CTMS Interview: Fingers in the Sky

Interview by: Ezelle Louw (@lupaphotography)

Photographs by: Lupa Photography (@lupaphotography)

 

Personally for me it’s a case of you first and foremost have to see Fingers in the Sky live before anything else. You have to be able to experience their energy on stage, in sync with their music to see how different they are from anything else you’ve seen before. They have just recorded a full length album and will be released later in 2013, so keep tabs for that.

They’re not afraid of being different, blending various styles and sounds and entertaining the crowd before them. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you, Fingers in the Sky.

Fingers in the Sky by Lupa Photography

Fingers in the Sky by Lupa Photography

I always love the stories of how it happened that the band came to form, what is your story?

Well, you could say that Fingers In The Sky was brought to life five years ago to set right the wrongs done to rock ‘n roll. Or something noble like that. It was a little less romantic a story than that. During the lazy summer days of early 2009, four students of the University of the Western Cape (all of us except Riaan) came together with an out of tune guitar, harmonica, a djembe and a slightly off pitch voice. A few weeks later we, an out of time foursome, played our first show in a concert hall at UWC, at what was then called the Ithuba Arts Café, which promoted art, music and drama on a campus where there isn’t really much to speak of (and gave free biscuits and coffee afterwards). Much was to be desired from our first showing as a band, but we figured that there was something in the pulsating energy and heated interaction between us and the audience that had to be explored further. A few months later, lead guitarist, Riaan Ada decided to join the band at a new year’s house party. From then on, pure energy has been our mandate and message: pure primal musical energy trumps any kind of pretense and posing.

Elaborate a bit on each members part they play in the band?

We each bring something special to the band and its energy, and not only in terms of music. Lets start with Aidan. The harmonica work that Aidan brings to the table throws a different dynamic into our sound. He always pushes what he thinks is acceptable or predictable when it comes to his instrument, and in many ways he merges our very rock orientated sound both with a distinctive blues sound as well as a more electronic element, without losing what we think is crucial, which is our ‘live’ sound. Andriques’s vocals often shifts between being dreamy and forgetful on some tracks, while also being hard and gritty on others. His role in the band is not only that of the vocalist, but also adds to a feeling that we feel often permeates through our music, which is that of storytelling. And he is a pretty, decent frontman (the comma is there for a reason). When Wilton lays drums over a melody or progression that someone brings to the table, the signature FITS energy is immediately felt. We like to feel our music, and often Wilton’s rapid beats as well as his crisp attention to detail, allows us to keep the beat, both literally and figuratively. Along with Leigh playing bass, who always seems to know exactly what a song needs (Spit n Run, a track where Leigh raps, is one example), the rhythm section keeps things as tight as a tarpaulin. If thats a saying. Riaan, being the most musically proficient in our group, writes melodies and riffs that carries our music and brings everything together.

Fingers in the Sky by Lupa Photography

Fingers in the Sky by Lupa Photography

You guys have incredible energy on stage, which contributes to a great degree to the enjoyment of your set, how do you ensure you always portray this? Or does it come natural with the music?

Our main goal for when playing a show is to just have fun on stage. Our energy on stage is a direct representation of us as friends and as people who just don’t want to take life too seriously. As selfish as it would sound, we play firstly to entertain ourselves (even though many times we don’t need to take to a stage to do that) and that in turn is felt by the crowd and they respond. It does come naturally with the music. If we feel like the show isn’t what we want it to be, it is immediately obvious to people watching us.

Who are your major influences?

We are all different people and our influences vary greatly. On the one hand you have Riaan, who enjoys both an early rock and roll sound as well as some classical music, and Leigh, Andriques and Wilton who all enjoy good hip hop and electronica. Not only do we draw from our musical influences, but also from general experiences and what we see out there, and that seeps through into our music and collective sound.

 

Am I right to claim that you cannot box your style into a specific genre? 

Fortunately, yes. We don’t find ourselves aiming towards a certain genre or shape   our song-writing process in a way that produces music that sounds and feels, say, rock ‘n roll. We jam and jam and jam until something feels right. We try not to have any pretenses. Most of the time.

 

Any plans of an album soon?

Yes. Just recently we were in studio recording a full length album, and plan on launching it sometime mid-2013, after we have released a radio single and the like.

 

Fingers in the Sky by Lupa Photography

Fingers in the Sky by Lupa Photography

Let’s talk instruments. What’s your “dream piece” of equipment each of you would like to own still?

Hmm. This is a tough question. Aidan doesn’t have a long list. A good ol’ vintage Fender 1950s Bassman amplifier would do the trick. For Riaan, a Fender Twin Reverb, Vox AC30, Marshall JCM800, a Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 36 as well as a Triamp, an Ibanex RG Prestige, a Fender Telecaster Custom and a Kemper Profiler amplifier would complete his equipment dreams. Leigh’s ideal kit would be a Orange Terror Bass set up with a Fender Jazz Precision bass, while a Black Panther snare and a Roland SPD-SX and Octapad SPD-30 are on Wilton’s dream gear list. As for Andriques, he doesn’t have a piece of equipment that he wants for his singing, but above all else even if its just for himself, he has always wanted a vintage Fender Telecaster, preferably one with a wood grain type inlay on the body.

