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making mnusic

Nechama Brodie interviews Desmond & The Tutus and hopes they’re laughing with her, not at her.

Do you have any nicknames for each other?’ Always start band interviews with stupid questions. Nic, Shane, Craig and Doug – the four guys who make up Desmond & The Tutus – shake their heads. There’s a bit of an uncomfortable silence. ‘Well, I guess we do,’ Doug pipes up. ‘It’s Mike, Sean, Greg… and Duncan.’ There’s laughter. ‘A lot of people can’t say Craig,’ Shane adds, straightfaced. Craig explains: ‘If someone meets all of us in a noisy sort of environment, we’ll say “Nic”, they hear “Mike”… They always get one of us wrong.’ ‘We play it up,’ Nic says. The band want to talk about music; I want to talk about their dynamic with each other – and I’ve probably just entered myself in the category of most annoying questions ever, which include asking why they named their band Desmond & The Tutus, who their musical influences are, and: ‘If you could play with any band living or dead, who would it be?’ ‘Sorry, was that your next question?’ Shane laughs. Having made their name predominantly as a not-to-be-missed live act, Desmond & The Tutus have just released their second full-length album, Mnusic – a milestone, Nic says, none of them really expected. ‘With the possible exception of Nic,’ Shane says, ‘the three of us only have the friends that are in this room right now. The band is like… us socialising with each other. It exists because we’re friends. It’s not some clever business idea we had, to write quirky indie rock songs and get rich. We’re buddies.’ Desmond & The Tutus’ first gig was at the (now defunct) Blues Room in Johannesburg. ten

‘We pretty much googled “where to do a gig in Joburg for a rock band” and that’s what came up,’ Shane says. ‘They said we had to pay to play there. I thought it didn’t seem right. I didn’t think bands were supposed to pay to play.’ In the end, they didn’t pay – and they wound up playing until 2am because they’d brought such a large crowd. They played a few more open mics, and people started coming when they heard the band was going to be on. Nearly seven years down the line, the guys say not very much has changed. Except they have more facial hair. And Doug says he’s picked up weight. Shane describes the band as ‘very much like a hobby, but we take it seriously and we’re very passionate about what we do. But we’re not on the road for six months a year. Our lives at home with our wives, our day jobs – that’s still our real lives.’ Touring and recording are ‘kind of like guys’ weekends’, they say. Like The Hangover, but without the facial tattoos. Or the bad behaviour, although they did once leave Craig behind at The Assembly in Cape Town. ‘I was holding all my drums. It was, like, 4am. And they just drove past me. I’m pretty sure Nic zapped me. I’m actually pretty bitter about it,’ he says. Sometimes, when they tour overseas, they go shopping for clothes (Nic tries to bunk); they proudly announce that they’ve ‘golfed’ (except for Shane); they like getting drunk together (Nic apparently forces everyone to have shooters), then, if they can, they find a dance floor. They like dancing. ‘Then we all get flipping tired, go home and sleep,’ says Nic. There’s an honesty to their play – even when they’re making fun of an interviewer – that’s irresistible. It filters through to their melodies and lyrics (charming and catchy,

on a roll

It’s rough, fast and f#$king fun – welcome to roller derby. Words: Annie Brookstone Pics: Dylan Culhane

neakers, boots, pumps and heels of various descriptions litter the floor in haphazard, discarded piles. Some sort of show and tell of bumps and bruises is happening in one corner, while others are sprawled in stretches of quiet contemplation. Wayward strands of hair escape from under helmets branded with monikers like ‘Miss Hades’ and ‘Darlin Devicious’ as – in a blur of colourful legwarmers and glinting wheels – the girls start taking to the track. Yelled greetings compete with the ‘click, click, whirr’ of the roller skates over the wooden floor and are punctuated with

the occasional shriek of laughter, or the more jarring squeal of an abrupt stop. It’s Monday night and the Iron Meisies’ two-hour scrimmage session is about to get underway. There’s no doubt that roller derby’s recent excursions into the public consciousness have come hot on the heels – or is that wheels? – of the 2009 movie Whip It, starring indie darling Ellen Page. And then, of course, there are the associations created as a by-product of alt-girl culture (SuicideGirls, anyone?). But it’s not all fishnets and pin-ups or bitching and brawls, and the Iron Meisies – Cape Town’s Mother City Mayhem roller derby league’s first team – are out to prove it.

‘We want to get rid of the misconception that roller derby is this girly sport that’s all about looking hot,’ explains Luisa ‘Hotrodrigues’ Rodrigues, as she laces up her roller skates. By the time the 30-odd members of the Iron Meisies all have their skates on, their elbow- and kneepads fitted, their gloves on and their mouth guards in, they look more like a marauding street gang than poster girls anyway – and their obvious determination is just as fearsome. So what does roller derby involve? Well, for one thing, no balls – unless, of course, you mean the figurative type. Playing by the rules of the US Women’s Flat Track Derby Association seventeen

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twenty eight

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thirty one

‘Breathtakingly beautiful’ – Sunday Times Culture

‘His vocal cords were made to sing soul’ – The Guardian

‘The reflective, mature lyricism of Bob Dylan or Neil Young’ – The Times

‘Recalls the grace and understated power of Otis Redding’

- Sunday Express

passing notes CECELIA, 25, HR MANAGER Who was your teen idol? My brother. He’s always been my big brother and he just started his own company. If you could give your teenage self any piece of advice, what would it be? Bend the rules and live life to the fullest. Which school clique were you part of? I played first team netball, so I was automatically in the jock group. What was the biggest fashion mistake you made in school? Wearing platform (Spice Girl) shoes. High school reunions: yay or nay? Yay. Just to see how everyone’s grown and changed.

thirty four

LEATON, 25, TRAINEE ACCOUNTANT Who was your teen idol? Michael Jackson. If you could give your teenage self any piece of advice, what would it be? Have a little bit more guts. Which school clique were you part of? The cool gang. We were in trouble a lot. Kids these days... Are very mature. What was your high school theme song? I Want It That Way by Backstreet Boys. Have you ever made anybody a mixtape? Yes, my three brothers and I used to fool around and sometimes record ourselves.

chats: nicole mccain snaps: greg maxwell

CLAIRE, 29, SALES REP Who was your teen idol? Ione Skye. If you could give your teenage self any piece of advice, what would it be? Figure things out sooner, like life and what you want to do. Which school clique were you part of? The cool, bitchy bitches. I wasn’t one of them though. Have you ever made anybody a mixtape? No. I can’t even remember if anyone made me one. What was the biggest fashion mistake you made in school? Cutting my hair really short. But I was quite stylish at school.

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TIM, 28, MARKETING MANAGER Who was your teen idol? BraveStarr. If you could give your teenage self any piece of advice, what would it be? Surf hard, live slow. Which school clique were you part of? The BB boys (Betty’s Bay). Kids these days... Need to grow up. What was your high school theme song? Greased Lightning or Wild Boys. Have you ever made anybody a mixtape? No, but one of my girlfriends used to make them for me. What was the biggest fashion mistake you made in school? Wearing uncool sandals.

JILL, 30, ACCOUNTANT Who was your teen idol? Julia Roberts, ever since I saw Pretty Woman. If you could give your teenage self any piece of advice, what would it be? To go out more and have more fun. Which school clique were you part of? The reserved, quiet ones. Kids these days... Are too advanced. They forget to be kids. Have you ever made anybody a mixtape? No, but I had one made for me by a friend, with jazz music on it.

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