Black Lung breathe new life into Cape Town’s punk ethosFollow @WarGla
Up-and-coming punk rockers, Black Lung, haven’t been around for very long, but they’re making people listen in Cape Town.
Black Lung members Dylan Rooibokkie and Justus Kotzé meet me in front of the bar at Clarke’s on Bree Street, Cape Town, and lead the way to the band’s practice area at the back. The route we take runs past patrons eating lunch at stylishly plain tables, winds through the kitchen, and ends in a large, unfurnished room.
The white walls here have dirt on them. The cement floors are pitted. And the space is dominated by a black indoor skateboard ramp that’s catching the best light coming through the window.
“Whatever we’ve been doing,” says Dylan about their careers so far, “it’s what we’re meant to do.” And given the way Black Lung came together, he might be on to something. “We met at Fish Hoek High School, started skateboarding, and became brothers after that.” However, being in a band was never a conscious goal of theirs. Instead, “it just kind of naturally progressed from skating, watching shows – that kind of lifestyle.”
It all began with Justus wanting to do something musical with Dylan – who is a self-taught guitarist and has been playing forever. “I knew Dylan played all of these acoustic things, and he’d always just played acoustic stuff to me. So once I’d got the harmonica and started learning it, I was like, dude, I really want to play harmonica over the songs that you’ve written.”
Their friend Melissa Williams joined the band as a drummer a little while later, having just taken up the instrument for fun – her musical background is as a guitarist and bass player. She was also the only member of Black Lung who’d played in bands before.
Now the six month old project is gearing up for a year in which they plan on releasing music, doing videos, and touring due to popular demand. And their sound is making this possible. It’s raw, rhythmic, melodic and seemingly resistant to pigeon-holing. However, Dylan admits that they’re fundamentally a punk rock band.
“It’s totally true. I mean, that just comes from the heart; definitely growing up skating and being a punk, you know, the music came.”
But the process of shaping that punk rock foundation into something that’s distinctly theirs didn’t come easily.
The black-clad Justus remembers how weird it was, “trying to get all of these sounds together,” referring to their instrumental line-up of drums, guitar, tambourine, harmonica, but no bass. “Melissa actually tried to get me to play her bass guitar, and I just couldn’t get into it. So I just said, dude, would it be fine if I just played the tambourine and smashed it?” In the end, they decided to run with what they had.
And also to play faster, harder music with Dylan fronting the band on an electric guitar – although they still play acoustic folk sets that carry, “the same spirit of what we’re trying to do,” says Dylan.
As for the year ahead, the main thing in the minds of the fans they’ve won over is that they release some music. “It’s kind of a running joke,” reveals Dylan from under his slightly curly blonde locks.
“People are always saying we have to come to a live show if we want to hear you guys.”
Fortunately, they’ll be dropping stuff soon.
Join Black Lung on Facebook for gig updates and to be the first to hear when the new music drops.