The Springbok Nude Girls’ frontman, Arno Carstens, traded in rock stardom for a solo career as a singer-songwriter in London. So how’s that working out for him?
Is it difficult to go from being a megastar in your home country to playing tiny venues in London?
Well, it doesn’t really bother me. It’s quite refreshing and exciting … I’m used to doing very big stages and very small stages: you get stage fright all the same.
Do you feel like you are finally starting to break the UK?
It’s a weird one because I’ve been coming here for 13 years – The Nude Girls used to play at the Shepherds Bush Empire – but it’s almost that the people have changed. Ten years on, the people that come are more British than anything else.
Well, your new album Wonderful Wild is ‘British’ in the sense that UK uber producers Youth and Jim Duguid worked on it.
I met them and they were really fantastic guys. At the end of the day, if you really get along, then you’re halfway there … This was the first time I ever wrote with other people, so it’s been a very interesting experience. It’s different ways of writing.
I just want to get the melody and lyrics down quickly before I forget stuff. And I leave it like it is. They’re into taking care of the lyrics. [Laughs] I come from the ‘90s: I was a big Sonic Youth guy and I loved the surrealism of their lyrics, but these days, people like to understand all the lyrics.
Is there much of a scene of expat South African musicians in London?
No, I don’t think so at all. In the early 1990s there used to be thousands of South Africans, now they are totally integrated over here. They’ve probably got their British passports by now. It’s changed a lot, which is great. I’m not a fan of that clique vibe where people from the same country hang around each other.
Who are your singer-songwriter heroes?
I am a massive Nick Cave fan: I love him. I love Henry’s Dream. What I like about him is that he came from The Birthday Party – quite a heavy band – and now some of his songs sound almost gospel. You gotta have one up on what is cool.
What about Harry Nilsson? The title track of your new album has a very Everybody’s Talking At Me vibe.
Ah, yes! When I first wrote it I thought, ‘It sounds a bit like that other song, doesn’t it?’ but that was after I’d written it. I do love that song. [Sings] ‘Everybody’s talking at me … ‘ It’s a lovely style.
Have you been following the viral success of zef-rappers Die Antwoord?
Yeah, I’ve known Watty [Watkin Tudor Jones] for years, he’s very talented. There’s a whole super cool movement of Afrikaans rap. The language only gets spoken in South Africa, so let’s see what
Will the Springbok Nude Girls be putting out another album?
Yeah, we’ve got one more on the contract so that’s gonna happen in another three years. We’ll make a last big, wonderful … well, never say it’s going to be the last!
Wonderful Wild is out now through Sony
Words: Alison Grinter