A Real Conversation With Al Clapper of Androgenius

The music industry is full of smoke, illusions and big dreams. Sometimes, it’s really hard to see what is completely real and what is totally fake. One of the most charismatic and truly honest people in the Cape Town scene is without a doubt, Al Clapper, the lead singer of exciting Soul Hop band, Androgenius, who keeps it real 24/7.

Androgenius is a four-piece outfit comprised of songwriter and leader Al Clapper, bassist and co-songwriter Alex Mayers, drummer Ray Morgan and guitarist Callum McDonald. I had a chance to chat with Al to discuss everything music related and his answers certainly didn’t disappoint.

Thank you so much for taking the time to have a chat about your band’s latest track ‘Soulless Solace’, music biz life, as well as your upcoming EP. You have described your latest release ‘Soulless Solace’, as an original song about darkness, disguised by a sound wall of groove. What mindset were you in when you made the song and what does the track mean to you?
I wrote the lyrics and melody to the song a good two years before Androgenius was even a thought. I was playing for another band — Indigo Child— at the time, but I thought the sentiment was too dark for that sound. I was working as a floor wench (so much cooler than waiter) at the time, a super fun place that promoted hedonism all the way. It was and still is something I find very easy to give into, hedonism. The track is about a battle between hedonism and my conscience. I don’t necessarily want to paint the picture that I am a crazy addict or anything, but I do have my struggles, my ups and downs, and I feel a deep need to be honest about it. When I brought the music to Alex, he immediately thought that the song needed to groove. The groove was inspired by ‘70s band, Chic. This took the song to a new level, where enjoyment comes first. If you want to listen to the lyrics, you have the option.

The band have been super busy lately I see! What shows do you have coming up that you are super excited about & what are goals for 2019, what do you have cookin’ in the kitchen?
Actually, no. We aren’t that busy. We sort of missed the season train because we were so caught up in getting the grunt work done. Now that we’ve come up for air, all the venues and festivals have already been booked [laughs]. It’s okay though, ‘cause we’ve also decided to be a lot more strict about the shows that we play. We’ve set financial standards that allow us to take ourselves, our music and our efforts seriously. We’ve had a few run-ins and experiences with bookers and promoters and we’ve had to decide whether or not we’d compromise. That being said, we do have a show coming up on the 15th of March with Apollo (second one we’re doing with them…HUGE VIBE!) and Julia Robert at Mercury which we’re super excited about. And we have the Cape Town Carnival on the 16th as well. The rest of the shows will be determined by when we lock down single releases. I’d say that getting the music out there is the main goal this year. By the end of this year, we would have released both EP 1 & 2, and we would have made serious headway on the debut album.

How did Androgenius form, was it through friends or did it just happen thanks to the universe?
Hmm, I’d say it was a bit of both. I’d been introduced to Alex Mayers (bassist, arranger, producer, musical director for Androgenius) when I tried to put together a cover project. That fell through, but I’d already made the connection. When I finally decided it was time to start up my second project (Lord knows I was heartbroken after the first band had disbanded), he was the obvious go-to. It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made in my life [laughs]. He took control of the reigns and slowly but surely pieced together the rest of the band. Callum told us that we needed him after he’d seen our first performance. We didn’t contest that at all. We did need him. So yeah, Callum, myself and Alex are the only remaining original members. We don’t have a permanent keyboardist at the moment and Ray Morgan has replaced Jarryd West. Big shoes to fill, the biggest, but our boy Ray’s killing the game and taking names about it. It’s perfect!

image of cape town based band androgenius
Photo credit: Paige Fiddes Creative

I read somewhere that you are very keen to play in Paris, France. Which other countries or festivals would you love to perform at?
Oooh, you ‘read somewhere’? That makes me sound a little bit famous, like I interview regularly [laughs]. I mentioned that to My City By Night, yeah. Prague is another place I want to spend some time in. Ah, and then of course Ghent in Belgium. The European market are so much more willing to listen to new music than the local scene. Without singling anyone out, I feel like Cape Town has a sound. Many bands have adopted it and it’s working. The audience is happy. The bands are being booked over and over. But where’s the hunger for something fresh? Where’s the imagination? I’m not saying that music is dead. I’m saying that consumers are complacent, because it seems that all that the majority want is what they already know. Live a little, y’all!

Name 3 local or International artists you would love to share the stage or make music with & why?
On the local front, we’ve had the opportunity to play with some dank bands. Bands that I love and respect, but I’ll only mention those we haven’t played with as yet: Freshlyground (please can this happen already), Nonku Phiri (this lady is EVERYTHING) and Card on Spokes because Shane Cooper is a GOD! But now I also want to add a new local band that I love: The Tiny Fantastics.

International: Moonchild (who are coming to the Cape Town Jazz Festival this month), Corinne Bailey Rae (she’s my everything) and ooooh, Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles (who are ALSO coming to jazz fest). I’m adding a fourth because this question is unfair: Tank and the Bangas.

How would you describe Androgenius in one sentence?
Music on a mission to move and groove you.

image of cape town based band androgenius
Image credit: Paige Fiddes Creative

What do you think the Cape Town music scene needs most at the moment to grow?
People to take risks: bands, listeners, festivals (ESPECIALLY FESTIVALS) and event bookers.

You always have incredible imagery as a band and your social media is on point, who helps you with this and do you have any tips for new bands when starting out?
I’ve been working in the digital marketing and social media space for a number of years now. I’ve worked with a lot of different brands, so I’ve picked up on what I like, what I don’t like, and what I can apply to our image. With a name as strong as Androgenius, visuals are EVERYTHING!  I’ve also had the privilege to work with incredible photographers, designers and stylists who get what we’re going for and want to help. Paige Fiddes is a favourite of ours. We’ve done a lot of shoots together, and she always gets so excited when we start bouncing around ideas. She’s got so much to give, and she understands how to get the most out of us. She’s responsible for at least 80% of the images we have online.

We’ve also been lucky enough to have Angelica Luthi (one of my colleagues, in fact) as our designer. She is an incredible artist with an eye for FANTASTIC, so she’s been very instrumental in creating a consistent aesthetic. Advice for new bands creating an image? Honestly, it comes to you and not immediately. But instead of trying to create something that you don’t understand, go for something that resonates with you. Go for something that you are comfortable representing. People will see that. People pick up on genuine and people pick up on fake. If you wanna wear heels on stage, practice until it feels like you’re walking barefoot. If you want to wear makeup, own it. If you want to wear plakkies..don’t!

Check out ‘Soulless Solace’ below and watch out for Androgenius in 2019 and beyond, they are a band to watch and support.

Follow Androgenius on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Featured image credit goes to Chad Camarinha.

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Llewelyn Screen Llewelyn Screen is a Cape Town based freelance music writer who is passionate about the underdogs, the up and comers and new age innovators pushing South African acoustic music to new heights.

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