Recording a Journey – Rondry, Fliek en die Buitelewe

Valiant Swart is an integral part of the South African music landscape. With his sometimes tongue-in-the-cheek, sometimes thoughtful and heartbreaking lyrics, he has been keeping audiences entertained for the last 30 years. His style ranges from blues to rock ‘n roll to folk inspired. In November 2022 Valiant recorded a new, highly anticipated album.

With musicians Illimar Neitz (electric and acoustic guitars), Schalk Joubert (bass guitar), Simon Orange (organ, piano and keys) and Jorik Pienaar (drums and percussion) as his core band, Valiant travelled to  the beautiful Western Cape town, Stellenbosch, to start this monumental process at Sunset Recording Studios, a world class facility operated by owner Jürgen von Wechmar. The studio is situated on the family’s farm, Wechmarshof Estate, 6km outside of town. Nestled in the heart of the Banhoek Winelands, the surroundings are truly picturesque. With a breathtaking view of Simonsberg, gorgeous gardens, walking trails and free roaming game, the atmosphere is one of tranquility and creative inspiration. Valiant, Illimar and Jean-Claude Myburgh (videographer, photographer, runner of errands, and all round nice guy) were fortunate enough to stay at the luxurious on-site accommodation, Wechmarshof, for all twelve nights that they were recording. In the mornings they had a two minute walk to the studio to start working from around nine to five or six in the afternoon. Throughout this period, they were joined by a multitude of talented guest musicians. Melissa van der Spuy played accordion and did backing vocals. She was joined on backup by Nicole Hölm, Luna Paige, Lelanie van der Berg, Pietman Geldenhuys and JC Myburgh. Hugo Veldsman played pedal steel guitar on Swerversvuur, and Wynand Davel played violin on Daar Onder in die Rowerspelonk. Pierre-Arnold Theron played percussion and Danie Rëenwolf of Spoegwolf featured as a special guest artist on Rock ‘n Roll Engel.

In the evenings the guys braaied or were treated to Jorik Pienaar’s amazing culinary skills – a fine-dining experience always expertly paired with wine. They would listen to the day’s recordings on the accommodation’s Marantz sound system, taking notes for the following day’s session.  Illimar explained how he would listen to the track they had recorded that day set to repeat on his phone every night as he went to bed. He would fall asleep with his earphones in, thus listening to the same song over and over at night as he slept, just to wake up to the same tune. Then he’d go have a bath, still listening to the same song! Talk about one-track minded…

Valiant shared this story about the process with us:

“My nuwe album Rondry, Fliek en die Buitelewe was nog nie heeltemal… ehm… klaar geskryf teen die tyd dat ons laat een aand eindelik by Sunset Studios opgedaag het vir die opname-sessies nie. Ons was veronderstel om tien nuwe liedjies oor tien dae te gaan opneem, maar ek het net agt liedjies reg gehad. Ek het dit nie vir die band-dudes vertel nie; ek was bang dit sou ‘n konsternasie afgee. Op die voorlaaste aand het ek toe maar by die eetkamertafel voor my komper gaan sit en die half-los versies voor my in nie net een nie, maar TWEE volledige songs begin omtower. Kitaarspeler Illimar het my gemotiveer met ‘n slinkse, maar briljante aanbod: vir elke goeie, nuwe vers kon ek ‘n glas rooiwyn kry; en vir elke chorus, ‘n tequila. En dit het waaragtig gewerk. Lank na die band al gaan slaap het, het ek, gans tevrede en in my skik, die finale ‘tweaks’ aangebring, en myself beloon met ‘n laaste tequila en nog ‘n glas rooiwyn, en gaan slaap. En dis hoe die wereld voorsien is van ‘n liedjie genaamd Daar Onder in die Rowerspelonk, en sy maatjie, die titelsnit: Rondry, Fliek en die Buitelewe.”

(“My new album Rondry, Fliek en die Buitelewe was not quite… uhm… fully written by the time that we arrived late one night at Sunset Recording Studios for the recording sessions.  We were supposed to record ten new songs in ten days, but I had only 8 songs ready. I didn’t tell the band-dudes; I was scared that it would lead to consternation. On our second last night I sat down in front of my laptop at the dining table, and started turning the half-formed verses in my head into not only one, but TWO whole songs. Guitar player Illimar motivated me with a devious but brilliant offer: for each good, new verse I could have a glass of red wine; for every chorus, a tequila. And man did it work. Long after the band had gone to bed, feeling very proud of myself, I made the final tweaks, rewarded myself with another glass of red wine and a last tequila, and finally went to bed. And this is how the world was graced by a song called Daar onder in die Rowerspelonk, and its buddy, the title track, Rondry, Fliek en die Buitelewe.”)

The album was mixed by Jürgen, mastered by Tim Lengfeld, and the artwork designed by Dominique Dicks. Rondry, Fliek en die Buitelewe was launched in the Cape in May of 2023. The Gauteng launch will be at Atterbury Theatre on the 4th of July. 

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