In the relatively short time Black Math have been together, they’ve been making big waves in the Durban scene and with good reason too. A rock ‘n roll outfit that draws from previous generations but injects their own youthful testerone into the mix, they’re here to bring back balls and depth to music. We chatted to them about being a young band and where they see themselves going with all this.
DIY: First of all, who are you guys, and how did you meet?
Tyla: Cameron Lofstrand is the Jedi of the guitar. I’m Tyla Burnett the one with the slightly bigger guitar with four strings and the whitey afro and Ntando Ngcobo is the one who hits stuff with sticks. Cameron played guitar for a while and after his uncle lent him a bass he roped me into jamming with him and I started getting hooked. We jammed for a while and when Ntando heard us jamming his favourite Hendrix track he asked to jam with us and the rest is history. We have all been mates for ages before that but music really brought us together. To use a bad metaphor, me and Cam were like two pieces of plain white bread (not too interesting) but Ntando is the peanut butter and flavour that brought us together and made us a band .
There’s a lot of this soft, boring and shitty elevator sounding music coming out in South Africa lately and we are tired of it
DIY: You guys seemed to come out of nowhere and shake up the Durban scene. Did you go to lots of shows before you were playing in a band? Has your perception of the scene changed at all now that you’ve moved up the ranks?
Black Math: Yes, when we were even younger than we are now we went to a few shows but not many, we were still pretty removed from the scene until we started playing proper shows. No, it has pretty much felt the same. The scene was a bit more alive in the Unit 11 days (we all miss the Unit) but even though we have lost so many venues recently, we’re still able to put on a show and have a good time and that’s enough for us. People in Durban tend to be apathetic and the ones who do try tend to get shot down quickly, we have so much potential here but no one cares enough to utilise it, what’s new though?
DIY: People seem to constantly bring up how young you all are. Does this get annoying? Do you actively try and establish yourselves as a good band, period, instead of a band that’s impressive just because you’re so young?
Black Math: It can be quite annoying, some people like to judge us on the fact that we are so young instead of just seeing us as a band, it really shouldn’t matter how old you are, as long as you are jamming your face off. Well, yes, we are just there to play a show and have fun, we just want to play the music we like and we aren’t that young anymore. When we started originally we were too young to get into the Winston, Unit 11 and places like that. We only got in because we were performing. People shouldn’t see us as anything but another three useless Durban bums who happened to stumble onto some instruments and into a band and are playing for the fun and love of it.
DIY: You guys seem to have been warmly received by the scene here. Why do you think so? Has the vibe always been positive, or have you experienced any negativity from people?
Black Math: Generally people have been very supportive and positive, and we normally get a very good vibe from everyone, and when we started I think we were received well because we were playing the type of music that was scarce in Durban, and people in Durban seem to appreciate rock ‘n’ roll and hard rock. We got a lot of help from people who were on the scene early on and so fitting into the vibe was never really a problem for us. It seems like the right people saw us at the right times and they gave us an easy break that I’m sure not many people are so lucky to get.
DIY: Cameron, you’re now jamming for Fruit & Veggies, and have been for a while. How has that been? Is Loopy as crazy on the road as people say? Has your time in Fruit & Veggies influenced your guitar playing/songwriting? Do you find yourself writing songs that fit a Fruit & Veggies tone as opposed to Black Math and vice versa?
Cam: Jamming with Fruits & Veggies has been very interesting and different for me. Their music is a completely different style from what I’m used to, but it has been good for me as a musician to experiment with a different style of music. I find that the songs for Fruit & Veg are a lot more structured and set out whereas in Black Math, the songs we write tend to change every time we play them and we use a lot more freestyle elements. Well, no, not really. When I write songs they tend to sound a bit heavier than what would fit for Fruit & Veg, but I don’t write the music for Fruit & Veg, I just add in my parts where they need me too……hahaha Yes Loopy is nuts but she grows on you.
DIY: You guys bring a pretty refreshing sound to the Durban scene. Who do you guys listen to (besides Sabbath)? Were there, or are there, any local acts who have inspired you guys?
Cam: We listen to a lot of old bands, a lot from the 70s and 60s, bands like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Grand Funk Railroad, Rush, Cactus, Mountain and of course Hendrix. Also some more recent bands like The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, Wolfmother, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, System Of A Down, Colour Haze, Radio Moscow and the Cat Empire. We also have some weird tastes in our mix though. Tyla’s into his jazz and fusion bands lately and Ntando has always been a hip hop head, so I think that translates in our music. We never aim for a style or sound we just write what sounds good at the time and what you listen to at the time can influence that heavily even unconsciously. Some South African bands that we really like are bands like The Dirty Skirts, Captain Stu and even before I joined Fruit & Veg we were huge fans of them as well. And some bands who helped us out we feel a great amount of respect for, like The Anti Retro Vinyls who helped us when we first started out and The Stella’s for helping us get out to Joburg.
DIY: Where do you see yourselves taking your sound from here? Lighter and poppier, or darker and heavier (please say darker and heavier)?
Black Math: No definitely not lighter and poppier!! I think we will be trying something new and maybe be a bit more experimental, but definitely heavier or if not then darker. There’s a lot of this soft, boring and shitty elevator sounding music coming out in South Africa lately and we are tired of it. Most music today has lost its balls and its depth, there is no substance to it. It’s either sentimental acoustic crap or songs about mindless, belligerent partying and sex . No matter what direction/directions we take soon, you can expect the typical fuzz bass , crash pounding and wha wha solos for some time.
DIY: Anything interesting lined up? What can we expect from Black Math in the closing months of the year?
Black Math: Well we don’t have too much planned for the end of the year as we are trying to finish school but we are probably going to get to work on some recordings of our songs and of course we still have a music video to finish. Next year we want to take our career in music more seriously. We’re hopefully gonna do a tour of sorts in December and afterwards hopefully stopping extendedly in Cape Town, but we will see when we get there. We’ve got another song or two almost ready and should have a few more in the bag soon but we make up, play and forget songs way too quickly. We may even play a slide song or two soon, it’s been a while.
*Header photo courtesy of Gareth Bargate