By Filipa de Oliviera, Sam Scott and Deva Lee
The Parlotones are one of South Africa’s most successful live acts and have rocked into success with their 2005 release of Radiocontrolledrobot. Comprising of lead vocalist and guitarist, Kahn Morbee, drummer Neil Pauw, lead guitarist Paul Hodgson and keyboardist and bassist Glenn Hodgson, this quartet have a melodic rock feel which has won over large crowds during their well reputed gigs.
The Parlotones originated with the shared musical interests of songwriter Morbee and drummer Pauw. Hodgson was incorporated in the band after him and Morbee met in a library and were kicked out for playing their guitars there. Finally Hodgson’s brother Glenn was incorporated into the band to complete it. The British indie rock style they express is inspired by bands such as The Cure, The Clash, R.E.M and Radiohead. They have released two albums before Radiocontrolledrobot and various ep’s, and are currently in studio finishing off their latest alum. They have played at various music festivals including Woodstock in 2002 and the GO Summer tour which took place last year.
Aside from the large music festivals that The Parlotones play for, they also cater for the smaller crowds and have been seen all around SA at varying venues. This proved true when the Parlotones played for a buzzing crowd at The Union on Wednesday, February 7 which was organised by the Live Music Society. They would probably stand out in a normal crowd but at Rhodes their style is familiar. Between Morbee’s signature scarf and Glen Hodgson’s tattoos, it’s nothing you haven’t seen at the Gaol before, and their chilled attitude proved them to be Grahamstonian in more ways than one. “Grahamstown is traditionally cool,” says Morbee after explaining that it is one of their favourite crowds to play to, along with Port Elizabeth.
Although they love to jam in G-town, they do consider it a spooky place. “Our trailer broke down just outside Grahamstown and we couldn’t get it fixed. It was almost like we weren’t allowed in”, joked Morbee.
In true Rhodent style, the Parlotones like to party hard when in Grahamstown and are no strangers to the infamous digs gatherings. “We usually get dragged to people’s dodgy little house parties with one bottle of wine,” says Morbee. Aside from the parties, The Parlotones are no strangers to BP and they too have experienced a few BP runs. “You can get lost in that place,” they laugh.
The Parlotones have had various support bands whilst touring in the last couple of years. Among their favourites are Capetonian-based band Eat this, Horse and two Jozi based bands, Eleven and Evolver who has been their support act on their current tour.
Recently, the band’s success has propelled them from playing to South African crowds to playing to European crowds. The use of their song “Beautiful” off Radiocontrolledrobot in an Irish Fujifilm advert is what sparked off international interest in the band and led to their worldwide deal with Universal Music. This is the first time a South African band has ever signed a multi-territory deal straight out of South Africa without having lived in the U.K first. The album will now be released in Ireland, the U.K, Germany, France, Holland and Japan with more countries to follow. In addition to this huge success, The Parlotones have also won the South African Music Award for Best Rock Album of the year for 2005. The Parlotones were quite surprised by this award and are very grateful for it. “We really didn’t think we were going to win that night. We didn’t even go to the awards – we played a gig,” says Pauw.
When asked about their writing process, Morbee says they don’t set out to send any kind of deep message. “What we really write about are our experiences and generally they are what other people experience. That’s where our connection is”
With their sudden success, the band has been touring non-stop and is heading for Europe in March to tour the countries where their album has been released. It’s not easy for them to balance their professional and family lives because of all the travelling they’ve been doing, but The Parlotones make sure they are home at least once a month. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of life and we have to deal with it. We travel around just like salesmen, except we’re selling music,” says Paul Hodgson.
If you didn’t catch the gig at the Union, you can take a listen to some of their tracks and watch their videos on their myspace site at www.myspace.com/theparlotones.