Inspired by Cape Town’s pristine floral kingdom, Geoffrey Brink makes his music with a summery aesthetic. What The Sound met up with Geoff at The Blue Cafe in Tamboerskloof, Cape Town to talk about what he’s been up to with his current project, Seferino. With his most recent release out via Ryan Hemsworth’s label, Secret Songs, and another project on its way, Seferino is keeping himself busy. In addition to his solo-project, Geoffrey is the guitarist for the South African pop band, John Wizards. In two weeks, John Wizards will be joining Geoffrey’s brother’s band, Beatenberg, as supporting acts for Mumford & Sons first South African tour! Below, read our conversation with Geoff and hear some of Cape Town’s finest.
What The Sound: When did Seferino begin?
Geoffrey: I was working on it for quite a long time. While working on material, I was also teaching myself how to produce and how to mix a little bit. I put out the first song in 2012. I put out two songs at that time, and two songs the next year and EP the year after that. Then I plan on putting out an EP in 2016. I’d kind of rather put out an album, but because I want to release earlier in the year, I just don’t think I’ll have the time to put out a full-length. I also want to do a music video, and I’m working on a cover.
WTS: Your last release was Monkey With No Tail, and that was four tracks put out in your winter. We saw The Fader's write-up on you, it said “Ryan Hemsworth-approved”. Hemsworth runs Secret Songs, which the EP was released on. How’d he find you.
He didn’t. I e-mailed him. It was just out of the blue. Once I finished the EP, I was sending it out to other people just to get feedback and see what I could do with it, and very surprisingly he replied and liked it enough to release it. That was very cool. It was way more than I ever hoped. I was glad it found a home quite quickly.
WTS: Nice. We like some of the other artists on Hemsworth’s roster. Mark Redito (Spazzkid) is awesome, and dd elle left me jaw-dropped. What does Seferino mean?
I think it means Geoffrey in Spanish or Italian. Initially I was looking for my name is French, Spanish, or Italian—any European languages. I thought Seferino sounded kind of silly to be a band name, but then a few months later I was thinking it was obviously the best.
WTS: I’m curious about your past before Seferino. Did you start in other bands before John Wizards?
I’d been playing bands before that. John Wizards—we’ve been together for quite a long time, but it also took a while to really get started. We were playing together for at least two years without releasing anything and playing few gigs. The first two years we played a gig each year, so it took a while to get started.
WTS: So when was that? What year?
I started playing with John Wizards in 2010, but it took quite a while to begin, because it was a different band before that, which was slowly morphing into John Wizards. People were leaving that band while others were slowly joining the new one.
WTS: For John Wizards, you’re mainly the guitarist and sometimes on keyboards. Do you play any other instruments.
Yeah. I suppose if you can play guitar, you can play bass. I’ve also liked to collect instruments, so I used to have a harp, which I was quite bad at, so I sold it. I have an Angklung, too. It’s this Indonesian instrument, basically bamboo pipes and you rattle them and you can play melodies. You can go on YouTube and watch Rhianna covers. It’s wonderful. Recently I’ve bought some keyboards. I bought an organ and a Korg mini-synthesizer. I’ve been trying to get better keyboard tracks, just because the way I’ve got it set up is like with the organ. I got two bass pedals and two keyboards, and I got a synth on top, so you can get so many different voices and play really expressively, so I want to be better at that. To max out and work.
WTS: Do any of the current members of John Wizards have any side projects?
Not really. Alex the bassist makes really great music, but he hasn’t really released anything, not very efficiently. I would hope that he releases something. Otherwise he DJs quite a lot.
WTS: Would Seferino ever team up with Alex?
I would if he was ever releasing anything. He’s got very good ideas and is really good at imagining certain things. It’d be cool to DJ with him definitely just ‘cause I’d be able to drop weird songs, and he’d be able to play the solid, nice music to dance to.
WTS: I feel like that would be a pretty popular gig here in Cape Town, if a club booked you both.
Yeah, yeah. It would be so cool. Although, it’s funny—one thing with John Wizards, even though we’re a South African band, it took quite a while for us to get more established locally. I don’t feel like, especially as Seferino, this fixture of the live scene. It’s also partly that I could hustle more independently, and that the band could too. But as things are, it’s all good.
WTS: Yeah. John Wizards has a pretty big following. A couple YouTube songs are over 100k plays each, your Facebook page has some 85k followers, etc. Where’s most of the following, if not Cape Town?
