Meet Graham Richards, lead singer of local band SHEMANLION, and as elusive as his lyrics. He’s a rocker by night, and accountant by day. But not to worry, he’ll be rocking and rolling the good times through the day any time soon. He engages with Cape Town’s underground scenesters in a rare, humble, kind-hearted way. He’s the kind of guy who makes you want to be a better person. Whatever that means. Originally a Jozi boy, Grey’s now a prolific musical force in Cape Town.
It’s become almost shameful to label bands, like SHEMANLION, as Indie Electro. A lazy, thoughtless categorization – meant for music store shelves and pseudo-conversations. SHEMANLION encompasses a sound that Cape Town, and South Africa, is actually only beginning to really tear apart and explore.
What is this sound? “It’s a very dirty underground synth driven sound, amplified with heavy base and fast paced drums, a wild lead guitar and very emotional vocals”. Think Morrisy and Ian Curtis’ soul piercing, precious and melancholy lyrics. Think John Frusciante wearing a Germs Tee sending out sick guitar riffs, and She Wants Revenges’ undeniably poignant stage presence. Think Daft Punk and Pendulum’s reckless exploration into electronic, synth-driven rock.
Actually, don’t think at all. Rather feel. ‘Cause that’s what real music is all about, or at least it used to be. Instruments, gear and vocals – a collaborative catalyst to igniting energy that we’ve all felt before. A feeling that I’m hesitant to try describe in words. But, fuck it, I’ll try.
It’s something like childhood nostalgia, de je vu on a sunny day. It has a human element to it, it’s real. Familiar. A feeling that makes you smile without knowing why. Like a triple tequila or your first e. But it’s pure. A natural high carrying no shame.
First performing in 2008, the band consists of Ross on lead synth, Ryan on lead guitar, Trever on drums, Topher on Base and Grey on vocals.
Fresh, surprising and dynamic, Grey’s vocals are written by feeding on the energy around him. “[this] causes an outburst, a pure release of energy. And playing live I often add new unique parts”.
Far detached from fame’s frivolities, Greys’s ideal night would be playing to a 100 people, in an underground night club, say around 3am, in some Industrial European or Scandinavian country. And, wow, I hope to be one of the 100.
He’s a hardcore Rocky fan, listens to Crystal Castles whilst working out and one of the few guys that still buys albums. His dream project is to spend six months in a basement in Berlin recording music. And, if anyone could do it, it’d be him.
And what’s the one thing he’d like to tell all you ambitious young artists and mussos? “Never stop believing”.
The SA music industry may be ruthless and unforgiving, but with g