The Cape Town-based slacker-jazz indie rock four-piece, Hartleyvale, was formed when its members met while studying jazz at the South African College of Music (SACM) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). They describe their sound as “intuitive, with divine guidance from our varied influences”.

After the lead singer and guitarist, James Nevin, lived in Observatory and often drove by Hartleyvale Stadium on his way to work, he chose the name of the band because of the word’s “cadence”.

Where it all began

Its members come from all over the country, including Cape Town, Somerset West and two from Joburg. “[When we started music] varies, with myself and Ryan starting off in the school system with classical training in cello and organ respectively, while Keagan and James were more so late bloomers,” says Luke Verrezen, the band’s bassist.

According to its keyboardist, guitarist and backing vocalist, Ryan Stopforth, forming the band was quite a natural process. “After a few months of sussing out how each other played, we all knew that it would eventually lead to something,” he says.

First release

Hartleyvale released their seven-track debut album, For a Little While, in March last year, motivated by a “shared will to create something we could be proud of”, says James. “We had a bunch of music, and decided to record some of it!” adds Luke.

When asked what their favourite two tracks on the album are and why, James mentions that it is tricky to decide, which is why he decided to answer in a tangent. “‘Not Enough’ was a foundational piece for the group as I wrote it to be used as a starting point in our first gathering with the project in mind—among a few more, some of which didn’t make the cut, and some of which are on the album too,” he says.

However, he adds that they rarely perform ‘Not Enough’ live anymore. “‘Waiting’, we feel, came together nicely in the studio and offers a platform to feature our brilliant rhythm section with the bass and drum solos,” says James, adding that is why it makes the list, “We play that one live almost every time.”

Hartleyvale recorded the band performances for the album live over two days with Benjy de Kock, Ben Jamieson, and Juan Khan of Concept Records. “[It] was a fun and exciting time,” says James. They then took those stems home and did some minor additional recordings in their own capacity — adding vocals and a few layers. 

“Mixing was done by myself, and then sent off to our good friend Wade Fyfe for mastering. The visual elements were created by local artist Dee Geyser,” adds James, “We are ever grateful for everyone involved for their input! Bless you all!”

Doing things their own way

There is currently a big influx of indie rock groups locally. According to Ryan, the band tries not to take themselves too seriously. “I think people receive that well,” he says, “Not to mention that a lot of our tracks are heavily improvised on the spot so each show is unique in its own way based on the energy of the crowd or the venue.”

Hartleyvale was on a bill with Jonathan Stephen Simons (JSS) towards the end of 2021, which they say was a ball of fun and inspired them to work together more. As a result, they performed a string of shows together, beginning with Café Roux in November 2021 and ending with The House of Machines in January of this year.

Apart from being good friends with a few of the musicians backing him, Hartleyvale thought the lineup would be quite cohesive. “It’s always good to find like-minded musicians to create with, and this series was just that. 10/10 would do again,” says Luke. “Playing at all of these beautiful venues with familiar faces and enormously supportive crowds is more than one could ask for. It’s been a great journey so far and we’re looking forward to the next booking!” says Keagan Hollywood, the group’s drummer.

Hartleyvale
The four members of Hartleyvale (from left) Keagan Hollywood, Ryan Stopforth, James Nevin, Luke Verrezen. PHOTO: James Browning.

When it comes to being full-time musicians and pursuing other jobs, Hartleyvale does a bit of both. “We all have musical lives outside of Hartleyvale, be it performing freelance in a jazz medium, to being full-time members in different bands, as well as teaching etc,” says Luke.

James mentions that all four band members are best of friends, so when it comes to dreams and goals, Hartleyvale comes second to that. “I feel our aspirations as a band are to see each other flourish and form as individuals as this is what would seemingly best serve the music. Sprinkle some big-time performances in, and that’s that,” he says.

All musicians face their fair share of obstacles on their journey, but Hartleyvale feels the local music scene hasn’t offered them many challenges. “We have made great friends, found great influence, developed great fans, and are excited to continue doing exactly this. It’s competitive to get feet through doors, but that’s up to us to get right,” says James.

Their favourite performance to date was earlier this year at The House of Machines, which was also the first time they had gotten together in over a month and a half. James explains that it was “electric” on stage. “It’s always such an honour to create with friends on stage, and sometimes you just middle it. Nothing extraordinary, just a connection.”

Another favourite performance, according to Keagan, was a show they played with their “dear friends”, Champion Trees, at Evol. “Definitely my favourite local band and what a pleasure to be sharing a stage with such close friends,” he says.

We asked Hartleyvale if there are bucket list artists they would like to collaborate or perform with. According to James, they are always talking about getting some friends up on stage with them, like Tumi Pheko, Christian Chandler, and Athi Ngcaba. “And it’ll happen! They all just live far away right now,” he adds.

What’s next?

When it comes to exciting news fans can expect in the near future, Hartleyvale has been sitting on a bunch of recordings, but due to financial and technological interference, they are still being sat on. 

“[However,] we’ll have new music out at some stage, and plan to accompany this with visual media and a trip up north,” says James.

Hartleyvale
The four members of Hartleyvale (from left) Luke Verrezen, James Nevin, Keagan Hollywood, and Ryan Stopforth, James Nevin. PHOTO: James Browning.

According to Keagan, he would personally like to record as much music as possible, because it makes every gig worth it, having checked out new material each time — in a perfect world. “I’d say we gig fairly often compared to other bands so it would be nice to keep it fresh. Another dream of mine would be to perform at Kirstenbosch one day. Maybe a bit far-fetched, but five years is a long time so who knows what could happen,” he says.

For now, fans can look forward to two upcoming shows. The first will be with Maya Grey and Francis Christie on 24 February at The Old Castle Brewery in Woodstock. The second will be on 25 February at The Armchair Theatre in Observatory with Cape Town-based hip-hop and RnB artist, LUUKHANYO.

“[We are] stoked for sure! We’ve played with Francis a bunch of times and we always have a great time. As for playing with LUUKHANYO, it’s always a vibe associating with hip-hop artists, especially with an artist like him,” says Ryan. 

They performed with local rapper, RxSolo, last year as well. “There’s something incredibly symbiotic between the grooves of the way we jam and the flow and attitude of the rappers. Looking forward to that whole weekend for sure!” he adds.

Author

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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