South Africa is known for sought-after products such as diamonds, gold and vintage wines. If members of the multiplatinum-selling band The Parlotones have anything to do with it, music fans in the U.S. soon will be adding rock 'n' roll to the list of popular South African exports.
The band, which kicks off its first major tour in the U.S. this week, has achieved legend status back home. Coldplay picked The Parlotones to open the British band's stadium shows in Johannesburg and Cape Town in 2011. The group's third album, A World Next Door to Yours, released in 2007, became South Africa's biggest-selling rock record of the decade.
Led by lead singer Kahn Morbee, who's known for his signature eye make up on stage, the band played a sold-out farewell show at Cape Town's Kirstenbosch Gardens earlier this week before catching a flight to the States. I was lucky enough to attend the show, and I connected with the band afterward about their relocation to the U.S. and getting started on their upcoming tour, which kicks off this week at the Viper Room in Los Angeles.
Why the U.S., and why now?
We've played a few tours in the U.S. already, normally spending six-to-eight weeks crossing the country. We've built up a good fan base, and we also have an excellent team in place. But we realized even a two-month tour wouldn't be enough time to even scrape the surface. We decided the best thing would be to base ourselves here and seize the opportunity to explore America and see how far we can go, both musically and geographically.
You're kicking things off in LA at the Viper Room this week. Are you nervous?
We've played Viper Room twice before and it's really cool to play such a legendary venue. We're excited to get things going -- we definitely don't want to be just sitting around doing nothing. We're being proactive, getting out exploring LA as well getting to work on a new album.
Nearly everyone in South Africa knows your music, but not a lot of people in the U.S. are familiar with it... at least not yet. How would you describe your sound?
I would say we're anthemic indie rock.
For your upcoming tour, one radio station is describing you as "the next big thing." Yet you've hit multiplatinum status back home. What's it going to be like to be veteran rockers while also being the new kids on the block?
It's actually really exciting to be starting off, practically brand new, in a new territory, especially one as big as the US. It's exciting to be winning over new fans and exploring a new world. And also we are established and experienced enough to not be a "newbie band." We have the confidence and experience to be able to take a stage and rock it, even to an audience that has never heard us before.
Is it hard leaving behind all the love of fans back home?
It is tough to leave all that behind, but we realize we have to move forward and in order to sustain our band we have to explore bigger markets.
What's your biggest fear about moving to the U.S.?
We feel a little unprepared, and have no idea what to expect. It's tough leaving your comfort zone, but it's a challenge we're prepared to take.