What happens when you take two girls and pip them against an industry that's typically testosterone driven? Armed with nothing but a drum, a keyboard and a handbag full of devastatingly, honesty melodies... you get the beat-riddled brilliance of The Arrows!
Pam de Menezes and Christie Desfontaine are two trend-bucking brunettes armed to the teeth with original and frightfully spunky produced pop. Formed in 2006 out of the port city of Durban, these two feisty, focused and incredibly talented musicians have been reshaping the way music is written, recorded and ultimately played. With a licensing endorsement from major label champions, Universal Music, along with a fully-fledged debut album entitled Make Believe, we see that 2010 is fast becoming the year that will see The Arrows become players on global scale.
Being a 2 piece band
We're not playing by the supposed rules of pop or jazz or even rock for that matter, Pam says. We're undefined by our band members, or lack thereof,because we are partnered to a sound that is constantly evolving rather than aligned to other musicians. I know that it seems strange to only have two members in the band. But the way that we see it is that we can really manage two. For now, all the flights, accommodation and all the practical stuff about being traveling musicians is a WHOLE lot easier as two. We know it is only for a certain amount of time that we have to do this alone and hopefully it will be soon that we can travel with a whole bunch of awesome musicians,although we don't think that anyone else will ever officially join the band. We like it that we decide about the music and about what we are going to do and when we are going to do it. We know that we can always hire and play with different musicians as it becomes easier to do that. But for now, it's us and a laptop!... And why not?! People like DJ's, singer groups and singer/DJ duos get to do that all the time, so why not a drummer/keys and singer combo? It isa little unorthodox, but we are working with what we have now and honestly,it's really fun. Bands like The White Stripes, The Ting Tings and MGMTare all duos who have paved the way for the likes of us for whom it just makes more sense to be two. Two is the NEW four, baby!
The EP (first release)
Their self-titled five-track EP, released in late 2007, introduced more than4000 fans to the possibility that lurked within and, before long, The Arrows were sharing their pop ideal with concert crowds from Splashy Fen to Oppikoppi and many other music festivals across South Africa. Their debut single Next Time made it onto regional and national radio across South Africa, comfortably ensconcing itself as a staple and a lyrical launch pad for
what was to follow.
Great music insists on being heard and before long the two-piece powerhouse flew beyond the confines of South Africa, heading to the United States to play East and West Coast America and big chunks in-between. When the two got the opportunity to record with American heavyweight producer Tim Heintz (Shakatak, Aretha Franklin) That was the day we started taking what we did seriously, Christie says of recording their EP. Up until that point we had no gauge, besides our friends and families, as to whether what we did was worthy of more attention. I actually never saw myself becoming a full-time musician/drummer. I only started out working with Pam cause we are best friends and she had some songs that she needed a drummer to play. Some songs led to some gigs and some gigs led to some tours and some tours ledto our EP and the rest became history! I really never would have thought thisis what I would be doing, but now, I can't imagine doing anything else. I have always loved the drums and have been playing since I was 15, so naturally it thrills me that I have been given an opportunity to travel and do something that I love so much.
Our hope is that people love the songs and when they hear them live, they will love them even more. Pam asserts. It's important to us that the songs are played at very least as they are on the album so that our fans feel like what they are hearing is familiar and is the sound that they love. That is partly why we use so much electronically to compensate for being a duo, so that we can fill out the sound and give the fans what they came to the show to hear.
Pam, a gifted University Of Cape Town jazz music major, lead singer,songwriter and keyboard player explains. Playing in a duo has its risks both musically and logistically. But I am a jazz musician at heart, so the risk factor will inevitably boost some other important creative factors somewhere along the line! Its natural that I would miss the spontaneity of playing with live musicians. What we can do spur of the moment is very limited, but for now,I know that the songs are king and as long as we get on stage and play the songs that our fans love then we are doing what is required of us at this stage. I know that we will play with a much bigger band one day, complete with trapeze artists, dancers, strong images, over the top costumes and all the other fun stuff that makes me tick! But I also sort of love the duo as it is happening now because no matter what is added or removed, the two of us are the heart and soul of the band. We carry the sound and the vision, so these years of building as the two of us are really special. We will always build the sound and the visual aesthetic of the live show around the two of us, no matter how creative we are able to be in the future.
