Inner city psych fest explores expansion of new community


Inner city psych fest explores expansion of new community

The Psalms enter the stage’s territory. It’s a Saturday night at Assembly and I am curious as to what regenerates before me. It’s the third annual Inner City Psych Fest and my only link to the music is that what I have heard audibly through my earphones. The band are dreamy, but insecure. They have their feelers out, their synth and guitar on high frequency and the vocals are dominating. The reverb is unbalanced and feels out of sync with the sound engineer. At times, it sounds like a kitten scratching on an amp, clashing on every level. I am unsure of its climax, but I watch anyway. The recordings are more concrete than the live session, but their set is so raw and unrefined that it keeps their momentum high.

Half of the line-up over the weekend related to this playing level. The other half amused or moved me in ways I hadn’t yet explored. Caves, Mind Pool and Medicine Boy are on another level, while The Fizz Pops, Gumbo Ya-Yas and The Psalms have the potential to get there. I so wish I had the manpower to function after midnight, because I still haven’t seen Sol Gems, but they are at the top of my to watch list.

What really needs the mention is the brainpower behind the music, and this is what I expand on below. Read about how the team behind Psych Night work together, their relationship with Levitation and evolving the community in South Africa.



Psych night is comprised of a five part collective that boasts a set of assorted skills of imagery, music making and management. Tell us about the roles you each play and what synergy exists between all of you when working as a team?

You could say we have more of a dynamic flow of responsibility between the five of us; but as we go through more events, and particularly our tours with internationals, we’ve found certain innate inclinations towards areas that each of us enjoy, or at least take hold of. Simon has always been the leading man on the art direction and design, Andre has the musical background and experience to work with artists from a more technical perspective, Raoul is the get-shit-done-and-get-on-the stage guy, Markie sniffs out the best deals and combs through all the details when the rest of us are running around without our senses and Micah is the self-titled “international relations manager” – something to do with charming the international folk. Collectively we all make the decisions in a generally sensible manner. The most important aspect of why we all ‘work’ together is because we have a passion for this culture of music, and to see that ripple through to other people is an incredibly rewarding feeling. We’re still figuring out the business end of things, to be honest.


How does the psych scene co-exist/ compliment the other scenes in South Africa?

Well, that’s a tricky question to answer, as we’re not too sure what the guys over the road are saying. Sure, there are always the serrated opinions, but if there’s one critical thing to note about the international psych scene, it’s that this kind of music is really difficult to put your finger on. If you were to travel all the way to Austin and attend Levitation, you’d could be watching Tuareg bands from North Africa, a doom band from Japan, an original American ‘psych’ band from the 70s and, well, the list goes on. We’d like to think that the scene developing locally is complimentary to any existing scenes or those still to come. To be honest, ‘scene’ is a very limiting term. It means it has to be something at a certain time, and what we are witnessing is more of a progression. What we call our ‘scene’ now might be totally different in a year’s time. If you’re talking about soft to heavy genres, psych music very easily traverses the spectrum of musical authenticity. So, we’re really excited to see how things develop.


Do emerging bands have an expectation of you guys to book them gigs and help them network?

Psych Night isn’t an agency as such, but there are bands that we really enjoy and feel deserve to get out there and play, whether it’s at one of our events or not. We’d like to think we can give confidence to bands that might have not comfortably found themselves on a stage before. We do have a fair amount of new bands approaching us for shows, and unfortunately we aren’t able to put together enough shows across the year to showcase all of the up-and-coming talent – not yet, anyway. It is encouraging though to see such a swell of enthusiasm, and we try our best to push new music.


How does the selection process work for the annual inner City Psych Fest? The bands seem to be growing in quantity, so is it a challenge to limit who you choose to play?

It’s a difficult task, settling on the line-ups with the options that have emerged over the last year or two. We try to make sure that there is a good sonic flow between the acts. Not to say that they have to all sound similar, but more to figure what will work for the crowd from an audio and experiential level. With CTICPF we had some framework to work from – Johnny Tex’s new band Fizz Pops were planning to launch themselves around the same time we had pegged CTICPF for, and we felt it would be a great highlight of the fest to have them headline the Friday night. The Fizz Pops were going to have support from Gumbo Ya-Ya’s, so we pulled them onboard also. Our own Andre and his band Medicine Boy have recently returned from a three-month European and UK tour and, for the team, we all wanted listen to them again. So that was our little indulgence. The Assembly line-up was predetermined with our collaboration with Red Bull Studios and FutureNow on the “Into The Sound” album. We had to select bands that hadn’t recorded anything with Red Bull before, and we also wanted to give an opportunity to some bands that hadn’t previously been in a professional recording studio. We are really happy with the final sitting of bands, and the tracks are sounding exceptional! For our final event on Sunday, we were looking for something relaxed and fitting for a late afternoon in dappled sunlight. Lucas Swart has been playing for quite a while in various bands, but he recently started pushing his solo stuff and we felt to would be a great platform to do that. The laidback intention of the event also brought collaborators from different bands to do a couple songs with Lucas, and we wanted to give that comfortable homely atmosphere.


