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An interview with the South African band Die Heuwels Fantasties
On the Afrikaans music scene, Cape Town and more
I’m feeling quite honoured. Hunter Kennedy (vocals, lyrics, bass), Pierre Greeff (vocals, lyrics, acoustic guitar) and Fred den Hartog (lead guitar, production) - Philip, the fourth band member and the drummer couldn’t make it - of Die Heuwels Fantasties have cleared their jam-packed schedule to talk with me in one of their favourite local pubs, The Perseverance Tavern.
If you’ve never heard of the band, do yourself a favour see them at a live gig; they’re best appreciated with a beer in hand and a big crowd squeezing you in from all sides.
And, even if you don’t have a clue what this Afrikaans band is singing about - that’s right, their lyrics aren’t in English - they more than likely will manage to take you away with their super cool pop rock sound. According to the boys, there’s no need for English lyrics, the Afrikaans music has its own extensive scene. A proud point that seems to ring true, as apart from their popularity with the Afrikaans-speaking people, they also have English fans in South African and even international fans.
Another point that they can be proud of is that they were the first Afrikaans band to reach number 1 on the SABC’s Top 20 album with their second album Wilder as die Wildtuin. Along with three MK Awards, this definitely put them on the South African music scene map.
The guys are currently working hard on their new album, which they say is coming out around October, and it’s clear that though laid-back in the interview and despite much talk of alcohol, they’re serious about making music.
Once they were settled down with a beer, they told me more about the coming album, they’re lives around the band and the role of Cape Town in their music.
CapeTownMag: You’re all coming from different projects. How did you guys start collaborating?
Hunter: Pierre’s band split up sort of at the same time that Fokofpolisiekar took a break, and we were serendipitously placed back in our own hometown where we grew up in. We started hanging out, drank a lot and started the band.
Pierre: We did the first record and Philip and Fred joined on the second album.
CapeTownMag: Where does the name come from?
Hunter: I think we were looking for something that wasn’t as antagonistic as Fokofpolisiekar (Fuckoffpolicecar); something that people can relate to and feel good about the first time they hear or see the name. We were staring at the hills in Durbanville and someone said, “Die heuwels” [the hills] and the other “fantasties” [fantastic].
Pierre: But we were very drunk.
CapeTownMag: What have you been working on recently?
All sorts of different things, we’re touring a lot and writing a record. We’ve been touring all over the country literally, Uitenhage Vaal dam, Pretoria, and Johannesburg, everywhere.
CapeTownMag: What’s the new album going to be like?
DHF: It’s going to be a little bit different than the previous album. I think we’re looking at a more stripped down rock and roll approach to this one. We are halfway through writing it. The second album was a little bit more acoustic driven, mellower than the first one. It will probably be a mix between the two albums with some new stuff.
CapeTownMag: Are you going to collaborate with Jack Parow on the new album?
DHF: Maybe, we’ve got a track that we forgot about that we wanted to put out previously. It’s quite a good, laid-back track. It’s very much him telling a story; talking to you instead of rapping.
CapeTownMag: Why did you choose Afrikaans lyrics instead of English lyrics?
Hunter: It’s just easier to express yourself in the language you sort of grew up with. We think that in English, other bands’ lyrics always seem sort of portentous. In Afrikaans we kind of have a clean slate.
Pierre: Yeah, it’s a bit more like an open blank canvas.
CapeTownMag: Tell your fans something they don’t know about you.
Pierre: I move to a new house on Friday.
Fred: Phillip our drummer used to be a professional rugby playing before he started playing for us. Not a lot of people know that.
Hunter: I only got my driver’s license this year and I am turning 30.
CapeTownMag: What song of yours are you most connected to?
Pierre: I feel pretty connected to each one of them, because I’ve been part of the writing process of all of the music.
Fred: My personal favourite is “Mangemaak”.
Pierre: Yeah, I think mine is called “Tyd”. It’s on the VanFokKingTasties acoustic album all the bands recently did. I think it’s probably because it’s the newest one. So, I am the most unfamiliar with it.
