Sutherland have been making waves all around Johannesburg in recent months playing shows on a regular basis and growing their fanbase. In anticipation for their performance at Nothing Major this Friday, we spoke to the three friends about their previous metal project, getting a spot on the Ramfest bill and glass harps.
The Fuss – Who is Sutherland and fill us in on what you all do in your personal capacities? Are you fulltime musicians or is there an occupation or schooling pulling the strings behind the dream?
Sutherland – Sutherland is Chris, Mika and Misty. We’re not full time musicians but we’re working on it. Mika is a chef, Misty works at an IT company called Argility and I’m [Chris] a freelance copywriter and web developer in my own time.
The Fuss – Some people may not know this but before Sutherland, two of you were involved in a Progressive Metal band called A Perfect Travesty. What happened to A Perfect Travesty and talk us through the process that eventually brought you three together to create Sutherland?
Sutherland – Politics in A Perfect Travesty at the time were quite high, and there was conflict of interest in some cases. Individual pursuits took over and we all moved on. The three of us actually met back in 2008 through auditions for a band that we all ended up being a part of and we’ve been friends ever since. We’ve spent a lot of time together as close friends and we’ve played and wrote a bunch of music purely for the sake of making music. Our little repertoire grew and grew until the timing was right for Sutherland to get on with it. It was a decision – if we’re doing this then let’s do it properly.
The Fuss – Modern acoustic folk is a genre which in recent years has gained prominence with artists such as Mumford & Sons, even Matthew Mole from a local perspective, penetrating the commercial domain. This has resulted in an influx of artists in this mould. How is Sutherland approaching this style differently? What is the Sutherland way?
Sutherland – To be honest, I think Matthew Mole was somewhat an influence in showing us what can be done with folk – a simple percussive element with catchy easy-on-the-ears guitar and singing. Thereafter you could say we took that basic framework and filled in our own perspective of music (not necessarily something that was supposed to sound like folk, but what merely sounded good to us.) By doing so, we let our imaginations do all the work and never allowed any confinements of genre to stifle that. Anything that has influenced us or sounded good was put into the music.
The Fuss – Who are some of the artists whom influence and inspire your sounds both on an international and local level?
Sutherland – Since it’s not a conscious thing with us, in the sense that we don’t say,
“Oh a Jack Johnson vibe would be rad here”, or “A Mumford and Sons kind of sound would suit best”. We just write.
But I would say the unconscious influences, or what we really love to listen to, are artists like Mikail Paskalev, Chet Faker, Portugal the Man, Jonas Alaska, Sir Sly… We could go on and on.
The Fuss – You all have diverse personal musical influences and some of you are even involved in projects poles apart from what Sutherland is? How do your personal preferences influence the music you make? Is it important to you to take cues from various styles in creating your sound?
Sutherland – It’s pretty simple really. To us, there is no point in worrying about style or genre. That tends to be quite limiting. There is Good music, and there is Bad music (in every genre) and if we like the sound, it influences us and our music. The more music you listen to, the more you have to find inspiration from.
The Fuss – What are some of the project you are all involved in outside of Sutherland? Being involved in these projects how do you maintain balance in terms of time and creative energy? Is Sutherland your primary?
Sutherland – Misty and I [Chris] are involved in a funk, hip-hop rock band called Mid Effekt. And it isn’t easy balancing the two. Essentially we have practice almost every evening of the week, and sometimes during the day on weekends. Sutherland is not necessarily a primary, no. Both bands give us our essential kicks and we pride ourselves on both in terms of where they seem to be going. But we take it on a first come first serve basis, especially in terms of gigging.
The Fuss – Your band has been together for round about 6 months now, and 3 months into that you were booked to play at Ramfest. It seems there was a deliberate conceptual plan behind the launch of your band. How important is social media to Sutherland and how did you manage to get on the bill of Ramfest in such a short period of time after launching? Who manages the band?
Sutherland – Social media has played a huge role for Sutherland, but honestly, there was no serious conceptual plan. It’s a degree of persistence, and how much you’re willing to keep putting in. We had help and support from a band manager and event organiser who got us on our feet, and we’re incredibly grateful to her for that. The rest was us being serious about experimentation. We put up a video to see what kind of response our sound would get, and tried to make it as live and organic as possible to make the viewer feel like they were there. Even now we are rolling with the punches, experimenting, and still finding our feet.
We’ve been asked this one quite a lot… RAMfest was quite a shocker for us to be honest. A friend of ours that we were working with at the time submitted our stuff and the people at RAMfest put our name on the list. I think what we’re doing at the moment is playing into a niche that is gaining popularity. Response so far has been quite good and consistent for us and our sound is one that will compliment an early day vibe. It seemed to us that we fit a particular bill. All we can really tell you is that we’re extremely excited for that show, and have been working hard in preparation for it. In terms of management, currently, Duncan Errington manages the band for us and he’s been fantastic in spreading the word and booking shows for us.
The Fuss – You entered the Jagermeister Back The Artist contest which offered a great platform for local artists. The contest was a voting contest and although you did not win you managed to make it into the top 10. How did this contest benefit your band?
Sutherland – Pure exposure. It was fantastic for getting our name out there and it singled us out amongst ten others who were great acts themselves.
I think, in the minds of supporters, it planted a seed. We just needed to then keep watering that seed.
The Fuss – Brands have almost become essential in our music industry. It is extremely difficult, especially from a financial perspective, to make a career of music without the facilitation of some brand. How important are brands to our music industry and what would be your desired brand to have aiding Sutherland? Which brands are doing a really great job?
Sutherland – Brands are really important to the industry in so many ways. From helping artists out with gear and rigging venues with decent enough sound for the artists to perform, to adding a sense of professionalism to the artist’s image, brands are becoming one of the sure platforms for bands to launch themselves off. Sergeant Pepper Clothing and a lot of forms of media such as Not Another Zebra and The FUSS are doing great things in terms of exposing the artist and organising really exciting events. Any brands that would or could aid us in these ways are definitely the ones that we’d want to work with.
The Fuss – Do we have enough live music venues in Johannesburg and what are some of your favourites both as musicians and patrons?
Sutherland – Oh yeah, for our sound, there is a lot we can work with. We just played a show at Mamas Shebeen which was a lot of fun. HOWL at Wolves is always a good time and we had spoken about playing there a few times before our chance came along, so that was a really great show for us. We’d love to get down to Cape Town in the near future too. I reckon we’d enjoy playing pretty much anywhere.
The Fuss – In your live session of ‘Lost‘ you use water-filled crystal glasses as an organic synth. What is this song about and what was the thought process which lead to the use of glass harp?
Sutherland – ‘Lost’ is basically about relationships that go bad, and once they do, the curtains fall and you see people and situations for who and what they are. It’s something that most people go through and can relate to. Why not write about it? The whole wine glasses thing came from one of the random jams Mika and myself [Misty] had in his kitchen one evening. Actually, Mika pretty much makes wine glasses sing whenever he gets a chance.
The Fuss – Besides for the video of ‘Lost‘ you have also released a demo recording of ‘Keep Pushin’ On’ on your Soundcloud. When can we expect you to release more music? Is there an EP or album in the works?
Sutherland – We’re looking at recording very soon after RAMfest, So I guess it just depends on how many songs we decide to release and how long they take to produce. It’s on the cards for us so hopefully we’ll have a bunch of cool stuff for everyone to listen to in the next few months.