False modesty is half the sin of pride; thus meeting Bheki Dladla from iScream and the Chocolate Stix is a breath of fresh air. Neither modest nor arrogant, he is rather a man both confident and easy-going with a light-hearted nature that would break any cold reserve.
Much the same can be said of the band’s music. It is tricky to label under a specific genre and Bheki says “If you can define it, please let me know.” As vocalist he makes up a quarter of the dynamic group, sharing the title with long-time friend Luke Viviers. Nathan Rudnick (aka Just Nathan) and Tony Shine (aka Tonytwodogs) complete the group on lead guitar and bass, respectively. Each member has their own personal, favourite music style. With Bheki into hip hop; Luke favouring alternative rock, Tony pursuing blues and Nathan choosing metal, they combine their different passions to create a sound that is refined yet upbeat. Bheki says “we don’t want to undermine our listeners’ intelligence, which is why the music is so intricate” – and with a name like iScream and the Chocolate Stix, this exciting band immediately invokes a good feeling, emphasised by tracks like Skitzo and My Cape Town.
I am on location at The Palms in Woodstock for the music video shoot of their latest single Shirt That Fits. As I gaze at the mountains and am buffeted by the wind, I ponder their song My Cape Town. What is it that inclines Capetonians to define themselves incessantly through the city? I pose this question to Bheki, preceded by whether the band members are all from Cape Town. “None of us are Capetonians,” he admits. Hailing from Swaziland, Bloemfontein, Durban and London their origins are as diverse as their musical influences. They’ve been in Cape Town for a long time though and Bheki explains that “it’s about the personal relationship you build with it. Not everyone has the same experience. The longer you stay, the more you become part of this place”.
Broadening the sphere to South Africa, what does he make of the local music scene and its industry? “It’s upped its game. There’s been a slump here and there and spaces that have to be filled.” He pauses and with a nudge and a laugh he adds “but we’ve filled them”. They certainly have, and with their debut album The Paradox already available and an international tour in the pipeline, they are definitely going places – and not just literally.
As the clouds pour over Table Mountain, beckoning worse weather, dripping wet, bikini-clad girls stand shivering next to the car wash set up for the shoot and I am taken aback at the devotion everyone throws into the moment…although most of the men don’t seem particularly hard-pressed. A pop up gig was planned to take place amidst the shoot, but with the wind picking up force and technical difficulties the gig had to be cancelled and the shoot re-scheduled. Despite the hitches, the mood remained buoyant and perhaps this relaxed acceptance of weather-beaten chaos is my Cape Town.