“Everything I went through humbled me, in a personal sense as well as in a musical sense. I was stripped of any pride that I might have had in terms of how people might have perceived me in the past. At Endless Daze that year, in 2017, I was very sick and everyone saw me there, and saw me walking around and playing onstage and knew that already. So I had to get used to the idea that that was how they saw me and that was who I was. I just had to make peace with it and for this album I embraced it and now I’ve moved past it. It was a new start in a way.”
PHOTOGRAPHY: band / MARK REITZ
PHOTOGRAPHY: live / SEAN GIBSON
WH Auden said, “the so-called traumatic experience is not an accident, but the opportunity for which the child has been patiently waiting – had it not occurred, it would have found another – in order that its life became a serious matter.” It’s a sentiment that seeks to disarm the inevitability of the trauma that will be faced in one’s life by leveraging it into an act of significance rather than simply an act of sorrow. Because how unjust would it be if terrible things happened just for the sake of them happening and nothing more? That’s why we tend to seek meaning to justify life’s betrayals. And if there is little meaning to be found on our own, we turn to the ones who have been thrust into creating it for themselves – the ones who, in turn, offer us illumination through whatever darkness we may come to wander through, for they were brave enough to enter there first.
Dangerfields are no strangers to this darkness. Since the start of their career in 2016, the band (initially Lucas Swart – Guitars, Vocals; Calvin Siderfin – Bass, Vocals; Joshua Van Zyl – Guitars; Nicolaas Rossouw – Drums, and since 2018 joined by Paul de Villiers on keyboards and backing vocals) swiftly cemented themselves as a staple of the Cape Town alternative rock scene with their melancholic amalgamation of shoe-gaze, post-punk and dream-pop, and their cathartic and carefully considered approach to live performances. Having won over an ever-increasing fanbase – with two EPs released and multiple club and festival slots under their belts – the future of the band looked promising, until Lucas was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure in early 2017.
It was this dire situation that led to the genesis of the band’s latest album, Echoes and Pulses. Not by choice but by necessity. Due to the limitations brought upon the band by Lucas’s critical condition, they had to put their plans on hold as he was subjected to regular hospital stays. But what they could do with the time that was devastatingly forced upon them, was write – a necessary action in the processing of the abrupt recognition of mortality.
“It was a good time to be writing, because it was one constructive thing that we could still do. There was a lot that I couldn’t do at that time. We had to cancel a few tours which was really annoying, and we wanted to record sooner but my lack of energy made it too tough. It gave us an opportunity to kind of maximize on the sound that we already had. We were never really a happy-sounding band – that’s just not our sound. It’s not that we’re bleak people. I kind of attribute our non-bleakness to the fact that we have this outlet. To us, it’s a therapeutic release that is necessary for keeping us happy the rest of the time.”
Echoes and Pulses is an album rich in what Dangerfields does best: piercing guitar lines struck across tight grooves and dreamy soundscapes. But what this sound frames in this body of work is a far more direct and uninhibited record than what the band has previously put out, with Lucas’s usual reverence for romantic, gothic-tinged lyricism haunted by the very real presence of death. It is brave writing and very much akin to certain works of The Antlers, Sufjan Stevens and Mount Eerie, works that provided a semblance of guidance throughout the darkness that Lucas has faced.
“I guess that I was inspired by the raw honesty of those records – Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie) made A Crow Looked At Me just after his wife died and it’s very directly the main theme of the album, and Sufjan Stevens did something similar with Carrie & Lowell after losing his mother, and Peter Silberman (The Antlers) created Hospice back in 2009, which is one of my favourite records ever. It basically tells the story of an emotionally abusive relationship through the allegory of a caregiver and a cancer patient – it’s fucking devastating. I saw my situation as an opportunity to create something that had potential to exist alongside those types of albums, the ones that really stick with people (if they can bear to actually listen to them from start through to finish).
This is the sort of record that no band ever hopes to make. Death is not the sort of thing that anyone hopes to face, despite it’s inevitability. But that’s why these sorts of records are important. In the darkest and most uncertain parts of our singular journeys, these records are our dearest companions – weary travelers who have been where we are before and can, with knowledge and gentleness, assure us that we aren’t alone. You may not necessarily be at the end of your journey but these records make that ending far less daunting in their familiarity. And they remind us to appreciate those who we share our journeys with. Records like Echoes and Pulses are significant. Luckily Lucas eventually received a kidney transplant and was returned to full health, but this record serves as a testament to everything he went through, and what the band went through, by proxy.
“A situation like that makes you truly grateful, for the connect you have in music, for the connection you have through writing, through something like this, and the connection you have when feeling together,” says Josh van Zyl. “It also taught us that it’s okay to be scared, to be scared of life, to be scared of dying, to be scared of losing anyone.”
ALBUM – Echoes & Pulses / 2019
EP – Ashes / 2017
EP – Embers / 2016