 

What is the main theme behind your songs, or does different things inspire you to write. 

Vampires, and the sun. Well, those are the two most prominent things that find their way into our music lyrically, and its strange because the two don’t actually go together. We like storytelling. We like our music to reflect where we are at when we are jamming, both individually and as a group. Whatever is happening around us, we feel it in our music. Family, politics, a bottle of Pine Nut, a packet of Ghost Pops, and some strong Schereka blend coffee, whatever. A lot of the time our music is open for interpretation, and people take from it what they will.

 

How does your rehearsals work, do you generally make sure you put in a few sessions before a gig or do you make sure to get together every week type of thing?

Our rehearsals are very casual. Most times we are pressed for time and push in rehearsals wherever we can. If we play maybe two gigs in a week, we will leave out a rehearsal. Often we just jam anyway when we get together for a rehearsal. Play a bit of Call of Duty, make a bit of music.

Fingers in the Sky by Lupa Photography6

Fingers in the Sky by Lupa Photography

How has your music evolved since you first started playing?

Our music evolved as we did. When we started out, four of us (Aidan, Wilton, Leigh and Andriques) had just picked up our instruments for the first time. Aidan was playing on a old harmonica he had found at home in a dusty cupboard, Leigh and Andriques didn’t know any real guitar chords, and Wilton played djembe more than anything else before buying a drum kit and learning from scratch. We couldn’t play at all, and over time we got just a little better. Then Riaan came, and we made actual music.

 

Which band has influenced you to a great degree? 

Leigh-Green Day was my first love, but I moved on to listening to a lot more hip hop in later years and the mix has had a big influence on me.

Wilton-The most consistent band that I listened to and still listen to in my life and the first real band I was introduced by my parents to was Queen. Also, I kinda like Fingers In The Sky.

Riaan – The Beatles, more than most. Also, I latched onto some Smashing Pumpkins and Mozart later on.

Andriques – In terms of singing, I am influenced by Freddie Mercury’s range and texture, and right now, for some reason, alot of Middle Eastern Armenian inflections have been crawling into my singing. Lyrically, I am influenced by people’s stories. I rarely write about anything happening in my own life, except for one song on our album.

Aidan – In terms of harmonica, I would say Paul Butterfield, and Little Walter. In terms of general music, Bad Religion, The Smiths, and more recently, Jimmy Smith.

 

Where would you like to see yourself in a few years? 

Definitely playing all the major festivals in this country, and getting paid. However, we would still like to be playing at our homeground, R.O.A.R.

 

How do you feel about the current state of the music industry?

Tough question. Could write a whole essay on this one alone. There is a whole lot of nepotism out there. The industry is controlled by a few people, and our experience has been that it is really closed off. There are a lot of bands out there, and granted, many really bad ones, but also really good ones, who work really hard and never see a good stage or decent crowd because of the nepotism. There also seems to be an emphasis on image over and above the actual quality of music. People generally take their music and themselves too seriously, and there needs to be a space for real criticism in the industry. A LOT of people in this industry can learn from a hands on guy like Antonio Manuel, from R.O.A.R/Gandalfs, who constantly goes out his way to help diversify the scene.

 

Fingers in the Sky by Lupa Photography

Fingers in the Sky by Lupa Photography

Thus far, the best gig you’ve played on stage?

Rock the River 2011/2012 was insane. Every single R.O.A.R gig we play is always one of our best. More recently, a little place called Lonestar Pub in Parow surprised us, when we played there with two awesome bands, Suckish and Monitor.

Any upcoming gigs we should know about?

We are out at Aandklas on the 22nd of January with Woodstock Mafia and Ballistic Blues, and an yet to be confirmed gig on the 23rd of February at Lonestar Pub.

 

Do you have any rituals before going on stage?

Aidan: Yes, but if I tell you, its power will be lost forever.

 

Which venues do you consider top notch? 

As you may have guessed by now, R.O.A.R. Also, Ellingtons out in Bellville.

 

If you could choose any band to tour with, who would it be?

Brasse Vannie Kaap, Van Coke Kartel, Hog Hoggidy Hog, and Jaak.

 

Describe a Fingers In The Sky gig in a few words?

Sweaty, ballsy, cathartic. Oh, and spastic.

 

Where on the social media can we follow you?

Facebook – www.facebook.com/fingersinthesky

Twitter – @fingersinthesky.

Also, check out our Soundcloud page at www.soundcloud.com/fingers-in-the-sky for some free demo downloads.

Fingers in the Sky by Lupa Photography

Fingers in the Sky by Lupa Photography

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