The Parlotones

The South African pop-rockers kick back and tell us about their sell-out Dubai gig and their special bond with the emirate they might soon call home.

Music feature

Describe your music for us.
It’s a combination of pop and rock, and a little bit of indie. It’s very melodic and it swings between mellow undertones and an upbeat, rocky, edgy sound.

How’s your career developed?
We started out 10 years ago, not really knowing our instruments, and went along from there. In 2006, our song ‘Beautiful’ was used in a Fujifilm advert in Ireland and that resulted in us signing a multi-territory contract with Universal, covering Europe and parts of Asia.

So your albums have been released at different times?
Yeah. Our new album, A World Next Door To Yours, has already been released in South Africa and we hope to release in early next year in the UK and Europe. It’s like we’re playing in multiple personalities at the moment, because when we play abroad we’re playing the stuff from the old album, and when we play locally we’re promoting the new album.

Is it frustrating?
It’s not frustrating, but you do feel like you have something fresher to offer. We’ve played those old songs for the last five years and we want to move on to the next chapter.

Will you be moving on from your current sound?
When you’ve sold a million albums or whatever then I think you have your licence to be all experimental. But until then you have to try to appeal to a wider audience. I’m going to stick to the rules for now until we’ve bought our licence to experiment.

What’s your ultimate ambition?
Just to have a career in music and never have to wear a suit and tie.

Except on stage, presumably.
Well, if it’s an image or something, that’s fine! And, you know, playing the stadiums and being in the halls of fame would be great, but my only real motivation is to be a performer for the rest of my life.

What is your writing process?
Generally I’ll come to rehearsal with three or four songs on an acoustic guitar. So the structure, the melody and the words will be there, and then the band will say which bits they think are pretty good or pretty c**p. And everyone will add their parts, saying, ‘I’m not sure about that riff,’ or, ‘Why not try this beat?’

How has your sound progressed?
Before, I used to know a couple of chords and make melodies that fit into them, but recently I’ve been getting into musical theory and how harmonies can affect the mood of the listener. Before I’ve done it by mistake or by accident, but this time it’s more of a conscious manipulation – I know why I’m structuring chords in a certain way.

Where are you getting this from?
Just loads of books, usually written by music professionals or teachers. And I’ll buy guitar magazines, because there’s always some little trick or theoretical application that makes sense.

Will you write your own book eventually?
No, I doubt it. I’ll keep the secrets that I’ve stolen to myself!

What are your best and worst memories from the last 10 years?
The best is our album going platinum in South Africa. And the worst… in the early days we’d tour South Africa, dragging a PA with us all night to get to the next, and more than often you’d be playing to 10, 20 people. So it was quite demoralising in the beginning, but we’re doing OK now.

hat kept you going, then?
The fact that it gradually got better. We’d be thinking, ‘Last time we had 10, now we have 20. We’re on our way to stardom!’

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