Kahn Morbee in Conversation - The Parlotones Interview

Posted: 15th April 2008
Review Info


Following the re-release of their 'Radiocontrolledrobots' album in 2007 (originally released in 2005) and strong of ever-growing interest earning them supporting slots for the Wombats and Ocean Colour Scene among others, South Africas national treasure The Parlotones embark on a European tour, stopping by the UK.

Solange Moffi converses with Kahn Morbee, lead singer and songwriter of the band, on the good, the bad and the best about radio controlled robots...

SM: Youve been together for 10 years now Any highs and lows?

KM: I think we could best describe it as gradual highs as each year brought with it new highlights there was never overnight success so the highs really felt like slow releases of euphoria. Were in a weird place now because back home were media darlings: we pack out venues and our albums sell really well, while over here its evident were back to square one but its actually exciting growing a fan base from scratch its a cool challenge and the adventure has been fantastic so far.

SM: You cite Radiohead and Travis as major influences? Would it be utterly wrong to add The Ramones and Grant Lee Buffalo to the list?

KM: Funny enough myself and Paul (Hodgson, lead guitar) are Grant Lee Buffalo junkies, and Glenn (Hodgson, bassist) is a punk fanatic in fact weve all been into and still listen to punk.

SM: Had you been listening to Radioheads 'Creep' in loop when writing 'Beautiful'?

KM: There was a stage in all our lives where Radiohead was on constant loop?mine and Pauls guitar teacher was as fanatical about The Bends as we were and all lessons centred around learning their songs, so most probably, although lyrically theres quite a contrast.

SM: 'RadioControlledRobot' was originally released in 2005, why re-release it in 2007? Is it the most commercially viable of your three albums?

KM: Well, its another weird place were in: Beautiful was used for an advert in Ireland which subsequently resulted in us signing some sort of deal with Universal Ireland for Radiocontrolledrobot the album was shortened, new artwork added, designed for international distribution. However, back in South Africa, it was time for a new album, and now were finding ourselves having to play and promote two different records, so we hope to internationally release and tour 'A world next door to yours' (our latest effort) quite soon, so that the following album would be simultaneously released worldwide.

Anyway, I think we constantly write songs in cognisance of commercial viability: back home no commercial viability would be career suicide.

SM: Whats your favourite song off the album and why?

KM: Id say Overexposed because I like the musicality and quirky middle section lyrically its not my best but its a fun song and I enjoy playing it live.

Paul says 'Louder than Bombs' because he likes its raw energy and he gets to use his whammy peddle (he has a secret love affair with that thing)

Glenn opted 'Rock.Paper.Scissors' because Paul chose 'Louder than Bombs' before he could.

Neil (Paws, drummer) says 'Dragonflies and Astronauts' because it makes him feel good and upbeat.

SM: Whats your favourite album of all time, i.e. if stuck on a desert island which one album would you want to bring with you?

KM: For me, itd have to be 'Louder than bombs' by The Smiths: we are all big fans and we used to throw indie parties back home where we would have friends playing all the indie classics, we would play and the parties were called Louder than Bombs, we even had flyers in this name. 'Louder than Bombs' off the album is kind of an ode to that moment in our lives. Lyrically it expresses our desire to make it with the refrain Finally its happening weirdly enough, the time when it was written was when things were starting to happen for us back home.

Neils favourite is 'The Invisible Band' by Travis, while Glenn says 'Sams Town' by The Killers and Paul, Radioheads 'OK Computer'

SM: Are you 'Radio Controlled Robots' yourselves?

KM: I dont think we can help it: the title and song really uses radio as a metaphor for media and its overwhelming ability to dictate our tastes. Media are essentially the gatekeepers/tastemakers deciding whats cool and hype and whats not. In a way, it also reflects how we as artists try to conform to radio and medias expectations. We have learnt that radios arent really interested unless youre already popular? they dont make hits but they play hits, hence the lyric 'Do this do that, do almost anything. Success! Begging, bleeding knees are pleading'

SM: Whats your favourite station?

KM: Any that play us ha-ha! Im not really a purist who only listens to a certain style discrediting everything else as crap so I like to flip I think theres merit and brilliant songwriting in most types of music. Although, I do have little tolerance for hip hop because I cant relate to it lyrically

SM: Have you heard of the Bad Robots?

KM: No but Ill check them out.

SM: How is the indie scene in Johannesburg/South Africa? Could your recommend a few bands to check out?

KM: Well the scene pretty is small but if were talking about the true essence of indie, it definitely is indie. For years, we have created our own parties at bars, dance clubs, scout halls, friends gardens; trekking our own PA, setting it up, packing it down that same night to travel 6-10 hours to the next venue to repeat the process, creating our own tours, printing our own flyers which we would self distribute and sticking our posters up all over town. You can have a hit on the radio and double page spreads but it doesnt translate into immediate success it takes a very long time in South Africa, earning nothing and travelling and playing many shows before the rewards trickle in. There a few great bands doing it for themselves as well: Perez, Taxi Violence and The Dirty Skirts.

SM: Will you be playing UK festivals this summer?

KM: We hope to but I dont think were big enough yet to crack the nodor we havent slept with the right people (who know) . Either way, well hunt down the right people to sleep with to secure a few slots for next year!:)

The Parlotones play the legendary venue 100 Club on April 16th.

Their album 'Radiocontrolledrobots' is out now.

Solange Moffi