Meet Vulvodynia, South Africa’s most promising slammers
Metal is quite the worldwide phenomenon. No matter where you look nowadays, you are bound to find an interesting band or project, even in the most innocuous of places. Take South Africa for example. A country not usually known to harbor many musicians, especially those that practice a more extreme sound, it has seen a recent surge of interest around a wide variety of sounds and styles. And leading the charge in the more extreme side of music is Vulvodynia, a young band from Durban and Port Elizabeth who has been in the mouths of the world ever since the release of their second LP, Psychosadistic Design, which came out on June 30, 2016, via Lacerated Enemy Records.
We met Vulvodynia during SWR Barroselas Metalfest XXI, at the start of the band’s very first European headlining tour with fellow label mates Wormhole, Placenta Powerfist and Blade of Horus. We found bassist Chris van der Walt sitting on a bench, practicing his bass lines with a tablet right before the soundcheck. This was going to be his first show with the band, so naturally he was a bit anxious. Despite that, the spirits were high all around. After a mostly stress-free soundcheck, we sat down with Chris, still holding onto his bass lines, as well as vocalist Duncan Bently and guitarist Kris Xenopoulos, to talk a bit about the metal scene in South Africa.
“I feel like there is a unique thing to South African metal
that a lot of other bands don’t have”
“The scene isn’t that big. That’s one thing about it, it’s quite tiny but people are very loyal to the bands”, Duncan explains. For Vulvodynia, being part of a small scene is just “a numbers thing, it’s a minority of a minority”, but the fact of the matter is that it’s a community that is as devoted as it is loyal and is steadily growing into something much bigger. “I feel like there is a unique thing to South African metal that a lot of other bands don’t have”, Duncan continues, “But, I think the scene has been growing recently because bands are slowly learning how to do things the proper way. For many years a lot of bands were just doing this as a hobby”. These bands are what Chris refers to as being weekend warriors, as they only participate in any sort of activity in their spare time. “People expect career level results on hobby level dedication”, he elaborates, “A lot of bands are really good but their strategy and their drive is maybe a little lacking in some departments”. For Chris and the rest of Vulvodynia you just got to “take the chance to win the prize”.
The band itself was created back in 2014 by Duncan and guitarist Luke Haarhoff, taking its name after the medical condition that involves a chronic, unexplained pain in the area around the opening of the vagina, using it as an opportunity to make known to the world the culture and corruption that plagues South Africa. “We do have a lot of political themes in our lyrics, especially with our new album, we are basing it a lot about South Africa and, you know, about the corruption and the culture, because we want to convey to the fans how things are back home and let them see the way things are, as a lot of our previous songs didn’t talk about the country that much. It’s something we definitely want to convey as South Africans that our country is fucked and that’s why we play such heavy music”. As for the initial reason of the band’s creation, Duncan simply says that they wanted to play heavy music and that was pretty much why they ended up starting the band. “We just wanted to create the heaviest stuff that we could possibly do and then the band just started doing really well internationally and we felt we needed to act on this and get things done”.
“We do have a lot of political themes in our lyrics,
especially with our new album,
we are basing it a lot about South Africa”
This mentality of getting things done and taking chances shows the band’s undeniable dedication as they strive to always better themselves and have the right people for the right song. As an example, Kris tells us a story of how they got Simone “Som” Plujimers (Your Chance To Die, ex-Cerebral Bore) to sing in one of their tracks: “With Castration Mutilation, a song about a female serial killer, we wrote that song with the intent of getting a female vocalist to feature on it. We had Som in mind the whole time and it was such a mission to actually get her to feature on the song, because we couldn’t get hold of her at all. And one day we nearly gave up and I just commented on one of her vocal cover videos something like, “Please, Som, we are trying to get hold of you for our new album, we wrote this song just for you” and she was like, “Oh, I’ll do it” and she just did it for free”. But it’s not always about creating a song for a specific vocalist, as Duncan continues. “It really depends. On some songs the theme will make us think of a vocalist who we know would go well with it, but then on other songs it’s just like, we think of a part where we go “we would really like to have this guy featured”.
Having an incredible amount of guests in their records is something the band is known for and it’s something they did in order to get their name out there. They make it clear, however, that they don’t want to keep repeating this formula. “On our next record we decided either not having any guests or just having one or two, because we want to convey our own sound and not just be like everybody else”, Duncan explains. “I think that, if we’re gonna do it on this album”, Kris adds, “it’s gonna be more like, friends we’ve met through touring rather than random people, because we feel like we don’t need to do that now, we don’t need to get anyone big on our albums. We’re big enough on our own now and we’ve got some really cool friends that are going to help us out in that sense”.
Speaking of the next record, the band is pretty straightforward as far as what people can expect from it. More slams, less deathcore and more death metal is what is promised by the band, as well as a more politically-influenced thematic revolving around life in South Africa. As for the guests on this new record, the band mentions the folks at Despised Icon and Malevolence, with whom they toured earlier this year, as being the first in line for a future collaboration, which makes sense considering the band’s focus on getting people they’ve made friends with, rather than people that are well-known.
At the end of the interview, the band addressed the fact that they were playing Portugal for the first time and spared no praise to the SWR festival. “We’ve heard that this festival is one of the biggest in Portugal, if not the biggest, so we’re pretty excited. The stage looks amazing, everything looks so amazing. We’re pretty sure people are gonna go pretty crazy, because everyone is still fresh, they can lose their shit. If we were playing the last day, they would be more tired so we think we’re gonna have a pretty energetic and powerful crowd”. And an energetic and powerful crowd they did have, as Vulvodynia later slayed on stage, delivering a brutal performance that started SWR Barroselas Metalfest XXI with a blast.
Words by Filipe Silva
Photos by Marta Rebelo