From their origins in Johannesburg, South Africa, the rock 4-piece known as The Parlotones have achieved multi-platinum-selling status with their darkly romantic lyrics, atmospheric pop structures, and ambitious live shows that have earned them rave response from fans and critics alike. They will release their U.S. debut album, “Stardust Galaxies,” featuring the lead single “Life Design,” on Tuesday, September 14th. The South African rock 4-piece – which has achieved multi-platinum status in their home country, selling more records than Coldplay, The Killers, and Oasis combined – will support their North American debut by joining Blue October on tour September 17th through October 10th.
The release of Stardust Galaxies follows on the heels of a featured performance in the ABC Music Lounge, and an iTunes “Video of the Week” feature for their 2010 SAMA Music Video of the Year, “Push Me to the Floor.” The album marks the U.S. introduction of a group that has spent the last 18 months on a sold-out, 300-date world tour, packing out 1000+ capacity venues in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Benelux, Russia, and the UK. Most recently, the band performed in front of a global audience of over 1 billion viewers at the 2010 FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Celebration Concert.
Stardust Galaxies’s lead single, “Life Design,” serves as an “ode to those who have created success despite adversity,” says The Parlotones’s front man, Kahn Morbee. “It’s a celebration of those people who have an innate exuberance for life, and pursue the betterment of their own lives and the lives of those around them.”
The band practice what they preach, having become activists against two of the most deadly epidemics in their home country of South Africa: AIDS and malaria. The band has raised funds for The StarFish Foundation and performed at a number of AIDS awareness concerts, including POSI+IVE Rocks. Each year, The Parlotones speak at grade schools in South Africa, educating younger generations on AIDS prevention, and donate all revenue from on-site performances back to the schools themselves for facility renovation and community development. The band also champions for United Against Malaria, an initiative which is attempting to eradicate malaria in Africa.
Now reaching the ears – and minds – of stateside listeners, the band hopes their music can entertain while also providing lyrical insights into the stories, and social and political struggles, of their homeland.
Examples include track 9, “Brighter Side of Hell,” which focuses on the socioeconomic disparity between have and have-nots of their home town. Of the song, Morbee says, ”It’s a bittersweet reflection on Johannesburg. It’s our home and it’s often depicted as a sort of hell. The song emphasizes that although there are problems, there is a bright side and a bright future for the city. We love Johannesburg despite of – and because of – its weird and wonderful imperfections.”
Track 3, “Should We Fight Back,” was inspired by Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom.” “It’s a book I discovered whilst on tour in South Africa, “says Morbee, “and it made me realize the harsh historical climate we once lived in and how close we were to disaster.”
The South African natives have weaved themselves into the fabric of their home country’s history with performances at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration of Jacob Zuma, Africa Day, Live Earth, and a record-breaking show at the Dome in Johannesburg, where they wrote their own piece of African history by becoming the first South African band to ever headline the venue.
I had the chance to ask Kahn Morbee about things such as breaking into the music industry, musical pet-peeves, and artists he’d love to work with. You can read about that below.
When did you first realize you had an interest in music, and what sparked that interest?
I’ve had an interest in music since I was a young boy. I would perform in musicals, constantly sing and would often take songs I like and change the lyrics but still keep the melody. The interest was sparked primarily by my surroundings. My entire family was very into music, not necessarily as musicians but just as avid lovers of music.
How would you describe the sound of your music, and how do you feel your music is different from others in your genre?
We’re not purists so our music is ultimately a result of the music we digest which ranges from gentle singer/songwriter stuff, to POP, to electronica, to heavy rock, to metal, to Indie. I guess at the core we’re a melodic rock band with POP sensibilities.
How did you break into the music industry?
We never really ‘broke’ into the industry, that expression gives (at least me) the impression that it was one sudden moment and viola we were in. We played and toured and did everything to get noticed and just kept working on that momentum. It’s been a long process, but thankfully a long process brings with it a certain substance and level of experience.
What are some of your short term and long term goals? What are your plans for promoting your music and upcoming album in the US?
Our short term goals are to tour the world and start work on a new album, the long term goal is ultimately to remain the same four guys touring the world, creating music that is relevant and enjoy doing it. We ultimately want longevity and we want to keep being creative. We will be touring the US in September and October and will constantly be returning in 2011.
Was there ever a time where you felt like giving up music or quitting on your way to where you are now?
Do you have any musical pet-peeves?
The exclusivity and judgment that comes from certain corners of the music population. Music may not always pander to peoples tastes but it does irk me when people will spend hours ranting about how much they ‘hate’ something instead of focusing on what they like.
Besides music, what are some of your hobbies? What do you do to keep yourself grounded?
I have and still play a lot of sport; I used to play rugby, cricket and soccer bnut have very little time to play in their traditional formats so now I play; indoor soccer, tennis, squash and golf. I love the usual things like reading and film as well.
What do you miss most, besides family and friends, when you are out traveling?
I think I sort of miss the comforts of being at home, things like; routine, my own bed, relaxing. When you’re on tour you’re always stimulated as a result of your surroundings and its quite difficult to step out and unwind.
What is one accomplishment you hope to make above all others in your life and your career?
To be the first South African band that truly as worldwide recognition and leave a legacy in our own country.
Who are some of your musical influences, and who are some artists you would love to work with?
The Smiths, The cure, R.E.M, INXS, Waterboys, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, Queen, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, these were the bands that made me fall in love with music and want to be in a band. If I list all the bands I love I may need to type a novel.
What drives you the most to do what you love? What inspires you?
I think I’m driven by the fact that I want to remain doing what I love. Life is short, why pursue anything else, why pursue something you hate? Inspiration comes from those that have achieved great things and from Life itself, the experience of living is quite inspirational. It’s never always up but it’s about collecting a plethora of memories and experiences that allow you to reflect and say I’ve actually ‘LIVED’ life not just ‘EXISTED’
What is your favorite song on your upcoming album and why?
It changes from time to time, at the moment I enjoy playing ‘ we call this dancing’ because live it’s a lot of fun and exudes a positive message.
What sort of feelings do you hope your fans will have from listening to your upcoming album?
The aim was to try and mirror the human experience, which is ultimately a mix of highs and lows, moments of what seems like endless love and heartache, nostalgia, moments to dance and times to soothe the soul. The album will touch on the melancholic and reach highs but ultimately I hope the album makes people optimistic about the concept of life and offers a bit of escapism.
Click here to check out the bands Official MySpace page and to see a list of upcoming tour dates!
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