The night before, soon after their performance at Jo’burg’s World of Yamaha, Gangs of Ballet found out that the album made it to the top of the local iTunes album chart after being made available for pre-order just a few hours before.

“You’re always unsure if what you’ve done is good anymore, or bad,” says piano and synth-player Jono Rich. “Sometimes it’s nice to know that a few people like it,” he adds.

Durban may have been the incubator for Gangs of Ballet’s inception, but when it came to recording yes/no/grey, the band made their way to Jo’burg and headed straight for producer Darryl Torr’s Openroom Productions studio in Greenside.

“Darryl likes to get quite eclectic,” says Brad. Torr gave the band space to experiment with the sound they were concocting, allowing them to stomp in synch on a wooden board for the track “House and Money”. Torr took it one step further and put microphones on the wall to capture the reverb of the sound.

“If you listen to it, you’re not going to hear the wall, but the musical depth is quite something,” says Brad. “A lot of music is right on the front there and you just hear what you hear. I think it’s cool if you can start listening to music and every time you listen, there’s something a little different,” he adds.

Before Gangs of Ballet began tracking what would become their debut album, the band sat with Torr and arranged each song, ensuring that it would sound just as impressive live as it sounds recorded.

“Sometimes you get into the studio and you just track stuff on top of stuff. It sounds really cool but when you get to a live context, you just can’t pull it off because there’s too much going on,” says drummer Josh Klynsmith.

For a band whose performances have a sizzling pulse in them, being able to translate their irrepressible live energy into a record was important for Gangs of Ballet.

“Recording and live is like two different kinds of animals,” says Josh. “With recording, you’ve got to overcompensate and with playing live, it’s more about getting the energy right. I think recording is almost a means to an end to get to the live shows.”

The album yes/no/grey also sees Gangs of Ballet dallying with a shadowy, sometimes afflicted, sound that wasn’t present in the band’s EP. Brad owes this to the fact that the EP was tracked almost two years ago. He says that each band member, has grown since and explored different genres. “The album is far more musically intensive. It’s not as straightforward,” says Brad.

The subject of the grey in our lives, or the misunderstood, has tickled Brad’s curiosity in particular.

“Progress has to come from questions in your life and being okay not to know the answers just yet. You have to have that kind of grey before you have the yes and no,” he explains.

Later on at Arcade Empire, Gangs of Ballet take to the stage, opening with “All These Things”, the first track on yes/no/grey. “It’ll huff and puff and blow you out,” snarls Brad towards the end of the song, holding his hand up and moving his fingers as if to reel the sea of people towards him.

It elicits a response that is maintained effortlessly throughout Gangs of Ballet’s performance. The crowd greedily quaffs everything the band has to offer and rewards them by singing back their lyrics word for word.

As Brad’s about to begin the final song of the set, he glances back at his bandmates, recognising a look of mutual astonishment on each of their faces before saying to the audience: “I’m actually speechless right now.”

 

Gangs of Ballet

yes/no/grey review

 

“The grey is creeping in / It sticks against my skin / I find a comfort in the war within,” admits Brad Klynsmith on “Fool With A Heart”. The Gangs of Ballet vocalist is in a predicament. He’s neither here nor there, finding himself in the perplexing, foggy grey bit in between.

The Durban band’s full-length debut album yes/no/grey sees them treading murkier waters than ever before. If there’s one track on the album that encapsulates this, it’s “Fool With a Heart” with its jarring, seemingly disjointed soundscape that’s woven together wondrously by the threat that it’s going to fall apart at any moment.

On “Kiss Kiss”, Klynsmith mulls over life’s transience to a rumbling slab of synth-laced guitar, while on “Isn’t It a Shame”, he bemoans a failed relationship: “Love is a blood sport / We fight till our hearts burst.”

Now, now, it’s not to say that Gangs of Ballet have forsaken their endearing syrup-glazed hooks and belt-it-out choruses. There’s still plenty of that to go around.

Klynsmith continues to ponder a chaos of quandaries by cranking it down a notch in a handful of songs, revealing a diversity in Gangs of Ballet’s songcraft.

On acoustic ditty “Don’t Let Me Go”, Klynsmith pleads: “Please, don’t let me go / I said please don’t let me go / With the world outside our doors / I’ll be safe here in your arms / Please don’t let me go.”

The soothing strum of the acoustic guitar on “Pass Me By” sees Gangs of Ballet dabbling with a touch of country/folk, proving that Klynsmith’s honeyed voice works in just about any instance.

For the love of crashing Computicket systems, over priced beer and blinding pyrotechnics, can someone please give these guys a stadium gig already?

Rating: 8/10

Photo: Brad Donald

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