Fox on songs, Samas and synths

Electronic experiment: Sannie Fox’s sound is constantly evolving and she has been nominated for a Sama in the best alternative album category. (Keli Van Der Weijde)

Electronic experiment: Sannie Fox’s sound is constantly evolving and she has been nominated for a Sama in the best alternative album category. (Keli Van Der Weijde)

Sannie Fox is over the three-piece rock sound. She still loves it – the sound is the foundation of her career, after all – but the Cape Town blues-rock singer, songwriter and instrumentalist is ready to try her hand at electronica.

Fox has gained respect over the years from the local alternative scene, which has backed her various bands, and many know her as the front woman of Cape Town band Machineri, which was formed in 2010.

She’s still toying with different sounds and is gradually giving fans a taste of what’s to come.
But for now, Fox will continue riding the wave of her 2015 debut album Serpente Masjien, which received a nod from the 22nd annual South African Music Awards (Sama). Fox was nominated for the best alternative album and is up against Petite Noir, The Plastics, Moonchild Sanelly and Die Heuwels Fantasties. This is a milestone for her as a solo act.

The Mail & Guardian spoke to Fox ahead of a show at Balboa Bar in Stellenbosch.

How do you feel about the Sama nomination?
I’m happy and excited about it because I’ve never been nominated for anything before. So it’s a first-time thing.

The best alternative album category is quite exciting and it’s wonderful to see fresh alternative talent getting recognition.
Yes, it’s wonderful. The nomination was a nice surprise for me because this particular album (Serpente Masjien) is definitely alternative and not easily accessible or commercial. So it’s difficult to get recognition on an official platform for stuff that is left.

Will you be performing at the Samas?
No. I will be too nervous to perform. I’ll just enjoy the other performances.

Do you have your red-carpet Sama outfit ready?
I don’t have an outfit yet. I’m toying with ideas. I have some full-on vintage dresses from the 1920s, so I might try them on and see if the look works. If it doesn’t, then I’ll have to go shopping.

Which musicians do you admire?
I love John Lee Hooker, Nina Simone, Etta James, Led Zeppelin guitarist and songwriter Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix. They’re all quite old school, but such good musicians.

Do you consider yourself an old soul?
Definitely. Most of the music I listen to is very old.

Are you listening to any current music?
I’ve been listening to James Blake. I’m enjoying that a lot. I’ve been checking out Alabama Shakes and Songhoy Blues.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on new music. I have a lot of songs and I’m debating on whether to put out an EP soonish or wait longer and release an album. I’m definitely going to put something out, but it will probably be after summer. In the meantime I’ll perhaps put out a new music video.

But I’d like to take the time to focus on writing. I don’t want to rush it. I could put out a single right now but I’m more of an EP or album type of artist.

Can you tell me about your new sound?
My sound is getting a bit more electronic at the moment. I’m playing with a lot of new stuff, like organs. I’ve played in bands for more than a decade and I’ve written pretty much all the songs for all these bands and they’ve always been – especially the past seven years – three-piece rock bands with just guitars and I’m bored of that sound.

Piano is my first instrument. I can play synths, keys and organs and I’m missing the sound of keys. What I found out is that mixing a bit of electronica in music is really interesting and this means I can play with more sound.

I guess I’m evolving in what I’m doing. I don’t want to keep playing three-piece rock forever. It’s not going down like that.

What is the last movie you saw?
The Hateful Eight, which was directed by Quentin Tarantino. I like him; he’s got the best soundtracks.

Would you consider doing scores for films?
Yes, definitely. Maybe I’ll release two more albums and then go into scoring music.

You graduated with an honours degree in theatre and performance. Do you have plans to get back on the theatre stage?
I would love to be back on stage. I go to auditions and I do stuff on the side, but I’m usually busy with music. But I love acting.

Would you consider starring in a musical?
No, and that’s the irony. I don’t do musicals, unless if it was a Quentin Tarantino musical, then would I do it. But those funny pantomime Walt Disney things, no. I can’t get down with that.

What is on your bedside table?
I’m reading a book called All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, about World War II. I love history. I can’t remember the dates of anything ever but I love researching history for myself. You’ll also find mosquito repellent and a big bottle of water next to my bed.

Do you ever feel the need to sing about social illness?
Yes. I think that’s important. An artist can take that responsibility or not. I don’t do that so much with my songs. I do it every now and then. I wrote Father Gun for Machineri, which is about fanatical religion and women abuse. My song Freedom is about capitalism and oppression. There will be about two songs like that on my next album.

I feel the world is in a bad state at the moment. There is a discrepancy between rich and poor across the world, which doesn’t feel right, and I’m writing songs about that. I’m currently writing a song about grinding because I think people are in a machine and it’s grinding but they can’t get out.

Who would you like to collaborate with?
I really want to collaborate with Black Coffee. I would love to sing on one of his songs. I also like Uhuru. They are amazing. 

Katlego Mkhwanazi

Katlego Mkhwanazi

Katlego Mkhwanazi is the Mail & Guardian's arts, culture and entertainment content producer. She started her career in magazines, before joining the Mail & Guardian team in 2014. She is an entertainer at heart. Read more from Katlego Mkhwanazi

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