A new band launches. The number one question on everyone’s lips: What do they sound like? Well, apart from their first gig at Arcade Empire’s Halloween party last year, the Pretoria-based Art Snakes have finally released the first taste – their debut single, “Yes, I can hear you Clem Fandango”. We spoke to them about the band and the song, and you can read all about it here while listening to the song.
Art Snakes call themselves a noise pop band, and you probably already know them more than you think. The band consists of Matthieu Auriacombe (from kidofdoom, Beach Party, & Hello Beautiful), Jason Hinch (Black Cat Bones, Blood Brothers, Boargazm), and Werner Olckers (Wrestlerish). But I wouldn’t describe their sound as helloblackbloodkidofwrestlerbeachpartybeautifulgazm – though there are familiar touches.
“I think there will always be elements of our personalities, song writing and playing styles that will seep into the projects any of us are involved in,” Werner explains.
“Snakes in the streets. Art between the sheets.”
– Werner Olckers, when asked which is more prominent, art or snakes.
There’s definitely a sense of familiarity when hearing Werner’s distinctive vocals on “Yes, I can hear you Clem Fandango”. However, Art Snakes is something new: “Our primary concern is to enjoy whatever we’re playing.”
“The songs are all extensions of us shouting “fuck yeah” in the rehearsal room.”
I wasn’t at the Halloween gig, but some friends of mine were. They described the band as different, interesting, and definitely reminiscent of Brand New at times. And well, there’s no denying Werner is a big fan:
The greatest day of my life! @oppikoppi
BRAND NEW BRAND NEW BRAND NEW BRAND NEW BRAND NEW BRAND NEW BRAND NEW BRAND NEW BRAND NEW BRAND NEW
— Werner Olckers (@wernerolckers) May 28, 2015
Werner thinks Art Snakes would’ve been the perfect opening act for Brand New when they visited last year. Shortly after the announcement of their trip to South Africa hit, Werner “got preachy” about the band on Texxandthecity.com:
“Brand New is the band that has done it their way, at their own pace. They are ever evolving. From pop punk roots to dark and moody electronic based compositions, Brand New has not stopped moving forward since the early 2000s.”
-Werner Olckers, Texxandthecity.com
Speaking of punk roots, Werner explains that all three members of Art Snakes grew up with either having older brothers in punk bands, or going to punk shows at Thrashers Skate Park.
“That heritage is the big underlying source of our sound and definitely solidifies what we’re currently putting out.”
So there’s the “noise pop” genre they describe themselves in, lines like “I’m the best mistake you’ll ever make” that might even have been in a Wrestlerish song, and also some alternative rock and post-hardcore influence…
“We’re currently about 2/3 into the writing of our album and the bulk of the songs were written with a lot of GlassJaw listening going on in my car. But I guess it’s a lot like anything I do. I start off with wanting a specific sounding guitar tone or vocal melody and by the time Makkie and Jason have added their flavour, it’s so far removed from the influence. Ultimately that’s what creating music is to me; taking inspiration from other artists and moulding it into something that’s your own execution of it.”
The band describes themselves as a culmination of musicianship, performance experience and boisterous songwriting, resulting in a dense and sonically refreshing sound. I get excited with phrases like “Art Snakes move through various musical landscapes while stamping their own and unique take on every note,” which seem to imply variety and diversity. With their heavy guitars and drums, melodic and emotive vocals, and sincere, emotional lyrics at the core of the band’s sound, they seem open to go wherever the music takes them.
“Art Snakes will have many forms. We’re not focused on ‘making it’ or being the next big thing. We’ve all had avenues where we could explore that side of being a musician in South Africa. We want to be the musical equivalent of a decoder ring or pass phrase at the door. If we’re keeping ourselves guessing, we’re keeping you guessing.”
As for the obscure reference to Toast of London in the song’s title, Werner says titles might even get more obscure in the future. Maybe even a little personal. “One might even be about my penis. Who knows?”
“As serious as we’re taking the creative process and being a great live band, at the opposite end of the spectrum we also want to have fun. And we want anyone listening to us to have fun too.”
Apart from the trio of musicians, Art Snakes sees the visual art of their project as very important too. “Anja Theron’s illustrations and work is just as much a part of the band as any song, member and sound is. The imagery completely encompasses and embodies the current sound of Art Snakes.” Their Facebook page also features the below photo by Duran Levinson. Werner describes him as one of their favourite photographers, and promises that he will also be involved in the near future. “But that’s all we can say about that right now.”
“We are very invested in collaborating with as much South African talent across all platforms as we can.”
However, the band members’ taste differs too much to give a unified answer about who they’d love to be on a lineup with for a dream gig.
“Are you trying to create a rift in the band, The Flow?!”
[Note: If Art Snakes ever breaks up, I’m totally claiming responsibility.]
Snake it! “Yes, I can hear you Clem Fandango” was recorded and produced by David Grevler at Anti Motion Studios in Johannesburg, and mastered by Peach van Pletzen. In the coming months, you can catch Art Snakes live at Mieliepop Festival [we’re giving away tickets], Outland Festival and Wolmer Rock Show. They’re also heading back to Anti Motion Studios to record the follow up to “Yes, I can hear you Clem Fandango”. Frankly, I can’t wait to hear what comes next.
PS. Werner got the opportunity to chat with Jesse Lacey of Brand New, and wrote about it on Texxandthecity.com.
Floris sometimes writes things when he’s not watching movies or playing video games or editing videos or folk-rock singing/songwriting.