As was the case of many people before me, I moved to Cape Town from a conservative small town drawn by the live music scene. Punk music was not what most people I knew were into. A large part of my adolescence was spent on the outside looking in, observing the musical exploits of people who were in a scene that I could only catch a glimpse of through going to occasional music festivals, watching MK, the soundtracks of AV skateboarding cuts and trawling the internet.
I longed to be surrounded by people with the same taste in music as me. I wanted to be able to go out and discover a new band on any given night. I set my intention on immersing myself in this scene once I got the hell out of buttfuck nowhere – and immerse myself I did.
Many of the venues and bands that characterised my first forays in this scene have long since closed their doors and called it a day. The Assembly, Manilla Bar, The Pit, Aces and Spades, Mercury – to name a few. Places that had either already closed their doors before the pandemic and those for whom the pandemic was the final nail in the coffin. Without venues where do artists perform? There are a few honourable mentions of venues that have kept the flame alive, the now closed Raptor Room, The Daisy Jones Bar out in Stellenbosch, Harrington’s Thursday night shows, Surfa Rosa, and The Armchair Theatre. By and large it was beginning to seem like the scene that I had loved from afar and who had taken me into it’s sweaty bosom was a thing of the past.
So you can imagine the excitement that the announcement of the aptly-named Revival Co.’s launch party stirred in me. Boasting an impressive five-act line-up, an array of local vendors, a beer pong tournament, and a burger stand – it felt more like a resurrection than a revival. The bands who performed were new kids on the block Moskitos, the art rock amalgamation Sold Ash Experimental Trio, post-punk mean machines Tough Guy, everyone’s favourite psych rock scene stalwarts Retro Dizzy, and Psych-Post-Punk poster boys Yndian Mynah. Being in EVOL again, dancing to wave upon wave of fuzzed out rock n roll, being tossed around in a mosh pit, I was back in the debauchery with all the familiar faces.
The two-man team responsible for this resurrection are the founders of the Revival Co, Richard Liefeldt (Retro Dizzy and solo project Dr Lovefield) and Sihle Mkhize (Runaway Nuns, The Loose Ends and Tough Guy). The following is a conversation I had with them ahead of their second event set to happen on the 13 November at District on Harrington Street (which is fitting as the space used to be the Assembly).
What/who is the Revival Company and where did the idea come from?
RL: The Revival Co. is an events company with a firm focus on the local creative industry. Music, art, food, film, photography. We wanted to create a safe & inclusive platform for our wonderfully talented local creatives to showcase their work whilst integrating small independent businesses.
Sihle I think had the idea for ages but really got the ball rolling in mid-2021. I initially was just going to handle the copywriting side of things but after like 1 day of doing that we both realized we wanted to do this together. Sihle is like a brother to me and it’s just so exciting to do this with him.
SM: The initial idea came about in 2017. I wanted to put on shows that brought together as many creative industries as possible and create a space where we could all come together and celebrate the things we love. I got the initial logos made but life got busy and i didnt think about it again till 2021.
The creative industry as a whole took a massive hit as a result of the pandemic, so it felt like the right time to try to do something about it. I asked Richard if he could help me with some copy for the first event, through that process it became abundantly clear that we should be working together. The name worked perfectly and has taken on a whole new meaning.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced as entertainers during the pandemic?
RL: The mental and financial strain was intense. I was on tour with Retro Dizzy when the first case was announced in South Africa and in one day we had 4 events cancel on us. Was wild. The mental strain is something I am still working through, not being able to do what I love regularly is tough but it feels like there is some sense of normality returning and this gives me hope.
SM: Entire industries shutting down overnight was incredibly scary for all of us, this meant a loss of work and income which took away a lot of people’s ability to survive. We all had to adapt to a whole new normal, we had to fundamentally change the way we worked and lived.
Both of you were in bands that came out of the Psych Night music scene. Psych Night is a collective that has thrown some of the most memorable music events in South Africa. They’ve brought down big names in the psych rock genre such as Allah Las, Black Lips, Golden Animals, Night Beats for single show performances as well as partnering with Vans to start the Endless Daze music festival. Sihle, I’ve heard that after going to the Black Lips show at The Assembly you and your mates decided to form Runaway Nuns. Can you tell me the impact of Psych Night on you personally and some of the specific things you’ve learnt from them?
