It’s mid-afternoon and I’m sitting in a surprisingly quiet Lefty’s Burger & Beer Garden. To my right is Shannon Devy, powerhouse vocalist and drummer. Across from me is Evan Strauss, vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist.
Individually they’re powerful musicians who can easily hold their own, but together they form Lo-Ghost, a Cape Town-based alternative pop duo, who have been tearing SA’s live scene a new one since mid-2016.
Hot on the heels of the release of their upcoming second album, Cult Pop, they took some time to share an ice-cold flagon of beer, a good few entjies, and the behind-the-scenes of putting together their fresh AF new album.
They started the writing process in April 2018 and by the end of the year they’d written 80, mostly-complete, tracks towards their would-be album, eventually whittling it down to 12. A feat in itself.
They’re besties who, I can tell, do almost everything together and Evan affirms, “It’s felt like a way more collaborative process this time.” He turns to address Shannon, “Maybe that’s due to you and I understanding just like the creative means of production better. We were both working with more or less the exact same portrait in mind.”
Their first album, There’s Blood in My Body & it Sounds Like This, was more the finding-their-feet process as Shannon explains, “We wanted to find a way that we could produce an album that had a more cohesive sort of sound as opposed to 12 songs in different worlds, and we really wanted to find our way to solve that situation.”
Evan rounds off, “So if this album is anything, it’s cohesive!”
They both laugh, in harmony. That’s real talent.
The album title, Cult Pop, is actually the genre they’ve decided their sound fits into.
“It’s noisy, it’s nocturnal, it’s a very sort of specific kind of mood,” Shannon begins. “It’s dark, it’s neon-lit, it’s grimy, it’s got a residue to it,” Evan concludes.
The lyrics are dark and deep and honest, something they’ve placed a great level of importance in staying true to. They work through heavy topics and uncomfortable issues, a process that’s required a lot of soul-searching and honesty.
“With this album we became a lot stronger and we had a lot more resolve,” Evan says very confidently. They’ve both experienced it as being incredibly cathartic. They’re beaming with pride over something they’ve poured literally everything into, deservedly so.
They’ve seen and felt a shift from being at the mercy of their own painful mind-sets and emotions to owning it as their special power. This shift, Shannon elaborates, has to do with acceptance, “This is where we’re at right now — a place of acceptance of the realities of what it is to live [our lives], our very situated experiences, feelings and thoughts. This is what it costs.”
They’ve sacrificed a lot for this life, and essentially they exist during the night shift. Shannon drives it home, “It’s a very upside down sub-terrain and existence. It’s a life that takes shape very different to those around you and it can make you feel very isolated. The way we live does not look the same as what society says it should look. But is that a failure? No!”
But they’re not alone and they acknowledge it as being one of the greatest perks of the job. Evan, as impassioned as ever, elaborates, “We’re so blessed to be surrounded by extremely talented people — a complete surplus.” Shannon agrees, “We often sit and talk about how lucky we are to have the peers that we do. Wherever we look there’s just some fabulous, talented, creative [group of people] who we have the real good luck of being able to pull in, to help us realise the songs as we heard them, as we wanted them to sound.”
And that’s exactly what they’ve done, especially with their latest album. The goal was to create something vocally powerful, so they called on artists like Ntokozo Mazimela, vocalist for Orah & the Kites, Amy Hoffenburg [Evan’s fiancé], and Jamie Heneke, ex-Drakensberg student-turned-teacher and choral conductor. The proof’s in the listening.
We laugh about how, after all the work has been done, the hard work really starts. The designing of campaigns and visuals, of release strategies, the emailing of blogs and radio stations, the social media…
All of the promotion towards the three singles they’ve already dropped and everything else leading up to the eventual album release has been so polished and so cohesive that you wouldn’t guess that neither of them particularly enjoy it.
“Who gives a fuck about what I did today? Like really, who cares? Why am I telling people this?” Shannon demands of me. Evan continues, “I think it’s really difficult to put out music currently in terms of cutting through the noise. At a certain level you’ve just gotta say, ‘Fuck it, I’m sending this out’.” –
Shannon develops on her inner conflict, “It’s difficult if you’re a private person to kind of be as active on social media as you have to be to do this kind of thing properly. It feels very counterintuitive to me sometimes, but I’m in the process right now of trying to work through that, trying to have a bit more fun and share a bit more of our genuine selves.”
She jokes and ends off, “By the way, did you get our mailer?”
With three powerful singles already released, and a fresh double-single release dropping this Friday, 1st of November, you would be as stubborn as a (tasteless) ox to deny yourself membership to the Cult that is Lo-Ghost.
As for their official album drop – save the date, the 15th of November, when the entire album will be available on all streaming platforms. They’re accompanying this with a banging launch party at Mercury Live, and with Card on Spokes, Kay Faith, and Albany Lore on the line-up, you should be heading straight to Quicket to secure your spot.
Photographer: Joshua Stein
Styling by: Nicola Harris
Makeup by: Esethu Khambule