By BRUCE DENNILL
December Streets wrote and recorded new tracks during the lockdown period. During isolation and the music-making process, they reflected on their history as a band and looked back at the events, music, and influences that shaped them as a group and as individuals.
They recently released the single Last Forever. Singer Tristan Coetzee talks about the band’s music.
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different from their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era, or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
You’ve right – influence is a continual process, and it constantly shapes our creative process as it changes and grows. Growing up in the Nineties, the punk and alternative scene was the popular scene. I looked up to artists breaking away from and becoming the norm, such as Kurt Cobain of Nirvana – his writing and his life – Foo Fighters, Blink 182 and others. They all carried an ‘anti-norm’, carefree attitude that held massive allure for me to become a musician. While that sound is not evident in the music we write today, it was a huge influence back then, when we cut our teeth on the classic covers, which helped us grow and initiate our first curiosity in music.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
As mentioned, it constantly changes, particularly in today’s high-consumption era. There are so many wonderful musicians popping up daily and I believe being able to curate the best fit to your current identity and space to draw inspiration from is crucial in self-development as an artist. It keeps your art fresh and competitive. Currently, we’re very much into the indie-pop space. Artists such a Glass Animals give us massive inspiration and drive.
Name one song you wish you’d written or one you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?
This is a difficult one. From Coldplay’s X&Y to Drake’s Popstar, there is so much brilliance out there. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during the writing process.
In production and arrangement terms, what are facets of your music and the music you love most by others that you feel are crucially important in terms of creating the mood you’re after or supporting the message of your song?
For me, message and musical energy sit in two separate but cohesive realms. The energy of the arrangement starts with the chord progression and beat, and then the vocal melody and rhythm. We explore the variation of this for days, if not weeks. Once we’re bouncing off the walls from the beat and arrangement, the storytelling begins. This goes back to playing the piano or guitar and unpacking what it is we want to say. Then, they weave together magically when tracking in the final vocal. It’s quite a process, but so beautiful! In summary, it’s the magical combination of powerful storytelling with meticulous production that breeds the songs we all love most.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the most memorable parts of your songs?
I personally hear and relate to the beat and vocal melody of a track first – if something is off I won’t listen again. But when it hits the spot, I unwrap the next level of the song and listen to the lyrics, and when well-written lyrics supplement and even overtake the beat – you have a golden track, in my opinion.
What’s your favourite piece of gear?
My MacBook Pro. It’s unbelievable how much you can achieve musically with just that one piece of tech.
What is the story behind Last Forever – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
Last Forever, lyrically, is a touchy one for me, talking about the betrayal I experienced in a recent relationship of mine. But it’s also about the ability to realise that no matter how badly you sometimes want something or someone, not everything is meant to be. Working on the track with producer Paul Gala, the aim was to mask some pretty powerful lyrics with the upbeat energy of the song and earworm melodies. I wanted to create the layers I spoke about earlier. My hope is that when people belt the melodies out or dance to the groove, they eventually listen to the message in the lyrics, giving further substance, relevance and grounding to the track.