Today is a really exciting day for us as we not only discover our first band from South Africa, but from the continent of Africa full-stop. And that now means we’ve covered a band from every continent worldwide – except for Antarctica that is… so, calling all Antarctican bands…
That’s because we discovered the engaging indie-rock sound of Cape Town quartet Champion Trees, who released their debut, self-titled EP last month.
The band sent us Glass to get a taste for their sound. It’s probably their most upbeat track, opening up with a lively little guitar riff over drums and bass then dropping into high-pitched guitar chords over a super-funky little diving bassline.
The bass and light drums continue in support of cool laid-back vocals “Take the pain and frame the children with it, Give them their inheritance, We dangle, dangle, In mid-air, mid-air, Arising, growing into thin air, thin air.” The guitars jump back in as the vocals continue “When I fall there’s nothing there bnenath me, The lights all on completely, A man behind the curtain reveals himself to me and sings a mad song, an anthem, gone wrong.”
It bursts into more upbeat guitar chords under more intense, higher-pitched vocals in a singalong chorus “We are going to have to carry all of this,” then drops into cool little guitar chords. Check it out below:
There’s very much a Bloc Party vibe to the band, with their predominantly laid-back approach breaking out into sections of rockiness, funky little riffs and Francis’ engaging vocals.
We chatted to the band to find out more about the band. Read on below…
Who are Champion Trees?
Lex: “Champion Trees are an alternative/indie rock band of four students at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Francis Christie (lead vocals and guitar) and I (bass guitar and vocals) are cousins and were always keen to start a band at some stage, and this actualized at the end of last year when a friend of ours, Troy Nijland (lead guitar), also expressed interest.
“We began rehearsing in the underground rubbish disposal area of the student accommodation building Troy and I were living in – the only positive of this space being that we didn’t have to worry about noise levels – mainly playing covers of songs we liked in order to get used to playing with each other. Soon after getting going, we approached Langa Dubazana (drums), who I went to school with and have always known as an extremely talented musician – especially for drums – with the addition of him completing the band lineup.
“We then started to flesh out ideas for songs and self-recording them in Francis’ bedroom for the EP that we’ve just released independently. We did it with very basic gear and just tried to get it sounding as good as we could with what we had so that we’d have something to show our friends and use to book gigs.”
GR: You’re the first band we’ve met from South Africa. What’s the current music scene like over in South Africa?
Francis: “In all honesty, we’re really new, so we aren’t really the best opinion on the scene as we’re still quite outside of it. But from what we know, at least in Cape Town, it’s carried by venues, festivals, small labels and artists that work pretty hard to keep things going – it’s a bit of an uphill battle.
“There isn’t as much of a culture of going to live music as there is in places such as England, so it’s quite difficult to gain real traction as a new band. That said, there is some really great stuff happening here musically, and it’s definitely an interesting place and time to be situated in. We’re still pretty early on in giving it a go, and we’re excited at the prospect of working hard to share our music with more people.”
You just released Glass. What should people be expecting from the song?
Francis: “Glass is probably the obvious single on our EP, and it’s definitely been the best received of the five songs. Troy came to one of our early rehearsals with the opening riff and it all came out of messing on his idea.
“For this reason, it used to be called “Troy’s Song” and we only had the instrumental for ages. We tried to create contrast in the song by making the verses quite abrasive and the choruses more melodic, and we’re pleased with the sound we managed to get out of that.”
How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t listened to you yet?
Lex: “I would describe our sound as guitar-based indie rock that is diverse in energy levels from song to song.”
GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about?
Francis: “We’re all influenced to create by the music and literature we love. I think at the moment, my writing is pretty strongly influenced by the experience of coming to terms with the world and with oneself. That’s kind of where we’re all at, at the moment. In this way, it’s inspired by the extraordinary as much as it is by the utterly mundane.”
GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences?
Lex: “Some of our biggest influences include Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Interpol, Silver Jews and (Sandy) Alex G.”
GR: What have you got coming up through the rest of 2019 and into 2020?
Lex: “For the rest of 2019 we have a few gigs lined up, and we are currently recording a single we are planning to release with a music video hopefully early next year. We want to gig as much as possible in 2020 and try our best to make a name for ourselves in the Cape Town music scene.”
GR: Anything else you’d like people to know about you/your music
Lex: “We’d like people to know that we’re working hard on new stuff and at developing our sound further. We’re excited about our newer stuff, and about sharing it with everyone as soon as we can.”