Afrikaans alternative pop band Die Heuwels Fantasties, is no stranger to making waves in the South African music scene. 2020 is shaping up to be another big year for this iconic group with the official release date of a new album set for 22 May. PDBY spoke to Hunter Kennedy, guitarist for Die Heuwels Fantasties, just after the release of their latest single “Ons Moet Leef”.

The social landscape from the conception of this song to its release must have changed quite a lot. Yet, the song fits in perfectly to the current position South Africans find themselves in. Do you think the message the song puts out into the world would have been received slightly differently if it were not for the COVID-19 lockdown?

Good question! I would love to say no, but I think the answer is yes. The lockdown has forced everyone’s energy to focus on this one thing. With the effect that everything is being contextualised similarly. That may help people feel the same feeling when they’re listening to the song, but of course, the song was not written with a virus in mind. I do, however, think the song’s core message remains the same, “ons moet leef, ons moet lewe”.

Your next full-length album, 2021, comes out on 22 May. How has the lockdown affected the creative process behind it?

Thankfully we were done with 99% of the creative work before lockdown. The lockdown has more affected our creativity with regards to the roll-out of the album. We have had to adjust quite quickly. I mean usually our launch would’ve coincided with a live event, in fact, we were in the process of producing limited zines and all kinds of elaborate s**t. The lockdown has taken most of the normality away as you very well know. The first challenge was to shoot a video, so we asked fans and some of our more recognisable friends to contribute to the video for “Ons Moet Leef”‘cause we thought it would get boring if it was just us in our houses, and that turned out quite lekker.

Right now, Rave Grohl is busy building an animated visual accompaniment to the whole album. That will premiere on YouTube at the end of May. It will serve as our album launch. Listening-party kind of vibe. At the moment, the album is available on our site if you purchase any merch. The items will be produced as soon as possible, but you get the album immediately, which is basically a month before it hits the major platforms. The vibe with the merch is quite exciting, we’re just throwing up designs and checking what people like. So, the COVID crisis has definitely forced us to think out the box a little.

How would you describe the sound of this new chapter as a band? What can fans look forward to?

To me, it actually sounds like it comes from all of our previous albums. I can hear s**t from our first album on here. Like “Mis Oor Die See” sounds a little bit like the synth-pop of the first album, and “Ek Mis Jou” has that stripped-down R&B element of “Koeëlbaai” on the OKAY! album. It’s hard to define the genre, cause there are a few genres, but I think people can look forward to well-crafted songs that will make them feel something. I think it’s quite an enriching experience listening to the whole thing. Some of my friends have told me it’s their favourite Heuwels album. I’m fine with that.

You said that the song, “Ons Moet Leef”, turned out to be a song about reconciliation, togetherness, friendship and being in the here and now”. The inclusion of your fans in the music video truly encapsulated that “togetherness”. What were some of the major similarities you noticed between the videos that were sent in? And do you have a favourite video?

I appreciated the fact that the people were in good spirits and pushed themselves out of their usual domestic comfort zones. In general, everyone was having fun, and that is something that we hoped to achieve. Some of my favourites are the guy surfing in his pool with his suit on, the guy leaf blowing his face and the girl who does that split in the air! Amazing stuff. Super stoked with all of the entries, some of the videos didn’t make it, but hopefully, we can work them into the viz for our album launch.

Where do you think the South African music industry is headed after lockdown?

I think all the artists will probably be ready to jol, so I think it’s gonna slam! Lots of new skills being learned, and the forced migration to focus everything online will definitely have a long-term impact. It’s interesting. Up and up. Always on the up and up. Since my introduction to the scene, I have never experienced the industry stopping, and it is not about to now.

Your song sends out such a positive message, with that in mind do you have any advice for creatives during this challenging time?

People are bored. Create content.

While we, unfortunately, cannot watch a live performance any time soon, we can reflect on live performances from the past. Tell us a little about one of your favourite performances?

To be honest I have been digging our last few performances before this vibe. I love it when it’s the whole freaking band. Hiram on sax, Kyle on keytar, Johnny on second guitar. That only happens at Liefde By Die Dam though, and it is always a f*****g party. The music video for “Mejuffrou Sonneblom” was actually shot there.

What are you most looking forward to after lockdown?

My kid’s face when she sees her best friend again.

Image: Provided

DANI VAN DER HORST