Interview with one-man modern folk band Jeremy Loops

On his guitar, loop pedal and passion for music

When it comes to a musical career, every musician has his own story - some better than others - and while the making of Jeremy Loops wasn’t so much sensational, it was certainly inspirational. 

After finishing university – at which point he was merely jamming on his guitar to balance a creative tug and his standard studies - Loops decided to work on a yacht. Far away from home on the ocean and alone sans band, Jeremy had to rely on his guitar and loop pedal for everything from a backbeat to background vocals. What followed was a torrent of creative, uplifting songs that have taken Cape Town by storm; he’s performed at almost all big South African festivals, including Bushfire Festival and Rocking the Daises.

These days, back in civilisation, Jeremy is free to team up with other up and coming talent. He recently collaborated with rapper Motheo Moleka and saxophonist Jamie Faull, both who often accompany him on stage. 

Now, with his first album on its way, we sat down with Jeremy to chat about almost everything, from his first gig to his favourite animal. 

CapeTownMagazine.com: How did you get started in music?

JL: By the time I finished studying, in 2006, I wanted to join a band, but at that time I needed to find a job to make some money. I also really wanted to leave South Africa, so, I went away and worked on yachts again for another two years. I went to Italy and the Mediterranean, and I got on one particular boat for two years. I took a loop pedal with me and spent a lot of time in my cabin. 

CapeTownMagazine.com: So, how did you grow from Jeremy playing on his yacht to Jeremy Loops the musician?  

JL: I actually started Jeremy Loops a year and eight months ago (late 2010) when I came back from my yacht trip. I never intended on being a musician, and I had never played in front of people.

My first gig for Jeremy Loops was at this Greenpop (the urban greening social enterprise Jeremy co-founded) celebration party. After we planted a thousand trees, which was a big milestone, we had a big celebration party at Assembly and invited all our friends and people who helped us planting the trees.
I was organising a lot of entertainment for that night, and I thought if there ever was a chance to put myself up on stage I would do it. Most bands have to start by playing in bars all around the city before they create enough of a reputation to play in Assembly, but since this was our Greenpop party, I decided to be cheeky and I put myself on stage as the opening act. 

CapeTownMagazine.com: For the people who don’t know Greenpop, can you explain what you do?

JL: We are a social enterprise that plants trees at under-greened schools and that spearheads reforestation events. In the last year and nine months we’ve planted trees in about 170 beneficially locations. We try to make environmentalism and greening popular.

• Read more about Greenpop 

CapeTownMagazine.com: How would you describe your music genre? 

JL: My music is often described as folk music. I would say it’s largely based in folk, but it’s kind of modern. There are also definitely some electronic sounds I put in with my loop pedal. I also blend hip hop in there with collaborators like Motheo Moleko – an artist who brings a kind of Balkan feel into my music. 

CapeTownMagazine.com: Your music always sounds very uplifting. Do you ever play sad songs?

JL: I seldom listen to sad music. I’m not the kind of person who puts on Bon Iver and cries myself to sleep when I’m having a bad day. Rather, I put on happy music to make me feel good. I put on some uplifting reggae or something that I enjoy. 

CapeTownMagazine.com: What performance of yours do you consider your best?

JL: I would have to say that this last gig I did up in Swaziland at the Bushfire Festival was probably one of my best performances. It was certainly one of my biggest festivals. A lot of the acts that played were quite relaxed, people were just listening and enjoying the music, while I was lucky enough to get my audience moving during the set. 

CapeTownMagazine.com: What song of yours are you most connected to, and why?

JL: There are a couple of songs that come to mind, but there is one that I feel particularly connected to. The song is about Basil, a homeless guy I met during the World Cup in 2010. He told me all about his life, which was really devastating. He had four kids and a wife who still lived in Nyanga, which is in the Cape Flats. She left him because he couldn’t provide for the family anymore; he wasn’t earning any money, and so he was forced to leave, and another man came into the equation and started looking after his family while he became homeless.

So, he was telling me about how he misses his four children, and the story really affected me. So, I wrote a song about him, but I never played it live because it’s quite a sad song compared to my stuff, which is normally quite up-tempo, exciting and fun. The song doesn’t really have a name, but I call it Basil because the guy’s name was Basil. I don’t know if it’s ever going to be released, but I always play that song whenever I am practicing on my own. 

CapeTownMagazine.com: Is there an area of Cape Town that has influenced your music? 

JL: I would definitely have to say Kommetjie, because I grew up there. I did go travelling a lot, but even in university I was driving back every day all the way to Kommetjie, which took me 45 minutes to an hour each way. I was also very dedicated to the village as far as wanting to live by the beach and by the sea. I surf and all my friends are surfers, so I’m used to that lifestyle. I would say a lot of my inspiration comes from the serenity and the feel of growing up in a place like Kommetjie, which is really magical.

CapeTownMagazine.com: Where should you go in Cape Town to cope with a hangover on a Sunday afternoon?

JL: If it were a Saturday afternoon I would say the Hope Street Market. It’s similar in a way to The Old Biscuit Mill, but it’s just not as big yet. There is one stand that makes the most amazing beetroot and ginger juices. That’s where I go for by a hangover cure. 

CapeTownMagazine.com: If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what or who would you be? 

JL: I would like to come back as a Cormorant. Cormorants are birds that are always by the sea and kind of look a little bit like penguins. You see them sitting on the rocks. It’s a bird, so it flies, but it also swims and hunts for fish. When I was working on the yachts I regularly saw them fly and dive into the water like little bullets; they just fly around and they can hold their breath for a long time. 

CapeTownMagazine.com: Can you tell your fans something they don’t know about you?

JL: My favourite animal is a goat. My family is from Switzerland, so when I would go I would see these goats with their massive horns fighting on the mountain. 

I think goats are very underrated. People have a bad impression of goats, but when I think of goats I think of these big Swiss mountain goats, which are amazing; they can jump like ten meters and sit on hills, and other goats from Morocco can climb massive trees with their hooves.

CapeTownMagazine.com:  When not making music what do you like to do?

JL: At the moment it feels like I don’t have anymore time for anything. My music and Greenpop both take up a lot of time. When I am not doing either of these things I am either surfing or taking photos. Before I was doing these things, I was quite interested in becoming a photographer. I used to take a lot of photos, especially night photos, and I was on the verge of trying to become a photographer at one stage. 

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By Karin Willemsen for the CapeTownMagazine.com Cape Town Music Series. The Cape Town music Series is a project of CapeTownMagazine.com highlighting musicians, bands and DJs based in Cape Town and the Western Cape.

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