Let Go: Bad Peter on escape, a busy music career, and not being a political band
Everybody might not have seen Bad Peter live, but the ones who have describe the band’s spirited performance as lively, compelling, and… well… damn good. They’re one of the busiest bands in the country at the moment, and recently, after signing with David Gresham Records, released their first EP, Let Go. For a five-track EP, Let Go has a surprisingly diverse set of influences and stylistic elements. Yet it maintains a distinct “Bad Peter”-sound. It’s bright, acoustic, sparkling and hair-raising – even sexy at times – while lyrically being both spirited and serious. Bad Peter is an acoustic duo consisting of PG Badenhorst and Alwyn Bekker, and we spoke to them about their career and their debut EP.
While you might be tempted to see the EP as a statement on ‘letting go’, with references to ‘breaking free’ and building a house ‘on this river’, Bad Peter isn’t on their way to leave the city behind and live off the grid. “I think we’d be lying when we say retiring to nature summarises the EP,” they say. “At times we do like to think of it like that, but building our house ‘on this river’ is our metaphor for building our career in music and also building our lives with our better halves.”
Believing in quality as opposed to quantity, we feed off crunchy guitar riffs, and live at the crossroads where country, folk and blues meet. This is the beginning of what we hope to be a life-long affair with music.
– Bad Peter.
And as is evident when listening to their music, they have numerous inspirations and influences: “Our heroes would definitely be Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Tommy Emmanuel, Mumford & Sons, Brad Paisley, Jeremy Loops, Bruce Springsteen, and The Beatles, to name a few.”
But how much do modern songwriters and performers learn from said heroes? “I read John Mayer say something like this once: ‘We find our sound when we fail to sound like the person we want to sound like.’ So we draw inspiration from these artists whom we admire, but we are ourselves when we express and create.”
And this also applies for their thematic and lyrical content. In the modern (especially South African) musical landscape, social commentary is often an important element in songs. But Bad Peter‘s writing generally seems more universal. “We don’t like it when bands become political so neither will we.”
Still, certain topics are unavoidable. “We wrote Brother at a time when xenophobia was at a high. Media blew it up, people shared it all over. It caused plenty of strife between South Africans again. So we just wanted to write a song about how far we’ve come together, and that there’s no need to destroy it now. To try and celebrate our differences once again. Our personal experience of what was happening at the moment.”
“Our view would definitely be positive and upbeat. Obviously life happens and we always want to express and be honest in our songs. It all depends on the song. Some songs focus on the silver lining and it’s always good to bring contrast within a song. Other times though, it is what it is. As positive as we would like to be, there’s just not a silver lining. We feel that a song should either make you dance or cry. So we just tend to go a bit more for the dancing. But who knows, we might pull out a tearjerker still.”
The on-stage energy that the band is well known for can be just as hard to control and balance. “Playing live shows is really what we live for but we are human, so we do get tired after the fourth or fifth show of the week. But then there’s another energy that kicks in altogether when you reach show number six or seven of the week. These days we tend to play different shows every week, so we would be lying if we say we grow tired of them. There was a stage when we played lots of residency gigs and that could sometimes get a little boring, but still, we always love to jam!”
On that note, I asked them about their favourite gig thus far. “That would have to be White Mountain Festival 2015! We were fortunate to play just before Majozi and Matthew Mole. Needless to say we had the time of our lives. People were receiving our music great, jumping up and down, giving us a massive encore when our set was finished. We made tons of friends there and KwaZulu-Natal has since become one of our favourite places to play in our country!”
“I suppose what makes a gig fun, would always be whether the audience is receiving your music well, and enjoying you just for who you are and what your act brings.”
On Let Go, the liveliness doesn’t let up – the recordings definitely resemble their live performance in this regard. “It can be hard to maintain the energy in a studio, but at the same time there’s another excitement when you’re in studio. Theo [Crous, the album’s producer] helped us a lot by recording our songs in such a way that we played and sang with a full track with lots of energy while capturing our instruments and vocals. Working with him was a massive honour and tons of fun! His experience, his understanding of music, his understanding of the industry, and the environment he creates is unlike anything we’ve come across. The desire to create is something that hits you the moment you step foot into his studio.”
But with expert songwriting, a chock-full performing schedule, as well as managerial and administrative duties, things get hard to keep under control. “Songwriting is hard work, you have to write a lot of songs in order to write good songs! So for the last couple of months we’ve been managing ourselves. This means sending more emails than we could ever imagine, more phone calls, driving around and then at night a show. No time for writing. That’s why we appointed a manager now, Nana Stapelberg. So we’re really looking forward to this new chapter of moving our entire focus to being more creative.”
Additionally, Bad Peter recently signed a worldwide record and publishing deal with David Gresham Records – a move that plenty of bands have proven to no longer be a crucial ingredient in a success story.
“In our case, we benefited from signing for the simple reason that we would not have been able to fund our own studio recordings and the distribution of the work. In other cases, where the band might have access to the necessary funds to produce and distribute quality work, a record label might not be the first option. Back to our label, David Gresham Records has been so good to us; distributing our music across all major online vendors, invaluable PR work (like this interview) and funding our studio time with Theo Crous. Last one’s a biggie!”
But after a five-track EP, Bad Peter is far from done. And instead of going the traditional route and working on a bigger release, like an expansion on Let Go or a brand new full-length album, they’re considering doing another EP first. “As to what to expect of our next release, we don’t even know. Exciting times!”
Bad Peter was formed in March 2014 with members PG Badenhorst and Alwyn Bekker. Although Bad Peter is still in its infancy, Alwyn and PG have been making music together for more than seven years. Bad Peter signed a worldwide record and publishing deal with South African renowned label, The David Gresham Record Company in November 2014. Get their 5-track EP, Let Go, on iTunes, stream on Deezer, or at a live show! The band is on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Floris sometimes writes things when he’s not watching movies or playing video games or editing videos or folk-rock singing/songwriting.