Psych Night (http://www.psychnight.co.za/) is an events company that organises Psychedelic rock shows primarily in Cape Town, but also in the rest of South Africa. Attending a Psych Night show, I usually know exactly what to expect: shoegaze and psychedelic music and trippy visuals. The opening acts on the 12th of February (in Assembly) did not disappoint: The Deatherettes played old fashioned garage rock, while CAVES delivered hypnotic and mellow beats. It was the headliner, BCUC, which took me by surprise with their energetic mixture of poetry, politics, jazz-like improvisation and trance-like rhythms. I was intrigued and decided to ask the band some questions.
After the show in Cape Town my sister expressed her awe at artists who go out there and create. What motivated you guys initially to start the band and get your music out there?
We thought we could change the world. And show-by-show we are doing it.
Your music is a unique blend of psychedelic rock, traditional South African music and political lyrics. What are your inspirations? Do you have any recommendations for readers wishing to free their consciousness or educate themselves to listen, to read/watch?
Those who do good music regardless of the genre inspire us, as long as it carries positivity. Listen to Fela Kuti, Raury, Aderson Paak, Busi Mhlongo, The Slashdogs to name a few. And watch Game of Thrones and read “I write what I like” by Steve Biko.
Your music is full of references to your/the ancestors. Can you elaborate on this for Afrikaans readers who might not understand the significance?
Our ancestors, as South Africans across colour, have walked this path and they were successful in preserving our different identities. The love and respect that we have for our ancestors is the same love and respect that everybody has for their ancestors. So in our genealogy we all carry with us the positives and the negatives. But for us, and hopefully for everyone, the positive gene will prevail. When we are on stage we appeal and appease all our ancestors so that our music can be received more than just by an ear. We want our music to appeal to the hearts, the blood, and minds of everyone who is experiencing us. In order for all of us to go forward we have to claim and be responsible for all our roles in making this country what it is now. Thus the need to connect the dots beyond only us but to our lineage.
The combination of the trance-like aspects of psychedelic music and traditional music, and of the physical, emotional and intellectual, is inspiring. How did you realize this?
It is who we are as South Africans, we are part of a bigger pool that is called Africans. Traditional music of any form is a form of meditation or prayer. So the spiritual aspect of tradition is repetition, as you repeat the message that you carry it forms a trance. The numerous destinations that are carried in a trance take you beyond the physical being, as we delve deep in our genetic coding (higher spiritual space), psychedelia or psychedelic soundscape forms. That colourful musical high that we create is Afro-psychedelic.
What role does improvisation play in your act? Does one of you go and write down lyrics, are they improvised during jam sessions?
It is a combination of both. Either way improvisation plays a big role because what we sing is what we feel. And what we feel is relative to a specific audience or studio atmosphere.
In your profile on Africa is a Country you speak about building bridges and educating each other, being good people and putting the positivity out there. I have two questions about that:
(1) How is your approach different from the Mandela/rainbow ideology you criticize in your interview with Mail and Guardian?
Our approach is different from Mandela in that we believe in everybody sharing the load. Because realistically all the ideals that are called Mandela’s ideas come from a caucus or a select committee. That is why even after his retirement the country did no fall apart because these ideals are what we carry in the spirit of Ubuntu. We know he never liked to take the glory but also in the same breath his family benefited a great deal, i.e. his family is a royal family in the Eastern Cape. The Eastern Cape is one of the poorest provinces in South Africa. That right there is why we are different from the Mandela brand. The Mandela legacy is a very expensive label. We are on a mission of disturbing that royal, expensive brand from becoming another Oppenheimer or Johnson and Johnson. Not at our (South African) expense.
(2) How do you keep positive or motivated in a country where one wakes up to a video of white and black students fighting on a rugby field?
We keep positive by not viewing the struggles of the students as a racial problem. We view #FeesMustFall as a social problem. As we are all aware that there are white squatter camps now, and black squatter camps have always been there even before Sophiatown. Social inequality has nothing to do with race. Yes, most of these problems that we are facing are directly related to apartheid and apartheid was about race. But after 1994, apartheid was abolished and we had to wake up to the fact that there are elites: black and white elites. Going forward we carry that legacy that says, whilst others were fighting, others were preparing for a new South Africa. In this new South Africa some have more money than others. Now this is where we are coming in, we are awakening everyone that didn’t have the foresight of what was to come. We are prepared to carry the load and we are aware that we are not alone in ushering the new dispensation. We are part of the crusade, and we love this word crusade because a crusade does not have a leader. A crusade carries the ideology and everyone just gravitates to that particular idea.
Lastly: I was curious what the EP name “112 Bloemstraat” refers to? How much is your music influenced by places?
112 Bloemstraat is the address to the place we were staying at in Amsterdam. We also recorded the EP at the same address. We always take something with us in any place we happen to find ourselves because nothing is unique in this world, but individual experiences will remain unique.