Durban based rock band HABIT TO [Michelle ‘Chillie’ Stent-Wardell on vocals and Guitar, Dale ‘Dang’ Wardell on Drums and Yesh Naidoo on Bass), formed in 2003, and in 2006 they won the Durban Burn the Bands competition, which awarded them the studio time and funding they needed to produce their debut album, ‘Secrets to a Triangle’.
They have now released a new single called ‘Dreaming’ off of their EP entitled HellBent, which is part one of a two EP release.
Working with Grammy award winning producer, Harshn Reddy, the new material has HABIT TO exploring new sounds while still holding onto their roots.
Let’s go back to the beginning when you first formed HABIT TO in 2003, do you remember that?
“We had all come out of other bands; there were three of us, and we had been friends for a while and were jamming just for fun. We just wanted to make cool music and record. We played a gig and the response was positive and so we kept going with it. 15 years later and we are still doing it. So much has changed, the industry has changed, the band has changed, the music has also changed. When we started we were young and passionate about progressive rock and tended to be a little indulgent. But now we have refined the sound more and are trying to write good songs, that people can relate to.”
How has the sound and song writing changed?
“When we first started writing it was just about jamming ideas out and we would flesh them out for hours into these big songs. We had the time. Over the years we have fleshed out our process. Michelle is a great lyricist and mostly she will come up with a great melody and we will flesh the song out around that. For us, we have always wanted to make sure that what we record, we have to be able to perform live. We always want to reproduce whatever we do, live. That has been our biggest thing. With the songs on our EP, we would hash out these really deep songs, and go down a rabbit hole but when it came to trying to play them as a band, it wouldn’t work, so we would either have to bin the song or re-write it to get it to a happy medium.”
I like that you are releasing two separate EPs – the names are great. Tell me about this concept?
“We started recording this in 2012. Allan was our bassist at the time, and we were touring. After 2 years of touring we had a lot of stuff and went into studio to record. Then Michelle’s dad died and then a few months later Allan’s dad died. Allan moved down to Cape Town and went to work as the rig manager for Van Coke. We had been booked to play all these festivals and so managed to find a bass player. But it was a really dark time for us and we had this constant feeling that we were treading water – we were wrecked as a band. For 6 months we just stopped. Then we got back together and moved forward. We got asked to play this roller derby gig, which became the catalyst for us getting our band together properly again. We wrote more and played and then had a full album. We were originally going to call it HellBent. We got into the studio a year ago and the recordings sounded fresher and more current than our older stuff. New stuff came out and was more relevant. So we put together HellBent as a 6 track EP. We recorded with a Producer Harshn, who really helped get the best out of us. In the past we would record ourselves; it’s good as we got to flesh a lot out but it is bad as you don’t always know when to let go of things. He was there as the mediator and helped us let go of the stuff. He heard our older stuff but felt it didn’t work with HellBent and so we decided to release it as a second EP called Heaven Sent.”
You’ve just release DREAMING but if you could choose a song that best represents the band which would it be and why?
“Every song becomes a child. All the songs are very important. ‘All Night’ was originally going to be the first single. We all love it, as it is more rock. ‘Dreaming’ has the big chorus and there is a catharsis in the music. So I would say it is between the two.”
The name Habit To?
“On our first EP, Michelle wrote a song called ‘Habit To’. At the time we were called SHADE. We hadn’t released anything yet. We then found out there was already a band called Shade. For me the song ‘Habit To’ had a nice ring to it and we thought it would be good. Everyone has habits and things we do without thinking, and for a while it became an inside joke that ‘it’s that person’s ‘habit to’.”
You’ve played so many big festivals,…. Any moment that sticks out for you?
“My best memories are when we go on the road and play for people in town we’ve never met. The one that sticks out; it was the last date of our one tour we were playing at a place called Pool City in PE and we were so broken from this long 2 week tour. We wanted to sleep and go home. It actually ended up being the best gig of our lives. The vibe was great and they wouldn’t let us off the stage. I had such a positive feeling; from such a low place we ended on such a high. You often have the most fun when you are not planning to.”
You and Michelle are married. How do you balance this?
“We’ve learned to not bring the band home. A lot of the time we are talking business but we have learned to not take things personally. That’s one thing that has been consistent. We are able to separate. Having a third person in the band has helped keep it level headed. The biggest challenge is separating the band from the relationship when we are having downtime. Sometimes it can be exhausting. We’ve had to make a few code words for when it s time to switch off from the band.”
You all have these interesting nicknames- Tell me about them?
“Chillie – she gets cold in Durban and Joburg winters. Even in summer she says she is chilly. So it has stuck.
Dang – I think someone called me Dang once – they forgot my name. Next thing everyone started calling me Dang.
Yesh – His real name is Yasindra. After he is drunk it is difficult to pronounce it so it becomes the Sean Connory pronunciation.”
If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be and why?
“Denholm Harding. I’ve worked with him before and he was so great to work with him. He is so busy. I would love to work with Lark as well.”
Trapped on a Desert Island – which one album would you take with you and why?
“Tool – Aenima. That album changed my life. It was the sound track to my life for a ling time.”
Stream ‘Dreaming’ here: