[Sold Ash released his self-titled debut EP on 28 April 2020. PHOTO: Daniel Luckhoff-Wessels.]

What began as a performance in an 11th-grade talent contest has evolved into one of the most prominent acts on the Cape Town psych-rock scene. Ruan Vos, better known by his stage name Sold Ash, has been making waves locally with his muted yet extravagant showmanship, lyrical prowess and meticulously-curated sound.

Just the beginning

Sold Ash released his seven-track debut album, Howl A Little Louder Just Don’t Spit In My Mouth, on 26 August. What started out as a droning, noise rock trio, has evolved into a transient five-six-piece lineup, taking on heavier, more melodic hooks without sacrificing any of their lush, lingering foundations. 

Sold Ash
[Ruan released HALLJDSIMM at 26 and has been trying, praying, wishing and dreaming for the project to become a reality since he was 13. PHOTO: Joshua Stein]

Their influences stretch from Sonic Youth, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Kills, Radiohead and The White Stripes to A Place to Bury Strangers, Sigur Rós, Portishead and many more.

Ruan’s favourite singles on the album are ‘Electric Fragile Self’ and ‘Surrender’. “I love the energy and sonic pallet of those two tracks the most and I’m quite proud of how they unfolded. I also find them the most honest,” he explains. However, he adds that the fan favourites seem to be ‘Intuitive Dog’ and ‘Howl A Little Louder’.

To promote the album release, Sold Ash toured Johannesburg and Pretoria with psych-rock three-piece, Moskitos, and performed at iconic venues, such as Sognage and Sowaar Bar. “It was incredible and we played a few of our favourite shows yet! Sognage was an unreal experience and I can’t wait to be back there. That venue blew me away and the sound was absolutely amazing” says Ruan. 

According to Ruan, Boogie Central who organised the shows was amazing and kept everything very organised, as well as their “amazing tour manager”, Wessel Moller. “Moskitos are some of our best friends, so it was super rad to share the experience with them,” he adds.

No keeping the wolves at bay

Ruan believes the music that Sold Ash puts out is not for everyone. “But that’s kinda the point, I guess. The idea was never to make ‘safe’ music, and I probably never really will,” he explains. The people that do like the music seem to like it a lot, according to Ruan, which is what matters to him. “That is extremely special and inspiring for me. I’m very humbled to hear and see that people are listening and interested,” he says.

Showmanship plays a major role player in Sold Ash’s live performances. For example, those who have attended any of his live shows will know about the use of an old telephone as a mic. He says that came out of pure experimentation in his dad’s garage when he used to live at home. “My dad has a workshop filled with everything you need to build an atomic bomb, so I would spend a lot of time in there fixing, building, and breaking stuff. I was stoked to see and realise later on that the telephone became part of the project’s image — I dig it.”

Sold Ash
[Sold Ash’s live shows combine the abrasive and explosive energy of noise-punk with the sustained, cathartic waves of droning sonic manipulation. PHOTO: Joshua Stein]

He elaborates that the way he moves on stage just sort of happens. “I can’t really help it, performing and interacting with an audience is an outlet for me” he explains. Ruan also picked up a lot of habits from some of his heroes, such as Nick Cave, Karen O, Kim Gordon, Jack White, Tom Yorke and Jaime Hince.

Charlie Charles, who plays bass, is also in the local group, Lost//Youth, which he says has a jam band feel where he is let loose to push the boundaries within the song structures. However, with Sold Ash he says it’s a whole different monster. “We each become an extension of Ruan’s limbs glued together with the goal of becoming one wall of sound. There are moments where our individual parts separated are barely musical but when those musical pieces all come together it’s magic,” he says.

With a little help from my friends

Even though Sold Ash is a solo act Ruan pulls in four musicians regularly for live performances and studio recordings, namely Chelsea Ann Peter, Lourens Swart, Dolf Lombard and Charlie Charles.

Ruan met all of them at different times in his life. “Chelsea is my partner and she’s just incredible. She’s also got an amazing feel for music and we’ve got pretty similar taste, so that was a no-brainer,” he says. He, Lourens, and Charlie have been playing music together for years, so their chemistry has developed strongly together over all that time — starting off with a five-piece psych-punk band, PXLS. 

