That Shadowclub planned to record their debut album in just 12 days, but completed it in nine, says much about the Johannesburg based trio’s attitude to music. Their rootsy, bluesy rock is purposely fuss free. The dozen songs on their debut, ‘Guns And Money’, were recorded live with no click tracks and no guide tracks. Modern recording techniques may have been used, but they certainly weren’t relied on. Like the classic rock acts that inspire them, Shadowclub are about powerful songs performed with a passion that explodes from the speakers and, live, can be felt at full force by their fans.
“From the start, this was a back-to-basics band,” explains drummer Isaac Klawansky. “It had to be a three- piece so we could keep it simple. We wanted to make short, fast, banging tracks. Basically, music that was fun to play live and easy for a crowd to connect with.”
With ‘Guns And Money’, Shadowclub have succeeded in doing just that. The album’s title track is a furiously-paced, feel-good rocker, driven by an insistent, funk-fuelled bassline, cacophonous drums and a hip-shaking groove. You’ll hear shades of The Doors and The Ramones snarled, seductive vocals and woo- hoos that cry out to be chanted back. On the woozy, bluesy ‘ Lucy’, a desolate Jacques Moolman describes leaving home for the first time and, intriguingly, recasts himself as a girl. ‘Good Morning Killer’ is a snappy song that recalls The Strokes, manages to be sexy and sleazy at the same time, and is based on the tale of a serial killer who is also a lover. Elsewhere, you’ll spot hints of The Who, The White Stripes, John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf.
Shadowclub’s desire to make stripped down songs stemmed partly from the bands they were listening to when they formed at the end of 2007. “We were big White Stripes fans,” says Klawansky. “We liked The Kings Of Leon who, back then, were still quite tough and bluesy and a bit underground. Wolfmother had just come out and we adored The Black Keys. Throw in the old blues that Jacques grew up with – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson – and that combination became the basis of our sound.”
Moolman and Klawansky formed Shadowclub after the demise of their former band, Airship Orange, who had caused a splash in South Africa as much for their bad behaviour as for their music. “Airship Orange had a terrible reputation,” admits Moolman. “And rightly so. We were signed when we were 20 years old. We were extremely immature and constantly in trouble. We got in to skirmishes with other bands, we got drunk, and we trashed equipment. I mean, it’s funny to look back on now, but at the time we all wanted out.” Crucially, Moolman and Klawansky quit to start afresh in a band that sounded nothing like their old one. “Airship Orange had a very complicated set-up,” explains Klawansky. “There were five of us, we used lots of instruments and the songs had intricate, jazzy arrangements. It was a relief to be in a band with just three members.”
Shadowclub got serious in early 2009 when, after a brief breakup, Klawansky’s long time friend, Louis Roux, replaced the band’s original bassist. At school in Johannesburg, the pair had played together in garage bands, covering Radiohead and Stereophonics songs. Moolman, meanwhile, had spent most of his teens in England, where he was writing songs first on piano, then guitar. He returned to Jo’burg aged eighteen. The new Shadowclub line-up picked up a following in Jo’burg and Durban by playing clubs and handing out CDs of a set of demos they had recorded in a day. In early 2011 they signed to South African indie label, Just Music, and got to work on a new batch of songs. Recorded in downtown Jo’burg in April 2011, produced by Matthew Fink, and mastered in the States by Brian Lucey (The Black Keys, Jane’s Addiction), ‘Guns And Money’ contains both reworked songs from those early demos and new tracks.
“I write the lyrics” says Moolman. “And the music we all write together. As soon as a new song is written, we play it live. It’s important for us to take songs out of the rehearsal room. Only in front of an audience can we tell how well they work.”
“Lyrically, the songs tend to be character based and quite dark, but not too serious. I studied drama at art school and my mum was an actress. I like developing characters and giving them a voice. Some of the songs, like ‘Lucy’ – which is about me running away from my dad’s farm and finding my legs as a musician – are based on real life. Others are entirely made up.”
The release of ‘Guns And Money’ set the benchmark for South African rock n roll, and Shadowclub then toured South Africa non stop for almost 18 months before taking time out to write and record their second album ‘Goodbye Wild Child’. The album was written almost entirely in a cottage at the bottom of the garden of the home that Louis used to live in. “We met there everyday from 10am to 5pm to work on new songs” says Klawansky. “We were nervous at the beginning of the process, because we weren’t sure if anything was going to come out. We hadn’t been in a writing space for a long time, and I think we all felt pressure to produce something special. That pressure disappeared quickly once ideas started flowing.”