CapeTownMag: What’s the funniest thing that happened at a gig or on the road?
[They all laugh and say] Most things we don’t remember and the memories only come back much later when we see a picture.
Fred: Our drummer Philip always remembers the stories, but he’s not here. He would have told you five great stories.
Hunter: All the stories are kind of ‘you had to be there’ funny.
Pierre: But we have a good time on the road.
CapeTownMag: Is there an area or street corner in Cape Town that has influenced your music?
Hunter: We write our lyrics based on what we see and live everyday, so there’s is obviously a lot of Cape Town influence. Specifically,
the Waal Park - it’s a lyric in one of our songs, and also Buitenkant Street, it’s just a place where we hung out a lot.
CapeTownMag: The best place to grab a beer with friends in Cape Town on a Friday night is….
Perseverance Tavern [the place where we’re doing the interview], Van Hunks on Kloof Street and SGT. Pepper on Long Street.
CapeTownMag: Favourite clubs or venues?
Pierre: Assembly, but that’s more like a ‘rock club’.
Hunter: On a nice summer night the atmosphere can be quite cool.
CapeTownMag: If anything were possible, the best place to have a concert in CT would be….
Hunter: Kirstenbosch is already great!
Pierre: Yeah it’s one of a kind. I think it’s the largest botanical garden in the southern atmosphere, so I think it is pretty cool.
CapeTownMag: What’s the best festival in Cape Town to play?
DHF: Rocking the Daisies, but we haven’t played at that one, and RAMFest.
CapeTownMag: If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Fred: I would come back a Table Mountain. So I can create a shadow over everybody.
Hunter: I’ll come back as an immortal cute dog, so I can do nothing forever.
Pierre: I’ll come back as a phoenix and rise from ashes every day.
CapeTownMag: What was the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome thus far?
Hunter: Alcoholism, it’s an on-going battle. [Laughs] No, I think getting used to the schedule is something that takes refining. Like being away every weekend or whatever. Just negotiating trying to have a personal life and be an active touring band.
Pierre: Coming home, writing music and producing music, making albums, being on the road and doing all the PR, interviews and performances.
Fred: Yes we’re trying to live a normal life in between all of the shit.
Hunter: Routine isn’t very easy, but every year it actually gets better because you adapt to it. You get to know your boundaries.
CapeTownMag: What artists/bands do you admire?
Fred: Locally I think we like people like Johannes Kerkorrel and Van Coke Cartel.
Pierre: We admire a lot of international acts. We listen to a bunch of different music, its not just one kind of thing. But I really enjoy Paul Simon or Bruce Springsteen seeing as they’re songwriters and musicians, they are not just pop stars and singing other musicians material.
Hunter: I am quite a big Paul Simon fan and Graceland is, like, my favourite album.
CapeTownMag: When not making music what do you like to do?
Fred: We don’t do much else actually, Pierre and Hunter run their record label Supra Familias.
Hunter: I mean that during like work months, we will be working, but when we’re really taking time off I like watching movies, playing TV games, lying down.
Fred: I love fishing and surfing, basically everything with the sea.
Pierre: We all like scuba diving; we are very big fans of that.
A question from CapeTownMag reader Dave Barron: What one item couldn’t you live without whilst on tour?
Pierre: my computer
Hunter: Rizla rolling papers
A question from CapeTownMag reader @Johanndl_8: Van FokKingTasties groep? Sit julle nie vas nie? Julle almal baklei tog vir die top spot in Afrikaanse musiek?
No, we don’t fight about that kind of stuff, we only fight about stupid stuff. Not the about music industry.
Get a taste of Die Heuwels Fantasties with this amazing music video that features three different songs (taken from the Wilder as die Wildtuin album)
By Karin Willemsen for the CapeTownMagazine.com Cape Town Music Series. The Cape Town music Series is a project of CapeTownMagazine.com highlighting muscians, bands and DJs based in Cape Town and the Western Cape.