WONDERboom’s long history and collective styles create ‘Rising Sun’

“We all love different bands and genres. We never really pinned ourselves down (maybe schizophrenia at times). Kinda just did what felt real and natural, wearing influences of styles we loved on our sleeves .”

South African rock band WONDERboom has been releasing jams together since 1993. Throughout their career together the band has worked closely to create a sound just their own, and draw from each members tastes and influences to result in an impressive nine album discography.

The band has earned impressive titles such as placing gold in December 2017 at the Silk Road Indie Music Festival in Chengdu, China while competing against 14 other countries.

Editor-in-Cheif Kailey Howell took a moment to talk to Cito (Vocals/Guitar) and Martin Schofield (Guitars/Vocals) about the band’s history together, and the array of styles found in their most recent album Rising Sun.

Kailey Howell: You guys have been together for quite a while now, take me back to the beginning and tell me about what brought the group of you together to write music?

Cito:  In about ’93 I was in a Gothic Rock band called Moonchild. We shared a gig one night with a band called The Eight-Legged Groove Machine; which had Martin and Wade in it. I was blown away by their nerve and their highly energetic, white-boy-funk thing. We shared joints and stories backstage and realised that we had lots in common, musically. Then about 3 months later, I needed a band and they needed a vocalist, so Wade gave me a shout and then we started jamming together as the 8LGM. Rocked that for a couple of years and slowly built a following. Middle of ’95 we were approached by a well-established rock band called the Electric Petals, to join forces with them, as they got the sole support slot for Simple Minds, touring South Africa. Did some band-member shifting and called ourselves the Electric Petal Groove Machine until the following year. We kicked out one more member, and then called ourselves WONDERboom in February ‘96. I’ve been writing and performing with Martin and Wade though for about 25 years. Jono stepped in 5 years ago to play drums after Garth McLeod, our 2nd drummer, was killed in a motorcycle accident. He’s really fit in to our groove.

Martin Schofield: We met in 2 different bands (8 legged groove machine and Moonchild). Playing the Johannesburg circuit and chatting to Cito, Wade and myself loved him; as a singer and a person. We have many mutual interests including music, style, and ‘lifestyle choices’. We started jamming and found some crazy magic in each other ….enter the NEW 8legged groove machine, we were a weird funky, pop, rock, skaish band with a large appetite for reckless behavior musically and generally, this turned into WONDERboom after meeting drummer Danny de Wet at a haunt called Wings in Johannesburg, crazy good drummer with an older vibe and soul than ours.

KH:  Your album Rising Sun (2017) is the first album you’ve released since City of Gold in 2006. What was different about the writing process for this album versus the others?

Cito:  Well, actually, we released an album called The Automatic Shuffle, at the end of 2010, but our previous record label didn’t believe in releasing digitally; because of piracy. So, it’s hard to trace online. But that album has great songs on it such as “On The Radio”, “Karaoke Bar”, “Animal” and “Here I Am” – all released as singles.

With Rising Sun, we had a more hands-on approach, from beginning to end. Lots of song workshopping, pre-production, key and tempo changing, trying new songs out live, kicking out songs that didn’t fit the rest of the repertoire. Besides the drum tracks, we recorded everything else at our private studio spaces. And we took our time with it. In the past, we would commission a producer, hire out limited studio time with engineers for recording and mixing, etc. This time we produced it ourselves and did most of our own tracking. Then submitted most tracks for mixing to Tom Hughes, one track to Adam Howard and a couple of the filler tracks I mixed. We feel that, because we didn’t rush it, we could be more honest, be more experimental and pay more attention to the detail. Martin and I spent 3-4 hours a day, 3-4 days a week together for about 12 months!

MS: We had The Automatic Shuffle out in 2010, but on Rising Sun we searched our songs souls, tore them down, rebuilt them and had the best time (mostly in Cito’s studio) making a real good album of songs that we liked and crafted. We delayed the record company twice with the release, trashed 4 songs and wrote a few more til we were happy and were so proud of it now. Lesson learned DONT RUSH.

KH: On a similar note, is there one song on Rising Sun that resonates with you guys more personally than the others?

Cito:  I think we each have our faves. Mine, at the moment, and it changes, is the title track, Rising Sun. There’s a certain passion in performance on that song; especially live. Also dig the honesty in lyrics. Based on a true story.

MS: “In place of something” is right up my alternative rock alley, Cito spitting filth and fury.

KH: Something really cool that WONDERboom has is versatility between genres. Can you tell me about what influences that?

Cito:  I know that it sounds like a cliché, but, although we have plenty of mutual taste in music, we are also very different to each other on what influences us. I, personally, have quite a wide spectrum in musical palette and tend to lean on the obscure. If we had stuck to one specific genre, we wouldn’t have lasted 22 years and probably died of boredom. Don’t know how AC/DC do it!

MS: We all love different bands and genres. We never really pinned ourselves down (maybe schizophrenia at times). Kinda just did what felt real and natural, wearing influences of styles we loved on our sleeves .

KH: What can we expect from the band for 2018?

Cito: I suppose we’re halfway there already, but lots on the cards for the rest of the year. There’s a new single coming out next month and a killer video for it. We have a nationwide tour lined up from end of August until November called the Best Side Story Tour, which is basically an unplugged, story-telling type show, revisiting our collection of songs and experiences. We’re releasing another set of performance-based videos, called The Santana Sessions 2. Then an extensive December tour, in our full electric format. But Rising Sun, is the focus for all that we do over the next 12 months or so.

MS: We’re already busy writing, recording more live in  studio stuff (Santana Sessions 2), touring an unplugged/story tellers tour called Best Side Story and having a good time playing music .

*Photo by Anton Van Straaten

Kailey Howell