In the spirit of the best alt rock comes Macstanley, the band formerly known as Flat Stanley.
Comprised of Andy Mac, Clinton Gahwiler and Neil Potgieter, they changed their name purely due to licensing conflicts with a children’s book character, long popular throughout Europe, which goes by the same name. Exploding onto the scene in Europe, particularly Germany where they signed a record deal in 2009, the name change was born purely out of necessity.
The shift was only really felt in South Africa this year, particularly with the release of their third album – and their first as Macstanley – Lucid, Alive and Dreaming. It has been four years since their second album, Between 2wo Worlds, and with growing popularity in Europe they were constantly booked up and busy when they realised “hold on, it’s been four years…it shouldn’t take so long between albums”.
Talking to vocalist Andy Mac it is instantly apparent that everything about him exudes music and his passion for it, evident also in his fantastic stage presence. “We love playing live. The most important thing is the song. Rock is where we are at. The recording industry is in pieces, but live music is flourishing”. There is a sincerity and unpretentiousness that reverberates from the band. This comes through in their music and is re-iterated through Andy’s verve as he proudly, and adroitly, admits that their music does “contain dance elements and forms radio fodder; but mainstream is not a swear word. We’re not doing it to sell out.” They place music where it should be –something to be enjoyed by those making it, as well as those listening to it. As an excellent live act, their performance is imbued with raw passion and invokes the same response in their audience.
Andy shares the same positive attitude towards the South African music industry unknowingly, yet poetically, echoing other artists’ sentiments that South African music “is in a healthy state”. Aside from their band, they help promote South African music through the Heineken Symphonic Rocks – a 65-piece music act that brings a long list of South African bands together, the diverse names including Mi Casa, Zolani, Van Coke Kartel and Fokofpoliesiekar amongst others – this year’s event capped with the presence of Ed Roland from Collective Soul. “Our industry is phenomenal,” Andy enthuses. “Across all genres we are producing amazing material and South African music just keeps growing and changes from year to year”.
Macstanley have toured with the Counting Crows, collaborated with a host of South African musicians and their own band is richly enhanced with Rob Nel on bass, Mike Horne on drums, Robert Jeffery on cello and keyboards and Tony Paco on percussion. As for any future, and desired, music collaborations Andy says “I can’t speak for the band; but for me personally: Counting Crows, Pearl Jam and U2 – and my heroes, Collective Soul”. This inspiration is something which is clearly reflected in the band’s style.
Macstanley may be well-travelled and worldly, but their favourite place to play is still, “without a shadow of a doubt”, Cape Town – their hometown. “I am blessed to be in this band. Whether it’s in Mercury, at Green Point Stadium or Frankfurt Arena, I have the opportunity to go out there with my best friends. It’s not glamorous, but there is nothing more I could ask for”.