Words: Chelsea Haith
Photographs: Chris de Beer
Cape Town blues rock outfit Wolftown are on their way and we’re definitely asking them to stay. Their much-loved single ‘Settle Down’ was offered as a free download after its reception at the Hemp Stage at Rocking the Daisies in early October this year. The single is a heartfelt plea and it goes right to the softly beating centre of what it is to take a leap of faith for another human being.
Wolftown’s debut album Soul on Fire is a mixture of rock ballads with a hint of country and some blues thrown in for texture, like a well-crafted wine if they were to stoop to such a pretentious description. Which they certainly wouldn’t. They are far too rock ‘n’ roll for such things. A finely crafted Black Label draught perhaps.
The album, released in 2013, sounds like longing and seems to be a tribute to the one that got away.
Sarah Pope, vocalist and lyricist admitted that she writes from life, though not necessarily her own. “I like to feed on other people’s misery,” she laughed, taking a swig from her well-deserved beer after the show at Rocking the Daisies.
During their show at Daisies, ’Settle Down’ was the best-received of the set, though their single ‘Don’t You Know’ had the loyal fans in the crowd contributing to backing vocals. Backstage afterwards Pope acknowledged the success of ‘Settle Down’ and added that it has gone down well in venues as diverse as national music festivals to the three weddings at which they’ve performed it. Daisies they agreed was one of their favourite gigs, second only their first, which they cherish.
The band is a place of communion for the group of musicians in it and music an outlet, something you can hear in the way they play it. “Wolftown is a safe haven for us. You can come to practice after work and just let go for four hours and feel ready for anything afterwards, like you could carry on all night,” Pope explained.
Pope’s voice is growling and strong, though edged with a softly tender longing that is both nostalgic and angry, a bit like a leather jacket trimmed in lace. Her lyrics are unashamedly honest and it is this honesty that is so interesting in both the lyrics and sound. When last did someone tell you exactly how they felt without any bullshit or obfuscation? Pope’s got the courage and the pipes to do just that for the duration of an entire album.
The band has recently expanded from a three-piece to a four-piece with the addition of blues guitarist Jae Braun. Their tastes vary but this eclectic mix allows them to build a different, unique sound fronted by the power of Pope’s enthusiasm and Braun’s searing riffs. The band agreed that it’s important to vary your listening to develop a fuller, richer sound that appeals to more diverse audiences.
As a part of the developing scene in Cape Town, Pope noted that the only way for the South African music industry to grow is for bands to support one another. “We have to stick around, see each other play, jam together, build a community,” she said.