That’s probably why their 2013 release, Bloed, Sweet en Trane, ensured them a SAMA award as well as cemented Van Coke Kartel (VCK) as one of South Africa’s elite rock groups.
With their new EP, Energie, VCK’s Francois van Coke, bassist Wynand Myburgh, drummer Dylan Hunt and guitarist and the man behind some killer vocals, Jedd Kossew, have taken a load off by recording an album of cover songs. It sounds like a bizarre departure for a band that has always been lauded for nonconformists – until you realise that with their increasingly busy schedules, as well as the fact that Van Coke has been heavily involved with promoting his first solo project, Energie is almost like a little gift from them to their fans while taking a bit of a breather themselves.
“We wanted to record something this year but knew there was no time to write material. As we’ve done covers before, it was not a strange idea,” says Myburgh. “It was different that we could focus on arrangement and sound, rather than song ideas,” adds Kossew.
According to Van Coke: “It was a lot easier. The songs were already written and all the songs are good songs. That [writing good songs] is the hardest part and that was over when we started. We just wanted to put our own spin on it.”
That is the catch with Energie, instead of giving you tired old covers, the group made some stimulating decisions with the songs that made the final cut. The five songs on Energie include I got you (Feel Good) by James Brown, Born to die from Lana Del Rey as well as Help! from The Beatles, Got to give it up by Thin Lizzy and the album’s namesake track, Energie, from Johannes Kerkorrel en Die Gereformeerde Blues Band.
Their versions of each of these songs drip with passion and is so undeniably VCK that Energie won’t end up as a flub in their discography. That’s partly thanks to them working again with Theo Crous, who has been involved with the band since inception.
“Working with Theo made everything pretty damn easy,” says Hunt. “He really understands VCK’s dynamic and was the only choice, really, to record the EP. It was meant to be a fun project, which it was, so I hope people pick that up when they listen to the tracks.”
What makes Energie so special, especially after listening to their renditions of each track, is the fact that it never feels like a publicity stunt.
“I always knew that it would sound great,” says Myburgh. “We chatted about song choices for a while and as things started to get serious or a bit complicated, we would always go back to the saying: ‘Hey, but this is supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to not overthink this.’ So minimum thought is probably what gives it the sincere feel.”
While there will certainly be a lot of hype around Energie, the music gods giveth, and the music gods taketh away. Myburgh confirmed they don’t have any plans to record anything new. While this means it might be a while, perhaps even years, before you can unwrap a CD or a vinyl from Van Coke Kartel with shaking hands, all is not lost. Van Coke says they will eventually get back in the studio.
Think of Energie as that time the guys from VCK chose five tracks to enrich your playlist while you wait for their next album.
- September 18: Rumours Lounge Weltevreden Park.
- September 19: Arcade Empire, Pretoria.
- September 26: Sundowners, Alberton.