When first hearing their music, many could jump to the conclusion that Abbey Grange is a rock quartet. Wrong! They're a brother and sister duo from Durban, South Africa. Cara and Yuri Govender will soon make their mark on the United States on their trip to NYC, sponsored by Lindt Chocolate. The siblings have toured internationally before, recently rocking stages in New Zealand. What The Sound had the chance to meet up with the Govenders at their show in Cape Town in late December. We spoke about their major influences, origin of their name, sibling relationship, and much more. The spark of success came to the duo through their YouTube channel and great self-promotion in the comment sections of similar videos. Some of their original tracks sound like they could be straight out of the season-finale of Sons of Anarchy. In the next year, we can expect Abbey Grange to be gigging around in pubs, playing in festivals and touring with a few bigger acts. Check out why we're so hyped about their music by giving it a listen and reading our interview.
What The Sound: You’re originally from Durban, South Africa. What’s the music scene like there?
Cara: There is a vibe in Durban where surf meets live music and local culture. It's very diverse. Our sound is a little different to the general music genres here, but Durban has embraced us well- and we're grateful to be a part of the local scene.
WTS: Tell me about the formation of your band, how did it begin?
Yuri: Our parents bought us a guitar. As a result, I took more to the technical side. I also play keys and violin.
Cara: I took more of a singer-songwriter path. As soon as I learned a few chords I started to get into songwriting rather than learning covers. I play a bit of keys and guitar. We got asked to jam a set at a local music festival and we got a really great crowd response so we decided to start the band.
WTS: You have a rather large YouTube presence, how did these videos gain so many views?
Yuri: Well our videos on Youtube are videos of us playing our songs live, so I think people just appreciate the energy and songwriting-hopefully. Haha.
WTS: You also have a song on your SoundCloud, and that’s “Reset Button”, that you recently released a music video for. Can you walk us through the plot?
Cara: The meaning of the song is about second chances to set things right in your life. For the music video we thought we'd keep it a little more rock 'n roll. I play an assassin who is assigned to take Yuri out. I end up chasing down a guy who looks like Yuri and in turn shoot the wrong person. I later see Yuri at a restaurant and realise that I've shot the wrong person.
WTS: As for touring, I know you recently finished up a string of shows in Cape Town. Where else have you toured?
Yuri: We've been up to Joburg where we played a show at The Hard Rock Cafe , recorded a session for Balcony TV and did a radio interview as well as a live set on air at TUKS FM.
WTS: Have you toured anywhere else in the world?
Yuri: We completed our New Zealand tour at the beginning of 2015 which is where we recorded our single 'Reset Button'. Recording ‘Reset Button’ in New Zealand was awesome as we got to record in Roundhead Studios in Auckland, which is owned by Neil Finn from Crowded House. The whole tour was amazing.
WTS: Did you meet any cool people out there? Collaborate with anybody?
Cara: Yes, we worked with a UK producer called Greg Haver who produced for some great bands and artists like the Manic Street Preachers. Nick Poortman was the studio engineer who mixed the single who was an absolute pro.
WTS: Abbey Grange is a brother-sister duo, do you two agree on everything when it comes to making music? Do you ever fight?
Yuri: We are very like-minded when it comes to music so we hardly argue about the musical side of things. We can also be very honest when it comes to arranging our songs. We don’t have to worry about hurting each other’s feelings (laughs) and I guess that honesty comes out in our music. We do fight about general sibling stuff which mainly impacts rehearsal times.
WTS: What are both of your roles within the band?
Yuri: Cara does the vocal melodies and lyrics. The instrumentation could be either of us. Most of the guitar riffs are done by me.
WTS: Cara, who are some of your major influences? Why do you sing the way you do?
Cara: I've been influenced by artists like Chris Martin, The Civil Wars, Marcus Mumford, Matt Corby, and Simon and Garfunkel. I think the really good singer-songwriters have a great sense of emotion when they sing which is what I've always been concerned with. Personally I think it's mostly just a feeling inside that gets expressed vocally. I'm a firm believer in singing what you feel in that moment instead of singing a vocal melody that's 100% planned before a show. That's what gives an authentic element to the live show.
WTS: Yuri, who has influenced the way you play your instruments?
Yuri: I’d definitely say guitarists who play with the most soul. So I’d have to say Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Page, Gary Moore to name a few.
WTS: If people hear your music without seeing you two, would they assume that Abbey Grange consists of more than 2 members?
Yuri: Yes people are always surprised to find out that we are a 2 piece band. We try our best to create a full band sound for our live shows by multitasking and rotating instruments. We don't have a drummer and I built a rig so that I can operate the kick drum and snare with my legs while playing electric guitar. Sometimes I’ll switch to violin and Cara will switch between keys and guitar. It just depends on the song.
WTS: What’s the best part about being a duo?
Cara: The songwriting process is a lot easier. I think it has more of a personal element to things.
Yuri: Being a sibling duo, practice times are easily convenient.
WTS: What instruments can you all play?
Cara: I play keyboard and guitar.
Yuri: I play guitar, violin, keyboard and percussion.
WTS: Where does your name, Abbey Grange, originate?
Yuri: It originates from two of our musical influences The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and the famous recording studios that they recorded in. The Beatles- Abbey Road Studios and Led Zeppelin- Hedley Grange.
WTS: And yet, with Led Zeppelin and Beatles’ references, your taste is so eclectic. Your cover of James Vincent McMorrow’s “We Don’t Eat” is phenomenal. Any other covers in the works?
Cara: Ah thank you very much! We mostly play our originals, but if we do decide to cover a song it's generally our version of a classic song. We do a cover of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good", "Nutbush City Limits" (Tina Turner), and "Dreams" (Fleetwood Mac).
WTS: You mentioned you’re going to the United States in the near future! That’s awesome. How come? Any particular reason why you’re coming here?
Yuri: We won a music competition which includes two tickets to The States.
Cara: We're looking forward to playing gigs over there and growing our fan base over there.
WTS: Do you have any musical idols, stateside?
Cara: The Civil Wars, Rival Sons, Reignwolf, The Decemberists, The Black Keys, Fleet Foxes to name a few.
Yuri: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, The Black Keys.
WTS: You’re coming out to the United States and you hope to play a few shows. Other than showing your beautiful faces, what can you say to a random group of music-lovers to convince them to attend your show?
Cara: Check out our music on Youtube and if you like it then you should definitely come check us out live, and if you don't... you should still come check us out live!
Yuri: We’ll be pouring our souls out, and it’s guaranteed to be sweaty. People tell us we’re better live than our recorded stuff so it’s definitely a good sign to come see us live!