Medicine Boy is a Berlin-based Cape Town-native band who’s dreamy sound is medicine enough during these tranquil autumn days. Their most recent release ‘Lower’ arrived in October via Fuzz Club Records to great review. After you’re done checking out their album, be sure to catch them live at Poland’s SpaceFest! this December 7th and 8th.
How did Medicine Boy first form?
I met Andre through our first project together, The Very Wicked – a five piece psychedelic rock band. Before then I had only really played solo shows with my acoustic guitar. Andre began to join me for a few of those shows. And so our musical relationship developed from two quite differing perspectives. After a few years of that we decided to form a duo. We weren’t really sure what it was going to sound like but both knew we wanted to put everything into music and were happy to do it together. Medicine Boy is a culmination of that relationship and all we’d learnt as individuals leading up to that point.
What’s the general zeitgeist of your latest album ‘Lower‘ for those who’ve yet to hear it?
Our world is burning and we have front row seats. We decide to hold hands.
How do you normally form a song: melody or lyric first? Use ‘Carpels’ as an example.
They usually happen at the same time for me. I often start writing on guitar. I play around and see what comes out of my mouth. The initial lyric and melody, and how they interact, serve as the seed for how the song will develop. It was the same for ‘Carpels‘. The first verse sort of fell out while I was experimenting on the guitar. I was then able to look at what I had, try figure out what I might have meant by it and continue to build on that. Writing lyrics and melody together makes the process more intuitive. As soon as I start to write lyrics alone, they become a little contrived.
Could you tell us a bit about the collaboration between yourselves and the film “The Recce”? How did ‘Bag of Bones’ come about?
“The Recce” is a South Africa feature film written and directed by Johannes Ferdinand Van Zyl. He needed a song for the credits and originally asked another musician to compose a piece but unfortunately the mood wasn’t very well matched. With very little time left the director approached us and asked if we would be up for writing and recording something. Andre and I have wanted to compose for film for a while now and agreed. The director showed us bits of the film in order to convey mood and spoke to us a bit about the themes. That same afternoon Andre and I began work on the song. I think I wrote the chorus line, ‘My bag of bones, bring your body on home’ and the rest of it developed from there. Andre wrote the verses in a couple of days. We wanted to write something that held the mood and feeling of the film without speaking to it too directly. Within that same week we went and recorded at Digital Forest – watching Andre record the solo is still one of my favourite studio moments – and then Simon Ratcliffe from Sound and Motion Studios mixed it. It was the first time we had worked with Simon and we loved the process and the result so much that we ended up giving him ‘Lower‘ to mix. So we were really grateful for that small project.
Off the top of your head who or what is your ‘‘pickpocket inspiration’’ [from the ‘Bag of Bones’ lyric]?
The underneath of our feelings. The quiet. The music that we love and listen to so often.
What’s the story behind your track ‘One Hundred Bodies’?
Well I’m answering this interview and Andre wrote this track so I can’t say for sure. But I think he might choose to leave it unanswered. Some songs give away so much that they don’t like to give away any more.
Describe the following tracks in five words or less: ‘Water Girl’?
Swaying on a sinking boat.
‘Yellow-eyed Radio Blues’?
Keep talking, it’s too loud.
Holding the wrong hand.
Your influencers, Rowland S. Howard, Spiritualized, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, have been mentioned before. Do you have any hidden from the public, guilty pleasure art-altering influences in addition to those?
We did spend many evenings of one year listening to Jeff Bridges Sleeping Tapes. I’m sure there are many others, but I feel a bit shy exposing them here. Sometimes sharing my musical loves feels strangely revealing.
Favorite Jesus and Mary Chain song? Favorite album of Spiritualized’s?
There is very little that makes me as happy as when I’m dancing somewhere and ‘Happy When It Rains‘ comes on. I only began listening to Spiritualized when Andre and I met. ‘Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space‘ was one of the first things he ever gave me to listen to so it holds quite a special place for me.
For the lucky SpaceFest!-goers, who’ll catch you in December, what’s the energy like witnessing Medicine Boy live?
I guess it’s difficult to say that from our perspective. I know it always feels very different to how it might read. But we love being up there, together, so very much. And it feels important to us. And we don’t shy away from that. It’s playful, but seriously so. If that makes any sense.
Aside from SpaceFest!, what’s next for Medicine Boy in the upcoming months?
SpaceFest! is part of our first European tour since relocating to Berlin. So after this we’ll head home for our first cold winter which we hear is quite a thing. Our plan is to stay in and write and play and practise.
Photo credits: Adriaan Louw