Look Out Kid is a South African band that jumped onto the scene in March 2012. They play an amalgamation of jazz, blues and folk and I find it incredible to listen to. Look Out Kid is composed of four band members: Zarcia Zacheus (voice), Andrew Orkin (guitar), Tembi Mavibela (double bass) and Mike Wright (drums). I recently had the opportunity to speak to Andrew from the band and learn a little bit about them and why they are so special. I generally always kick off interviews with some background on names. ‘Look Out Kid’ comes from Bob Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’. The line goes, ‘Look out kid, it’s something you did’ and they grabbed the name from there in order to give themselves some sort of coolness factor. I don’t know whether it worked because they would still be as great with or without the name. They released their 6-track album, Collide, in October 2012 and it has been well received even gaining a feature from Rolling Stone South Africa. Below is my favourite track from the album; it’s called Quiet in Motion.
DYD: How did you guys meet? I kind of got a vague idea from the Look Out Kid biography about you and Zarcia starting a side-project and this eventually becoming Look Out Kid.
Andrew (Look Out Kid): We all studied music at Wits and performed a multitude of ensembles and projects together. I think when you study music you get swallowed by the whole academic side and eventually I said let’s take it back to basics and try something simpler and then Look Out Kid was born.
DYD: The music you grow up with influences the music you will like as you get older. Look Out Kid has a lovely blues folk vibe. Did you grow up with a lot of blues and folk at home?
Andrew (Look Out Kid): Yeah, my parents are both big folkies so what was playing in the kitchen was always Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and John Mayer. I took that love of folk music, especially from the 60s and 70s, and then got into Hendrix in quite a big way when I was in my teens.
DYD: You’re currently studying composition at NYU (New York University), with a sideline song-writing major. What do the other three band members do?
Andrew (Look Out Kid): Since graduating we’ve all gone in our different directions. Mike was always the famous one. He played in Dear Reader, which is the old Harris Tweed, Death Valleys Blue Band, and now he’s the drummer for Zebra and Giraffe. He’s probably the coolest out of the four of us. Zarcia is pretty multi-faceted, she’s a jazz singer and because of her gospel background she has a gospel group called, Luee, which is doing really well on the gospel scene. Tembi is an unbelievable bass player. Apart from playing in orchestras as a double bassist he also plays for all the big jazz names in South Africa and is crafting a really good career for himself. Besides from performing, Mike and I run a studio in Edenvale called Gloryvale Studios.
DYD: So you came onto the scene in March 2012. In the short time that you got to have gigs together as a group did you experience any bad gigs?
Andrew (Look Out Kid): Prior to recording the album we had never had a ‘Look Out Kid’ rehearsal with all four of us in the same room because we had performed together so often as part of our music degrees. Knowing each other so well we could kind of basket at gigs. We didn’t have a lot of time before I left so we must have played 7 or 8 gigs. The kind of music we play really works in a quiet seated theatre environment; it’s music that you really want to sit down and listen to. We had a couple of gigs where it was the usual coffee shop vibe, everyone is chatting and you get a feeling that you’re not really connecting with the audience. We didn’t really have bad gigs, some were great and some were less great.
DYD: Did you end up having a favourite gig?
Andrew (Look Out Kid): I’ll tell you about two. There was a gig at the Bioscope which was the last one we played. It was the Real Music Wednesdays at the Bioscope and we really got what I was talking about there with just an audience that was just sitting and listening. The second gig was at Pop Art. Zarcia and I did a duet gig which was the opening for a festival and we had a 70-something seated audience. The same thing happened, the audience was entranced. When you have that happening it really makes you feel like you’re getting something across as opposed to just playing background music.
DYD: You sing as well? Do you guys all have musical voices?
Andrew (Look Out Kid): To be honest I’ve never heard Tembi sing in my life. Mike has a quiet way about it. Zarcia you’ve obviously heard sing. I sing when I have to and when I can kind of sheepishly hide in the background. When we recorded the album there were a lot of voices so what I’d do was when we brought in the string players or say the saxophone player or the pianist I’d shove them in the studio and get them to sing some backing vocals.
Andrew (Look Out Kid): Mike and I recorded the album so the album was entirely self-produced and then we branched out and got it mixed by Jacob Israel. He mixed the album mainly because it was too close to home for us. I felt that if we mixed it then it would take the rest of my life to finish.
DYD: What musicians influence Look Out Kid?
Andrew (Look Out Kid): That’s a tough one because there are quite a few styles on that album even though it’s only six tracks, but you can track what you write based on what you’re listening to at the time. At the time I was listening to a lot of bluesy folk stuff from the states like The Wood Brothers. Mike’s folk influence from playing with Dear Reader really shone throughout the album. Bombay Bicycle Club also influenced what I wrote as well as the Tallest Man on Earth.
DYD: In terms of finding inspiration for songs, do you look for anything or do you take it in moments? And also, who’s in charge of primary song-writing?
Andrew (Look Out Kid): I wrote all the music and the lyrics for the album. I think some of the songs are about me and things that have happened in my life. It’s kind of always inescapable as a songwriter even if it’s not entirely clear. But, some of the songs are completely disjointed from myself like Cold Hearted Woman on the album. I think the inspiration comes when it comes. Song writing is a mixture of personal accounts and embellishments. There’s a saying, ‘Don’t ever let the truth get in the way of a good song’, so I take the truth and twist it a bit.
DYD: Who would you like to work with in terms of band collaborations? Name one South African act and one international one.
Andrew (Look Out Kid): The South African band would be The Black Handed Kites. Internationally, I would say The Wood Brothers.
DYD: You being away has put Look Out Kid on a break. When will Look Out Kid continue?
Andrew (Look Out Kid): I’m hoping we can get on some festivals in the middle of the year. In the pipelines I’m teaching another guitarist all the parts so we can get the ball rolling. Zarcia is also planning on coming to New York so when she gets here we can put a band together and do a mini-tour. I’ll definitely be home to do some gigs and also finish the second half of this 6-track album. We’ve got a lot of material that we want to hash out and I think turning this album into a full 12-track album would be a good goal to aim for when I come back.