Shackles and Bones

Words: Chelsea Haith
Photographs: Holly SNell

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Two gigs, two bands and five days on a tour that apparently feels a little like having sex for the first time. Grahamstown hard rock band Shackles and Bones are touring Cape Town from 1-5 May 2014 with funk rock Lu-Fuki, also formerly of Grahamstown. Shackles and Bones are David Glover, Steven Ellery, Luke Clayton and Julián Árenzon. They will be playing Zula Sound Bar and Obviouzly Armchair Pub and are terribly excited about the tour. At 7pm on a Friday night, band practice successfully concluded and cigarette’s lit, the future doesn’t look too bad from where they’re standing.

A: So, Shackles and Bones have had more drummers than you guys have been years active, what’s that like?
DG: We’re getting pretty good at breaking them in (laughs). We use whips and latex. You’ve got to break them down first.
LC: Waterboarding helps!
SE: We are getting so good at training drummers. If we needed to teach a 5-year old how to play our songs we could probably do it.

A: How long have you guys been around?
DG: Well this set-up is constantly changing, as we have discussed (chuckles).
SE: This is the third year that the three of us have been together (gestures at Clayton and Glover).
DG: And the fourth year that Luke and I have been together. We were together from the beginning.
LC: And we’ve only had two bass players. And a lot of drummers.

A: Why do you think that is, why do you think drummers come and go?
DG: I think it’s because Luke smells bad (laughter).
SE: Dave, you can smell worse dude.
DG: I can smell bad, yes.
SE: I think it’s just because a lot of students are drummers so they move out.
DG: So are we. But we also live here.
LC: This is the first year that I have been in the band and been a student. I did a music degree and graded in 2010 and the band started in 2010. I’ve been blomming around teaching guitar and some other stuff and now I’m doing a post-grad.
DG: Luke is an old warhorse when it comes to playing in bands in Grahamstown.

A: The music scene in Grahamstown, what do you guys think about that?
LC: It goes up and then it goes down, and then it peeters about a bit.
DG: Right now, there’s only one place that’s been solid throughout, Champs [Champs Action Bar], and before that Slipstream, when Mike [Theron] ran it. But now there is the exciting addition of the Vic, it sounds great in there. The sound is way better than Champs.
LC: Dude, my bathroom sounds better than Champs.

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A: So why are there so many venues in Grahamstown and all of them have shite acoustics?
LC: Well Prime wanted clinical look so they went for the bathroom look.
DG: The Bathroom Aesthetic.
LC: The Rat just doesn’t have any space.
SE: Olde ‘65 is too small and the vibe there is better for acoustic stuff.
LC: Friars would never allow a band to play there, ever.
DG: I would never want to play there, ever.
SE: Slipstream has got a really rickety floor
LC: Slipstream has been bought and sold and there’s construction going on there and I’m quite interested to see what’s going to happen. But the floor… I fear for my life in there.
DG: And we’re the furthest away from the exit, so we’re dead, how’s that for a rock ‘n’ roll ending.

A: So you guys are going on tour?
DG: Yes ma’am.
LC: This is not the first rodeo, though it looks like we’re organising it like it is.
DG: It is the third time we’ve gone to Cape Town in as many years and it is always a fucking jam.
LC: Zula Bar is our favourite venue to play.
SE: Tanz was also awesome. But yeah, Zula… (looks off wistfully into the distance).
DG: You can be a fucking unknown band, which we were, and are, and we play to a rad crowd and they appreciate the music, they dig it, they don’t just sit there like the cool hipsters in Joburg.

A: What’s it like going on tour, you said it feels like you’re organising like it’s the first time?
LC: Well it always feels like that, you never really know what you’re doing. It’s a bit like having sex for the first time, over and over again.
DG: It really is (laughter).
LC: You don’t really know what’s going on.

DG: It’s incredibly stressful that first time. Are we doing this right? Are we doing this right? Probably not.
LC: And it’s over far too quickly (laughter).
SE: It’s a true rock star answer.

A: What are you looking forward to most about the tour?
ALL TOGETHER: Fantastic sound!
DG: You play in Grahamstown and the sound is, let us say, not impeccable.
LC: The sound is crap.
SE: And you go there and there’s a guy who is sitting at the back on a digital desk and he actually tweaks the sound for you so when someone plays a solo he’ll put them up.
DG: When you’re singing and holding a note he’ll pump some reverb and it just sounds professional.
LC: It’s a musician doing sound for musicians and it makes the biggest difference in the world.
DG: A lot of okes probably take that for granted if they live in Cape Town but for us it’s a big deal.

A: Best gig you’ve ever done in Grahamstown?
DG: We played a couple of cool gigs at the Field Parties.
LC: They started out as the worst gigs and ended up as the best.
LC: One of the best ones, that time Rhodes fucked us around, as usual, when they cut the gig short and we only had 20 minutes on stage.
DG: And they wanted us to play before the people got in but then they were chanting so they got rushed in.
LC: And everyone was so gees-ed to jam and we got to play to 2000 people.
DG: Then what was really cool was that when we packed up, we had to kind of walk through the crowd, they hadn’t really planned a way for us, and people were touching our faces and pulling at our shirts and we just like, yeah, we made it. And there was a sick VIP room.
LC: I had to be escorted to safety from the crowd as I recall.
DG: And I was sick that day, I had a fever and I’d taken some meds, and then there was a cooler with Red Bull so I clocked about four of those.
LC: We were drinking Peach Schnapps and Red Bull.
DG: The energy after the gig was great, but I think I was sick for about a month after that.

A: Craziest thing you guys have done as a band?
SE: We’ve done some crazy stuff in Cape Town.
DG: Yes, Cape Town. Some friends took us out on the town, there were people slapping transvestites, ous trying to sell us drugs and a massive drug bust in the street with the about one hundred cops being paid off by the cops just throwing notes into the air at them.
SE: We went to see a friend’s band at Zula and they played electro swing afterwards and I have never seen Luke dance like that. It looked like he was ice-skating, throwing his hands and arms in the air.

A: Tour dates and full information?
SE: 1st to the 5th of May. But we’re only playing two gigs on the 2nd and the 3rd, at Zula and at Obviouzly Armchair.
DG: An acoustic gig at Armchair on the 2nd and a nice rock ‘n’ roll gig at Zula, which is always a treat.

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