Tell us about your relationship with Levitation (Austin Psych fest). How have you taken cues from the way they operate the scene in their city and what have you added to the local presence here?

It started off with Markie returning from Austin Psych Fest a little over three years ago, and him bringing back a plethora of photos of bands we had only dreamed about watching. He started nurturing a relationship with them from a media angle, and this has stood us in good stead. As Psych Night grew, so did our enthusiasm. It wasn’t long before most of us, and some close friends, had broken the bank and attended the festival and others, worldwide. We shoved Psych Night T-shirts, stickers, record bags, compilation CDs and whatever else that made our local community seem legit, into the hands of bands and the festival’s organisers. We wanted to have a presence, even if it was a blip on the radar. Simon’s talent and beautiful artwork also played a big role in garnering attention, and before we knew it, we were seeing bands across the States and EU wearing our merch. Simon started doing design work for Austin Psych Fest, bands associated with it and other auxiliary elements of the fest, so on the whole – we went from fanboys to colleagues. This meant that communication channels were opened, and we could freely share ideas and information. The most important element we have tried to implement is that of the mindset and approach to the music – treating it as a community with a culture. As soon as you put your head into that idea, you realise that it goes beyond trying to achieve a fully-embodying experience and into the realm of making a place to practice your culture. Without a place, the culture will die. We’re still travelling to that full realisation, but the journey has treated us well so far.


Describe an intimate gig. The crowd. The environment. The mood.

Similar to the Sunday show on CTICPF, we envision it to be an environment where there isn’t any pressure to be or act in a certain way, beyond being good-natured. Surrounded by good friends, and friendly people, the experience should allow one to sit back and take it all in, or dance around to your heart’s desire. This music can be relaxed or wild, but it takes centre stage and should carry you with it. The mood of the music.


Tell us about the locations you choose for the Inner City Psych fest. How do you build up your partnerships with local bars and venues and ensure people get the best use of their spaces?

Cape Town, along with other cities in South Africa, struggles with venues. We have to make decisions based on past experiences and we try to make the least risky choices when it comes to accommodating an event. We generally stick with venues that have the basic infrastructure, otherwise it won’t be financially viable for us or the bands. We also don’t want to ever have an event fail because an infrastructural issue, or worse – neglect areas of personal safety. The value of sticking with a venue over a long period of time allows us to develop a working relationship that sometimes requires compromise for the greater good. That kind of relationship doesn’t happen overnight. It is also critically important that venues show respect to our shows, the crowd and music that comes with it.



Your collective seems to very much male inspired, in its formula and details. Is there any chance of you diversifying with a female perspective?

Well, from behind, three of the five of us could pass as women. But I’m guessing that’s not the kind of perspective you’re talking about… To be honest, we’ve never considered a difference in male and female perspective. Our intentions are woven with the singularity of characters, but which lead to a like-minded tapestry of a culture. We leave what we do open to interpretation, and feedback, but also to attract people who can contribute their value in their separate ways. The ‘how’ of this is still being ironed-out, but we sense we’re getting close.

Would you be open to or do you know of any psych bands that use different languages or locally made instruments during their live sets? It would be cool to have one of our 11 national languages in use within this scene.

Of course! This is where we want to take Psych Night. We are managing to emulate the quality, on a small scale, of the international communities but this is not enough to secure our place. We are very much aware that the next chapter is forging the uniqueness of our community in South Africa. We have an incredible traditional music history, and the neo fronts of these cultures are exciting and will make for a powerful ensemble. This too is a part of the journey we’re on, and we are building our confidence to showcase our courting act.


You guys partnered up with Red Bull Studios and Future Now to create collaborations between Caves, Mind Pool, Sol Gems, Psalms and The Plastics. Could you elaborate further how the collaborations worked? Did the musicians merge their sounds to create new songs or play them out as a curated playlist?

We approached the bands with the plan that they have two days each in studio to record whatever they wanted. It has come to the point where we know that what they produce will undoubtedly be of a high standard – the final product speaks for itself! We had little input beyond selecting the bands. We would have definitely wanted more to join, but with time restraints and the pressure on Red Bull Studios, this was not possible. The other great thing about this project is that it allowed the musicians to meet and familiarise themselves in the same place. It’s a valuable exercise for bands to work on a collaborative project, as often recording is a secluded process. It seems that the bands had a great time, and hopefully the shared experience will cultivate certain elements between them that might have not come about otherwise.



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