Shortstraw and Richard:
What can be asked of South African rock heavyweights, Shortstraw, that hasn’t been asked before? Richard Chemaly went to great lengths, drinking beer and scouring the internet, to find the questions nobody has asked them yet. We got the opportunity to put these questions to frontman Alastair Thomas in the run up to their Balcony TV and Park Acoustic gigs. We even managed to find a few lucid moments and get lekker advice for up-and-coming bands from the oke who’s been through the artistic trenches.
Richard Chemaly (RC): Keanu Reeves. You wrote an awesome song paying homage to the oke. Obviously he’s going to return the favour and play a role in the documentary they’ll eventually make about you. How many times have you fought over which of you he’s going to play and who generally wins?
Alastair Thomas (AT): We’ve all pretty much accepted that he’ll portray Gad. You’d need a skilled actor to do such an intricate character any justice.
RC: On a serious note though, your live gigs are usually filled with energy. I’ve never seen you more stoked to perform than that time you shared a stage with a couple of grown men in tight red speedos [Recalls Oppi 2015]. Were you living vicariously through them? Is your publicist really preventing you from dressing like the gents from the Orj? Are you going to return the favour?
AT: We were all just so turned on at that moment that we couldn’t hide our, erm… excitement. The dudes from the Orj all have way better bodies than we do, we’d never want to compete.
RC: On live gigs…Boosh. I recall overhearing a teen speaking loudly on the phone to her mom trying to convince her that “It’s just Boosh. It’s so chilled Mom. Don’t worry.” Do you get a lot of calls from concerned parents when putting up events like that, asking if their kids would be safe? Do parents do the typical social media background checks on you and is this maybe a good strategy to get more page likes that you’d encourage other artists to follow?
AT: What do you mean? Boosh is totally chilled! Boosh is all about the vibe. Anyone who brings a kak vibe is gonna get asked to leave. That kid was totally right. We’ve had a few concerned parents, so we told them to come along too. Boosh doesn’t discriminate. Look, it’s changed faces over the last few years, and isn’t as regular as we’d want it to be anymore, but it’s still the same event at heart. We just wanna play kiff shows to our fans and give some up-and-coming bands the opportunity to play to a rad crowd (our fans make the raddest crowds) and drink beer together.
I can wholeheartedly say that we definitely never had the foresight to sneakily strategise parents stalking our page to try and get more likes.
Don’t – be a cunt.
RC: We haven’t had a Boosh in awhile so we’re pretty thankful to Park Acoustics for giving us some Shortstraw. I’d like to think that the reason behind it is that you’ve been touring all over Europe and Japan (Love the High School music vid by the way) but we know the real reason is that your dashing friend and go-to MC, Jason Lume, has a pretty tight schedule. From owning restaurants to rocking awesome photography, you each do really cool things causing you to hang with many rad people in your spare time. As a band touring the world, do you feel compelled to get each of your mates back home gifts from your overseas travels? What would you get them and how do you bring it back given baggage weight limits?
AT: Hahahaha! Dude, we’re musos. We definitely don’t have the spare change to be buying people shit in better currencies. Our friends understand.
RC: You’ve been around since I was in high school and must be seen by many as torchbearers for the South African indie scene. At Park Acoustics, you’ll be sharing the stage with, in part, some younger artists as well as artists specialising in other genres. Backstage, are you treated like gurus and sages who are expected to impart wisdom and share ideas or is it more a situation of clinking glasses of Jack and taking selfies? When you started the band, was there ever a goal to be as big as the names of the day and now that you’ve reached that point, and in instances exceeded it, do you actively encourage the hunger in younger artists and do you feel compelled to assist/inspire them?
AT: Ja, we’ve been around for flippin ages. Most of the younger bands think we’re epically uncool I think. I mean, we’re getting old hey. We don’t even know what ‘fleek’ means. What the fuck does ‘fleek’ mean? We certainly won’t be taking any selfies if we can avoid it, but we’ll definitely be having a few drinks with them.
Look, when we started, we weren’t taking this shit seriously. We were just getting stoned and jamming in my bedroom with no intention of even playing a show. I mean, we grew up wishing we were going to play big ass shows with some big ass bands, but we never thought it would actually happen. We just wanted to play our songs because that’s what we enjoyed doing.
It’s still surreal to even think of us as on the same level as some of the bands we’ve always looked up to, and it’s a real privilege to be considered as that. Once we got some radio play, we started making a concerted effort to take this shit more seriously, and since then we’ve put in a lot of hard work to get to where we are today.
But I think the overarching theme of our life as a band is humility and not being a dick. And also not taking it TOO seriously. If you aren’t having fun while you’re doing, there’s no point in doing it. Yes – put the work in to get your band sounding as good as you can sound. Yes – spend the extra bit of cash you have to record in a better studio. Spend the money on getting a producer whose work you like to produce your album. Spend the money on merchandise. To get that money, play as many fucking shows as you can! Doesn’t matter if they’re to no one, the more shows you play, the better your show is going to be, and the better you’re going to sound. And also, you’ll start getting a bit more cash to spend on studio time.
Don’t spend gig cash on beer! Okay fine, buy one round of tequilas and save the rest for studio.
Don’t – think you’re better than anyone else. For any reason. Don’t – be a cunt. To sound guys, barmen, venue owners, booking agents, tour promoters. Don’t be a cunt to anyone. In life in general. This industry is small, eventually everyone will think you’re a cunt.
It was such a great chat with Shortstraw, we’re giving away a set of double tickets to their Balcony TV Show on Saturday 18 June, at one of the coolest venues in Johannesburg: Randlords!
Venue: Randlords, 41 De Korte Street, Johannnesburg
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