The sound, inspiration and dreams of Make Believe
We are so, so thrilled with the way the sound of our first full length album turned out. It's as if the songs and sound of Make Believe are roughly a documentary of the process we have been through as a band, and stands as an anthem of hope that keeps us alive and playing. Play the album with this in mind and it'll resound clearly to anyone who listens. The songs were made up of a collection of the songs we had been writing and gigging since 2007. We knew that we wouldn't get away with not putting some of the songs on the album. Songs like One for the Brothers, Entropy and The Core were actually quite old for us by the time we recorded, but our fans just loved them so much that we knew we had to put them on the album or we would never be forgiven! All In, Lovesick and Lonely Soldiers are all newer songs that almost made their debut on the album and didn't have the years of live experience behind them as some pf the other songs. But Make Believe really is the special song of the album for me, says Pam, because I actually only finished writing that one in the studio after having a really good idea for the drum part. Then I took what I already had and finished it because the sound became so clear to me for that piece. We ended up loving it so much that we named the whole album after it. I think also because the content of the song really captures the heart of The Arrows in that period, where we were hoping and having faith and praying that what we were dreaming would become reality (soon be seen). And we still hope today, but in that time, Make Believe seemed like the most honest choice to sum up how the band was feeling and what the album was about. In terms of the sound I have always had a fascination with the fusing of different genres and different sounds which seem like they don't belong together, but forging ahead and anyway and making them sound beautiful together. This would account for the elements of dance and edgy-pop, jazz and pop, rock and electro dance, folk and classical, classical and acoustic dance all being used in different combinations to make up the albums sound. We tied it all together with my voice and writing style and I think also with the attitude on the drums. This made the fusions unique and specific to us as The Arrows . We were very fortunate to be in the position to self-produce the album so that we could take all the risks that we felt necessary to arrive at the sound for each song that we had in our hearts.
In the words (of Satan) : the bane of our existence!
Let's talk about something that many people ask us about and we never really get a chance to elaborate on - our controversial slide show for In the words (of Satan). This song was by far our favourite song on the first release EP. So we had the idea to make a slide show to enhance the impact of the already thought-provoking lyrics. Hence the video was born. Yes, it does give us a lot of trouble. Many churches don't want us to play it at some of the services that we perform in, and we totally understand as a lot of the images are graphic and are designed to cause a reaction. But nothing on the video is worse than anything that you could see on any PG movie! So hey why not? It's real and I think that's what people love about it. It is relevant and
we worked hard to make it that way. In terms of the song, we wanted to write something that would EXPOSE the lies that Satan weaves around families and people's lives in the hope that if we illustrated it plainly, that people would identify themselves somewhere in it and be set free. I think somewhere along the line it has been interpreted as something that would glorify satan or magnify his work in people's lives. We really don't see how, if we exploit the evident lies that have been told to mankind for centuries, it would glorify Satan in any way. Instead, our hope was that people would feel God's redemptive power, victorious over anything else. It is a controversial piece and we never expected to get so much feedback or attention for it. I guess it just goes to show, you never know what is going to strike a chord in people's hearts.So we have left the video on Youtube and continue to take both praise and criticism with each play!
The up's and downs of touring life!
We are a professional band that knows what we want and we're hell bent on getting there, no matter how hard we both have to work, Christie says, and she means this in more ways than just her brilliant ability to punish the drum skins! Touring is not always as glamorous as it seems in the pictures of the tour buses! Christie continues. You never really know what you are going to get So it's pretty much a gamble, but it's worth the risk. Living out of a suitcase for like 8 months of just this year has been challenging, especially for two girls who are not exactly the 'camping' type! Sometimes you get paid well and other times you get paid in earrings or other random accessories, like books. But it's all good, we love what we do and we have learnt to roll with the punches. Festivals can get particularly messy and we always seem to find away to get out of there before things start getting too unhygienic Most of thetime though, we love to play festivals cause the party spirit is tough to beat.The celebration in the air of festivals is always welcoming and we actually love to get out there and do that thing. So far, we have played all over South Africa (Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town), London, Chicago, LA, New York,Dallas, Houston, Detroit, Hawaii, Orlando, Tampa, Harrisburg and a couple of other places in between. We have performed at all sorts of venues, like bars,clubs, churches and festivals - whatever is going, we're in. You learn to live without being home as much as you would like to be.Pam adds, It does get weird though when you think you have been to a place and then realize that was actually a dream and then you can't remember if that place does exist or if indeed you made it up! Sounds strange, but when you go to so many new places and change cities so quickly sometimes it gets all mixed up in your subconscious!! Okay enough crazy, hippy talk!
