Andrew Hallett delves into the less explored South African genre of alternative music in ZAlebs' latest feature, Rocking Thursdays.
When you ask any lover of alternative music in South Africa to name their favourite local bands, Deity's Muse is almost always near the top of their list.
With 15 years of hard grind on the local scene behind them, the band's latest release, Convergence, has brought about changes which have helped propel them forward.
Known predominantly as a metal band, Deity's Muse have made the shift away from that classification with Convergence, and decided to stay true to their roots, both as a band and music lovers themselves.
The new album took three years to create, but upon giving it a listen, it was clearly worth the wait. With the help of Australian musician and producer Clint Vincent of Dead Letter Circus fame, Wayne Boucher (vocals and guitar), Sashan Pillay (drums), Alvin Boucher (bass), and Yokim Pillay (guitar) have managed to create an incredibly tight fourth studio album - an album which is their finest work to date.
Andrew caught up with Sashan and Alvin in Cape Town recently for a chat about their new album, adding a new guitarist, and their new direction in sound.
Tell us about the creation of Convergence?
Sashan: It was like hammering a nail into someone's head (laughs). It was the hardest album we have recorded as a band in almost 15 years. Now that it is done though, we have been getting a really great response from it, and we are happy that people realise what we have put into it. What has come out is something really, really special.
Alvin: It took us about three years to record it. At a certain time, people were probably like "Jeez, what are these okes doing?", because with three years people expect a lot. But we have got a great response now, so I think people realise what was put into it over the three years. We are really happy with it and the record sounds really good. This is the first album where everything we created is exactly how we had hoped it would be.
Deity's Muse drummer Sashan Pillay - Photo by Alexander Wolf
What is different about Convergence when compared to your previous releases?
Sashan: This is the first time that a studio album we have put out is better than our live shows. We have been known for putting on pretty decent live shows, but this is the first time we have said "Guys, this album is above and beyond anything we have done before". For us, we need to make sure we give people their money's worth when it comes to watching us live, that has always been our thinking. But the best thing about this album was working with our producer. We had keen ears listening, telling us to work on this, work on that. Making an album is a really ego-driven thing, but, meanwhile, someone else can give you an outside perspective - the worst thing you can do is get stuck in a rut of self-flattery.
Alvin: I saw a review also of the album saying that the bass and drums took a step back this time around. While it doesn't take anything away from the band members, I think that is exactly what our material called for. I know that in the past I was trying too hard at times, so I never really thought about the core of the song - so sometimes you just need to do a bit less and it will create a much better sound overall.
Deity's Muse - Convergence Album Cover
Sashan, your brother Yokim joined Deity's Muse for this album on guitar. What has it been like working with your brother and becoming a four-piece band?
Sashan: It has been f***ing amazing. It is really cool. It is now two sets of brothers (Alvin and Wayne, too) in one band. Everyone has their own personal tastes and personal way that they play their instruments. We all come from the same background, but we all have our own tastes in music. We all know that at the end of the day we all want the best product as a group, not as singular entities. Yokim has brought a technological side to the band, which has been a massive help. In the past we would never record our own stuff, but he did all the guitar work beforehand at home, so that helped us a lot.
Alvin: He recorded me too, and gave me advice on what sounded cool and what didn't. This album would have taken a lot longer and been a lot harder for us if Yokim wasn't around.
Sashan: We initially weren't planning on having another member, we just wanted another musician's ears to help us improve. But it got to a point where he was adding so much more to the band that we decided on bringing him in as the second guitarist.
Alvin: Although the stuff we were writing was cool, we didn't know the direction we wanted to go in. I think a lot of the stuff we were trying to do could have been a lot better and we didn't know which approach to take. So when Yokim came in and started listening to the stuff, he saw things in the music that we didn't - so an outside perspective changes the whole concept of the song. So we all sat down and discussed bringing in another guitarist - and Yokim was the first name that came up. What's also really cool is that this is the first band he has ever played for.
Sashan: His first live show was opening for Protest The Hero, which is his favourite band. He was like, "What the f**k is this?" (laughs).
Alvin: I don't think there is anyone who has ever played an instrument where your first live show is alongside someone like Protest The Hero. It was crazy.
Deity's Muse bassist Alvin Boucher - Photo by Chris Preyser
Your sound is not as heavy as it used to be. What was the thinking behind the shift?
Sashan: Yeah, it was a natural progression for us as a band. We have always been classified as a metal band, but we have always had clean vocals - no screaming or stuff like that. I think this is more true to what we like as music lovers and our influences. We didn't want to be put into a pigeon hole. Our stuff is alternative music and this is where we want to be.
What are you hoping to achieve with Convergence?
Sashan: We don't really have any expectations, other than being able to play our music wherever we can. We have been doing this for so long that it has become more than a hobby - it is a creative release as an artist. It is not about the boozing, women, and rock 'n roll anymore, it is about being able to reach people and make them feel connected to what we have created.
Alvin: I just want to go overseas and play again. That is all I want to do. I want that opportunity again.
Image Credits: Supplied