Together with his band (Rob Davidson, Gavin Flaks, Adrian Erasmus and Scott Van Niekerk), they’re working on a full length album to be released in February 2015.
Until then, here’s what Trevor has to say about how it all started, why he prefers live performances to being in the recording studio and the never-ending references to Bruce Springsteen…
Slow Horses was your first release under “Trevor Rebello”; what was your music career like up to that point?
I’ve always been involved in music but probably not as seriously as I should have been. I played in bands throughout high school and university days. I was in a band called Killjoy and then a band called Stay Astray, which was where I met Rob Davidson. I think the bands wrote decent music but we were very young and broke and didn’t have money to record great albums. It was more about getting drunk with your friends and having a good time!
I then quit music when I went to go live in the UK. About 6 months into my stay, I bought an acoustic guitar and started writing the songs that would eventually become the ‘Slow Horses” EP.
Why did you choose to go with your own name instead of an actual band name?
I’ve done the whole band thing in the past and there are many great things about being in a band, but there are also a lot of crappy things that come with it. You can end up investing time and money into something where people have different ideas, work ethics and opinions. This eventually kills the band. I wanted to create a project where I was completely in control of the style of the music and the future direction of my career. It’s only natural that band members come and go and I want to be able to play music under my name until the day I die. This project will only end when I die!
I feel like in South Africa, we have this perception that in order to be a solo singer songwriter, you have to literally perform alone on stage with just a piano or guitar. In actual fact, most singer-songwriters around the world have backing bands – Springsteen, David Gray, Neil Young, Ben Howard, Ryan Adams and even Bob Dylan… I’m a solo singer-songwriter who likes to perform with a band.
“What is your favourite track off Slow Horses and why?
This one changes almost every day for me. I love to perform “What About Me” live because it is so powerful and has so much light and dark all in one song. I would say that my favourite song at the moment is “Not Getting Younger”. The song was written and recorded right at the end of the mixing process in the space of about 3 days. I love how natural and simple it is and I think that the energy and ease at which it was recorded, comes across on the album. It’s just a fun song!
As a musician, do you prefer the writing, recording and the general music making side of things, or the live performances?
I prefer playing live shows. I like the immediate gratification that a live show brings – the nerves before the show and then the relief after the show. I’m quite an impatient person so recording can become a bit frustrating for me. I just want to finish as quickly as possible and share it with people.
I don’t think that there is a single written piece regarding Trevor Rebello that doesn’t reference The Boss! You’re clearly a huge fan. Any other bands or artists that largely influence your sound?
Yes this is true. It’s a huge honour for me. I think that people have a need to classify music to best explain a sound or style. I think when the “Slow Horses” EP came out, people (including me) struggled to classify it. It’s rock n roll with some country, folk and soul. I mentioned in a couple of interviews that I love Springsteen and it stuck!
Apart from The Boss, I really like bands like Counting Crows, Gaslight Anthem, The New Amsterdams, Red House Painters and Sigur Ros and then artists like Ryan Adams, David Gray and Tom Odell.
The Slow Horses short film is a journey through a few of the tracks from the EP. It’s quite an innovative way to give your music visual treatment compared to just another music video. How did the idea originate and can you elaborate on the concept behind the visuals?
Slow Horses as an EP tells a story about growing up and being in your mid-to-late twenties struggling to come to terms with real life and balancing your dreams with reality and responsibilities. Most of the songs are centred around that theme. I wanted to continue to tell that story with the music videos. Rob and I were at the pub one evening and came up with the idea to do a short film.
I really like to push the boundaries as much as possible and do new things that people may never have seen before. The short film is one of those things where I must have temporarily lost my mind. We invested a lot of time and money in to the short film but the sad reality is not a lot of people really get it (we always knew this though). I find that people who are in to the arts or film understand what we wanted to do but it is largely wasted on the masses. It’s something that I had to do for myself.
The film is basically a day in the life of a “dead beat”. It follows a guy who is a carpenter (a coffin builder). It shows how he clashes with the responsibilities of modern life. He clashes with people in his life including his friends and girlfriend. He feels misunderstood. All he really wants to do is “build coffins” but nothing seems to go his way. It then shows how this internal struggle to do what he loves creates tension and conflict in his life. The cinematography reflects a very mundane existence. Real life is actually quite boring when you think about it.
In your experience thus far, what are the biggest challenges you face as a South African artist?
I think dealing with radio stations is pretty tough. It’s really difficult to get high rotation playlisting. I personally think radio stations force a lot of this American and European music on to our audiences. If you hear the same song enough times, maybe you eventually start to like it… There’s also a bit of “double standards” going on…
So you’re planning your first full-length album, what is the writing and recording process like for the band?
It’s definitely brought a different element to the songwriting process. I’m now writing songs with the band and the live show in mind. I think the album is going to be a bit rawer with more of a full band energy. I think it’s going to naturally be more upbeat.
If aliens ever landed on earth, who would you nominate as an ambassador?
Mickey Rourke. He looks like a real bad ass. We would need to slightly intimidate these aliens and I think he could pull it off.
Follow Trevor Rebello on Facebook and Twitter for updates and don’t forget to visit Bandcamp to download the Slow Horses EP.
Photo by Megan De Jong