DYD: What challenges did the band have to face by trying to come to prominence considering you are based in the non big city of Potchefstroom?
MonArk: I don’t think that our being based in Potch has really hindered, or challenged, our growth at all. We have been really fortunate to have our singles do so well on radio, which has been great for our marketing. And with regards to shows and meetings, Potch isn’t too far away from Joburg, so we can drive through quite easily if we have to.
DYD: Tell us about the formation of the band and roles that each band member plays.
MonArk: We naturally came together because we are friends with similar views and goals with music, and life in general. In the band, we each do the following:
– Eugene – Vocals, piano and primary songwriter.
– Ewald – Guitar, synth, piano, producer. Ewald also works very closely with Eugene, writing and putting together all our material.
– Deon – Bass.
– Frankie – Guitar and synth.
– Graeme – Drums.
DYD: You have a unique style to your music, with it balancing on the cusp of pop and rock, as well as it having various non-traditional electronic instrumentation to it. What led you to creating this style? What influences you?
MonArk: We experimented for ages – years actually, before we finalised the band and the direction we wanted to take. Eugene writes great melodies and once we put Smiling together, we felt that we had found a way, or sound, that complemented Eugene’s vocals and melodies, and was accessible to the public. We took aspects of different genres that we liked, thought could work together well and thought the public would enjoy. There are pop, rock, hip-hop/urban, and classical elements. Ultimately, we realise that for the band to be a plausible project, people have to want to listen to our music.
DYD: Considering your style, how does your music translate to your live shows? Is it a verbatim performance of your songs or does the live show differ somewhat? What is your mind set when performing your music live?
MonArk: We always strive to do the recorded version of the song justice live. We want to be able to replicate what we do in studio when we perform, and I think we do that quite well. It is possibly a little more ‘rocky’ but we have synths and an electronic drums/pad set up and running during the show so that we can replicate the sounds we come up with in studio. Also, the music is there to back the vocals and Eugene pulls of all the crazy vocals lines live, even if we do say so ourselves.
DYD: Your music is exceptionally polished and is filled with this certain energy that makes you smile. What is your creative process when creating music?
MonArk: Thank you very much! Eugene usually comes up with the original melody, although Ewald has put together really nice ideas as a starting point as well. After that, Ewald and Eugene work together putting in all the layers and musical ideas. The rest of us will also come in to contribute ideas and tracks with our individual instruments. But Ewald is the one that really pulls it all together. He is a great producer and has a great ear for what will work.
DYD: Looking from the outside in – what are your thoughts on your success so far and about your place in the South African music scene?
MonArk: That’s tough; it’s always hard to be objective. I think we have been very lucky to have gained the support and had the success we have had so quickly. Although, I like to think that we have strong songs that back justify our success. We are a new band and so there is no doubt that there is room for growth. I think we will always feel that there is room for growth. The South African music scene is looking very promising at the moment, there are plenty of good acts coming out every day and the older acts keep on delivering. It is an encouraging place to be in and I like to think that we are playing our part in a scene that is starting to assert itself as world class.
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