“We want people to enjoy our shows and dance and sweat, but mostly we just want to take everyone by the shoulders, shake them and remind them that it’s ok to feel shitty about the things that sometimes drag them down”
WORDS: ZACH LEES
PHOTOGRAPHY: MEGHAN DANIELS
PHOTOGRAPHY PRODUCTION: FRANTZ BIRKHOLTZ
LIVE PHOTOGRAPHY: JOSHUA RIJNEKE
Meet Julia Robert, the disco-infused punk band who wants you to dance and to know that everything will be O.K. Comprised of Tara, Roderick, Ines and Joao, the four-piece punk band is helping punk reinvent itself in Cape Town by staying true to its earliest roots. Initially formed as a two-piece, Tara and Roderick quickly expanded with the addition of Ines and Joao, completing the essential disco punk setup as described ever so well by their Soundcloud page bio “they use guitars, keyboards, drums, cables and singers.” Their foundation as a noise machine in a small room in Walmer Estate has echoes of punk origins, those of pure, stripped down, no bullshit rock ‘n roll, though added to this are the keyboards that make the music more danceable and give it its key disco element. The music resonates, reverberates and fully encompasses those who listen to it with hard edgy chord structures, sharp defined vocals and an emotional impetus that is very purposefully thrown into the music.
Historically as punk formed, punk bands became more and more associated with independent record labels and self-released music. To a large extent Julia Robert is the 2018 Cape Town embodiment of everything punk once was. Tied to local label Now Now Just Now, who organizes countrywide tours for the band and will be releasing a 7” later in the year, Julia Robert is able to represent punk before it became corrupted by the mainstream; they represent The Talking Heads, The Clash and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They’re sweaty and fast-paced, and difficult to keep up with, but that’s also sort of the point. If you can keep up with them it’s extremely rewarding, but if you can’t that’s also okay, the sporadic and technical chord progressions and changes within each song and from song to song give you the chance to catch up once more. They are also unpredictable though, because for everything I’ve just said and for every fast-paced let-loose song there is also the opposite, the slow and steady songs. These songs highlight something else about Julia Robert.
For the band members, Julia Robert is a form of emotional outlet, a way to deal with difficult emotions and come to terms with hard edged feelings and emotions that can’t quite be appropriately worded. The sonic waves form a cathartic emotional release that is very evident to anyone who listens to what they have to say, and in turn the band is also able to help listeners have that very same cathartic release. To Julia Robert that is very important, they want to help. They mention that they are here to help mend broken hearts and for sure they’re making a good job of it.
It’s pretty clear to outsiders that the band members have a tight bond. I was chatting about the band to my friend Dan Charles, who used to host Assembly Radio, and he commented on how pleasant it was to chat to the band, a clear attribute that can be associated to the closeness of the group. When I asked Julia Robert about the challenges they faced as a band, they answered very clearly that they are able, as a unit, to help one another overcome any challenge that may present itself to them. Julia Robert is not just 4 musicians but also 4 friends and that is extremely important to the success of any band.
Despite all of this, they are still forming what they want Julia Robert to be above and beyond; they’re taking things as they come, fast and slow and translating that into music however they like. Nothing is ever planned to a ‘T,’ rather they allow life to carry them along on its current. This reminds me of what The Clash’s singer Joe Strummer’s outlook is on punk music as a whole, attributing it to be his freedom to be able to do what he (and The Clash) wants to do. Using their freedom, Julia Robert has achieved what I think many bands sometimes struggle to do – find a healthy mix of grooves and feels to produce a high energy release that allows them to vent purposefully. They have not done this completely by themselves though; they use their admiration of other local bands to help drive their desire to make great music. Due to the tight-knit nature of the Cape Town music scene everyone is friends with everyone and for Julia Robert this serves as inspiration. Seeing their friends, such as Black Lung, Runaway Nuns and Two Stroke, perform excellently on stage and release great music pushes the members of Julia Robert to be even better. They note that “being challenged is key to staying inspired as musicians.” That is a very important mentality to have for success, and as such I can only see Julia Robert progressing on to bigger and better things; expect them to be festival headliners in the near future.