The members of Dance, You’re On Fire have been writing and performing their take on a variety of musical stances since mid-2007. Describing themselves as something of a meeting point between rock ‘n roll and indie, the band aims to deliver tracks with both a pop sensibility and an element of creativity. Their debut album, Secret Chiefs, has recently seen the light. Paul van der Walt, the band’s bassist and back-up vocalist, chatted to Steyn du Toit about their interesting road so far.
Why the name Dance, You're on Fire?
There's no real deep meaning to it, it just sounded like a cool band name so we went with it.
How did you guys form as a band?
The band started in 2007, with a different line-up and sound. After Nic, our previous singer, left at the end of 2009, we decided to have Tom as our singer, and to also change our style and approach. We were actually considering a name change at that point as well, but stuck with Dance, You're On Fire. We had all been playing music for quite a while at that point already and we were getting tired of playing the same little bars to the same people on weekends, so we decided to make a change. Seeing that the initial Dance, You're On Fire was very progressive and technical, we decided to strip things down a bit, to simplify and write songs that were still musically interesting and creative, but more accessible.
How do four musicians decide on a unique sound for their band?
Wow, that's kind of hard to answer. It very much depends on the individuals of the band, what they listen to and what inspires them, and also, what they see as unique. In our case, I would say that our sound is a result of four people who listen to very different kinds of music and who get inspired in different ways. We actually have very few mutual musical influences, and that keeps things interesting when we write, because we fight a lot when we write. But it results some interesting songs. I wouldn't say what we do is overly distinctive – the commercial/mainstream market isn't exactly looking for "unique", but we I feel that while we are writing our second album now, we have kind of come into our own and are now able to say "this sounds like us", if that makes any sense.
How would you describe your music - what inspires you?
I guess you could see it as rock music with some pop hooks. We get called "indie" a lot, but I have no idea what that even means anymore. Like I mentioned in the previous question, we are influenced by various bands, across various genres. Tom likes a lot of pop music and older stuff like The Police, while Adrian enjoys a lot of folk stuff, but also hardcore and progressive music. Jethro listens mainly to heavy music but also dubstep and drum and bass. I am very much into my electronica, but also heavier things and a lot of instrumental music from jazz to post-rock, but I can still enjoy a good pop song. I think we could safely say that we are influenced by "music", not one specific genre.
Are you comfortable with the word "commercial" - you are, after all, charting on national radio.
For us eventually to make a living or get paid for this we need to comfortable with that word. We write music that is accessible and that can be played on radio (ie commercial), but we will never release a song that we are not all happy with musically or artistically as well.
You aren't all full-time musicians - how difficult is it balancing careers and also being in a band?
It is getting to a point where it is really difficult to maintain both. Other than touring a lot, to do the band thing "properly", it also takes a lot of time besides the actual music-making. We have practices, we have a lot of admin, meetings and press stuff to handle, and although we do have management, we're very hands-on and we are involved with all aspects of the band, so at this point we basically have day jobs with a growing part-time job on top of that. It's hard, but we've managed to do it so far and we love what we do. I'm hoping that it will get to a point where we could just do the band, but it is very much still a dream at this stage.
You've done more in a short time in terms of getting recognised by the public and by the media than most other "new" bands. What is the secret?
It's a cliché, but it's true: hard work. We really do put a lot of time and effort into this band, on and off stage, so that plays a big part, and I'd also like to think that the music is pretty good and deserves the attention it's getting. :) There's no "secret" really. The "hard work" entails a combination of having constant presence (to consistently have a new single, new video, new tour etc), having good songs, being able to dedicate the time needed for the aforementioned and also to be able to afford all these things, to properly execute it all. On top of that, you have to have a plan, and goals. "Simple" as that.
What does your tour schedule look like for the next few months - where can we see you?
In the past 18 months or so we have been around the country about four times, so we try to be everywhere, about every six weeks. We have just finished a big national tour now, in July, but we're always playing somewhere. Best is to keep an eye on our website (http://www.danceyoureonfire.co.za) or our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/danceyoureonfire) for regular updates on touring and everything else Dance, You're on Fire.