Shortstraw has never been shy about using their status as popular indie rock band to give back. This coming weekend they’re playing at OneSight Acoustics – joining Hugh Masekela, New Academics, and Akio Kawahito in the first in a series of concerts that aim to raise funds for OneSight: a global public nonprofit organisation which provides sustainable access to quality vision care and eye wear to those who cannot afford it or do not have access to it. We caught up with Shortstraw guitarist Tom Revington about the concert, the band’s charitable nature, and what they’ve been up to lately.
Shortstraw is one of South Africa’s most popular bands at the moment – they’ve played at pretty much every music festival around the country. But they also regularly play charity shows, including their own annual “Mandelapalooza” Mandela day concert that’s all about raising money for charity. Their latest album/collection/project also has a special focus on other people.
“If we wanted to compete,” explains Tom, “we would be in a sports team.”
“But music (especially in this country) should be way more collective. We’re on the same side and should work together.”
We live by a simple motto: ‘Don’t be a doos’
Those Meddling Kids is Shortstraw’s latest project. But it’s a bit hard to pin down. They’re releasing a new single every month, with collaboration being a key component of the project. The band is giving opportunities to artists and filmmakers to collaborate on the artwork and music videos accompanying each single.
But is Those Meddling Kids an album? An EP? An artistic collective?
“An artistic collective would probably be the best description,” says Tom. But they’re hoping the whole collection ends up on a CD, too. “The way people consume music is very different now, so the way musicians release [music] has to keep up. It’s always nice telling a story with a whole album and having it as a body of work, but there are not that many people that listen to an album from start to finish anymore. And with singles you change direction pretty easily whereas a mixed album could be too eclectic.”
The flipside of their unique approach to this project is that each song gets its time to shine, individually. In the past, certain songs on Shortstraw’s albums may have been overlooked a bit…
“Yeah, there will always be a few tracks that we wish had maybe got more attention. There have been tracks we were like ‘this is the one’ or ‘this is gonna be a banger’ then an unexpected track gets more attention. It’s strange. But it’s cool and somewhat refreshing having full attention on each track.”
Their first single from the project, Ignorance is Bliss, has waltzing keyboard, changing tempos and time signatures, a noticeable punk influence, and a music video that portrays the band as a contradictory stadium-rock garage band. Tom says that this new direction wasn’t really planned, and came about very naturally: “All our songs come out of jam sessions. We have been listening to more rock surf vibes and opening ourselves up more. And worrying less if it’s ‘radio friendly’.”
Shortstraw has just returned from a tour in Japan, is hoping to visit Germany next year, and is super excited to be opening for Hugh Masekela. “But otherwise,” says Tom, “we want to carry on making music and touring for now and writing music that we love.”
I asked Tom for his take on why people should be excited for the OneSight Acoustics concert on Sunday.
“Ummmmm….Hugh Masekela! Its going to be amazing to watch a living legend in action.”
“And all for a good cause!”
Catch Shortstraw (along with Hugh Masekela, New Academics, and Akio Kawahito at The Good Luck Bar this Sunday for the first (of four) OneSight Acoustics concerts. The event is up on Facebook and you can get tickets right here. See Shortstraw’s website for more info on Those Meddling Kids, and listen to their latest single, T-shirt, on iTunes or Apple Music.