Probably the UK because the label [Planet Mu] that we released our album off of was based in the UK. Then we played quite a lot on our first tour in the UK. So a lot there, probably around Europe, and maybe a bit in the States.
WTS: My friend, who’s British, showed me you guys a while back. So that makes sense.
Yeah. To some extent we were adopted by the UK scene. This happens with South African bands. It’s not a new thing that we get big overseas, and then come back home and people are like ‘Whoa, how is this band so big over there, and we don’t know anything about it?’
WTS: And do the members of John Wizards like what you’re doing with Seferino and are supportive of it?
Yeah, yeah. They all like it and are supportive of it. One of the members of John Wizards, Tom, is my backup DJ when I play live. He’s also sort of helped me with the visual stuff, even conceptually when giving feedback. Most recently he helped me do an underwater photoshoot for the cover I wanted to make.
WTS: Do you think there is going to be conflicts between touring in the near future?
I don’t think so. It’s always possible, but I don’t think I, by myself, will have a massive tour this year. It’s always possible, but I don’t expect it. I think John Wizards would have a tour in the middle of the year—at least that’s the plan. At least this year John has been working on new music. The idea is that he’d have an album released by early 2016, and if that would release, then we would do the European summer festival circuit, or something like that.
WTS: It’s summertime right now in South Africa. Did you play many gigs this summer nationally? Is it towards the end of summer right now?
They kind of say with Cape Town that there’s not really four seasons. You have a long winter and a long summer. I didn’t play too much, I’ve mainly been working on music.
WTS: What will this upcoming release be about? What has it been inspired by?
Basically this year I started doing more outdoorsy stuff, and Cape Town is a great city for every outdoor activity pretty much. So I started snorkeling and hiking a bit more. Cape Town has this really unique floral kingdom. The soil is low in nutrients, and we have this Mediterranean climate, so you have this very interesting shrubby, flowery, interesting thing going on. So I suppose when I wanted to express this new material, revealing that a little bit and how sweet it is, how special it is, and how unique it is.
WTS: I just learned about the Cape Floristic Region and how it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Yeah, it’s very special. Even on Table Mountain the flowers are completely unique. I love snorkeling, too. The area offers so many great opportunities to do it. Yesterday we went to a place called Simon’s Town. It’s also a touristy seaside location. We were snorkeling, and I saw a few sharks. Normally that’s great—you want to see some to check it off some list. Normally they’re quite small, so it’s fine. Then, later on, I was sort of by myself, and I saw a proper shark, very big. The smaller ones are usually purple with some texture on their skin but this one… this one was just plain shark color. I basically just shouted, and it disappeared.
WTS: Ha, scary. Can you touch on the unique sounds within your recent EP? Did you use any non-traditional instruments?
It was quite a mix of stuff that I used to record the last EP. There was a bit of live instrumentation, like guitars, and recorded percussion. Then a lot of synth stuff, a lot of samples, and a lot of other sounds that I had recorded, processed, and sampled. It was fun to try to blend it all together, resulting in this unique, different aesthetic. At the moment, I’m trying to get more interesting sounds, just to have more character. There’s so much music out at the moment, and it’s so easy to make music just on your laptop and sound like everyone else. So I’m trying to record more live stuff, to have a live feel, so that it will sound more special and more idiosyncratic. I’m also trying to get my brother to record with me.
WTS: Oh yeah, your brother is the drummer of the other popular South African band, Beatenberg, right?
That’s right. Yeah, they’re this very successful, more mainstream South African pop band. My brother is the drummer, and for most of this year he’s been in Muizenberg, a seaside suburb, where they also have their studio. He’s been practicing the whole year. He recently subbed in for the John Wizards drummer, and that was so much fun to play with him because he’s insane. He’s just so good at drums. So I’m trying to get him to record on this new thing. Also to have him let me use this new studio so everything will sound like, mad.
WTS: You guys have that hit song called “Muizenberg,” too, so that’s kind of a neat addition.
Yeah, it’s pretty nice there. It’s known as this surfer spot. Surfers come from overseas, and it’s where surfers usually learn to begin because the waves are quite mellow. Actually, when my brother moved there, in addition to practicing six hours a day, he was surfing the other hours of the day.
WTS: Are you two pretty close in age?
He’s three years older than me. We’ve always been brothers but also bros. Which is nice.
WTS: Has your connection, being siblings, made it so that John Wizards is homies with Beatenberg?
Yeah, very much so. My brother introduced me to the John Wizards guys. So from him being friends with them that I even ended up being in the band.
