Shortstraw is a 5-piece Indie Rock band who make great music and travel the world spreading their unique indigenous sound. Billy got to talk to their bassist Russell Grant about their journey so far, their recent releases and upcoming projects. Sit back, relax and happy reading.
Billy (Audioinferno): Thanks for making out time to talk to me today Russell. How are you doing today?
Russell (Shortstraw): It’s a pleasure man! I’m doing good thanks!
Billy (Audioinferno): Cool. I’ve been following the band for quite some time personally, but for the sake of our readers can you tell us about Shortstraw?
Russell (Shortstraw): Shortstraw is a 5-piece indie rock band from South Africa. We play good, fun indie rock. A lot of our stuff has a uniquely South African edge to it and we have been going for almost ten years as a band just doing what we love. We’ve been lucky enough to travel the world and we’re very proud to bring our unique sound to the rest of the world.
Billy (Audioinferno): Ten years is an impressive feat. In what ways would you say the band has evolved over the years?
Russell (Shortstraw): Yeah, ten years is quite a long time when you think about it. The band’s first few years, they weren’t necessarily taking it as seriously. It was more of a fun passion project for the guys and then Tom Revington, Gad De Combes and I joined in 2011. By that point they had finished the first album, You’re Underfed, I’m Wonderful and the band took on a more serious approach because there was now an album to make music videos for and to get on the radio.
The moment built from there and we’ve certainly evolved with each album taking on an evolution of our songwriting and of our sound. Themes, in the beginning, were sort of frivolous and immature; you could have argued that Shortstraw was a joke band because of the silliness of the songs. Now the songwriting is far more mature and less crass, Youthless as an album was very much about grabbling with growing up and leaving your youth behind. Those Meddling Kids isn’t as serious but the themes are far more mature and so is the sound and songwriting,
Billy (Audioinferno): What would you consider to be your most memorable experience touring around the world?
Russell (Shortstraw): When it comes to memorable experiences, we’ve been lucky enough to travel to Japan three times and we’ve developed friendships there with other musicians and people there that you could never have gotten in any other way. We had an access into that world and that scene which no tourist would be able to get. We were very privileged to have those tours and we don’t know what might still come up, but that was pretty amazing. Of course, all the other trips (Europe) were great but Japan really stands out as one of those experiences we would never have gotten if it wasn’t for the band.
Billy (Audioinferno): This sounds incredibly awesome. I’m a huge fan of the rock scene in Japan. I’ve been following the “Those Meddling Kids” project for a bit and as I understand it, it’s not an album. Can you shed a little light on that?
Russell (Shortstraw): Yeah it’s absolutely amazing. It’s literally like playing on the moon, completely different in almost every way to what we know. There are thousands and thousands of venues that one can play, and these small rooms, which they call ‘Live Houses’. The bar is in another room where everyone gets their drinks and sells merch and they come into the live house to listen to you play. So they dance, sing and cheer after which everywhere gets deathly silent as they wait for the next song, which is unlike anything we are used to here in South Africa.
Those Meddling Kids is a number of things but it really is an album. But instead of being an album that people will want to classify as a particular type of album with a particular sound and themes, we wanted it to be consumed and seen as a collection of twelve songs. That is why we released each song individually and we also didn’t want people to dismiss certain songs as ‘filers’ or ‘B-Side Stuff’. We really went out of our way to make sure that every single song on this album is the best that had at this point. We’re really proud of it and on the first of September, it’s going to be released as a full album.
Billy (Audioinferno): Cool. I’ve listened to most of it and I really loved it. What was the creative process for this album though?
Russell (Shortstraw): The creative process was pretty much a collaborative one; we sort of did what we’ve always done. But obviously, it was very concentrated and on occasions pretty hectic how we were forced to write songs quite quickly because of the timing of it all and how we’d given ourselves deadlines that the songs should be released on the first Friday of every month.
We might have had one or two songs recorded but we wanted to keep them for a particular month or reason because the filmmaker was going to make a music video for it or we felt we should wait. For example, the song we’re going to release in August, the last song, we actually recorded a really long time ago but we’ve kept it because we felt that this song was the perfect closer to the collection.
We had times when we were far ahead so we had time and other times when we had to write, record, mix and master a song within the space of a month. So it was really hectic but we found that in those months and those moments we were producing some of the best work we’d ever done. It was stressful and we wouldn’t do it again *laughs*, but we’re really glad we did because it was incredibly rewarding for us.
Down to the specifics, the creative process was pretty much a jam. We would be in the room and everyone would hash out the ideas that they had, somebody would do something and we’d be like “Oh that’s nice, let’s go with that…” and we would work at it. Songs like Ignorance, If I’m The Tide and some others got written really quickly. Ignorance is the best example was written within 30 minutes. Some of the songs took months to be crafted together but there were a handful of songs that were written within an hour and it was amazing.
Billy (Audioinferno):30 minutes? Wow. That’s fast! Awe inspiring stuff bro. So you said the last track is dropping in August, when exactly did the project start and when did you release the very first song?
Russell (Shortstraw): The first single Ignorance was released on the first Friday of September last year so by the time the full-length album is released on September 1 this year; it’ll mark the one-year anniversary of the project. So it’s 12 months for 12 songs and that song comes out on the first Friday of August and people can have a month with that single just like all previous singles had their own month.
The basis skeleton of many of the songs came together quickly but it still took months to craft.
Billy (Audioinferno): Exciting stuff. Any plans to tour after the whole compilation drops officially.
Russell (Shortstraw): As I said this has been a really intensive process and the irony is that it was all self-inflicted. We did four times the work that a band will usually do because if you had a good album, probably four songs with getting a video. But with this project, we decided to make a video for each song. So in short, plans right now after the release of this album is to just chill *laughs*. For those who probably missed the release of the singles, this will be a fresh album in their eyes and we would love to see how that plays out.
We’ve got some great shows here in South Africa to end the year and we’ll take it from there. We’re not sure what our plans are after that but I know that at the point our general feeling is that we’ve been through a lot this past year and we are certainly looking to chill a little for the second half of this year.
Billy (Audioinferno): Chill sounds good. I can’t say I can relate to the stress but I definitely understand it. Thanks for all the great work you guys are putting into your art, we love it so much and we are huge fans.
Russell (Shortstraw): Thanks man, it’s always great appreciate what you do. We really had a great time this year travelling to Europe and playing some cities we’d never been to before. Having people come down, travelling from various neighboring cities and sometimes countries, planning their weekends to come watch us play. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s for. It’s for our own enjoyment and if anyone digs it, that’s awesome. *laughs*
We’ve always done what we want to do and we’ve always been happy with what we’ve done. Those Meddling Kids in particular were songs that we really did for ourselves. The entire creative exercise was for our own enjoyment and we are proud of everything we produced. As I said, if people dig it, that awesome. We’re really glad that we did it and I’m really glad it’s coming to an end *laughs* but we’ve taken a lot out of it. Anyone who followed us month after month, we’re grateful to them for being a part of it.
Billy (Audioinferno): Thanks for spending some time with me today Russell. I had fun and I learnt a lot.
Russell (Shortstraw): *chuckles* Thanks for having me and thanks for the chat. It was great to meet you and thanks for putting the Shortstraw word out there.