The Parlotones interview

Oct 05, 2011

This evening, Coldplay will play the first of two stadium shows in South Africa. At both the dates, the band will be supported by South African group The Parlotones. Ahead of the first show, we gave frontman Kahn Morbee a shout to find out a bit more about them.

Hello Kahn. How are you?
I’m well thanks, very excited (and nervous) for tonight’s show but I have my health.

Where are you right now?
I’m in the production office at Greenpoint stadium replying to your email, Coldplay are running late so I’m using the time to respond to your mail.

So, you’ve got two stadium shows coming up with Coldplay. Are you looking forward to them?
Most certainly, they are undoubtedly one of the biggest bands in the world. I’ve been a massive fan since day one and to be opening is a massive honour. I’m also very excited to see those songs (pretty much the soundtrack to my life over the last 14 years) performed live.

When the dates were announced, you said that Coldplay are the only band in the world that you would support in your home country – so we take it you’re fans?
We’re massive fans. We kinda made a pact a while ago that we wouldn’t open for international bands on our home turf because we generally sell more albums than they do within our borders and generally the openers are given little in terms of production. However, to open for a band who’s had such an inspiration on us is a privilege we could never turn down.

Have you seen them live before?

Will you be sticking around to watch the shows?
Without a doubt, will have to restrain myself from singing along to every song to ensure I still have a voice left.

Will you approach the support slots slightly differently to a headline show?
Certainly in terms of how we face the production value, the ‘smoke and mirrors’ of show business. As an opener we’re restricted in terms of what bells and whistles we’re entitled to bring. It’s a short set which we’ll deliver with an onslaught of passion as if there’s 60,000 people in front of us… oh wait there is 

For Coldplay fans reading this who aren’t familiar with your music, please could you tell us a bit about the Parlotones and what you sound like.

We’re a melodic rock band with pop sensibilities. We’ve never been musical snobs and so draw influence from a myriad of genres within the rock context and popular culture. We’ve been compared to The Killers, Radiohead, Coldplay and sometimes Muse. For us those are massive compliments and perhaps fans of those bands and perhaps the bands themselves would not appreciate the comparisons but people like to pigeon hole and as far as we’re concerned that’s pretty good company.

Does your name have anything to do with Coldplay’s label, Parlophone?
100%, we’re big fans of the Coldplay, Radiohead and The Beatles. Before Coldplay came around we lived and breathed Radiohead, I learnt to play guitar by digesting The Bends, a while later Muse, Travis and Coldplay came along. Muse offered an edgier Radiohead, Travis a lighter Radiohead and Coldplay kinda nestled between Travis and Radiohead and I became a fan of all the bands. We sort of had desires to be signed to a major (this is ten years ago) and so we looked to see who our favourite bands were signed to, we discovered Radiohead, Coldplay and the Beatles are or were signed to Parlophone and so we morphed the name. We were also big fans of the Smiths and The Cure and so chucked the ‘THE’ in front to kind of pay homage to the era of THE bands. Funnily enough the ‘THE’ band name explosion re-happened a few years later when The Strokes exploded onto the scene.

Some readers might remember you from the star-studded World Cup opening gig which you performed at. How was that night?
Incredible. It was a proud moment for us South Africans. The cherry on the top was that we got to be a part of it, representing our country, doing what we love most in the world, playing our music to our homeland and the world. We were a part of an historic moment in South Africa’s history. It was something our wildest rock star fantasies could never have imagined.

Did you get to go along to some of the World Cup games too?
Yes, I love football, so I went to as many games as I could tickets to, about five.

It seemed like an amazing time for South Africa.
It was, it was almost surreal, kinda felt like a mushroom binge. This kind of Euphoria swept the nation for a month and then POP next month the real world and all its focus on the negative once again dominated headlines.

Is there a strong domestic music scene in South Africa?
It’s strong with some amazing talent but is sadly not consistently well supported. We have a myriad of cultures and languages with different musical tastes and so it’s a case of a large industry divided into many pieces. This sadly means very few artists have the luxury of doing it full time. It feels like an industry running on a treadmill, a strong desire to progress and move forward but unfortunately the treadmill is littered with jaded artists who give up or move on and so a new talent enters the treadmill.

Are there any other South African acts we should listen out for?
So many: Locnville, Freshly Ground, A King, Zebra & Giraffe, Graeme Watkins Project, The Black Hotels, Prime Circle, Springbok Nude Girls, Lira, Ashtray Electric, Wrestlerish, Crash Car Burn.

There are a couple of days off between the two shows – as a local, is there anything you’d recommend Coldplay to do in those days?

Safari would be the obvious choice, The Kruger is probably the size of or bigger than England, and it’s filled with an abundance of wildlife in their natural habitat. We have beautiful beaches and mountains which both offer breathtaking views and an abundance of activity. The wine growing regions in the western cape are spectacular and wine is a natural ingredient for good times.
You’re heading to North America, the UK and Japan later in the year. Are you looking forward to that tour?
Yes, we love touring, there are aspects we don’t enjoy, but the fact that we’re touring the world and sharing our music makes us extremely content. We’re living a dream very few South Africans have had the opportunity of doing. On the global stage we’re still relatively small but it’s still surreal to believe we’re touring the music doing what we love most in the world.

What should people expect from those shows?
We’ve always subscribed to the belief that we play with same amount of passion in front of 100 people or 20,000 people. We love what we do, we appreciate the fact that people have invested money and most importantly time to see us and we hope that this love for what we do spills over onto the audience. Tastes and people are fickle, moments can be fleeting and we will savour them all as if it’s our last.
Finally, what is your favourite Coldplay song?
Sheesh, that’s so difficult to answer. Like I alluded to earlier they pretty much were part of a soundtrack to the last 14 or so years of my life. Various songs reflect different moods and phases. However if pushed to answer I’d probably say ‘Clocks’. We all love riffs, traditionally the domain of guitar, Clocks kinda says that a piano can rock a riff just as well!!

For more information on The Parlotones, head over to