By BRUCE DENNILL
Doomy alternative rock band Them Dirty Shrikes were formed in Pretoria, South Africa in 2016 and have gained good standing in the local live scene after performing at the country’s top festivals, including Oppikoppi, the Misty Waters Music Festival and the Durban International Blues Festival. Vocalist Soné Briel offers her perspective.
“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 to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
I’m a 2002 to 2012 pop-punk and post-hardcore kid, but my world was turned over when I heard The Kills and Band of Skulls. The songwriting and melodies had an immense effect on me and my songwriting. I’ve been singing since I was six years old, but the dream kind of sparked and died in waves over the years. These bands made me so excited about writing and singing again that I was just absolutely thrilled when our guitarist Stiaan asked me to join a band with him.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
I listen to listen to a wide range of genres, from singer-songwriters like Angie McMahon to hardcore punk like Cancer Bats. But bands in my day-to-day rotation would be Turbowolf, All Them Witches, Deap Vally, Cleopatrick, Rose Hill Drive, Royal Blood, and Badflower. I also have a big love for a lot of South African bands. Ruff Majik, MOUSE, The Valley and The Tazers, to name a few, keep me inspired to keep doing what we’re doing. I also find myself reaching for the genres that raised me but delving into the newer bands in the genres, with bands like WSTR, Neck Deep, Trophy Eyes and Boston Manor taking me back to my pop-punk/post-hardcore or whatever roots. I think having a wide taste in music opens you up to influences you wouldn’t have had otherwise, which could be a good or a bad thing. In my experience, I’d say so far so good.
Name one song you wish you’d written. What makes that song so important?
I’d say Diamond by the band All Them Witches. There’s something about how the lyrics and the music just kind of take you on this journey and I just hang on every word and sound. Honestly, the song puts me in a trance. The song is important to me because it’s a good example of everything I like in a song. From the lyrics and vocals to the instruments and then how it fits together. I feel the same about Fires by Band of Skulls, for the same reasons.
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 are the most memorable parts of your songs?
I must say that I prioritise that sweet balance between the main melody and the vocals. To me, there’s something that just brings a song together when you have a complimenting guitar and vocal line. Stiaan and I try to mimic some of each others’ parts or also purposely have some friction between the two to emphasise certain parts. In the end, I think having those moments is what also brings out the lyrics and the message of the song.
The music industry is no longer a single-narrative operation. For you, what is the best way to get your music from your head to potential listeners? Please comment on digital means (from social media to full streaming and download distribution), playing live (how often; where; to whom), being a cottage industry (selling CDs from a box in your car or similar) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.
I have found that having a presence on social media builds a great support system for anything you do. It also helps with the marketing and promotion of your music by giving your supporters a place to go if they want to know what’s going on in your band’s world. We currently distribute our music independently through CDbaby, but we have had wonderful help from Plug Music Agency to get it out. I think it’s important to invest in your music so it gets the opportunities you worked hard for. We try and play as many new places as we can, so we can reach as many new faces as possible. That being said, we’ve played a lot of empty venues as well. It’s a win some-lose some strategy, but you can only miss the opportunities you don’t take. I’ve also learned that the other acts you play a show with has a huge impact on your reach in different cities or new venues you haven’t played yet. To be honest, our physical copy of our EP hasn’t done much. Online services have taken over. So what we do sell from the box in my car is merchandise. We have had great support with the T-shirts we’ve sold and it helps us fund our releases and ventures. It’s also great having your name walking around somewhere, making memories with the people wearing it.
In terms of the above, is there a gap between what you envisioned and what you are experiencing now? Does it matter, and if so, how do you close that gap?
I must say, it always looked much easier than I’ve realised it is. I knew it would be hard work getting anywhere, but I didn’t realise how big the logistical side of it is. To be honest, the music is the easy part of it all. As an independent artist, staying on top of finances, marketing and everything involved becomes a second job. You work hard behind the scenes so that your performance is the reward for the hard work you’ve done – and, of course, the driving force. I don’t mind it at all though, it’s all worth it in the end.
What is your most recent release? What is the story behind it – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
Our single November was released late last year, and it’s a bit of a personal one. I wrote the song about a rather difficult time in my life when I experienced the type of heartache that feel like I had to drink like a fish just to stay afloat. I ended up forgetting most of my weekends and pretty much lost hold of myself. The best part, in retrospect, is that it wasn’t worth it. It’s not worth losing yourself over toxic events or people. In a time I really needed myself, I lost myself in my destructive coping mechanisms. Of course, these things happen, and you might not understand why, but I think they happen so you can learn from them. The other people involved in it, apart from all of our friends, family and supporters, are Byron Muller from Audio Nebula, who perfectly recorded, mixed and mastered the song, and Warren Gibson from Plug Music Agency, who helped us get the song to the ears who needed it. We’re really thankful for the support system we have backing us.