WTS: Written in some review about John Wizards, I saw that you’ve been titled a “turtleneck-wearer”, can you touch on that?
I definitely wore turtlenecks on tour. I’d gone on tour with my bag not completely packed because I was intending on buying clothes and intending on buying as many turtlenecks as I could. So, I ended up rocking turtle necks all the time.
WTS: That must have been pretty hot.
Yeah. Well on the first tour it wasn’t much of a struggle to wear it constantly. The second one, though—I guess European summers aren’t summers like I know it. So I had quite a lot of options.
WTS: Did you ever cut off the sleeves on a turtleneck? I’m just trying to imagine how ugly that would look.
I would think that would be sacrilegious. I wouldn’t dare. I think, historically, it’s been kind of hard getting turtlenecks because we have nice weather. Although, that has its downsides.
WTS: Hot Chip is a band favorite of mine that dresses cool and weird during their live sets.
Hot Chip, yeah. I wonder if they coordinate the outfits, or if it just happens. Do you know the Two Bears? It’s two of the guys from Hot Chip. If I’m not mistaken, I believe they remixed a song by John Wizards. We saw them live at Fabric in London, which was awesome. It was this sweet, deep house set. Also, Fabric is kind of crazy. It’s one of those eurotrash, so many stages, everything is insanely expensive, and security is so tight, clubs. I think they have sniffer dogs now because everything was getting too crazy. You feel like you’re going through airport security.
WTS: You mentioned that you’ve gone to North America before as a kid. Have you gone since then for music?
No, no. I hope to! At one point it looked like John Wizards was going to go. I think we still will at some point. From my understanding, it’s quite difficult to tour there because it’s expensive. The States is quite big, so you have to focus on a smaller area. Whereas Europe is almost designed for touring. You can get flight tickets for quite cheap and play at all these major music capitals very easily. It’s all right there, which is really great. Even South Africa is not great for touring, because there’s Cape Town and Joburg but not much else in terms of big-enough cities.
WTS: How did growing up in Cape Town shape your music? Do you come from a musical family?
Yeah. I suppose my dad had a recording studio in the ‘80’s and co-ran a jazz club, and me and my brother got really into music growing up. I almost think it was the absence of a live scene that I was plugged into and an absences of local artists. I’ve always been a bit more independent, and I have had nothing to connect to an outside scene. You feel less pressure to conform to anything when there’s not much to conform to. There is a lot of great South African music, but not a ton of melodic, poppy music from my area.
WTS: I know there’s Rodriguez, who’s not South African, but big South African name.
Actually, the guy who found Rodriguez, as you can see in the movie Searching For Sugar Man, is the father of John Wizard’s drummer. Our drummer is in the movie as well, sifting through records at the record store.
WTS: Any favorite gigs or festivals that you’ve played?
There has been some really sweet ones. Mainly on our second tour because all the smaller festivals were better. All the mega-festivals with the sick lineups are kind of cool but also a bit nasty. There was one special festival called Midi Festival in France. It was held at this sort-of Modernist villa, and you could walk inside, and it was a museum with all these photos of Miro and Picasso, and then the gig was quite intimate, and the crowd was really nice. I got to watch Panda Bear right up front. It was so sweet. It was a few months after he put out his last album, so he was playing those songs.
WTS: Any other artists who you hope to work with in the future?
It would be nice to work with some other singers. It would be really cool to record stuff with big backups and big harmonies. It’s easy to record your own backups. It can sound fine, but it’s quite special if you have a few different forces coming together. It’s also a thing, where like, I remember last year, or the year before, every Cape Town artist was collaborating with everyone else. As for collaborating, unless you have a good idea of what you’re setting yourself up for and what you and the other person can bring to the table, it’s easy to have something wishy-washy, or it’s a compromise for both of you. At least those are the kinds of anxieties I would always have, and that would put me off a little bit.
WTS: You sing on your tracks. Where did you learn to sing?
I didn’t. Still can’t. I guess I started trying when I started studying and making tracks. It took a few years before I was ready to record myself and put it out.
WTS: Any hopes to tour with anyone particular in the future?
It would always be great to tour with John Wizards or my brothers band, Beatenberg, even though the music wouldn’t be that compatible. My ulterior motives would just be to hang out with them
WTS: Have John Wizards and Beatenberg ever toured together?
No, but we’re about to. Mumford & Sons are coming to South Africa, and both bands are opening. Hopefully it will be quite magical.