‘Goodbye Wild Child’, again produced by Matthew Fink, offers something a little more dynamic than the bands debut, and provides a showcase for their versatility. Vocal harmonies, and layered instruments give this album a rich texture and an added layer of substance. There are hints of soul in the chorus of ‘Pray For Me’, they explore the art of writing ballads in the shape of ‘Mockingbird’ and ‘Dirt And The Rubble’, and even express a progressive side to the rock n roll genre in the Radiohead inspired ‘Suddenly’. “We’re very proud of this album”, says Klawansky. “It’s mature and evolved, but it hasn’t lost the tight, gritty, urgency that is still the base of the Shadowclub sound.”
There is no doubt that Shadowclub have quickly become one of South Africa’s premier Rock n Roll bands, headlining festivals, clubs and venues across the country. They have been hand picked to support some of the world’s biggest acts on their tours to South Africa, including Kings Of Leon, Bloc Party, Chevelle and Feeder, but are always equally keen to play a small town bar, where they electrify the stage time and time again. “We pride ourselves on our sound, our strong set, and our energetic stage presence, and we’re fully focused now on taking our music to all corners of the globe.”
MOJO RISING BLUES CRUISE | MSC MUSICA | 22 – 25 MARCH 2019
Come and live life on the water, singing the Blues under enchanting clear skies on the Mojo Rising Blues Cruise. Kids under 18 sail for free and tickets start at R4 545,00 – visit https://www.msccruises.co.za for bookings. Make sure to select the BLUES CRUISE option when making your booking!
PAY OFF PLAN – BOOK TODAY!
Pay Deposit of R3000 only!
Final payment is required no later that 60 days before departure.
MA: Do you mind starting with a quick 101 on who Shadowclub is? Where in SA are you from and how did you get started in the music scene?Shadowclub is a 3 piece rock n roll band, and at the moment we’re kinda scattered around the country. Jacques is living on a farm in Groot Marico, Louis lives in Johannesburg, and I’m currently living in Cape town. We formed in late 2007 in a small rehearsal room in roosevelt park affectionately nicknamed ‘the eggbox’. We would meet up every night of the week to write and rehearse, and after a few weeks we played our first show. Things rolled on from there.
MA: What are some of your musical influences, individually and/or as a band?
Stewart Copeland, Mitch Mitchell and Danny Carey are 3 of my favourite drummers.
MA: Do you have any major highlights in your musical career thus far?
Playing in Russia was pretty awesome. Something I never imagined us doing.
MA: You guys have taken a short break over the past few years, can you tell us more about that? Are you back now?
Yeah, we took some time out from the band for a couple years to pursue other projects. Louis opened a restaurant and a boutique guest house, Jacques started a fashion design label and released music under his solo alias, and I got stuck in to recording, producing and releasing electronic music under a few different names. I’m not sure any of us thought Shadowclub would ever get off the ground again, but we’ve started performing again over the last few months and to be honest it’s feeling bloody brilliant. So yeah, I guess we are back… we’re just doing things slightly differently this time around.
MA: What are your thoughts on our local music scene at the moment?
It’s as good as any other scene out there.
MA: Any acts/bands/artists that you think need a special mention?
Hellcats, Medicine Boy, Emile Swiegers, Thor Rixon, Card On Spokes, Makeovers, Southern Wild, Ben Dey and the Concrete Lions, Joshua Grierson, and many others…
MA: You will be playing at the very first Blues Cruise next year, alongside some of the coolest local blues bands in SA. Is this something you guys are excited about? What do you expect this rad Blues Cruise to offer us party animals
Sure we are. For the party animals I’d expect loads of booze, a strong possibility of smuggled narcotics and a handful of rock n rollers who didn’t think they’d get sea sick.
MA: What does this say about the talent we have in the blues music scene in SA? This dedicated boat cruise is testament to the epicness of the scene? 😀
The blues scene in SA is small but full of talent. The Blues Cruise is just another great opportunity to witness some fantastic musicians displaying their craft.
MA: You are sharing the stage on the Blues Cruise with other Blues stalwarts – who are you most excited to spend time with on the boat on and off stage?
G Willy Wilson (Coelacanth) is always a hoot!
MA: Anything else you currently working on that we may be interested in? Maybe like some new music? New album even?
We’ve just finished mixing our latest release, a collection of brand new songs recorded in cape town over a 3 day period at the end of May. It’ll be out soon. We’re very excited.
MA: Where can people follow you on Social Media?
We’re most active on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ShadowclubFanPage