Original Swimming Party: We wanted to start quite a weird band

Design Indaba Music performers Original Swimming Party tell us what differentiates them from other musos on the South African scene.

“People are hungry for something that sounds different and South African music definitely does,” says Jeremy De Tolly, lead singer of South African three-man band Original Swimming Party. In this exclusive interview, we chat to De Tolly and lead guitarist, Greg Abrahams, on what influenced their journey into music, their unique genre and what it’s like to be a musician in South Africa.

De Tolly, Abrahams and Thomas Glendinning are the music and visuals combo trio of Original Swimming Party. Well known for their combination of music and large-scale visual setups, the trio transforms any venue into a surface on which to display the visuals they use to enhance and complement their music.

For Abrahams, his love of playing guitar sparked his interest in music. After 13 years, he is still captivated by the instrument.

He studied classical music at the University of Cape Town. “A lot of my inspiration I also get from 20th century avant-garde music,” he says.

At age five, De Tolly knew he wanted to be a musician. “I remember seeing a Kiss poster and thinking to myself, ‘That’s what I’m going to do one day'.”

According to the musicians, Original Swimming Party falls under the genre “experimental electronica”. De Tolly explains their style of music: “It was born of a love of alternative music, electronica, experimental music, taking chances, being okay to be boring, making music that’s really hard to dance to, being okay with unpopularity and being okay with having no radio hits.”  

Now is a great time to be South African and African. A new wave of local talent is breaking into the international scene, says De Tolly.

The members of Original Swimming Party believe that South African music is gaining access to an international market; they are certain that now is a ripe time to be a musician there.

In South Africa, there is a rich culture of new and upcoming artists that the rest of the world wants, says Abrahams.

The challenge for South African musicians, according to De Tolly, is to embrace where they come from and not sound like they are from somewhere else. 

Original Swimming Party will perform at The Side Show on 26 February, 2015, as part of the annual Design Indaba Festival.