The Goodluck Interview by Murray Walker
Goodluck emerged in 2009 as an off-shoot of Cape Town rock band jacSharp. The son quickly out-grew the father to become a sought-after live dance act consisting of Ben Peters, Juliet Harding and Raiven Hansmann. Ben and Juliet produce all the tracks in their home-made studio, the venue for our interview. Goodluck has since been nominated for three SAMA awards and have scored three number one hit singles.
Juliet spoke to What's On about retro sounds, Adele, touring Europe and lucky packets.
You’ve been defined as an ‘electro swing’ act. Can you explain what that means? My view of electro is that it’s this fast, grungy, sweaty form of dance music. Something Goodluck certainly isn’t.
Juliet Harding: We see ‘electro’ as ‘electronic music’. There is a lot of swing, but not all our tracks have that element. I’d define it more as ‘electro swing pop’. There is a strong pop element. We try to write melodies and lyrics that many people can relate to, that can touch people on some level.
The swing element is certainly there. A few of our tracks have quite an old-school feel that goes back to the war-time era which I love. I’m guilty of writing licks and lyrics that sound as though they come from that era but are actually straight from 2012.
What is it about these retro sounds that people are finding appealing?
JH: I think popular music has been through quite a low point in recent years. What I mean is I don’t think much effort has gone into writing good songs. Things have just sounded the same. The fact that Adele is doing so well now is a case in point. She has a very old-school sound and she writes beautiful songs. She’s killing it, Lady Gaga didn’t even get a mention at the Grammy’s this year. It shows that credible and good music still has a place in the world.
What inspired the move away from jacSharp?
JH: Ben has always been into electronic music and he approached jacSharp and asked if he could remix some of our tracks for a club environment and we agreed. Ben then asked if I’d like to sing live on some of the tracks. The songs were well received but we decided they weren’t exactly right for that scene so we wrote a completely new set. I think it was 6 songs in like two weeks. We called it jacSharp electro and what happened was people were going out and buying the jacSharp album and finding completely different music on it and obviously got confused. So we decided to give this thing its own name. Goodluck was born and things took off really quickly.
You were in the Netherlands recently and you sold out a show. What was that like?
JH: It was amazing because we haven’t sold out a show in South Africa yet and it was our first sold-out show. I think it’s a testimonial to the Dutch fans; they really have a strong appreciation for live music there. It was surreal and we owe it all to them. We’re going over there again in May for four months to really try work the scene. We’ll be starting from scratch again which we’re excited about. It’s funny because you’d think the fun times are when you’ve made it but I’ve found it most exciting when you’re knocking on doors with your demo and really pushing. It’s a really good challenge to start from the beginning.
While you’re based there will you be touring the rest of Europe?
JH: No, we will hit England briefly but we’ll be concentrating on Holland. A lot of bands make the mistake of touring all over Europe in a month and then leaving. You’re not actually making an impact that way because you’re in and out and you have to do that so many times before people really know who you are. We feel that’s the wrong way to do it, other bands might have other ambitions and goals but we want to actually make an impact in that territory and that means sticking around.
What does Goodluck have baking in the oven right now?
JH: This year we’re doing a mixtape called The Lucky Packet Mixtape. It’ll consist of remixes of tracks that we love and a few originals. It won’t necessarily be current stuff but we think it’s really cool music and that’ll be launching in August this year. We’ve started on a few remixes and we’re really excited about the results so far. We’d like to alternate between Goodluck albums and mixtapes so we’ll do Lucky Packet this year and then a new Goodluck album next year.
Is it dangerous to put out something like a mixtape that is Goodluck but at the same time, isn’t?
JH: I don’t know. We still have a lot of establishing to do in terms of identity. We’re not a band, we’re a duo of producers and as producers there is a whole other element to creating dance music and that is that you seek to do remixes and that’s such a fun aspect to dance music because you can give your own take on other peoples music, it’s almost expected of you.
It could be confusing in the beginning but I think once Lucky Packet gets going people will embrace it. The idea is borne from when you were young and made a mixtape for your girlfriend or boyfriend and you had to listen to it the whole way through. Our hope is that we can put together a compilation that people will want to listen to from beginning to end and not skip a track.
Lucky Packet won’t just be a compilation. We’re going to do a whole bunch of parties in the summer. It’ll be its own sub-brand. Music isn’t one-dimensional anymore, it’s difficult to do just one thing and this is us branching out.
What’s the advantage of having live instruments in your show as opposed to just laptops?
JH: Live instrumentation is the way for me. It brings an energy and garners respect that I don’t think can be re-created on a computer. People still want that element of live even when they like dance beats. If Raiven or I aren’t there it takes away from the show. I’ve lost my voice before and the boys (Raiven and Ben) had to play on their own and it’s a struggle. When one of the three live aspects (percussion, saxophone and vocals) is missing it’s a struggle to build the energy that we’re used to. Our aim is have a show that we can expand and add more live elements, like Faithless would do.
Most local acts struggle to get onto radio. What’s it like not only getting airtime but having your track ‘Hop on, Hop off’ hit number one?
JH: It was a real surprise for me. Ben reckoned it would make it but I was surprised and of course happy. We’ve had a lot of support from the radio stations and I know it's difficult for people to get onto radio. It’s really a mystery as to how one gets on radio and I don’t have the answer. We were fortunate that they embraced our style and sound. There is certainly some luck involved.
Do you think the proliferation of internet radio will make any difference?
JH: I think it presents a challenge to the local industry because I can now listen to any station I want. I can listen to Carribbean radio or Israeli radio; I’m not confined by borders now. Soon we’ll have internet radio in our cars and I’m not really sure what that’s going to do.
Goodluck has come out with some staggeringly good music videos and it seems South Africa is really producing some quality videos lately. How important are videos to Goodluck?
JH: Thanks. All our videos were done by Kyle Lewis. He’s really brilliant. When he puts his mind to it he can make an international quality videos that wouldn’t look out of place on MTV or Trace.
The visual side of your offering is so important now. They are part of your brand identity and more and more bands are being discovered on Youtube these days and if video can capture another angle of your music that’s great.
Generally speaking, what do you think of South African’s musical tastes compared to Europe where they’re possibly more discerning?
JH: To be honest I think the majority of South Africa is not that educated when it comes to music. Having said that I think we’re certainly catching up. It’s still a case of whatever is being played on radio is what is popular at the moment whereas overseas radio is pretty much dead. People look to the internet for their music now and that’s not really possible for many people in South Africa yet.
Goodluck perform tomorrow (30 March
) at the Living Room in the Cape and will be touring Gauteng on 26 April
and 27 April.