”Written byChristian Staines
“We have this really weird, intricate narrative and now is the best time to do something like this.”
Of the many thousands of ideas born within the dreamscape of a psychedelic festival, more than 90% never see the light of a Monday morning. Thankfully, Defwing was not one of these ideas. It was way back in March of 2020 when Christian Wing and Benjamin Defty met at Bazique Festival and began talking about “this weird abstract narrative where two guys are just going through life battling with different concepts of nihilism and community, and trying to find a sense of self through that.” This just so proved to be the right kind of formula to push their idea beyond the bounds of a festival and into the real world.
In case you haven’t noticed yet, ‘Defwing’ is a subtle blend of Ben and Christian’s surnames – one that is “just esoteric enough” to cooly and casually fly below the radar of your usual word combinations. However, since the brainchild of Christian and Ben was created, the band has more than doubled its members becoming the five-piece that we know it as today. For many of the aspiring creatives in Cape Town, last years lockdown actually came as a blessing in disguise, giving them the time to establish and cultivate the art-form they’ve always wanted to build:
“It was kind of the catalyst that allowed us to get started. We had this really weird, intricate narrative and now was the best time to do something like this. We weren’t worried about playing live back then because no one could. There was no rush for it. Like this sounds fun or this sounds funny, so let’s just make it because what else are we gonna do right now. So yeah, that’s how we got started on the band and also when we started formulating our upcoming EP.”
Since then, they’ve managed to land some pretty sweet gigs in and around Cape Town, one of which was our very own ‘Way Out There’ event (they kicked-ass). But the most likely place that you can find them is playing at Harringtons. In between staggered lockdowns, they’ve managed to play three gigs there – the latest of which actually featured a broken bass string. You may also have seen them jamming out at the Evol ‘Funk Punk’ event which came to be known as a band and fan favourite.
Clockwise from top: Tom Foster (Drums); Oscar van der Spuy (Keys/Backup Vocals); Christian Wing (Bass/Vocals); Benjamin Defty (Rhythm Guitar/Vocals); Tom Pervis (Lead Guitar)
When it comes to defining their music genre, Defwing blurs the lines between sound sets. When there’s so many to explore it becomes “quite limiting to subscribe to just one genre.” However, in an interview on CapeTalk they managed to pin it down to this: “It’s pop – that’s influenced by every other genre we could think of: like funk, blues, pop, rock and indie.” Defwing had quite a bit to say when it came to music genre but I think that Oscar managed to sum it up best:
“The funny thing is that when you ask us a question like “oh what is your music influenced by or what genre are you?”, then you’re going to have to look at the whole of music history and the development of genres. Funk is influenced by Jazz, Jazz is influenced by Blues, Hiphop is also influenced by Jazz. So if you pick one of those and want to explore that specific genre and its depths, you’re also gonna be touching on Hiphop and Soul and Blues and Funk and Disco.”
In essence, musical genres are just one big melting pot all influencing one another in wonderfully dynamic ways.
However, sometimes this melting pot can turn into what Defwing calls an “echo chamber”. And Ben, who played in a band – Redhanded – back in the hay days of Shortstraw, knows this better than anyone. Back then, Cape Town was overrun with indie-pop bands all trying to ride the wave of the Shortstaw hype. During this time, a distinctly “South African sound” emerged which began appealing to the overseas consumer base. Christian goes on to explain that because the SA music scene was still finding its feet, new bands would often look towards the British and American market to see what works. Then these bands started fantasising about world tours and would fall into the mindset of: “overseas is what we wanna get to, so therefore overseas is what we gotta do.” And ultimately they would lose sight of what they want their own sound to be. They get stuck in this “echo chamber”, just all playing the same sound without making anything new.
This is what Defwing want to do. They want to break away from the regular South African sound and establish a refreshed style of playing. And Defwing believes other bands have begun working on the same project. “Like if you compare Kloudink to Defwing to Soulpunk to Hartleyvale, there’s no significant overlap in any of those bands. Nowadays it feels like instead of just all riding the same wave, we’re driving different ships towards unique horizons.
And this is exactly what the Cape Town music scene needs post-lockdown. We’ve all been stuck inside for far too long, and to emerge from it all still making the same sounds we were beforehand would be a huge anti-climax. What’s even better is when these bands begin mingling with each other during shared sets. They develop a good chemistry with each other, and this energy is felt by the crowd who then reflect it back onto the musicians. It’s essentially a good-vibe feedback loop that ensures whenever the bands are digging it, the crowd’s also digging it – and vice versa.
“I think once we’re really out of this Covid thing there’s going to be quite an explosion of other bands breaking onto the scene. And I think we’re going at a good pace. I mean, this first EP we’ve written has been in the works for a year, and I’m so happy that we haven’t released it yet because it’s going to come at the perfect time, I can just feel it.”
This first EP is due to arrive on the 20th of August. It will feature a redub of their first single ‘Welcome to the Lair of Funk’ as well as their newest work ‘Deity Dance Party’. “It’s funk, it’s disco, a little bit of rock, it’s light and it’s simple but we hope it gets everybody jiving. It will be available on all streaming platforms.” The last touch that needs to be applied before release is an album cover which Ben is designing himself (using the photos from their recent shoot).
“Nowadays it feels like instead of just all riding the same wave, we’re driving different ships towards unique horizons.”
“We had the idea of a kinda 90s style HipHop band with one guy kneeling down and it’s slightly fish-eyed. But then also we’ve got a disco ball and we’re all in 70s outfits and it’s this kind of blending of genres. And that’s pretty much what Defwing is, there are so many blurred lines between the kind of music we make, we kind of just try to take a little bit from everything and merge it into one clusterfuck.”
By now you’re probably wondering when next you’ll be able to see this sensational band live in action. They’re currently planning a hush-hush fundraiser event due to take storm sometime in September – but that’s as much I’m allowed to share for now. No doubt with covid-restrictions easing up and Cape Town party-goers eager to head back to the dancefloor, you’ll find Defwing heating up the stages in the months to come.
With trendy retro attire and a lively stage presence, Defwing is definitely a band to keep your eyes on. Many of the problems usually faced by new bands have been aggravated by social distancing and staggered lockdowns. But now, with things edging back into normality, perhaps starting a band isn’t the craziest idea in the world. People have been cooped up inside for the better part of a year and are finally feeling less apprehensive about going out and exploring the world anew.
I’ll let Oscar’s wise words guide us out:
“I think that this is just such an exciting moment. For some of us, we are entering new scenes; for others, we are re-establishing ourselves; and for the rest of us, we are just taking that next step, but we are all just exploring and expanding our horizons.”
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