Words: Dave Mann
Photographs: The 13th
A short catch up with bluesy, rock ‘n roll trio – Shadowclub, before their tour
I was pretty late to the Shadowclub game. The first time I heard Shadowclub was in 2011. I was chilling on the couch at home, with the TV channel tuned to the late MK for background noise while I conducted another aimless internet session. This band comes on and I hear howling vocals punching through classic bluesy riffs, but with these crazy rock ‘n roll hooks and drum beats, and I remember thinking ‘Hang on, did I switch to VH1? Nah, even VH1 doesn’t play old school as cool as this shit.’ That’s when I looked up to see the music video for ‘Guns ‘n Money’.
In 2011 you couldn’t pick up a magazine, turn on a radio, or scroll down your Facebook or Twitter timelines without seeing or hearing Shadowclub. Drummer Isaac Klawansky explains that for the band to get to this point took a lot of time, name changes, band member changes, and late nights in homemade studios.
“Myself and Jacques [Moolman] formed Shadowclub at the end of 2007. Before this we had a jazzy indie rock band with a bad reputation called Airship Orange. After disbanding Airship Orange we went our separate ways for two years. Jacques called me up one day to ask if I’d like to start a band with him. I immediately said yes. We began rehearsing (with our then bassist Alex Hing) in a small cottage on a stranger’s property in Roosevelt Park in Johannesburg. This room became known as the ‘egg box’, and was ultimately the beginning of Shadowclub and the origin of our sound. Louis took over as bass player about 4 years ago.”
Since then, Shadowclub have moved their sound out of their egg box studio and into the homes of countless South Africans, cementing themselves as South Africa’s premier full throttle, sweaty, electric rock ‘n roll band whose live shows have come to be known as something of a spectacle. Shadowclub shows are almost always packed out, loud as hell, and generally riot worthy. Bassist Louis Roux says that for him, whether it’s a festival show, city gig or backyard jam, it’s all about the noise.
“Volume! When the sound is good, it’s amazing to hear all the different elements come together at high volume. And when the crowd’s loving it, it’s just such an awesome and rewarding experience. Oppikoppi 2013 was an absolute smasher for us! We got to play new tracks off the upcoming album ‘Goodbye Wild Child’ which was the first time those songs had such a large audience. It was just one of ‘those shows’ and was filled with awesome moments.”
Recently, the band have been focusing on gigging more to promote their latest album ‘Goodbye Wild Child’ and really honing in on that raw energy they’ve come to be known for. Frontman Jacques Moolman cites their recent gig at the Dirty Rotten Tequila Festival at Carfax in Newtown as one of the shows that tapped into that performance style.
“There was a great crowd reeling to get their live music kicks which created energy reminiscent of the early Shadowclub days. We’re really going back to our roots in terms of attitude towards live performance and our approach on stage, (full throttle, massive energy, punchy quick songs to get the blood boiling), and Tequila Festival created the perfect
environment for just that.”
Kawansky adds that the #CornerToCorner shows in Soweto were a highlight for the musicians.
“It was one of my favourite shows/experiences of the year so far. We took our gear in a bus and went through to Soweto. We set up on different street corners, and together with Red Bull, played for whoever was walking past. What was amazing was that the crowds that gathered ranged from 6 year old kids to elderly men and women, all loving the music. I came back on a natural high.”
Feet remaining firmly on the rock ‘n roll pedal, Shadowclub will be taking their unique SA style, bluesy rock ‘n roll to the Eastern Cape with gigs in East London, Grahamstown, and Port Elizabeth. Originating from, making and performing most of their music in Jozi, Moolman says that to get out of SA’s metropolis and hit the Eastern Cape roads is always a highlight for the band.
“It’s different. I think you find that each town has its own bit of history and its own individual story to tell. The people that we meet in the Eastern Cape are inviting and willing to share their story and that’s something special that keeps our spirits up while on the road and makes for interesting stories of our own.”
Shadowclub haven’t just been gigging like crazy though. The trio have been spending some time in the studio working on new material too and if you’re lucky enough to experience some of their Eastern Cape tour, they’ll “sneak a new one or
two in for you!”