Diamond Thug at Park Acoustics:
Sunday is coming and with it, the first Park Acoustics of the year? We’re excited! Naturally, we had to get in touch with somebody and find out what 2018 has in store for them.
Who better to get the updates from than the ever-evolving Diamond Thug. If you can’t wait for Park Acoustics, then check out our chat with Chantel and Danilo.
Diamond Thug: Cosmic Dreamer:
Richard Chemaly (RC): It seemed like a slow start for you back in 2012, a performance here and there until an EP release in 2016 then BOOM, Goldfish collab in 2017 and now the growing fame. How did you hang in there and what advice could you give the kids starting out?
Chantel: I think it’s important to focus on what you’re achieving rather than how long it takes you to achieve it. Every teenage musician has an age at which they think they’re going to ‘make it’. But it’s all so relative, sometimes you achieve things that you dreamt of, like playing SXSW or hitting 1M streams or collaborating with an act that was super influential to your musical journey, but then you realise all those things are only steps towards a much bigger goal of earning a living doing what you love. And you sort of step up your game each time you have that realisation.
Danilo: Yeah, so it was a slow start for sure, but at the time you see little things as massive steps, playing The Assembly was a huge step for us; recording music videos, that was fun, exciting and new. We started as a duo in 2012 and were a four-piece by 2015, so we had three years in which things changed and developed in terms of sound and compositions and that was also helpful in sticking it through, we could feel the music growing with us and it’s almost addictive cos you have to see what comes out of the band next.
As for advice for the kids starting out: decide early on whether music is for fun or if you want to make it your life and treat it accordingly. If it’s for fun, have a great time, don’t let it get too serious and just express yourself. If you want it to be your life, do all of that, but also treat music with the same professionalism that you would if you were starting a business. You have to learn every day, and you have to learn about everything in the industry, ask people who have knowledge and experience if they’re willing to share it. Accept criticism, not everyone will like your music, there are different tastes and that’s a fact, but don’t argue with those who share it. Lastly, never expect anyone to just ‘discover you’ and hold your hand through the entire process, the industry isn’t like that.
RC: You recorded out in Boston a while back. As a city, I absolutely love Boston, especially the pier and the restaurant named after me, Dick’s. Any inspiration you’ve taken from that place or lessons learned that you’ve plugged in back home? How’s that been working out?
Danilo: Boston was incredible and definitely had a big impact on our mentality. The city was beautiful and being in a new space can really bring out something different sonically. We were there for so short that unfortunately we never got to see Dick’s *winks*.
However, we got to work with Dave Minehan of The Replacements and he shared a lot of valuable insight from his many years of experience. As I said earlier, when you’re around someone who knows more than you, you’ve really got to absorb everything they’re willing to share with you: stories from their touring days; advice on steps you should take; literally anything they’re willing to say, you have to be willing to listen and consider it and see if you can apply it to your life. But that said as good as Boston was, travelling to Austin to perform at #SXSW2017 was a massive game changer for us. It was a glimpse into the big fat music industry we’d always felt so far away from.
Thousands of people who make a living from music meeting up in a small city in Texas and sharing drinks and advice with those who want to follow suit.
Since coming back from Austin we made a conscious decision to act at the level of professionalism that we experienced while at South By every single day, minus the partying every night of course. We’ve since started our own independent label and just hit 1M streams on Spotify on a track we released through it in October, it’s been absolutely crazy for us.
We’re also supporting some local artists we love on our label. Artists like Amy Ayanda, Albany Lore and soon a Cape Town band that you have to check out: Hyroine (they’ve been supporting Alice Phoebe Lou on her SA tour). We don’t know everything, but we’re hellbent on learning as much as we can and we definitely want to be a part of sharing that knowledge and building a local industry.
RC: You’ve done a number of tours and fests but some places are rites of passage. From the fake Aandklas (because obviously, the real one is in Pretoria) to the fake Mystic Boer (because obviously the real one is in Bloem), which stage have you played that’s mostly made you feel like, wow we made it?
Opening for Portugal the Man at Sowing the Seeds, SXSW, Park Acoustics and Oppikoppi have all been major highlights
Chantel: We probably felt that most when we played Rocking the Daisies Main Stage for the first time. Opening for Portugal the Man at Sowing the Seeds, SXSW, Park Acoustics and Oppikoppi have all been major highlights, but we still haven’t really felt the: “Wow we’ve made it” feeling yet, it’s been more of a: “Yes we’ve gotten this far, we can have a drink (tea for me!) to celebrate and then get onto the next one.” We’re finishing off our album mixes now, things are a little frantic and everything we’ve achieved sort of fades away against everything that we’ve still got to do.
RC: You’re also no strangers to Park Acoustics. What’s been your best experience playing for the Vaalies? Also, are you looking forward to a 3-minute shower or some other manifestation of a lack of water restrictions?
Chantel: Joh! The idea of a long shower and bath sounds dreamy! The last time we were up, taking nice long shows already made us feel a little guilty. We’re all stocking up on 5l waters at the moment. The Vaalies are great and Park Acoustics is one of the best places to play in Gauteng. As a promotor, Henk curates incredible lineups and knows how to make a band feel right at home.
Danilo: I think the best experience of playing in Gauteng is always getting to see a whole lot of bands we don’t get to see often: Urban Village, BCUC, The Brother Moves On, Sol Gems, Bye Beneco…the list goes on, I mean you guys are spoiled for choice up there and the sad thing is so many people don’t even know what they’re missing at their own venues every weekend.
RC: You have a rather noticeable and commendable DIY ethic. Is it something that’s brought you a lot closer and how would you share the load?
Danilo: I wouldn’t say the DIY spirit has been as much by choice as you might think, a lot of it has been: if we don’t do it, no one will. And our approach is that if we can do it, we should just do it and try our best to do it right and we focus on working to our strengths as much as possible. I’m assuming that by DIY you’re mainly talking about being an Independent band without the support of a label? And in answering that I’d say it can be really hard to never have the budget for anything. You have to pull so many favours and trades. We believe there is a lot of value in spending money on things like recording, marketing and mixing, but if we can’t afford to do it, we do it ourselves and do as best we can.
We recorded and mixed our last single at home, and that’s the track that hit one million streams on Spotify. On our album, we’ve put a lot of money into recording and mixing with people we really respect and who treat our work as their own.
“Why the fuck did we spend all of that money on recording and mixing?”
After the success of a DIY single, you’ll probably ask yourself: “why the fuck did we spend all of that money on recording and mixing?” But then you listen to the recordings and mixes off of the album and it’s so so clear why we’ve spent that money. I guess there’s nothing stopping you from doing it alone and there’s nothing stopping you from getting help if you can afford to if the passion is there. Just whatever you do make sure it’s done honestly and with passion and detail.
RC: When the crowd shouts requests, do you have any awesome put downs lined up? Frank Freeman always says back to me, “I’m not a jukebox” but maybe you’ve got other responses in your repertoire?
Chantel: We’re just really good at pretending we don’t hear things or maybe I’d do a little giggle and suggest to the audience that we know that they’d rather hear a new one that they’ve never heard before. We put lots of effort into planning the flow of our sets and making our shows as thought out as possible. If there is an encore we’re happy to play a song the crowd still wants to hear (if we’ve practised it), but the order of our set is as much a part of the performance as playing the notes.