Zebra & Giraffe: ‘Bad’, back with “Knuckles” – and Africa Voices

Fresh from co-headlining Oppikoppi and I ❤ Joburg,  alternative rock foursome Zebra & Giraffe return with a new album and national tour, and upcoming headliners alongside Macklemore, Nicki Minaj and Nigeria’s D’Banj.

This interview by Evan Milton first appeared in the Weekend Argus of 2014-09-07

A few Fridays ago, Zebra & Giraffe unveiled a new song, “I’ve Been Bad” to the 10 000 or so music faithful assembled before the Wesley’s Dome stage at Oppikoppi. An expectant moment for any band, the presentation of new material… Perhaps even more so for Zebra & Giraffe, who hadn’t played a big-stage show for half a year. It was electrifying – the crowd responded as one to the new song, highlighting why the band has twice been awarded the “Best Rock AlbumSAMA (2008 and 2013), as well as an MTV All Africa award for “Best Alternative Band”.

Zebra & Giraffe, pic: Ross Garrett

Zebra & Giraffe – Stef Henrico, Greg Carlin, Mike Wright, Alan Shenton.
Pic: Ross Garrett

“We were slightly nervous,” admits frontman and songwriter Greg Carlin, “It’s exciting to play Oppikoppi – we’ve had some of our best shows ever there. We’ve come off an acoustic tour, and all the work recording and preparing the album, so we’ve gelled really well as a band, a unit – but there’s always an electricity before you play your first really big stage in a while. We prepared well; we had a whole lighting show and new visuals and it went really, really well. This year, there was no public holiday on the Friday, so no-one was sure what the turnout would be. When we walked out onto the stage, I think we all had a moment where we had to take a breath. 10 000 people, on a Friday night, out in the Bushveld, with only South African acts that night. We could feel them being into the new music, as well as the old songs they know. The dust never disappears there, so it makes it tough to sing, but it was a really good show.”

Unusually for Oppikoppi, Zebra & Giraffe played two shows. “For the Saturday acoustic show, we were aware that our set overlapped with the Shortstraw set,” says Mike Wright, drummer and keyboardist. “I would have gone to see their show if we weren’t playing, and we knew lots of people would go and see it, so we wondered how that set would go down. It was packed – the maximum that the Oppikoppi “Top Bar” stage can hold, and later there were people who told us they were trying to get to the front but couldn’t get to a point where they could see us. We’ve got that stripped down side of the show waxed; it’s really easy and comfortable.”

“Africa Voices helped us re-think the ‘why’ of our music, and it helped re-energise the band. We wanted to give something back.”

Zebra & Giraffe – Carlin and Wright, along with guitarist Alan Shenton and bassist Stef Henrico – start their Cape stint with such a stripped down airing: a gala concert at the Fugard Theatre for the Africa Voices Trust. The trust is a non-profit organisation created “to support the development of highly talented and deserving young African musicians and singers”. It works across all genres and aims to identify and grow future stars and involves mentorship in professional studio techniques, high-level stagecraft – and an understanding of the local and global music industry context. Previous programmes have focused on opera and musical theatre, and equipping singers to perform and record film score music, while recent graduand Lana Crowster coached the young South African talent that accompanied touring American singer Laura Burhenn on her national “Songbird” series.

“We worked with Africa Voices last year and we wanted to give something back, so the first unplugged show is for them as a fund-raiser, so they can put more artists through their programme,” says Carlin. “They help South African artists maximise their potential, and it give us an opportunity to work with a producer called Shy, which was hugely beneficial for the band working on stage-craft and performance, and for me specifically, working on vocals. It helped us re-think the ‘why’ of our music, and it helped re-energise the band.”

After the Africa Voices gala and a sultry supper-club show as part of a new series at Pigalle – think whisky cocktails, top-notch sit-down dinner, and cigars – comes the official launch night at The Assembly, arguably Cape Town’s best live music club venue.

“At a club show, it’s way more intimate, and I love that… you can see the effect our music has on a particular person, see how it moves people right close to you.”

       – Mike Wright, Zebra & Giraffe

“At a big festival show, from my drums, I can see maybe the first two rows,” Mike Wright says. “At a club show, it’s way more intimate, and I love that. It’s small – very few clubs in South Africa can accommodate more than a few hundred – so there’s a different interaction at play. At a festival, everyone’s there in a kind of mob to watch music; at a club, they’re just there to see you. Another musician might love the shows where there are thousands of people singing along, but I love a club gig – where you can see the effect our music has on a particular person, see how it moves people right close to you.”

