“The Dark Horse” is multi-instrumentalist Tailor’s solo debut, offering haunting gems like the hit, “Wolf“, and announcing a bold new voice. She returns to Cape Town to co-headline the Up The Creek Music Festival.
Born Melanie Le Roux in Pretoria, Tailor moved to Cape Town and Blouberg, signed to a band at age fifteen and first tasted music success fronting Mel-funktion, who toured Japan. Now, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist defines Tailor as “who I am when I get on stage. I share my guts, my feelings, and my soul”. Her live shows are an intense experience of intimate lyrics, punchy arrangements and much more energy than can rightfully be expected from just two people on stage. Accompanied by her guitarist, Tailor plays acoustic guitar, keyboards, drums and bass – often delivering her powerful lyrics while doing so.
“I’ve been working really hard at music for ten years,” she says. “Tailor is the most recent thing I’ve done, and has become the most successful, which is a huge blessing. Having to work so long doing music, and missioning for so long in this industry – it makes me appreciate it so much more, because now it’s all come true, and my dreams are turning into reality. Life since the beginning of Tailor has been a complete roller-coaster ride – and I’m loving it.”
Tailor was spotted by Just Music – home of South African talents like Zebra and Giraffe, The Muffinz, Harris Tweed / Dear Reader and Flash Republic – and paired with producer Matthew Fink (Black Hotels, Jim Neversink) and, following the release of “The Dark Horse” accompanied Zebra and Giraffe on a national tour in late 2012. Following that, she’s shared stages with the likes of The Parlotones, Yoav, The Kongos and Shadowclub. An impressive slate for a new artistic incarnation.
“I like any musician that inspires me, and anyone who works hard, and gigs their ass off”– Tailor
“Working with people like that, having a record label like Just Music behind Tailor is great,” she says. “My first tour with Zebra and Giraffe – that was amazing, and we were well received in all the towns we went to visit. Then I joined the Parlotones last night, wrapping up 2012 playing with them in George and then Durban, and then with Yoav at Kirstenbosch. I like any musician that inspires me, and anyone who works hard, and gigs their ass off. It’s crazy to be on the same bill as artists you grew up listening to, and now you’re sharing a stage with them. For 2013, it’s back on the road again for most of the year – with lots of blogging in between. I like to connect with my fans on Facebook and Twitter and get really personal with them.”
Tailor’s singles, “Wolf” and “Indian“, have received wide radio airplay and, arguably, an even wider reach through YouTube and other social media – these are the kinds of songs that have the power to find their way to homes in small towns across the country and the world through word-of-mouth and the searching of the eager. Another side of Tailor shines through in songs like “Shaped Like A Gun“, featuring sparse piano and multiple voices accompanying lyrics like: “We were only lovers / Torn in two / And under the covers / We were nothing but through“, and “Step Back“, with staccato, punched vocals over crashing acoustics: “You call every night with that stupid voice…/ You say, ‘Babe, I’ve changed’ / But I know it’s just for the night“.
“Each song has a message, and something that has light at the end of it. I hope that people will feel stronger after listening to it”– Tailor
“I’m a very emotional person on stage,” says Tailor, a simple statement which belies the almost tactile intensity of her shows. “I can’t do it otherwise. I relive what I felt when I created the songs. When I leave the stage, I am a very happy person. It’s not like there’s any bad energy. Each song has a message, and something that has light at the end of it. I hope that people will feel stronger after listening to it; have a good feeling or an empowered feeling.”
A word like empowerment means the inevitable question that female band-leaders must always answer, along with the oddity of why no-one asks men what it’s like to be playing music. “I get the question a lot, but it makes sense, I guess,” says Tailor. “It’s not often that you pitch up at a festival and there are woman musicians everywhere. There aren’t a lot of chick vocalists, especially in South Africa and, being a woman, you can get overlooked, especially at shows. I feel empowered doing this, and knowing that maybe I can inspire another female to front a band or be in a band or follow her dream of music.”
Another inevitability as a female artists is the series of comparisons that Tailor garners – notably to indie female-fronted groups like Feist, Florence and The Machine or The Gossip, and to soaring vocalists like Kate Bush, Bjork and Tori Amos.
“Any comparison is great,” says Tailor. “People will always do that, and I respect that. I do it when I watch a band, thinking, ‘They sound like this’ or ‘They sound like that’. If you want to put me in a box, it won’t work but, otherwise, it’s a great compliment. I definitely don’t overthink my sound, or steer it in a direction. I notice that I’m writing a bit more acoustically, and I think I’ve grown a lot in a short amount of time. If I listen to something I lot – say, a lot of pop or Mumford And Sons – then my writing would go a bit that way. With ‘The Dark Horse’, though, there’s no-one I can think of that it sounds like.”
Tailor plays the 4th Street Main Stage at the annual Up The Creek Music Festival on the banks of the Breede River. Thirty bands play over the Main Stage, and the MK River Stage and the Rolling Stone SA stage. Also on the bill are Piet Botha, Karen Zoid, Yoav, Beast, ISO, Desmond & The Tutus, Machineri, Nomadic Orchestra, Jeremy Loops, Peachy Keen, Black Cat Bones, Goodnight Wembley, Trenton and Free Radical, Saint Fearless, Woodstock Mafia, Dave Ferguson and more (31 January to 3 February, Swellendam; tickets Thursday to Sunday R600 presale; R650 gate; Friday to Sunday R500 presale, R600 gate; Saturday – Sunday, R450 presale, R500 gate from TicketBreak.co.za; children under 13, free). For luxury camping, see HeartbreakMotel.co.za; also prepare for the “Anything That Floats” competition on the Breede River (winner gets R3000, 4th Street hamper, tickets to Up The Creek 2014 and more).