SA folk punk rockers, The Shabs, have just returned home after playing 23 successful shows all around Europe.
They have been a favoutie amongst South Africans over the past 6 years, and since the released of their debut album “Folk is Dead” in 2016, this music machine have toured extensively all over South Africa and Europe.
The Shabs have just released their second full-length album “Can You Hear Us At The Back” via South Africa’s leading Indie label Just Music.
The Shabs consist of Jon Shaban on guitar and vocals, Ryan McArthur on double bass and backing vocals and Jon Case on drums, as well as frequent collaborations with female vocalists.
Tell me about The Shabs’ European tour – was there a moment on this tour that stood out for you at all?
“There were definitely a few moments. We have been there a couple of times before but this was our first time going this time of the year; we usually go in summer. We usually play at club gigs. There were a few gigs in Prague, in Czech, where we realized that we have reached a point where we can get 150 people to a gig on a random night when it is just us. A lot of the time we would play at festivals overseas so there were already good crowds. On this tour it was the first time we could see that we have enough of a pull to get momentum and good crowds on our own steam. We could see how the fan base has grown. We could see the result of the work we have put in over the years.”
What is it about the music that European fans are connecting with?
“I would say there are two aspects to our music that people always comment on, especially over there; people usually tell us that it is very sincere. We write songs about stuff that matters to us and it is very honest but at the same time, it is usually positive. We sing in a way that is hopeful and positive. We want to spread that message of positivity. People relate to that. We are just being ourselves.”
How is the song writing and concept behind this new album different from your first album?
“I think that first off, this was written a lot more collectively between the band. We hadn’t had a full time drummer for a while and Jon and myself had been performing as a duo for a while. Two years ago we got a full time drummer and between the three of us, the song writing was approached as a band, as opposed to a singer songwriter point of view.”
“We also wanted to expand the sound, because folk punk can be quite simple. It is high energy but it doesn’t have a vast sound range to it, so we wanted to find ways to stay true to our sound, reference it but also push it and see where we can take it to explore different avenues. It really pushed us into new musical territories.”
Is there one song off the album that best represents The Shabs at the moment and which one?
“I would say that a song that resonates with us and which is true to us, is a song called ‘We’ve all been there’. It is a song about dealing with the difficulties in life and realising that you have support systems and friends, and that no matter how tough life gets, there are always people who can help you. Our ethos is based on relying on a community; we tour a lot and so we rely on people who allow us to use their couches, etc and it’s tough being a touring band being away from home. It’s that message of never being too proud to ask for help, and it’s that message that is very important to us.”
You’ve also added different musicians to the album – you have really expanded your sound. Is there anyone you would love to work with at all?
“I would say one of our favourtie song writers is a Canadian writer John K Samson. He was the front man for a band called The Weakerthans lands; they released four albums and he has two solo albums.That would be a pipe dream to work with him. Jon and I have spoken about it often. But there are many….”
Is there another moment in your career that stands out for you at all?
“I would say that last year on our European tour we played at a festival called Mighty Sounds in Czech Republic. We played before in 2016, but last year we performed there as a four piece. We played our normal set but then the festival organisers were trying to get all the bands to do an unplugged, stripped down set. We did this acoustic set after our full band set. So many people pitched up at the acoustic stage and it was the most people they had attending that acoustic session. I think we played for 90 minutes, we were supposed to play for half that time. We did so many encores. They wouldn’t let us leave. I remember Angela, who was singing with us, was in tears at some point as it was so overwhelming. In the middle of Czech Republic. It was really fun and one of those pivotal moments to look back on. Czech Republic have been our best receptive crowds – they are huge fans of music. They have a different appreciation for it.”
If you were trapped on a desert Island and could only take one album with you, what would it be and why?
“I would probably say John K Samson, maybe one of his albums. He has inspired me more than any other songwriter.”
“Can You Hear Us At The Back” is out on all digital platforms https://bit.ly/2DoDxpY
The Shabes will be touring the UK – check them out if you are in the area:
22 MAY – HULL // ADELPHI
23 MAY – LONDON // BIDDLE BRO’S
24 MAY – LONDON // THE MONARCH
25 MAY – LONDON // ROYAL SOVEREIGN
27 MAY – NORWICH // GRINGOS
28 MAY – BRIDGEWATER // COBBLESTONE
29 MAY – HASTINGS // CROWEYS
30 May – FOLKSTONE // THE HARP RESTRUNG
31 May – WATFORD // THE ONE CROWN
1 June – AILSWORTH // PRINCE OF WALES FEATHERS
2 JUNE BRIGHTON – THE COWLEY CLUB