Armed with Chuckles and Lemon Cordial, with lots of ice, I chatted to Alright, Goodnight members Gav Rubin, Dean Salant and David Wein (with Max in absentia) – all still proudly sporting their Oppikoppi wristbands – about their music, influences, performances and upcoming EP Launch. As we began Gav said, “So we can just say any sh*t and you’ll take the important stuff right?”
What’s the meaning, greater philosophy, around your name?
… “Are we allowed to tell people this? It’s a little bit weird.” David goes on to give a long-winded explanation about 50s movies, and then Dean finally says, “alright I’ll tell you what it really means. We’d been disagreeing about a name for ages, and I had been listening to a story on the radio about that Malaysian aircraft that disappeared and the last words of the pilot were ‘Alright, Goodnight.’ We don’t really tell people that story because it’s a little bit creepy and also because our name really has nothing to do with that incident… it’s just a cool band name.”
And apparently they would never say Alright, Goodnight at the end of a set; Much to my disappointment.
How have you guys matured as a band since moving away from Lucy and The Hex? (Their former punk rock band)
“Yoh” in unison. David admits “while we still love punk we felt like punk wasn’t our sound anymore. Our tastes were maturing so we had to move on. And I was really into rock ‘n roll and the other guys were starting to get into it, so we decided to progress…” Gav and Dean look at each other… David continues, “yeah… it was all me.” Gav declares that he wanted to make “pop. Like Kesha.” (Which he then told me not to put in… sorry Gav) Through their process of trying to create rock ‘n roll it ended up sounding quite forced. Gav continued, “It sounded like a copy of other bands, mostly the Arctic Monkeys, it was our own stuff but it just didn’t sound original. So we started incorporating other genres. Especially when Dean and I started studying music, we began to integrate jazz and different genres from everywhere – pop, funk, rock ‘n roll.”
Which artists or bands have most influenced your style?
Gav says, “What’s cool about this is that each one of us has entirely different influences. I can sit with Dave and we’ll be listening to music and not be able to agree on any one song. All four of us listen to completely different stuff that we blend together. Personally, my main influences would be Foals, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Dr Dre.” In David’s opinion “he leans towards funk, especially in terms of the band. Definitely Red Hot Chili Peppers, which turns out to be a common favourite and influence among all of us, The Hives, and Bassdrum of Death.” Dean’s are The Doors, Foals, and Alt-J and Max listens to Blink-182 and is influenced by bands like Bloc Party. While they are interested in different genres and bands, they are all willing to challenge themselves beyond their comfort zone.
Have there been any particular songs throughout your life that have resonated strongly with you?
Gav: ‘Shake it off’ – Taylor Swift, “but really ‘Two Steps Twice’ by Foals”
David: ‘Late Night’ by Foals, “and a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ stuff. They have the real funk, rock style right which is what we’re trying to achieve.”
Dean: ‘The End’ by the Doors – “a fourteen minute song of them just jamming, it’s obvious that they’re incredibly wasted, but it’s just the most honest song that I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Gav: “To be honest, mostly the radio and a shitload of classical music.”
Dean: “I’ll tell you what I’ve got in my car at the moment: Alt-J’s new album, Wild Beasts, The Flaming Lips, and the Doors.”
David: “Foals, and I can’t go a day without listening to The Hives – they’re my all time favourite. The King Kahn & BBQ show and a few stranger little garage bands, which I’m a huge fan of.”
Max: “A lot of Greenday, and Bob Marley.”
Any South African bands?
“Yeah, Shadowclub. And Al-bairre”. Al-bairre is their biggest South African band influence. They’re also fans of some of the up-and-comings like Boxer, Go Barefoot, and the Anti Retrovinyls.
What was the first piece of music/CD you ever spent your money on? (Be honest)
David: My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade
Gav: Ricky Martin’s album – he admits, “I don’t even remember what it’s called.”
Dean: Linkin Park – Meteora
Who of the people you know have personally influenced your musical taste, musical style, or perhaps even the lyrics you write?
A big one for David is his “grandpa Sam. He was a jazz muso and he has been playing jazz to me since I was a really small kid. He was the one who convinced me to really push for better playing – to not just be a generic bassist but a really good player.” For Dean it is his sister. She has had a massive influence on his music taste. But also, his close friends. “It’s become natural for us to ask what the other is listening to. And it’s important to remain open-minded to new musical tastes. This is something that I’ve most recently learnt in my music degree – is that every piece of music has its value, even if you hate it. There will be someone who loves it.” Gav believes his is Dean. Whenever they find something new they just share it with each other. “You should see our Facebook inbox history; it’s just YouTube and Soundcloud links to new music. From as early as grade 7 where it was like, “Check out this new Metallica song!””
At what point did you decide to progress from listener to performer? As a band member do you now listen to other artists differently?
