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Q&A with Bateleur

Cape Town instrumentalists, Bateleur, have been hard at work with their recent EP release, Cargo Cults. The double EP features an A-Side of originals and a B-side featuring remixes by some of Cape Town’s best producers. We caught up with the band…

Please introduce the band and your various roles?

Bateleur consists of seven MEN with hearts of steel:

Dylan Jefferys plays drums, and is the authority on good posture, Paul Mesarcik plays bass and boasts an astonishing variety of hairstyles, Nicolaas van Reenen does the guitar and coos gently, Adam Bertscher also does the guitar, but has far more stamina than Nic, Louis Pienaar plays keys and percussion and has a fairly loose policy on pants, Odon Human plays a trumpet forged of elven gold and doesn’t make a big deal of it and, Aaron Peters is the only member of the band who refuses to play anything because he’s too busy listening. He’s probably the best member.

Tell us about the band?

We’re a bunch of people who share a taste for whimsey, esoteric nonsense and music. The story, to be honest, isn’t incredibly thrilling. It all started in the garage of a children’s home in Pinelands. That’s all you need to know.

Describe your sound/influences?

In defining ourselves to an unfamiliar audience, we’d clumsily describe ourselves as purveyors of modern jazz, psychadelic stuff, post-rock (egh) and experimental (meh) music, but then feel restricted by these categories and tell you that we make intelligent, interesting, layered shit that makes the pleasure centers of our brains swell with feelings of euphoria and elation. This is the sensation we wish to impart on the listener.

What bands/artists dead or alive would you kill to see in concert?

Miles Davis, because he’ll always be the hippest dude.

Radiohead, because obviously.

Animal Collective, because it’s any musician’s duty to make an effort.

Dirty Projectors, because Dave Longstreth couldn’t possibly be that weird.

Grizzly Bear, because we can’t list the last 2 bands without completing the Hipster Holy Trinity. Hallelu-Jah.

Erik Truffaz- because if Odie took on the task of taming mountains as a serious profession we’d want him to play in his place.

Portico Quartet, because they’re very good. And clever.

Four Tet, because Four Tet.

Beatles. Dude. Beatles. But preserved as their 60’s selves in formaldehyde (in a non depressing kind of way)

Battles. Because we actually meant to say Battles when we said Beatles.

Grimes, because Dylan needs to introduce himself, and kiss that lispy tongue. We all totally have his back.

Thundercat, Flying Lotus & Austin Peralta playing together. Duh.

Who on the local scene, do feel are doing something right?

We had the pleasure of playing with The Brother Moves On in Pretoria not too long ago, and they succeeded in transporting us to a far more beautiful place than where we actually were.

Make Overs are also doing it SO right. Like. Ah… man… Just go watch a show.

Marcus Wyatt is a very inspired/inspiring musician – in the purest form.

BLK JKS have been doing it right for quite some time, and we can’t wait for their next record.

Hotel Mari who consist Mpumi Mcata & Tshepang Ramoba from BLK JKS with João Orecchia, are releasing their first album together soon, and judging by the single it’ll almost certainly be a game changer.

Christian Tiger School are our friends. But only because they make amazing music. They’re shit people.

Fun Toy hasn’t been around for very long and is already making a massive impression.

Markus Wormstorm Ensemble is brilliant.

There’re lots more artists we’d like to mention actually, but this’ll soon become a boring read if we were to list them all. Things are starting to look (and sound) better in our little corner of the world hey.

How do you guys go about writing your music?

Each individual band member contributes to a song in a unique way, every time. We attempt to maintain the emotionality of a song and derive the structure through what we are trying to communicate to the listener. There are many facets and methods we use or have gone through in devising our vessels of communication. The most basic way to explain our song writing process would be to depict it as analogous to playing with Lego. We develop blocks of ideas and this is either achieved through improvisation or sometimes deligation. It usually starts out with one or two of these blocks. From this point many other ideas are born – some good, others bad. We then start fitting these blocks together (a process which spawns yet more ideas/blocks). This is the part that takes the longest, since the only way to test run the succession of blocks and bridges, is to play it fairly well. Thus one song is actually the last survivor of a magnitude of variations on the same themes/blocks. It often takes months to chisel a song into existence since we spend a lot of time toying with the structure to create a song that flows coherently and sensitively from one part into the other. We want to take the listener on a journey, so the composition is considered as a whole. Although our process seems quite chaotic, we’ve been attempting to streamline our thoughts while still maintaining a sense of constant movement within our songs. The tracks on Cargo Cults are evidence of that.

Tell us about your new EP, Cargo Cults?

It has been a long process. I guess it started out with wanting to create something tangible. To give it to the world in some physical format, but at the same time wanting to do something more than just release more music. There’s something about a tangible format that we missed in our debut release as it was just freely available online. Originally the idea was to release Cargo Cults on vinyl, and we just sort of fell in love with the idea of the large format, since it serves as an excuse to have large cover art, which in our minds seems to be something one can assign some sort of rational value to. In addition it’s someting one would need to make some effort to acquire, and therefor has the capacity to become far more sentimental than a file on a hard drive. One would put it on and listen from beginning to end, finger tapping away on the sweet ass cover sleeve rested on your lap.

However, due to vinyl being damn expensive in SA (an acetate master + copies + import tax) we kept the elements we liked, but combined them with some more current concepts of music distribution. So the format we landed on eventually was to release it in the form of these tiny 3” wooden disks with flashsticks embedded which contain the album and some extra goodies, as well as a limited run of 20 artist edition 12” disks. For these we recruited the talents of some of our favourite visual artists in the country – namely Bison, Sebastian Borckenhagen, Dale Lawrence, Givan Lötz & Zeneka, who custom designed each disk. The disks were later successfully auctioned to the public via our website with the proceeds are going straight to the artists.

Was it the plan from the start to make a double EP with a remix B-Side?

Not from the very start, but early on in the conception of the EP we thought it would be in the spirit of things to extend the project further than ourselves and ask our favourite producers to contribute. We’re all about keeping things fresh, and so are our contemporaries, and Cargo Cults is a celebration of that.

What was the recording process like?

Extensive. We recorded bits and pieces over the last year or so between our studio in the parking lot of The Upper East Side Hotel in Woodstock and Cape Audio College – as well as stranger locations such as Louis’ holiday home in Jakkalsfontein and a rondawel in Bainskloof. Nic mixed and produced all the tracks with the help of Daniel Breiter and Philip Kramer – but this in itself was a very long and challenging process, as our songs are very long and often quite challenging.

The album is available for download, where/when can fans get their hands on a hard copy?

They’ll be available soon at Church (Spin St.) . Otherwise one can download the EP at bateleurband.bandcamp.com.

What’s on the cards for the immediate future?

Right now we’re mostly focussed on writing new material and playing shows. Perhaps the latter first. Also, we’re planning (on planning) a string of killer shows involving a lot of the aforementioned acts at your venue yo. It’s gonna be amazing.

Listen to Bateleurs new EP, Cargo Cults.

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