Leading up to the second edition of OneSight Acoustics, we chat to the Electronic Swing commander; Michael Lesar, about his evolving brand, his pleasure of travelling with his music and how the dynamic changes when he plays with his band.
You co-founded and featured your sets at the DeepHeet Parteez in Cape Town back when the house scene started blossoming. How did that help kickstart your career?
DeepHeet was the best platform I could’ve ever asked for; it allowed me to play on a line – up with South Africa’s top artists as we were only booking the best at the time, we even featured a few big internationals as well. This got me noticed by other events and soon after I became a regular name on the House scene. Then there’s the behind the scene experience I picked up, the marketing, dealing with artists etc. Because of this in depth knowledge and experience of the industry, I still handle my own brand today – I just prefer it that way. The spin offs of this event was never ending; it’s also the reason I quickly got noticed when I relocated to Johannesburg. Within six months, I was fully booked as Audio Villains – a new House duo i started with Tiny t, which also immediately exploded on the Jozi circuit.
You came onto the scene and kind of shot up immediately, getting booked for a series of events, festivals and features. Do you think it was because of the novelty of this kind of music? Was anyone else producing/mixing this genre at the time?
Actually I shot up in Joburg before i launched the Swing brand, but as Audio Villains and not Michael Lesar, we had a massive run for about three to four years before Tiny t decided on early retirement. In Johannesburg, I owe everything to Audio Villains as this gave me an awesome platform to launch my own brand. It was when Travis retired that I immediately launched the Swing brand, it was the perfect transition. Nobody else was playing Swing music at the time in Joburg and I had quite a difficult start trying to push the sound as peeps were not ready for it yet, so I sneakily slipped it into my House sets at festivals and certain parties. I quickly noticed a little following happening for Swing music, so that’s when i launched the ‘Let’s Swing It’ events, which was also a big success from the first one with a sold out event at Kitcheners. It was only after the launch of ‘Let’s Swing It’ that i started getting booked for big festivals and events specifically to play Swing music. Yes, I guess it could’ve been the novelty of the music, but it has proven to be more than just a trend.
You play with a full band now. Tell us how that differs to your solo sets?
Wow, what an experience it is to play as a live band. Well, it’s very different because we play a specific one hour set, the songs are set and it’s our own tracks and we are four people. When i play as a DJ, I can play whatever I want and all the music doesn’t belong to me ( produced by other artists ), however with the band, it’s very cool to play live and feed off each others energy. I absolutely love it but mostly I love the experience of being able to grow as an artist.
‘Let’s Swing It’ is playing host to a nostalgic subculture of the roaring 20’s. How are you experiencing the events? Are they growing in attendance? Are the DJ sets more varied as your progress?
There is now a solid 1920s sub -culture ,specifically because of the events with about 80% of peeps dressing up in 1920s attire and doing the Charleston on the dancefloor. Yes they are growing, but at a very slow pace. The following is still big and very loyal, which is awesome. I always fly in a different headliner from Cape Town for the events to keep things fresh though it’s not always easy to find the right DJs, so it can be tricky sometimes.
It feels like every month, you’re in a new city or country. Tell us how your work has allowed you to travel and meet new people?
Hehehe, I can honestly say I have never been in a more happier space in my life. I absolutely love the fact that I get to travel and play music. When playing internationally, sometimes I get flown over / invited, all expenses paid and other times I book a holiday at my own expense and then hook up a few gigs / tour while I’m there – a working holiday in the true sense. In most cases, I manage to make up my expenses / flights by playing, resulting in a free holiday. It’s a beautiful synergy of my two favourite things in the world: traveling and music.
Electro Swing is in demand as it allows a diversified audience to enjoy the different elements of its sound. What does its future look like in South Africa?
I think the future looks bright in S.A; the sound is definitely here to stay and is proving that it’s not just a passing trend, there are quite a few awesome bands already doing their thing in Cape Town. The sound generally is growing at a fast pace on the international scene, Europeans are doing massive Swing festivals at the moment. Besides the music, peeps love dressing up to the theme, which adds to the whole enjoyment of the night.
Catch him this weekend at the second edition of OneSight Acoustics at the Good Luck Bar.