While transforming my face (into that of Jigsaw) on the eve of Halloween for a night of trick or treats at the Century City Sportsclub for a rather unconventional gig with Lion & I, I stepped outside with some of the boys to get more insight from behind the mask (literally).
Many might recognise them from DSG, a band that has been enjoying a lot of radio play, toured the country and sold many CDs over the past two years. Now Sybrand, Robert, Wessel, Dietmar and Dario form a 5 piece progressive/alternative rock band, collectively known as Lion & I, a side project they’ve directed their passion into.
Wessel explains: “This style of music has been something that we’ve wanted to do for a very long time, a side project, something more alternative, more upbeat.”
Playing their first gig just two nights earlier at Zula Bar, their new venture already draws a whole new crowd and that’s exactly what they hoped for.
“With DSG we were trying to impact our community, but we started to realise, especially with Sybie (Sybrand), [that] we wanted to tell a story, and to get a message across. But the medium we were using with DSG couldn’t have been as effective, for the direction we wanted to go. By meeting the average Capetonian at ground level, aiming for a different market, this is the perfect medium to tell the story we want to tell,” Dario adds.
When questioned further Sybrand explains, “The story we want to tell, revolves around the things we attach meaning to. It differs for different people. We want to speak about hope, courage and things that make people feel that they are strong enough, [so] that they can reach a greater potential. To channel all of that into the right direction… So basically a way of positive living is what it comes down to.”
When discussing the name, the boys explain that it didn’t just happen overnight. One evening Wessel said ‘Oh Lion’, to which Sybrand replied “What? Lion & I?” Then the story behind the name took on the characteristics of a tall tale told by a rather convincing Sybrand. “When Wessel said that, we were reminded of the time when Dietmar was a little boy and he fell into a lion’s cage at the circus. So we thought that’s perfect.” At which point my jaw dropped and there were laughs all round. I realised they are taking the mickey out of me.
But in all seriousness the name is open to personal interpretation, as Dario puts it, “with any name or lyrical content, the listener can decide for him/herself, we can only hope that what we intend comes across. So with a name, like everything else, we have a meaning attached to it and if people take this journey with us, they may discover some of those meanings.”
There is a definite emphasis on meaning and message while I chat to them and Sybrand elaborates why they are so passionate about that.
Sybrand: “In today’s society people tend to get stuck in negative things, like the state of our country, its future, etc. And we are more interest in what’s in their hearts, what makes them happy and makes them tick. Because every person has a potential that they can reach, and we want to inspire them to say; “Yes, I can achieve what I want to achieve, regardless of the circumstance.”
Dario: “People are continuously running and looking for things, and never seem to find it, and even in our lives personally. So where can we look for that meaning, not that we have all the answers, but maybe we have some ideas, and tell stories about that and share that.”
And I agree, it is in everyday people sharing their stories that make songs so relatable and universal, regardless of what language and style it is delivered. Not only are their influences vastly different, but so are their professional credentials and fields of study, which range from philosophy, psychology, electrical engineering to radiology and otology. All this by day, and musos by night?
Wessel: “Being a musician is not the easiest job in the world.”
Sybrand interjects with; “And it is a job!”
Wessel continues: “We all have our day jobs and then we have a night set out for music and we create and it is so cool because it is the highlight of the week, we can all agree, and we are all really good friends, we’ve come a long way so it’s fun.”
But launching a new band is not the only addition to their lives. The boys have been very busy building a fully equipped Studio. We chat a bit about what they aim to do with it and how, this now being theirs, they will be recording and producing something that is 100% their own. Surely that is a very exciting and gratifying feeling?
Sybie: “We’ve done the recording with a producer and engineer and it was really fun. We’ve learned a lot, but you always want to venture out and do new things.”
Wessel: “That’s what’s so cool as well, because literally everything is our own creation. We decide what we want to put out.”
But more so they aim to enable musicians, Dario explains that “the industry doesn’t cater for amateur bands. When the recording is done you rarely know what to do next. How do you get it distributed and produced? And what does the booking agent do”? The copywriter do? And they are pitfalls. And now we can enable musicians to work through the motions, and doing so make a valuable impact with the studio as well.”
Because of their ties to DSG, there is the possibility that they might be labelled a Christian band. This is not the case. In a very practical manner Sybrand explains that you don’t tell people you are going to a Christian dentist. No, you simply say dentist. Because that is what he is. And fairly so, Lion & I is a band. As musicians they aim to create. Your market shouldn’t be limited due to your personal beliefs.
Dario & Wessel: “Labels tend to be negative. Meaning comes from the lyrics. The way you experience a song is personal. The meaning you put to lyrics will not be the same for everyone. It is all about your life experiences, and it could mean what you want [for you].”
To end off I ask them to share something we wouldn’t know. The boys tell me that they have a game they play among themselves while performing.
Dario: “In our set we have certain key moments. I don’t want to give too much away, but there are certain key moments between the band members where certain actions are taken on stage. The competition among the band members are to try and find where each action takes place with each song. Like finding Wally makes it interesting and maybe the audience will pick up on certain quirks onstage.”
We return to the crowd of costumes and face paint buzzing inside. With such dedication and sincerity, the future of Lion & I will surely be a blessed melody!
“What’s the core of this, let everyone see. These faces made of glass are paper walls of fiction, nothing seems to last. Not anyone sees how jaded hearts die fast. In self-constructed kingdoms, nothing seems to last.” – PAPER WALLS OF FICTION
Catch Lion & I at Gandalf’s, Observatory this Saturday 9 Nov at 9PM and Aandklas, Stellenbosch tbc.
Follow Lion & I on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lionsjam and Twitter: @Lionsjam for details on upcoming gigs and band related info.