Meet the Soweto Punk Band Making Rock 'n' Roll for Kids in the Hood
South African rockers and skaters TCIYF on bringing punk rock and skateboarding to the streets of Soweto.
A group of 20-something-year-old skaters and rockers from Soweto, TCIYF, short for—get ready for it—“The Cum in Your Face,” carry themselves like seasoned vets. Perhaps it’s because they’ve sparked a punk revolution in South Africa’s largest township.
Over the weekend, the young thrash punk band was tasked with setting the tone of South Africa’s biggest annual music festival. They made their Oppikoppi debut Friday afternoon on the Main Stage. The dust, and weight of the performance, had barely settled when I caught up with the group’s eldest and youngest members on the festival’s closing day. In the conversation below, TCIYF’s guitarist, Thula, 28, and drummer, Jazz, 24, talk bringing punk rock and skateboarding to the streets of Soweto.
Okayafrica: Have you ever performed at a big festival like this before?
Thula: This was our first one. It was actually a shock. We only got booked for one gig this year––in Pretoria at Schivas. People saw us play there, and they were like “Hey, you have to come play Oppi.” We were like, “woahhhh, we’ve been trying to play Oppi. So finally, you’re calling us, okay we’ll come.”
Tell us about the punk scene in Johannesburg...
Thula: They embrace us. They love us. They really dig us. There’s a whole lot of good bands that are kicking ass, like The Moths and Hellcats. Jozi has a lot of good hardcore bands that are straight up not messing around. Chances of you coming across an acoustic guitar from a Jozi band are very small. We don’t wear sandals. We wear sneakers. And we skate, and punch each other in the face.
How would you describe one of your shows to someone who hasn’t ever been before?
Thula: The first time we come to a place everybody’s like “These guys probably work here.” They ask us for the bathroom, or if we’re security. And then by the time we get on stage, people are like, “How are these guys on stage?” Even the sound people don’t believe we’re going to play now. It’s always nice to put a cock in their mouth. Because they don’t believe we’re doing this shit. They know we’re a band, we’re punk, and they’ve seen the videos. But they don’t want to believe. So it’s always nice to say “Fuck you. Yeah it is.” And play for them, and then change their mind. “Oh, should I buy you a beer? Should I buy you weed? You were rude to me just fucking sixteen minutes ago before our set finished. But yeah, cool, let’s drink.”
The spaces that you guys play, are they predominantly white?
Thula: It used to be we’d play gigs like that. But now we decided we’re going to make our own gigs. Because the kids in the hood they fuck with the rock’n’roll. Our fans wanted to be here, they wanted to be rowdy with us, but they can’t afford to come. So we make the rock’n’roll for them in the hood. So that they don’t have to go anywhere. Just come, it’s here. Just go next-door.
What kind of places do you play in Soweto?
Thula: I made this thing called Soweto Rock Revolution. After we started playing some shows with The Cum, a lot of other kids started picking up instruments. And now they’re making their own bands. Some dudes are playing metal. And then some dudes, Hidden Commandment, are playing math metal. So all these kids are just now picking up their instruments. We’re building our own scene in the hood. You see this dude [points to Jazz] he never played guitar, but now he’s ripping it. And it’s like two years only.
Jazz: Where we practice, where we skate, it’s called the Dog Pound, in Dobsonville. That’s where we normally host our gigs.
Thula: That’s our house. Our house is like a skate park. So as soon as you come out the kitchen, you skate. With your coffee there. Your joint.
Jazz: DIY everything.
Jazz (left) and Thula (right) at Oppikoppi Festival 2016. Photo by Alyssa Klein.
How did you guys come together?
Thula: Pule, our vocalist, he skates with me. We all skate for Skate Society Soweto. So one day he was having a piss day, and I was like “Vocalise it dawg. Just sing over this.” He was like, “Okay, okay.” And I told him, “Dude, you’re a vocalist. Do you know that?” And he became one. The bassist joined us later. We went through a lot of shitty drummers. It’s over now. Thank god we found Jazz. He redeemed us. And finally we became the sound that we always knew we had.
Jazz: The first time I saw them, they were playing with this shitty drummer—some white guy was drumming. I never thought that I would one day play for this band. It’s crazy.
Thula: We were having an interview. He passed us, we pushed him, “Hey, move dawg.” It was his first time realising that there’s punk in the hood. He thought he’s the only one. That’s how all the punks feel in the hood. “I’m the only one. I’m crazy. Ah, fuck. Why do I like skateboards? And boobs? And guitars? Ah shit.” But then you realise a lot of people are like that. After the revolution we made, the Soweto Rock Revolution, a lot of kids discovered they’re not alone.
What can you tell us about the skate scene in Soweto?
Thula: We’re the best skaters in Soweto. Hence we made the Skate Society Soweto [points to tattoos]. So what we do is basically make skate videos, and basically fill up the hood with our skateboards. And just ride everything, inspire the kids, get them hyped.
We got a bunch of videos out. We had product out, and all this shit. But dude, there’s so many politics in skateboarding. To whoever is running the skateboarding industry, stop fucking it up guys. This money shit is getting out of band.
But the skate industry [in Soweto] is quite healthy. The kids are hyped. Everybody is skating now because of us. The soccer thing is slowly dying. Everybody is bored with soccer, and they know it’s boring. They’re just doing it because they’re forced to. We’re killing the churches slowly, we’re killing the soccer matches, we’re killing the school time.
Jazz: And it’s inspiring. We inspire, I think these guys inspire kids. You see it, it’s possible. We played Skate Rock. We were on Thrasher with Skate Rock. It’s possible. You guys can do it. So, fuck soccer.
Do you consider your music political?
Jazz: Nope. No. We don’t know anything about politics.
Thula: Never. Fuck it. We don’t like politics. We don’t like suits. We don’t like formal shoes. We don’t like paperwork. What the hell? People think they run the world. You think you run the world? Who the fuck are you? So no, we don’t believe in politics.
What can you tell us about your album?
Thula: Buddha’s Cum is out. It’s got thirteen tracks. And I think it lasts for sixteen minutes. The whole timespan is sixteen minutes. You got titles like “Love at First Fuck,” “Touched By a Boner,” “Smelly Whore,” “Tupperware,” “Robots.” We just sing about everything that happens in the hood while we’re skateboarding and living our lives. We’re not trying to change the world. But it is going to change. It’s changing slowly, anyway. But we’re not trying to do that.