By Leah Solomon
I was sitting at home in Pietermaritzburg during the holiday brainstorming what to do that night over a cup of tea and a cigarette. Maritzburg is notorious for being one of the most boring, not-happening cities in the country, a place where the only thrills came from under-age drinking. I had had a long-winded mental battle with myself as to whether going to the dingy, grimy local bar and gig venue, The Red Door, would be worth it. You can either have really fantastic nights there or really kak nights there; there is no in between. After much consideration, consulting my comfy pants versus my jeans, I decided that, for my mental health and deteriorating social skills, that I should probably venture out of my safe haven and just have a damn drink. Luckily, by pure chance, that was the night that I heard MT Seas for the first time and I can confidently say that I made a wise choice.
Walking into the venue I was welcomed by a thick cloud of smoke. Through the haze I saw my friend Josh creepily standing at the back of the room filming the band on stage. “These guys are so cool dude,” he screamed into my ear. “They’re gonna definitely be a band to watch in South Africa.” From that moment I was convinced – hook, line and sinker. Firstly because I have been yearning and frothing for a new band to sink my nails into, to put on full blast, to annoyingly tell everyone about. Secondly because I trust Josh’s taste in music more than most of my friends. Unfortunately I only managed to catch the last few songs of their set but from the little I heard I was engaged, excited, captivated, and intrigued. I had to find out what these guys were about.
With the combination of Luke Wang on guitar and vocals, Armandt Lauwrens on bass and Eloff Pretorius on drums, you get MT Seas. A band that is giving new meaning to the idea of rock n roll in South Africa, describing themselves as “Indie rock but with more rock than indie and maybe some blues every now and then”. As a band they are drawn to the older works of Black Keys and Band of Skulls for their “epic simplicity”. However, each band member has their own interests that makes them unique but aids in their fluid assemblage. Wang was taken by the energy exuded by Arctic Monkeys and Kings of Leon, Pretorius admires Jack White’s drumming ability in The Dead Weathers because of White’s ability to “fill out the band’s sound with his crazy but effective beats” and Lauwrens’ penchant for bass is thanks to Pino Paladino, who played bass in the John Mayer Trio. A pure cacophony of musical genius and eargasms. A fan at one of their gigs hit the nail on the head by saying that they’re like Gangs of Ballet meets Shadowclub.
The trio as a collective is 10 months old, fresh meat some would say. But, with their history and individual musical backgrounds, they are not to be underestimated. “Luke (Vocals/Guitar) and I have known each other for ages and played in the same music scene, but never the same band,” said Pretorius. “We’d been talking about writing some songs together but never got around to it until I met Armandt when he hitched a lift with us to RAMFEST in March 2014. We spent the 6 hour drive from PMB to JHB naming off the music and artists that we enjoyed and realized we had the exact same taste. We decided there and then that we had to make music together, so Armandt was kind of the catalyst that got us three to start jamming together.”
It’s not often that you hear of a band trying to make it from Maritzburg. There have been some who have tried, but more often than not, they all end up fading away, never to be remembered or talked about again. Harsh, but that’s the reality of a town that isn’t exactly rich in arts and culture. Yet, there was something about this band that seemed more legit, more determined, more professional. It felt as if they had been performing and making music for years, taken a hiatus, and returned with more fervour and zest than before. However, Wang expressed the difficulty that is faced when trying to break into the music scene. Not only is being booked for shows a challenge, but knowing the right people and making the right connections is vital in achieving success and leaving a lasting impression. Yet, despite the rites of passage type obstacles, their aim stays simple and true: to make good music that people enjoy listening to. Pretorius explained that the best kind of music makes you want to make music yourself, and if MT Seas can achieve that, then they’re “doing something right”.
It is undeniable that South Africa has some prolific talent that has made it into the international scene. These bands and musicians have set not only the bar quite high, but they have paved a path for other bands to follow, leaving their own unique marks alongside theirs. Pretorius and Lauwrens explained that MT Seas appreciate and admire what the South African music scene has produced and still is producing today. “I don’t think there have ever been so many quality local tracks on radio. We’re finding more and more inspiration in local music, lyrically, musically and in terms of production, SA Music is developing in leaps and bounds,” they said.
With a fiery desire to eventually make it internationally, creating and releasing albums and going on world tours, MT Seas are on the right track. Their loyalty to their roots but their ability to see past the obstacles and remain confident in their end goal will hold them fast in a wild, beautifully chaotic ride, filled with late nights, disagreements, travelling, standing ovations, disappointment and all things glorious that makes making music an absolute treat and adventure.
**All images by Sarah Wang**
**This article was originally published on Archetype Online Magazine.**