„The music industry has treated bands so badly in the past,” says Andreas Schönfeldt, “that the one or two stories you hear of bands getting revenge are bittersweet.” It’s a sunny Thursday afternoon and the Make-Overs, one of South Africa’s most fiercely independent bands, are huddled around a small table at Kitcheners, a Johannesburg den of debauchery.
The Pretoria couple are discussing the bands who have screwed over record labels, not a surprising turn of conversation for a band who don’t trust anyone involved in ‘the industry’. The Make-Overs have spurned numerous offers from major South African labels to protect their art; for them, it’s personal.
“When we decided that we wanted to do this band thing, we realised that we would have to make sacrifices,” says Martinique Pelser, Schönfeldt’s partner in life and in rock ’n’ roll. “We don’t want to have a family, and we saw how much friends spent on their kids. The band is our baby.”
The couple have been together for 11 years and have been involved in many musical projects, most notably Poodle Piss, Sticky Antlers and now the Make-Overs. The band came into existence in 2010 when Sticky Antlers came to a sticky end and split up after two albums. “I said to Andreas that I don’t think we’ll ever find that kind of chemistry again, so we must just keep it to the two of us,” Pelser told The Red Bulletin back when Sticky Antlers were in the process of dissolving.
A mere two months after that final Sticky Antlers gig in September 2010, the couple launched the Make-Overs debut album MC1R On The 16th Chromosome. Three more albums followed in 2011, the best of which was Centipede-sing-a-long. The next year, 2012, saw the release of Your Holiday Shopping Ends Here and their debut gig at South Africa’s premier music festival Oppikoppi, with the duo playing a memorable set that had the Oppi punters rocking out hard.
The Make-Overs’ live shows are legendary: never before have two such undistinguished-looking 20-somethings created such an addictive racket and made such an impression on South Africa’s jaded rock ’n’ roll scene. Last year they released their first music on vinyl, a track called Surfbored on seven-inch put out by American label Hozac Records, and The Devil’s in the Detail LP was jointly released on red vinyl by Cape Town labels Angry Africa and Roastin’ Records. Containing furious punk numbers like Yellar, The Come Back and How We Hunt, that album is another outstanding dose of full-throttle rock ’n’ roll. But in typical Make-Overs style, when it comes to talking about any of their other albums, all they want to talk about is their new record, Move Jinx Hand, which has already been released on green vinyl.
“Move Jinx Hand has some great pop songs,” says Pelser, referring to their goal of reclaiming pop music from the commercial ghetto where it currently languishes. “Garage is great, I love it; punk is great, I love it; but pop can be great too.” “We didn’t set out to make noise music, we set out to make pop music,” confirms Schönfeldt.
The Make-Overs are almost totally DIY. They have their own home studio set-up, where they record all their songs on an analogue reel-to-reel recorder. They have their own label, called KRNGY. They have their own tour van, organise their own gigs, sell their own merchandise, and for the last two years have played a series of dates in America off their own bat.
“Last year we played Blackout Fest, run by Hozac Records,” says Pelser. “We also had shows in Chicago, New York, and we played at The Painted Lady, where Iggy Pop and Joe Strummer used to drink in Detroit. That was awesome.” This year, they played Cincinnati, Boston, Cleveland and Philadelphia, among others.
It’s clear the Make-Overs see themselves in a struggle against the world, the industry and anything else that stands in their way of making music, releasing it as they see fit and performing how they want. “We are committed to this band and this relationship,” says Pelser. “I know that in 20 years Andreas will still be at my side, we may still have an interview at Kitcheners and may not have got much further than a few international tours. But if we still record, I’ll be happy.” Amen to that.