RL: From my side I can only sing Psych Nights praises. Those dudes genuinely just love music and are so humble and down to earth. I consider them ‘big brothers’ in a sense because of the guidance and support they have not only given me but to countless bands over the years.
There is so much that they do that the general public don’t necessarily see, from giving new bands a chance to helping them set up tech riders and stage plans and doing all those things to make your act more professional. Hell, I remember playing my first Psych Night event and I was shitting myself, I was surrounded by people who I admired and genuinely cried to their music and they were all so welcoming, supportive and sincere. Next year is their 10th anniversary and I couldn’t be more proud of them. Psych Night forever.
SM: Yeah, I think it’s fair to say that if it wasn’t for Psych Night the Revival Co wouldn’t be here, I’m not even entirely sure if any of the bands I’ve played in over the years would be around if Psych Night didn’t create the platform they did. Like you said Runaway Nuns started as a direct result of attending one of their shows. So I’d say they’ve had a hell of an impact on me personally and what I’d like The Revival Co to become going forward.
Having an extensive combined experience in the Cape Town live music scene. What are some of things that you want to maintain from the pre-pandemic scene and what are things that you would like to do away with?
RL: Great question and it’s something we really thought about when starting The Revival Co. Things I’d like to maintain is solid crowd attendances. Not just for big shows but for all shows. Just before the pandemic hit, Retro Dizzy did a listening party for our record and there were like 140 people there just to be the first to hear it – hopefully that energy and support continues.
What can definitely fuck off out the scene is any sort of abuse and people being racist, sexist, homophobic or anything like that. I’ve noticed that on some tours, it’s gross and can go away. If you are any of the above please do me a favour and don’t come near a Revival Co event.
SM: The energy you feel when people coming together to celebrate the music they love, it’s genuinely electric and one of the things I’ve missed most about shows, Going forward I’d like to see more inclusive events with more dynamic line ups.
What are the major challenges facing local musicians and what is the role of RC in helping musicians overcome these challenges?
RL: Well firstly just getting bands/artists back on their feet and organizing shows. It’s quite daunting getting the ‘show’ back on the road but it needs to be done. That’s where the name came from, we wanted to revive this beautiful, wonderful yet damaged scene. Host well run, professional shows and pay artists fairly whilst creating an environment where musicians, artists and any creatives can hone their craft in a safe and supportive space.
We also wanted to integrate local vendors into our events and add a whole other aspect to the experience. Not only do you get to see amazing live music but you also get to support local businesses and artists.
SM: The biggest hurdle right now for musicians is just booking shows again, most of the time as a musician you have to wear multiple hats just to play. Essentially you have to be the promoter, stage manager, and, sometimes, the door person before you even set foot on stage.This is primarily due to a lack of infrastructure and outside investment into the local music scene. We hope in our own way going forward we can help eliminate this and provide artists with a professional platform where all the details are taken care of so they can just focus on creating good art
What are your hopes for the local music scene?
RL: We are incredibly blessed in this country in terms of the arts. It’s so diverse and supportive and it’s something we shouldn’t take for granted. In Cape Town alone you can walk into a dark little dive bar and bump into like 9 fantastic musicians.
I would like to see local media (TV & radio) come to the party a bit more in supporting local artists and giving them a platform. It’s a bit tragic that you don’t hear more local musicians on mainstream radio. But all in all, my hopes are high and I am so proud to be a part of this industry.
SM: That we can continue to all push each other to be better and do better as a community. That we may continue to to innovate and never stagnate,
What can we expect to see Revival Co. deliver in the near future?
RL: We’ve got big plans, Sihle’s enthusiasm and ambition is incredibly infectious and he makes me believe that we can do anything. I am very lucky to have him by my side for this. Keep your eyes on the prize.
SM: Quality productions.
As Richard said we have big plans ahead, couldn’t have asked for a better person to take this on with.
If each of you could pick one local band that doesn’t exist anymore to reunite to headline a RC show who would it be?
RL: Pretty Blue Guns or The Future Primitives.
SM: The Future Primitives
The next The Revival Co event, Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride is this weekend at The District. The line-up is as eclectic as anything you’re going to find out there with DJ Invisible, The Loose Ends, Hartleyvale, The Karriers, Los Suenos and DJ Phil Kramer all on the bill. You can expect to hear afrofuturism, garage rock, smooth indie pop, surf rock, psych rock and more. Buy the ticket (follow the link below), take the ride! Personally, I am hoping to see a Pretty Blue Guns x The Future Primitives double reunion show soon.