They were hard to ignore. Their buzz-saw guitars and frenzied trumpeting kicked you between the legs. The cocky singer had a thing for loud halers and goggle sunglasses, like Bono used to wear. Lines like “I’ve got bubblegum on my boots today” were as difficult to get out of your head as an axe.
They arrived with a bang. But by the end of 2001 Springbok Nude Girls went out with a fizzle. The band broke up. Maybe. Various line-ups got back together for periodic “final” shows. Followed by more “final” shows.
What the hell was going on?
The idea to record a new album was planted, that’s what.
“We did a 10 year anniversary tour, and saw that the thing we had created had developed a life of its own, kind of grown bigger that us, larger than life,” recalls Arno Blumer who had briefly traded in his bass for a computer keyboard.
“So over the next two years we started playing with the idea of actually doing it all again.”
And with trumpeter Adriaan Brand returning from a stint overseas, the idea of a full-blown reunion could become a reality.
“Adriaan is an essential creative element in our band, so it made sense making a new album now that he’s back, and to tour seriously again,” says Blumer.
But were they driven by love or money?
“There isn’t much money in rock music in South Africa, so you can rule that one out,” the bassist counters.
“I’d say a likely reason is that it feels really good to be part of this band and do what we do, and we all missed it. So it made sense on a gut level — it just felt right.”
“The other band members have become the brothers I didn’t grow up having as I’m sure anyone who knows how much time we spent together in the previous SNG years, can understand,” adds Brand.
But it’s lead singer Arno Carstens who puts recent developments into perspective: “We simply wanted to play music together again.”
But they did more than just play — instead of treading out their greatest hits on stages across the country they wrote and recorded 12 new songs.
“We were bored with ‘best of’ concerts and were itching to create some new stuff,” explains Brand.
“If you’re five creative people in a band together, you have to be creative, otherwise there’s no point,” reasons Blumer.
“Playing those old songs without adding any new material was starting to feel like we were a cover band of ourselves,” confesses Carstens. “It’s much more fun this way.”
“Also, I think we had the strong feeling that we could write and produce better songs than we did years back, with new ideas, new equipment, more experience and more mature perspectives,” offers Brand.
Clearly they weren’t afraid of the comeback curse — that their new stuff would suck and the magic of the old days be gone.
“We were way ahead of everyone on this one, by thoroughly checking whether we still had the magic on this particular combination of individuals, before we started making bigger plans,” says Brand.
“The ‘magic’ was evidently there from the moment we started jamming,” adds drummer Francious Kruger. “I think our unique sense of humour has a lot to do with our magic as a group.”
“We had a lot of fun recording this album, and I think it shows,” adds guitarist Theo Crous.
“We don’t make music for people’s opinions,” clarifies Carstens. “We do it because it’s fun and to entertain those who enjoy it.
“It all happened because it felt right.”
Even if they were a little rusty at first.
“The first practise we had, we laughed so much because we could not remember any of the songs,” reveals Crous, who has found recent success as a producer. “But it slowly came back to us!” he grins.
“Everything worked like before. Just better, faster, easier,” emphasises Kruger.
Even recapturing that raw power they had when starting out wasn’t too much of a problem.
“The whiskey is still good, the music is too and we are very ‘urgent’ personalities! That doesn’t change with age — at least not over a decade,” laughs Brand.
“Although playing hard for an hour is definitely not as easy any more,” shouts out the drummer.
“I think we’re a bit heavier and there’s a youthful urgency that naturally fades but we make it up in other things,” Carstens reflects.
“And the songs have the same integrity that they’ve always had,” offers Blumer.
The result is ‘Peace Breaker’.
“As per usual, our album spans across a variety of types of rock songs,” reckons Brand, asked to explain the 12-track disc.
“All the songs are distinctively Nudies songs, I think. Unmistakable stuff, just better than before and with a fresher sound,” he adds.
But it’s Blumer who has the last word: “I think the SNG sound has always been characterised by difference, most notably difference from itself. The new album will be more of the same.”
Blumer’s irony aside, what has changed is the local rock scene in the years since the Nudies arrived.
“It’s motoring on with new radio avenues, and new technology, You Tube, My Space and MK89. So it’s looking good,” offers an optimistic Carstens. “We’re not such a small speck in the South anymore.”
“The scene seems to be racially more balanced. I personally always found the white predominance in the rock scene of the ’90s a bit disconcerting,” says Brand. “And ironically it seems that the hip hop years that followed created a more mixed rock audience. What a nice surprise.”
Kruger isn’t of the same opinion — “I haven’t noticed any earth shattering changes unfortunately” — but there is one subject where unanimity rules: this isn’t a once off. The band will continue between individual projects.
“We will all keep doing what we’re doing,” says Carstens who has transformed into a solo star over the past few years, “but we have another Springbok Nude Girls album to do so who knows.”
“I would hate Theo to break up Kobus, the band that will save Afrikaans music,” he adds.
“There’s no reason not to keep doing something we so obviously enjoy and if that means we have to be realistic and keep our other fires burning, why not?” asks Brand.
It’s clearly time to put on those boots again — bubblegum and all.
- This article originally appeared on iafrica.com.