SA mu­sic’s in a pretty good state

Merseystate to prove that in de­but city show

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOOD WEEKEND -

F OL­LOW­ING months of ra­dio and tele­vi­sion ex­po­sure, Cape­based, in­ter­na­tion­ally-lean­ing band Merseystate are to per­form an in­au­gu­ral live gig, the next step in a plan that in­cludes a restau­rantstu­dio and Euro­pean tours.

Merseystate are the lat­est in a line of South African bands to suf­fer the half-com­pli­ment, half-in­sult of hav­ing their songs played by fans to friends only to have the lat­ter ex­claim, “I love that song – I didn’t know it was South African!”

It’s one of those cu­ri­ous hur­dles a band faces – along with, say, fans who’ve heard the band’s sin­gles,

New Jer­sey Girl and Say Say Say, and searched for them in shops, only to find them, even­tu­ally, mis­filed un­der Mercy State. For­tu­nately th­ese are the perils, largely speak­ing, of suc­cess, as Merseystate have ex­ploded on to the South African mu­sic scene with hit ra­dio sin­gles and tele­vi­sion – and, now, a rare live gig.

Merseystate has its ori­gins in Fahren­heit, Shai Caleb’s for­mer band with his brother, Wayne Joshua (you may re­call Pieces and

Rise).

“Af­ter our fi­nal gig of a coun­try­wide tour, end­ing in Dur­ban, we got back to the trailer to find that all of our equip­ment had been stolen,” he says, and the pain is still pal­pa­ble.

“We pretty much had our stu­dio on tour with us, so that was R100 000’s worth of gear. We had noth­ing, and the other two mem­bers of the band called it quits. Wayne and I man­aged to sal­vage some money from the in­sur­ance and we for­got about bands for a bit; we put all that into a new record­ing stu­dio that we call Dreamspace.

“In a way, Merseystate re­ally started when a guy called Marcel Fuchs came to our stu­dio to look at record­ing an artist there. We played him New Jer­sey Girl – Wayne and I were al­ways record­ing demos – and within a few sec­onds he said, ‘I want to work with you guys.’

“We started a part­ner­ship called Riven­dal Records – we had been work­ing hard on the songs, and we had the mu­sic, and now we had the mar­ket­ing push to do things like sign with SABC3 and get ex­po­sure on things like Top Billing and Show­biz Re­port.”

For the band’s live shows to launch their de­but al­bum, The Lucky Ones, they draw on sea­soned vet­er­ans in the for m of Ja­son Re­olon (keys) and Gorm Helfjord (gui­tars), both well known in jazz and ses­sion cir­cles, and bassist Rob Nel who, among other du­ties, is part of the Flat Stan­ley tour­ing out­fit. A new song, Blood On The Wa­ter, is poised for re­newed ra­dio suc­cess, and the Say Say Say video is about to be flighted across prime-time tele­vi­sion.

Many have com­pared the band to South Africa’s other suc­cess story, Wa­ter­shed. “If there’s a link or a com­par­i­son to Wa­ter­shed, I guess we’d both be classified as adult-con­tem­po­rary rock, even though the Merseystate live shows are much more rock­ing than the usual ‘adult-con­tem­po­rary’ la­bel,” says Shai. “I’d take it as a com­pli­ment – that band has done stuff like we have, like tour­ing in Ger­many, and re­ally earn­ing their colours, so I’d look on the good side and say, ‘Thank you’, even though I don’t think the mu­sic is sim­i­lar.

“Then there’s the Mersey beat, back from The Bea­tles’ time, but with more of a New York or LA swag­ger vibe to it.”

In ad­di­tion to record­ing The Lucky Ones, tour­ing the UK and Europe, and run­ning Dreamspace, Merseystate moved their stu­dios from a small lo­ca­tion in Clifton to the CBD – and re-launched it with a tan­dem restau­rant in a stu­diomeets-so­cial-space con­cept called The Mersey Bar.

“We want to cre­ate a place for in­dus­try peo­ple to hang out; a nice en­vi­ron­ment for me­dia, mu­sic, ad­ver­tis­ing and tele­vi­sion peo­ple, and a bit of a trendy spot for every­one where you can, one day, take a look into mu­si­cians record­ing,” says Shai. “It’s a restau­rant com- plex with an up­stairs chill-lounge at­tached to the stu­dio. We’ll be do­ing some­thing called ‘Ses­sion@Wat­son’ where peo­ple can be en­joy­ing a drink or the restau­rant food and there’s, say, Arno Carstens in the record­ing booth and you can look in on it.”

The band’s de­but gig to­day (The As­sem­bly, 61 Har­ring­ton St, District Six, 021 465 7286, R80) car­ries with it a cu­ri­ous ap­peal from the band – pun­ters and fans are be­ing asked to bring with them old clothes which will be do­nated to char­ity. “We are lucky enough to be spon­sored by Ben Sher­man Cloth­ing, and we sud­denly thought, ‘If we’re get­ting our clothes for free, there are lots of peo­ple out there who need clothes.’

“We do­nated all our old per­sonal clothes to char­ity, and now we’re ask­ing peo­ple to bring items of old cloth­ing to the gig, and there’ll be a col­lec­tion box at the show for that – and we’ll of­fer them a R10 dis­count on the ticket price,” says Shai.

IT’S TIME TO ROCK: Merseystate’s Shai Caleb and Wayne Joshua get ready to per­form at The As­sem­bly tonight.

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