Feature

Midway through their second tour to SA, Latex Grenade talk the American music industry, their love for SA, and the meaning of their latest album

A friendly voice with a Southern California accent answers the phone, “One second, let me just grab Nick for this… alright we got the whole crew, and by whole crew I mean the two of us,” says Geoff, lead vocalist and guitarist for American rock band Latex Grenade. Nick (bassist and vocalist) and I exchange pleasantries. He sounds very chilled.

I welcome them back to South Africa. Having toured here before, they’ve formed a few pivotal friendships and alliances that make coming here so much easier. Geoff feels very grateful for that, “Having people in South Africa like Theo Crous, to really introduce us to some of the booking people that Springbok [Nude Girls] has gone through has been enormous help as well. This country is full of people who are willing to help and it’s so refreshing to have that level of generosity.”

Their experience of the music scene in the US explains their eagerness to return, “The music industry is very dog eat dog and Darwinistic and down here we felt that the musicians were just so much more willing to help. And they’re a lot more positive, not to mention the fans are just so much more into rock.”

They’re midway through their SA tour and I ask about their first show at Railways, Centurion, “It was more of a rehearsal than anything – we literally walked off the plane and into a venue after 23 hours of travel, so we were pretty tired. But the venue is really cool. I haven’t really seen anything like that.” I can attest to that, and to the fact that they make great square-shaped pizza.

I’ve heard many people compare Cape Town to Southern California so I ask, what with their experience of both, if it’s true. Nick, who I’d almost forgotten was there, pipes up for the first time, “Yeah, I mean honestly Geoff and I have been around the world but we’ve never been somewhere that felt more like home than Cape Town – similar climate, the people are very similar in a lot of ways, the beaches are beautiful…”

Geoff, clearly the enthusiastic talker, interrupts, “I think the funniest thing when I hear Johannesburg people talk about Cape Town is that they say, ‘Ah, you know, the people in Cape Town don’t come out to shows, and they’re flaky. And the funny thing is that that’s the definition of Southern California.”

Uh-oh Cape Town, we’ve got ourselves a reputation.

Their latest album, The Cage, hadn’t been released yet the last time they were here and I wonder if this is a tour to promote specifically that album. Geoff answers, “we’re absolutely touring The Cage, looking to gain exposure for that album. And we figured we might as well pick up where we left off.”

The sucker for nostalgia that I am, I ask whether the setlist is completely new and Geoff says, “I was actually just thinking about this. Last month in September we were celebrating our 10-year anniversary and it’s pretty crazy how time flies. Our opening track for this tour, ‘No Way Out’, was our very first single ever so it’s great to have one or two of the older tracks that still resonates with this crowd.”

They’re funny, easy-going guys, but their album deals with some pretty heavy stuff. From the artwork to the title and lyrics, it holds a recurring theme. And if I had to sum it up in one sentence, it’d be: ‘Wake the fuck up people, we’re the ones fucking up!”

Geoff reckons I hit the nail on the head, “Yeah, I like that. Speaking about American society right now, we’re in a situation where we have just genuinely forgotten how to love each other. In the grand scheme of things the media puts it as [Americans versus terrorists] and that has really driven a wedge between different cultures.”

He asks Nick to elaborate but quickly finally, “I think The Cage has really reflected, quite plain and simple, that we’re hypocrites to an extent to say that [terrorists and immigrants] are ruining this country.” 

It’s Nick’s turn, “There’re different ways you can take it. The cover for our album is the United States inside a cage with barbed wire. It’s not just a physical idea of us trapping ourselves in our country with immigration and border walls, but it’s also about people pretty much creating a cage around their thought process, around how they see other people. Like Geoff said, it’s more about opening your mind to other people, other possibilities and not blaming everyone for what’s going wrong ‘cause it could be coming from you, yourself.”

Geoff tells me about an ironically powerful photo-shoot they did towards album promotion, “We went down to the USA/Mexico border for a photo-shoot to promote the album. It was a really long trip but we wanted to shoot something that was symbolic. What we saw on the other side was the most ironic thing. It was actually so poetic.”

Nick interjects with his experience of this particular event, “You always hear about how dangerous Mexico is and how we, in the United States, are so blessed with all this freedom. But as we looked across to the other side, there were all these children having a party right on the beach. And on our side of the wall we have two border control cops with sniper rifles, staring at us, watching our every move, saying that we couldn’t get any closer to the wall or they’d arrest us and it’s just so ironic that we’re in this supposedly ‘free country’.”

Geoff really drives it home, and subsequently proves just how South African he really is, “At the end of the day we’ve traveled the world, Nick and I, and we’ve found a common ground. People like three things, and this is the big symbolic metaphor of what our song ‘FDR’ is about: people like to drink beer, they like to braai, and they wanna have a fat jol! If we open our minds, we can learn to love and to just be lekker!

If you wanna drink beer, braai and be lekker with these American (but actually South African) lads, be sure to catch their last show at Mercury (CPT) on the 25th of October.