I’ve Been Bad” is the first single off “Knuckles”, the band’s fourth studio release and an album that was dual produced by Grammy-winning Darryl Torr and Shy, and mixed in Los Angeles by Mark Needham (The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Fleetwood Mac). It’s accompanied by a video directed by Ross Garrett, (in)famous for doing Die Antwoord’s “Fok Julle Naaiers”.

Zebra & Giraffe - 'Ive Been Bad' video, directed by Ross Garrett

Zebra & Giraffe – ‘Ive Been Bad’ video, directed by Ross Garrett

“The idea behind the video was the contrast between light and dark, happy and sad; between conflicting emotional spaces,” Greg Carlin explains. “We had the Hell’s Angels in there as part of a scene where we wanted to get the idea across of someone’s past – maybe a past filled with regret and darkness, but it’s moving towards some kind of light. The chorus in the song is the happier side of the coin; the verses are the past and regret. We liked the idea of the band playing in a really dodgy bar with these heavy bikers, and people spitting beer, and doing shots. Then there’s the release towards the end, of the band on this massive stage of light. Ross made a beautiful looking video; something that holds you until the end when it explodes. It’s one of the things that makes being in this band – we work with people like that, and can make what I guess you would call art. That’s another part of what Zebra & Giraffe is.”

This interview by Evan Milton first appeared in the Weekend Argus of 2014-09-07


Zebra & Giraffe launch “Knuckles” with three very different Cape Town shows.

  • The Africa Voices Gala Concert (Monday 8 September, acoustic at The Fugard Theatre, Caledon Street, District 6, 8pm, tickets R100 to R140 from Computicket.com or 083 9158000; details 021-4614554). All proceeds donated to Africa Voices Trust – offering free performance, recording and career development programmes in the music industry.
  • Pigalle Supper Club (Thursday 11 September, acoustic at Pigalle, 57 Somerset Road, Green Point, 7pm; tickets R290 from WebTickets.co.za, including 3 course meal and free cocktail; additional whisky pairing and extra cost).
  • The Assembly; full club show (Friday 12 September, 61 Harrington Street, District Six, 021-4657286; 9pm; tickets R60 from WebTickets.co.za).

More on ZebraAndGiraffe.com

Buy “I’ve Been Bad” at Bit.ly/IveBeenBadiTunes.

Watch “I’ve Been Bad” here: youTube.com/ZebraAndGiraffe

   Knuckles” 2014 tourdates

Mon 8 September
Cape Town, The Fugard Theatre (unplugged)
Africa Voices Gala Concert
Address: Caledon Street, District 6
Show Starts: 20h00
Cover Charge: R100.00 – R140.00 (R10 discount for students & Friends of the Fugard)
Tickets: 021 461 4554 OR www.computicket.com / 083 915 8000

Thurs 11 September
Cape Town, Pigalle Supper Club (unplugged)
Address: 57 Somerset Road, Green Point
Show starts: 19h00
Cover Charge: R290 including 3 course meal & free cocktail. Additional whisky pairing and extra cost.
Tickets: www.webtickets.co.za

Sat 13 September
Port Elizabeth, Pool City
Address: 13/14 Times Square, Heugh Road
Show starts: 21h00
Cover Charge: R60

Sun 14 September
Port Elizabeth, The Cash Store (unplugged)
Address: 278 Sardinia Bay Road
Show starts: 21h00
Cover Charge: R60

Wed 17 September
Bloemfontein, Die Mystic Boer
Address: 84 Kellner Street
Show starts: 21h00
Cover Charge: R40

Fri 19 September
Durban, LIVE the Venue
Address: 166 Stamford Hill Road (Matthews Meyiwa)
Show starts: 21h00
Cover charge: Early bird: R50. Presale and at door: R60
Tickets: www.webtickets.co.za

Sat 18 October
Pretoria, Arcade Empire
Address: 265 The Highway Street, Equestria
Show starts: 21h00
Cover charge: R60.00

Thur 23 October
Johannesburg, Hard Rock Cafe
Address: Nelson Mandela Square, 8 Maude Street
Show starts: 21h00
Cover Charge: FREE

Fri 24 October
Potchefstroom, Arcade Empire
Address: 84 Steve Biko Street
Show starts: 21h00
Cover charge: R40.00

Zebra & Giraffe - Stef Henrico, Alan Shenton, Greg Carlin, Mike Wright. Pic by Ross Garrett.

Zebra & Giraffe – Stef Henrico, Alan Shenton, Greg Carlin, Mike Wright. Pic by Ross Garrett.



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