Major Label vs Indie
There is only so far that you can go on your own. It's that simple. We paid our dues and did the whole indie thing for 4 years, but when we got offered adeal with Universal SA, we knew it was time to cross over and sell out to the man (just a little bit!) So we made the transition and honestly we have reaped nothing but benefits thus far. It is important to have a good deal, but we really felt that it was time to get a commercial backing and Universal seemed like the best option for us. Indie is all good and well, but especially in South Africa,there is only so high that you can push on your own and then you have to get commercial help. It is early days for us in terms of crossing over, so let's see,but so far so good. Christie and Pam both explain.
Our influences are a cool thing to talk about. People always ask if we listento Regina Spektor or Lilly Allen or other modern singer/songwriters. But to be honest, we really respect them as artists and love their stuff but don't listen to it too much at all. I think the reason that people can hear a similarity with those sorts of singers is because we all checked out the same musicians.Everything I learned about singing, I learnt from jazz singers like Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and many other jazz artists. And so what happens is we all end up checking out the good stuff,the classics, and then the same influences sort of ring through. In terms of songwriting, arranging and sound, I love, love, LOVE Bjork, Joni Mitchell,Moloko, The Cardigans, Rufus Wainright, Sufjan Stevens, Gungor, Delirious?,Michael Jackson, Tori Amos, Sarah Mclauglin, Ani Difranco, Architecture in Helsinki, Arcade Fire, John Mayer, Jamie Cullum, Passion Pit, MGMT and obviously the list can go on forever. But what I REALLY LOVE and what I REALLY LISTEN to most of the time is instrumental jazz like Brad Meldau,The Bad Plus (my favourite band on planet earth) Hiromi, Keith Jarret, Herbie Hancock, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Pam informs.In terms of drumming and the music that makes me stoked, Christie elaborates, I like the simple stuff. Jack Johnson makes me really happy.I also love Hiromi, Architecture in Helsinki, Delirious?, and a whole bunch of others. But the guy I've listened to the most, kind of by accident, is Luke Munns! It's almost embarrassing how much I sound like him, in a much lesser degree, of course! Other drummers I love are Carter Beauford, Terri Lynne Carrington, Adam Topol, Jojo Mayer, Sebastian de Krom, (Jamie Cullum)Questlove, Vinnie Colaiuto and Steve Jordan.
So as you can see, the influences of The Arrows range in anything from pop/jazz/dance to folk sounding. I guess that explains why their music sounds the way that it does! But when it comes to worship music, nothing quite hits the spot like a classic Hillsong or United album. Top of the charts for us, and a win on any given day! quip Pam and Christie.
We are serious about what we do and making the sound of The Arrows means everything to us. Musical and spiritual integrity in tact, we are forging ahead, Pam says. Neither of us wears the pants, because we both wear
skirts! Christie cracks.
Ultimately it's their Laurel and Hardy personalities that help make the music work as well as it clearly does. Our fun side is strength for us, if only because neither our image nor our music is typically depressed or dark, Pam points out. Having fun with what you are doing doesn't mean that you are not serious about it.
With a mammoth four-month US and Australian tour set to keep the duo out of mischief until the end of 2010, The Arrows continue to quietly break every rule when it comes to getting their adrenaline-fuelled fun heard... Right around the world. We do the kick-ass rock festivals with as much sincerity and 'punch in your face' as the quiet, delicate concert halls because we can, Pam insists.We create what we need, when we need it and this flexibility, as a duo, keeps the focus on the honesty of our songs and being true to our musicianship and message.
Add hard work, a dose of conviction and a great big dollop of raw talent and you'll spot The Arrows on any map. Now they're off to play to as many a destination on it that's enjoys music intended to mess with, and win over, the mainstream.
So if you made it to the end, well done. Please facebook us and tell us so we can organize some sort of prize for making it to the very end! If you made it this far, you have to be a fan, and so we thank you for being awesome and for loving us and standing with us through this entire biography. The music we make is for you. We do everything that we do in order for you to be uplifted and inspired. So thank you for listening and thank you for reading. HA HA HA!!
The Arrows xxxx 00000 xxxxxx