennedy was also Van Coke’s go-to man and helping hand lyrically on this album.

Another track that’s sure to be a setlist highlight, and features Johnny De Ridder on piano, is “As Ek Kon”. It’s basically the “Komma” off this album and is pretty sure to induce a few tears at shows. Lord knows I can’t get through the whole song without my eyes fogging up and I’m half dead inside.

We chat casually about the fact that Van Coke is back in the ‘burbs with his family but he assures me that this time, flanked by his wife, daughter and extended Fokof family, his attitude to living there is different.  

I ask him what 16-year-old Frannie would think if he could see 39-year-old Frannie now. He takes a small pause before musing, “I think he would be chuffed hey. A lot of people also ask me what the early Fokof Francois would think of me now – and I say chuffed as well. Wynand, Hunter and I had this idea when we were kids that when we got older we’d be sitting in our bakkies, tattooed up with a Dalmatian and a wife, never thinking that anything that would become a reality, but in a way it kinda has.”

If you’re coming to Francois En Vriende tonight then you get to experience this album first-hand, hot off the press. But if not then you need to listen to it below immediately.

Feature picture courtesy of Andre Badenhorst.