By BRUCE DENNILL
Suiderkruis is a contemporary pop song by Victor Bravo, a duo comprising singer and songwriter Weco van Basten (WVB) and guitarist Jopie Pienaar (JP). It was produced by Renier Henning Music and features drummer Bruce Wallace and bassist Janes Blomerus.
“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?
WVB: The 1990s and early 2000s were probably the most influential on my music tastes and style. It’s difficult to describe, but, even today, listening to artists like REM, Sinead O’Connor, Counting Crows, and Klopjag, to name a few, still feels more real and immediate in the way that their music hits you emotionally. That is not to say that there aren’t a myriad other songs and genres that I also enjoy and sometimes carefully try to analyse to understand how and why they work so well, but music from that era…it captures the zeitgeist so well and so naturally. For as long as I can remember, I have been singing or making music in some way, but it was during that period of time that I realised music came from somewhere deeper, and sometimes darker, and was meant to connect on that same deep level with others.
JP: For me, there have been a lot of different styles on opposite ends of the spectrum, but which share the same “unique without trying too hard” qualities. One artist that stands out, is Blink 182. At the age that I started playing guitar, I was listening to them a lot. The simplicity of their songs made it easy to learn and to play along.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
WVB: As you get older, your perspective on things that you thought were very clear-cut changes. In my case, music that I previously didn’t like became at least understandable and somewhat relatable, and I found myself becoming more open to experimenting with and exploring musical elements and tropes I never knew existed. Currently, I am experimenting with different chord progressions and melodic phrasing and seeing what I can come up with.
JP: Over the years, there has definitely been change, growth and advancement in guitar playing that has left me wanting to explore more advanced types of playing. Blues is a good example and is probably not a style of music that I would have enjoyed as much as I do if it were not for me playing guitar and trying to imitate the skill level of some of those guitarists.
Name one song you wish you’d written or, if you’re not a writer, one you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?
WVB: Without a doubt, Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. On the surface, it is a fairly simple song with repetitive chord patterns and melody lines. Even if its lyrics were interpreted literally, it would still be a great song. But if you look deeper, it becomes a song about love, lust and loss, and a song about the love-hate relationship between a musician and his music, and a song about so many other things that there are entire discussion groups dedicated to trying to explore the poetic symbolism and musical congruence created in that one song.
JP: Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. This song contains all the aspects I would like to have in my own music – great guitar work, meaningful words and a smooth flow to it all.
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?
WVB: Probably effective layering. Layering the different parts of the music together so that it can build, peak and resolve where it should and complement what the lyrics and melody are trying to do.
JP: I would say being resourceful as a musician is probably one of the most important things for creating the mood. There is nothing more frustrating than having an idea in your head and not being able to put it down to paper or recording because you simply don’t have the skills to follow through. In my opinion, this is what the people behind the songs that I love do well.
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?
WVB: Wow. That’s difficult to answer, because in a truly great song, the one shouldn’t be able to exist without the other. Think of songs like Queen’s I Want To Break Free or, for something a little more modern, George Ezra’s Budapest. Is there any way in which you can think of the lyrics without hearing, in your mind, the melody, the rhythm, the instrumental solos and all the other parts that make the song work? That’s what a great song does: the different elements speak to each other and form a whole that is greater than the sum of their parts. That said, music always starts somewhere. Sometimes it is a lyric that pops into your head. Other times it is a melody that begs to be taken out and played with, or an idea, or emotion or whatever that plants the seed and grows into a song that works, or doesn’t. Regardless, whatever that seed is becomes the focal point for that song that all the other elements build around it.
JP: I would say that lyrics are the most important aspect of a song, but having said that, they still need a good melody or beautiful instrumental pieces to support and do them justice.
What’s your favourite piece of gear?
WVB: I like all of my toys, but for purely creative reasons I cannot see myself without my Kurzweil Keyboard. It allows me to just sit and try different melodies and chords and, plugged into a DAW, I can capture whatever works for later use.
JP: My Epiphone Joe Pass archtop guitar.
What is the story behind Suiderkruis – the genesis of the song, the people involved, and the muse behind its creation?
WVB: I wrote it as a tribute to the beautiful country that we live in. Jopie was responsible for the lead and acoustic guitar pieces in the song. Although the song was only written at the end of 2019, it was a long time coming. There are many South Africans who have left the country, because they believe that the grass is greener on the other side. I was one of them when I was in my early twenties. But our country and its culture are part of our DNA and, if you’re honest, you’ll admit that you miss it. That’s what this track is all about. It doesn’t matter where in the world you find yourself. You will always be a South African.
JP: Suiderkruis is different to what we usually do. It has a catchy tune, which will lure people to the dance floor without sacrificing its deeper meaning.”