It’s all folk-grass and sunshine for Vana & The Oh So Serious

By Chelsea Haith

Following the release of their new album, Vana & The Oh So Serious will be finishing up their Lo-Fi Hoax tour in Grahamstown, promising a foot-stomping, jive of a time. Best described as “folk-grass”, Vana & The Oh So Serious aren’t bound by genre, but rather by feeling. And boy does it feel good.

Vana performing at the Stanley Beer Yard in Johannesburg. IMAGE: Chelsea Haith

Vana performing at the Stanley Beer Yard in Johannesburg. IMAGE: Chelsea Haith

If you have the fortune of seeing them live, prepare your feet to swing dance, waltz and rock out to the sounds of this indie folk collective from Pretoria. Although they do rock on occasion, frontman Vana insists that the band prefers to let the music speak for itself. “Lo-Fi is actually our sound, and it’s a feeling. It’s got nothing to do with the rock, it’s got to do with the roll,” he said.

Listening to Vana & The Oh So Serious is like getting on a merry-go-round of musical history. One moment you’re stepping out of a Parisian café to the saucy saw of a violin, the next you’re in a Mississippi honky-tonk tapping your foot beside the piano. Before the album has ended you’ve jumped on a train across America with Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac. “We work very hard at arrangement in the studio. It’s like a child in a yard, they can run around everywhere, within the fence,” said Vana, explaining the composition process.

Double bass and violin complement the sound of the guitar, drums and accordion. IMAGE: Chelsea Haith

Double bass and violin complement the sound of the guitar, drums and accordion. IMAGE: Chelsea Haith

The unique blend of sound is overlaid by Vana’s nostalgic poetical lyricism. The shows on the tour feature new songs threaded through with the old favourites, notably the renditions of traditional blues from the Deep South and folk classics. “We’re into stories and folk music does tell a story,” said Vana, explaining his love for the genre.

The new album features instruments the collective haven’t included on previous releases: the trumpet and double bass. Vana’s voice warms to the topic as he speaks about the album, which has been a long, hard year in the making. “It’s got all new material, and one cover of The Mississippi Sheiks, my favourite group from the 1930s,” he enthuses. “It’s the finest thing that you’ve ever done in your life, your latest album. It’s our third album so we got cleverer in the process,” he joked.

The tour will come to an end in Grahamstown on 28 August at Champs Action Bar and Vana is pleased with the way it’s turned out. “We haven’t had any injuries and we haven’t been locked up. For a bunch of grown-kids we’ve been really good,” he said, a laugh bubbling in his voice.

There will be t-shirts and albums on sale, both for R150.00. See the event for more.

And here’s a taster from the album:

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