“We don’t really want to be taken seriously…”
In between taking bites out of their custard slices, the two David Spade lookalikes from Desmond & the Tutus, Shane and Craig Durrant, burst into mild fits of laughter when we discuss the LSD-like effects of eating toasted bacon and banana sandwiches before bedtime. In fact, it takes us nearly 10 minutes to actually get into discussing their new album, Mnusic.
Considering the strong African influences, such as kwela, in their indie-tinged sound, the album title sounds like a thought-out wordplay on African surnames. “We actually don’t have a very deep meaningful story behind it,” says Shane bashfully. “Have you seen our [mock] infomercial? It was very loose. We didn’t have a script. As the guys were shooting it, they were telling Dobson [the actor in the infomercial] to say stuff, put on a hat, and do this and that – just winging it, basically. And then they started telling him to say, ‘Say new Desmond music,’ but he just couldn’t say music. Afterwards, when everyone was re-watching the tape, they realised that it didn’t sound right; he kept saying ‘mnusic’.”
“They’d say to Dobson, “Just say music,” and he’d shout at the top of his lungs: mnusic!” Craig laughs.
More Tenacious D than Radiohead
So, in other words, the album title came from messing around and having fun, which seem to be common themes when discussing this band. However, you have to wonder if this will ever turn out to be a disadvantage, with perhaps people seeing them as a joke band and not taking them seriously enough. “Mmm…I don’t know. We don’t really want to be taken seriously in that way. We’re about having fun on stage. We love people having fun at our shows and while listening to the CD in their cars. It’s not like we’re some kids messing around – just wanting to party nonstop. We take ourselves seriously, as a band, but we love having fun,” Shane affirms.
This leads us to our next topic: are South African rock bands too uptight and stern for their own good? “I don’t know. I think there are people who take themselves seriously, wherever you go. I mean, rock music is quite aggressive – okay, maybe not aggressive, but not always ‘fun’ music. If you think about it that way, bands try to be like other rock bands. They feel like [makes voice deeper] ‘we’ve got to be a serious rock band and play loud electric guitars and just rock out.’ We feel you can be a loud rock band, but have fun, make jokes or whatever…”
But In All Seriousness…
If there was one thing Desmond & the Tutus did get serious about, it was securing the expertise of Los Angeles-based music guru Eric Broucek for the production and mixing of Mnusic. “This album’s production quality is on another level, compared to Tuckshop [their debut album]. Eric isn’t a big-shot producer, you know. His main job in the past has been mixing bands. So, he’s worked with a lot of our favourite bands, engineered on a lot of albums and used to work with DFA Records. He’s worked with guys we listen to everyday,” Craig explains. “He was sort of a fifth pair of ears for us. He helped us structure the songs a lot better. In our minds, we always wanted to make charging dance music, but he slowed the songs down and said, ‘Leave that for your live set and make an album that people want to listen to everyday.’ He was really good at what he did, and we recorded it all in two weeks.”
Two weeks, eh? Must’ve freed up a lot of time for the guys to muck about. Actually, what does a band like Desmond & the Tutus do with their free time? “As a group, we like to go to Chicken Licken a lot. We like it when there is a bunch of trays filled with orange boxes in front of us. That is our main restaurant of choice,” Craig smirks, while Shane erupts into laughter, nearly dropping his custard slice.
Hey! Wait one cotton-picking minute… are you dudes trying to secure a food sponsorship deal via this article? “Is it that obvious?” Shane laughs.