Cami Scoundrel Talks About Her New Album

Cami Scoundrel releases ‘Those Days’

Johannesburg-born, Cape Town-based artist Cami Scoundrel is back with a new album ‘Those Days’.

A troubadour by nature, Cami has travelled the USA, Europe, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Lesotho, telling her unique story on stages and street corners of all shapes and sizes. Along the way, she has released multiple demos, two EPs and two full-length albums. Now, this talented singer-songwriter is back with a new offering.

I caught up with Cami to talk about the new album and to find out what she has planned for the rest of the year.

First, how are you and what have you been up to during the first half of this crazy year?

Hi there, I guess I am as good as I can be in this crazy time. I started the first half of this year working on the film ‘Redeeming Love’ as a props assistant. The job ended a week before the lockdown started. Since then, I’ve just been finding any means to survive, busking on live-streams, doing design and illustration work, hustling, trying to promote my music. It’s tough out there with all the industries that I work in in a state of collapse and only forecasted to start picking up next year.

It is indeed, but glad you’re out there creating! You’ve recently released a new album (in the lockdown!). Tell me a bit about the process of putting this together. Who worked with you, who wrote the lyrics, etc.

Yep, I released a new album in lockdown! This was a calculated risk. The official launch was supposed to be at the end of May with Sun Xa Experiment at the newly renovated Armchair in Observatory. But the virus put a stop to that. I felt the music still needed to see the light of day and what better time than when everyone is consuming art to entertain themselves?

A lot of work went into this album, its a collection of songs that I’ve written over the last ten years – some of them are my very first songs like “Those Days” and “Ocean Blue”, some of them are my very new songs like “Satellites” and “Pain of Separation”.

This album was a departure from my first album, and it has a long, painful story behind it. I’ll give you the short version. I used to be heavily  involved in the punk and blues scene in Jozi and Cape Town, I aimed to create music for those scenes – if you check out my first album “Beer and Anarchy”, you can see the slant. Two things happened: I was raped by my partner in 2014, he was abusive, and I left that relationship in a serious state of depression, though, I was not fully aware of it or what I had been through. The second thing was going to the States to tour and to speak at a conference at the University of Philadelphia at a conference about minority punk groups. I spoke at the conference about the punk scene I grew up in, Fuzigish, Slash Dogs, Brafcharge (before I heard of the rape allegations against one of their members), introducing TCIYF and the integration happening with the Soweto skate and punk scenes. My speech was not met well. I was harshly told that I was using black people as objects in my white narrative and that I was advocating the ‘white boys club’. All my shows in Philly were cancelled after that. I had no idea what these things meant. It was my introduction to conversation about white privilege, so at first I was angry. And then I started researching and changing my opinion and exploring what these things were. Then around 2016, I had a breakdown. I had lost myself completely. I had become overwhelmed with thoughts of rape and how I was perpetuating whiteness, how all my friends where still friends with the guy who had abused me. I stopped playing music, and my songs, the scene and everything just became a giant fear trigger. I got really sick, like vomiting-every-day sick from anxiety.

At the end of 2017, I decided to get back on stage, Matt Vend (front man of Sibling Rivalry), called me up to go on a mad tour across South Africa, Namibia and Lesotho. I said yes. Though the day I was meant to get on the plane, I was a complete anxious wreck. My partner at the time had to drag me out of the house to the airport. I threw up on the plane, I threw up out of Matt’s car window the whole ride home. He made me smoke a joint and make myself some soup. I started to relax. We played our first show at Khaya Records in Durban – it was packed, and amazing. We travelled 9000 kms on that tour in a month – it was madness. But on that tour, I rediscovered all these old songs and started playing those, ones that weren’t connected to my life, the rape and the scene. I wasn’t trying to be anyone, I was just singing my songs. Matt and I had long conversations on the road and he was really excited about the songs and my musical direction and said I should come to Durban to record an album the following year, which I did after a short tour to Soweto with Sun Xa.

It’s been a long journey of healing. Part of that has been changing how I work and who I work with musically, pushing for social change, integration and exclusivity for all races and genders. And also creating safe spaces, having a terrifying understanding of how rape culture works, and trying to understand why our music scenes are so divisionary.

This album has been a cathartic healing process. Getting over the triggers of playing venues haunted by memories, finding myself and trying to redefine the role of whiteness in South Africa. Lots of therapy and medication.

But I’m out there again, bigger and stronger, and I have Matt Vend to thank for that. He produced this album, I wrote the rhythms and lyrics and a couple of bass lines and he laid down the rest. Musical genius that he is.

That’s amazing and your story is an inspiring one! So, tell me, what would you say is the central theme running through this album?

I guess the main theme would be nostalgia and romanticism. It’s a really feely album. Raw. 

You’ve also released a music video for ‘Fallen Homies’. Tell me about that.

‘Fallen Homies’ was written in 2015, after a tour to Mozambique. I was playing bass for Ann Jangle at the time. 2015 was a rough year and a lot of people I knew died: My dog, my grandad, and George Bacon of Hog Hoggidy Hog – punk rock legend in South Africa. This song is an upbeat folk punk song about embracing your friends while they’re here, and dancing for the ones who you’ve lost. I filmed the music video with my band mates “The Feminists” and my mate and colleague David Van Rensburg (who I work with in the film industry – may it recover quickly – amen). We shot it in my lounge/studio in, like, an hour. Dave edited it and yeah, you can watch it on YouTube now. It was released through Ghost Cult Magazine which is pretty fucking dope.

You have a very ‘tell it like it is’ style. What, besides, other music and artists, inspire your music?

I generally get an ear worm, like a line of a song stuck in my head on repeat, that I can’t let go of, and I let it sit for a few days. Then, I either pick up my pen or my guitar, depending on if I have some sort of melody or not, and the song just kind of comes out in a few minutes. Then I refine it. Is it lame to say life is an inspiration? I guess I tell stories about my life and the people I meet and the situations I find myself in, sometimes pure fantasy, mixed in with a bit of social commentary. I think it’s the social commentary through story that kind of works and makes it as you say “tell it like it is”, Bob Dylan vibes.

Awesome! So, what do you hope people will take from this new offering?

Hmmm. I hope they will be able to relate to it, to feel it. That’s the important thing – I hope it makes you feel something.

As an artist, how have you experienced the lockdown so far?

Sho, its been tough. Trying to find alternate means of survival. I’m learning how to program in Python now and looking to move into web development because everything feels very unstable right now. But I’m trying to be positive and to just keep moving forward. No global pandemic can keep me down.

Yes! And have you done any livestream shows yet? If so, how are you experiencing this new way of entertainment.

I have done a few livestreams during the first couple of weeks of lockdown. I was streaming live on Facebook and making a few donations. Then, I did a live show through ShowLive.co.za at the Armchair theatre – which was quite successful. We made just over R2000, which was enough to pay everyone just a little. But yeah, its tough. Internet connections are a problem, because most people can’t stream and a lot of people won’t pay to watch you on their tiny phone screens. There’s lots to combat. But also the opportunity to reach an international audience, which is exciting.

Lastly, what are your plans for the rest of the year?

Survive, hustle, practice self love, do yoga, surf, hike with my dogs, find a source of income, promote this album, pray for abundance. A bun dance.

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