Gav starts “As soon as I started playing guitar like six/seven years ago I realised I wanted to be in a band. For the first few years, as Lucy and the Hex, it was still just about ‘being in a band.’ But now it’s less about the image of ‘being in a band’ but about the fun of it. When I listen to other bands in live performance I’m a lot more judgemental; in a second I can decide if they’re incredible or garbage. I’ve found it has become a lot easier to pick out which is which. You can tell how serious people are about what they do, and it is often reflected in how they play and how well the events are run.”
People have come to associate judgement with negativity, but it can also be positive and praiseworthy.
Dave was brought in to play bass by Gav and Dean, and so didn’t do that much up until then as a musician. “The transition from learning, to being in a band was really quick and sudden for me.” With regards to other people’s music, “Instead of actually just listening to other people’s music as I did in the past, I watch them live. If they have a really nice presence – which doesn’t need to be especially flamboyant – that suits them that is what works for me. The way they carry themselves on stage is crucial.”
Dean received his guitar, at 12, at the same time as Gav and they just started jamming together from the beginning. It felt like a natural progression.
Explain the chemistry of the individuals in your group when it comes to writing songs?
“Our chemistry is actually really cool,” describes Gav. “Often when we go into the band room with the intention to write new music, we sit and play for a few minutes and realise nothing is happening. And then sometimes, without the intention of writing new music, we come up with a random riff while jamming which turns into an entire song immediately.”
Before every single band practice they just jam to see what happens. If anything cool comes up, then that’s a bonus.
When David believes he’s come up with a really cool quick, pumping riff he takes it to the band, and someone will say to him, “This is really cool but imagine what it would sound like if we slowed it down.” And just by slowing it down it creates an entirely new song that he would never have thought of.
Either their songs develop organically through jamming, or someone will come with a skeleton idea that they have. They all toss in their own ideas, and create an “amalgamation” of ideas that they can begin to refine.
They believe they’re different to other bands because they really take their time to write their music. “We’re not slap-dash.” They really take their time to add in subtleties, and a song is usually developed over a couple of weeks.
Your EP launch is coming up soon – tell me some details about the EP? Is there a theme, style, or concept?
“The title of the EP is What Just Happened and it sort of refers to the shock we’re in by how quickly we developed as a band, and came into the position we are in now. None of us thought that we’d have ‘sold out’ and be playing indie-funk-pop, when we just started. The EP says : “Here’s a taste of what we’re producing now, and an idea of what we sound like.” But even since recording our style has changed completely. Which is awesome. Also every individual song in the EP is completely different.” Perhaps inviting the listener to ask, “What just happened?”
What was the creative process of recording your EP like? Where did you record, how long did it take, how you recorded it, how much chocolate/McDonalds did you eat throughout the process?
“It was mixed and mastered at Anti-motion studios with Dave Grevler. We played a lot of Zombies – Dave had a play station at the back of the studio. We took time in studio to add lots of layers and subtleties to the music that most people probably won’t notice the first couple of times listening, maybe even never. On the first day of recording, we recorded Max on drums, and then added layers, with vocals last. Dave really knew he was doing and he also made good coffee.
Not too much McDonald’s, because they don’t deliver. But we did eat lots of Mexican pizza and Dave’s mom’s homemade cookies.”
Are there any international or local artists you would like to, or would dream of, collaborating with?
Maybe a genre that contrasts their own work – something electro. “We would love to collaborate with Sibot or Haezer. While we play more indie-rock music we are all really big fans of hardcore electro music.”
When was the first time you performed? (As Alright, Goodnight or any previous performances)
At the beginning they performed angsty pseudo-metal. Their first gig ever, with “a slightly different lineup, a couple of years back, was at a lesbian biker bar in Edenvale which was pretty wild; as well as a few St Mary’s Battle of the Bands.”
They began playing as Alright, Goodnight earlier this year at the Boh with Go Barefoot and Boxer.
How have you guys developed as a band since your first performance?
“We’re at the point where we are no longer defining ourselves in terms of a specific genre. We’ve developed in the sense that we are constantly developing. We make an eclectic range of music, not because we try to, but because it’s what comes naturally. Whereas previously we would dismiss songs that we might have liked but didn’t think fit our genre nicely. Also David has grown facial hair, which is quite a significant development.”
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing moment on stage?
“We were competing in a battle of the bands- A St. Mary’s one at that -which we knew we had not done particularly well in. When they announced us in third place we all freaked out – sarcastically of course – and Gav, in front of 400 people, did a handstand. Well, a sort of handstand. All in one motion he went from being on his hands straight over to being flat on his back.”
Who throws the best Gauteng parties?
“Hmm, probably Griet.”
What venue would you most want to play at in South Africa? In the world?
South Africa -Arcade Empire
World – pretty much any major festival. Preferably Germany.
What have been some of your favourite single/album/EP releases of 2014?
Alt-J – This is all yours
When’s the first music video coming?
“Hopefully early next year.”
Explain your style in five words!
Men at work doing stuff.
(Originally – the silk octopus. Until they learnt to count)
Why should I come to your EP launch? Sell it to me
Cheap booze. Better people. Best lineup. Nuff said.