Passion and hard work make for a feisty female duo act

2012-06-15 00:00

“THE art of true musicianship is in a state of emergency with the younger generation,” Pam de Menezes says of what has been her biggest eye-opener in the music business.

If her lyrics are anything to go by, the frontwoman for alternative pop group The Arrows, is an astute observer of the world around her. “As electronic and programmed music continues to rise, less and less music is coming out with organic instruments, and it is jeopardising the future of the art of playing music,” she said.

De Menezes and Christie Desfontaine are no ordinary pop act. Their musicality, passion and hard work have placed them prominantly on the radar of South African music lovers, after their single, Lovesick, pioneered the way for the Arrows to garner a 2011 South African Music Award (Sama) nomination for best pop act, and now they’re at it again.

This time, they’re working fiercely to complete their second full-length album by October 2012. On board for this anticipated album is New York producer Fabrice du Pont (Santigold, Mark Ronson), who the girls will be joining in New York, from September, to complete the new album.

“Sevi [manager of Freshlyground], who is actually a friend of ours, was speaking with [Du Pont] about us, and gave him our last album,” says De Menezes. “He really loved it and expressed interest in working with us, and we got the ball rolling over ­e-mails and Skype talks.

“Our sound has certainly progressed since the first recording of Make Believe in 2009. Extensive touring and really being able to embrace our fans around the country, has taught us so much. I feel that the new album will reflect what we have seen work the best at our live show.”

De Menezes says that they have tried to capture moments and turn them into songs for this album, from the aggressive to the funny to the “fiercely romantic”.

“Christie plays with a lot of passion and with a fierce intent, which we felt was not accurately captured on the previous album. We are trying to capture moments like that, where her drumming is a true reflection of the live-show energy. Also, the dynamics of the live show are always so exciting for our audience and so we are working to create the same size and extremes of sizes in the studio album,” she added.

The sound, which they call “alternative pop”, is what drummer Desfontaine says best defines the sound they are creating now.

“It is a combination of aggressive, alternative approaches, combined with the easiness of pop music. Another way to explain it would be by saying it is still pop music, but with the retro rock ’n roll attitude on the drums and in the actual fabric of the song construction,” she said.

“It’s also pop with clothes on,” De Menezes quips. “Pop has lost more and more clothes over the years, and we really haven’t. Pop has a bad reputation for being presented as a slutty live act, especially for female pop artists, and we would like to contradict that. Organic pop with drums loud and clothes on is our game. The music should be what unravels the soul of the listeners, not the lack of clothes on our bodies.”

The live show has also developed into more than a two-piece explosion of energy and enthusiasm, but now there are many more guest spots and musical friends hitting the road with the girls for their Neutrics Tour this month . The tour involves four shows spread out between Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, and will showcase the new songs that have been keeping the girls consumed and in studio for the past two months.

As well as writing and recording new songs, both De Menezes and Desfontaine have each organised their own weddings in the past few months, which has been an experience all on its own.

“Wow. Weddings are a handful. But that being said, both days were equally as special and equally unique to our personalities,” she says. “My wedding had a Durban summer flair. Christie’s wedding had a candy-land theme undergirding the décor and food choices. So ja, both days were really special. We had guests fly in from all over, and there was just a lot of informality and celebration in the air.”

Looking ahead, The Arrows is teaming up with Shout SA, to ­embark on a KwaZulu-Natal school tour. “We are incredibly excited to perform at schools. We believe in the principle of giving back, and we want this opportunity to do just that,” says Desfontaine.

Looking back, De Menezes is reflective: “It is honestly like night and day ... if we thought we enjoyed performing before, it’s nothing compared to the thrill of performing now. Our presence on stage as a duo has been ­evolving since day one, and it feels rock solid now. Also, with the radio success off our last album, we have had the joy of performing well-known music to our audiences, and that makes the live ­element come to life in a way that we never knew was possible.”

• The Arrows will be performing at Live — The Venue in Durban, on June 28. For more information, visit or facebook. com/

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