“Dolf and I have been working together for a while and I have always had a huge music (and in other ways) crush on him,” says Ruan. The two played together for the first time this year but just clicked really well  — both musically and emotionally. “So we just kept everything going. Super stoked to be playing with such amazing people, and I’m so lucky that they believe in the project,” adds Ruan.

Bringing in the bacon

When not working on his own music, Ruan produces, records, mixes and masters other artists at his recording studio in Woodstock, Sonic Nursery, and organises events through his collective, Glitch Culture. “Sold Ash and Glitch Culture don’t really make any money at the moment. It’s purely a labour of love. Sonic Nursery is my main income. I really fucking love producing other artists’ music,” he says.

Some of the top challenges Sold Ash has faced involved juggling the collective responsibilities of everyone in the band — the balancing of work and art — and finding ways of managing this in light of a usually underpaying music scene, says Lourens. “This means almost everything we do is purely for the love of music,” he adds.

Ruan started Glitch Culture in February 2019 with the main intention to grow and inspire the experimental and noise art community in South Africa. “The underground live circuit was very quiet at the time, so I just wanted to get some shows going again,” he explains. The other reason was that most of the agents and organisers that were still going were not interested to book any of Ruan’s projects at the time. “So I just decided to do it myself,” he says.

Sold Ash
[Ruan and Glitch Culture will be involved when Lucy Kruger & the Lost Boys and Womde are back in South Africa for some shows in February 2023. PHOTO: Joshua Stein]

According to Chelsea, it’s an honour and an absolute pleasure working with Ruan, because he has a level of drive and ambition that is rare to come by and if he has an idea or something in his heart that he wants to achieve, he’ll find a way to do it. 

“I think I am most blown away at how gracious he is in sharing his accumulated knowledge and experiences with those around him, as well as his consistent willingness to offer a hand,” says Chelsea. She adds that Ruan has played and continues to play a profound role in keeping the fire burning for musicians, artists, performers, venues, and importantly, the audience.  “The air is fuelled by an energy that is passionate, honest, safe and holds space and we’re very lucky that it exists. We need it,” she adds.

Next up

With Glitch Culture, Ruan’s dream has always been to do a big festival with some international bands that they adore. “Now that we have a solid, motivated and expanded team (Josh Rijneke, Lucas Swart and I) and Covid is over, it all seems very doable, which is ecstatic,” he says. 

When it comes to Sold Ash, Ruan has always dreamed of having Nick Launay produce a Sold Ash album. Other than that he would love to co-write with some like-minded musicians. “In truth, I don’t really mind who, as long as the vision remains pure. It would be super rad to collaborate with some artists overseas,” he says.

He also has a vision of writing a collaborative album with all of his favourite South African bands. “Maybe that can happen next year, let’s see,” adds Ruan.

The music video directed by James Fraser for Sold Ash’s song, ‘Avoid’, dropped on 29 November. However, for 2023, Ruan plans to release another album — or EP at least — and a few South African, and hopefully overseas, tours. “I really wanna tour Europe, that’s a huge endeavour for Sold Ash,” he says.

Howl A Little Louder Just Don’t Spit In My Mouth is a story that explores the complexities of mental instability and feeling out of place and overwhelmed in a world driven by capitalism and productivity. 

“It also dives into my process of self-healing, dealing with people that were close to me who became a manifestation of personality disorders such as narcissism, as well as grieving a past lover and reflecting back on my own toxicity towards others,” says Ruan.

Although lyrically he was not overly phased by the album’s message, he stresses that all the songs are unquestionably about something and that he deeply resonates with each lyric. “I simply don’t care about literature as much as I do about noise, melody, and pictures,” he ends off.


I can’t play any musical instruments or sing, so this is my contribution to the local music scene — which I love immensely. I can’t touch my toes, but that has held me back only slightly in life. My hobbies include reading, beer, bringing up Let’s Get Local when no one asked, writing, and surprising people with my pool skills. I believe somehow all of this will lead me to Dave Grohl.

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