[Matty and the Cartoon Graveyards members (from left) Wessel Krige, Matthew Carstens and Andrew Veldman at The Armchair Theatre. PHOTO: Pierre-Louise Bredenkamp]

Matty and the Cartoon Graveyards are a recently formed punk-folk group performing around Cape Town and Stellenbosch. The band’s beginnings date back to 2020, when local pop poster boy Matt Carstens was looking to move on from his solo work after a whirlwind year of touring.

“We played 150 shows in 2019 — so I needed something new. By chance, Wessel [Krige] came into my life, and Andrew [Veldman] offered to be our bassist out of nowhere,” Matt tells us.

Matty and the Cartoon Graveyards

[Matty and the Cartoon Graveyards on stage at The Armchair Theatre on 5 November. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

Andrew Veldman has been playing the guitar for the alternative Afrikaans rock group Kontras since 2019. Wessel Krige was the frontman of the now-disbanded group Lez Cortez from 2019 to early 2020. Both men have found themselves in a new role for this project, with Andrew on bass and Wessel on drums and backing vocals.

We sat down for a beer with the band to hear about what brought them together, how they settled on a name, and their attempts to navigate TikTok as elderly twenty-somethings.

Rough ideas and pleasant surprises

The Cartoon Graveyards started out with jam sessions between Matt and Wessel, and a rough idea for a tune called ‘Stellies’. With lockdown restrictions temporarily easing in June-July of 2020, the pair fled to Pringle Bay to rehearse together. Despite being friends for two years, it was a surprise for Matt to learn that Wessel played the drums.

“I was so angry, and just relieved as well. It’s like the planets aligned. I think Wes was waiting patiently to fill me in,” Matt laughs.

Andrew reached out to Matt about getting involved on the bass — even though he was known for playing the guitar in Kontras and didn’t even own a bass guitar at the time. “I got my first bass ten days before our first show,” Andrew tells us.

Matty and the Cartoon Graveyards

[“It’s a confusing super-group to say the least,” Matt Carstens tells us. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

Momentum for the project really took off when Andrew began helping them put together demo tracks. After hammering out a challenging first track, the group met up over the course of seven weeks until they finally had a setlist.

Matt has written all their songs so far, using the opportunity to mix his experience writing pop lyrics and rhythms with harder rock ‘n’ roll drums and bass. “I just had a lot of songs that I was sitting on that were too big for the loop pedal,” Matt tells us. “We’re lucky to have Matty to write [songs] for us because he’s got a really great ear for lyrics,” Wessel adds.

Caricatures and creatures

The band’s name comes from a line in the opening verse of Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’. As Matt explains, “It goes — ‘Don’t want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard’ — which to me means don’t become a caricature of yourself, which comes from fooling yourself.”

Matty and the Cartoon Graveyards

[“I just love being behind the drums,” Wessel Krige tells us. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

Also wanting to distance themselves from the Matt Carstens brand, Matt became Matty. But the band tells us that they initially tried out a few other names that were complete flops. “Kreatures with a ‘K’ was the worst,” Andrew says emphatically.

“We went to a show, telling everyone that we are Kreatures with a ‘K’ and they’d just look at us like — what is wrong with you?” Wessel explains. The band tried a couple of other names, but when Matt showed them his idea from ‘You Can Call Me Al’, the decision was easy. “And nobody had taken [the name] yet! Which is always a win,” Matt laughs.

Standing for positivity

We talked with The Cartoon Graveyards before they headlined a show at The Armchair Theatre in Observatory on 5 November. This would be the band’s fifth show, and they were excited to go all out after having to tone it down at some of their previous gigs. One of those performances was as support for Will Linley — which wasn’t exactly the band’s usual crowd.

“They were a bit scared,” Matt says. “But the parents weren’t,” Wessel adds. The group had worked out pop versions for all of their harder songs, but couldn’t resist asking the audience if they’d be okay with some rock numbers partway through the set. “They were all for it. And as we’re playing, I see there’s this guy with huge hair rocking out on the sidelines, and I realised it was Will Linley,” Wessel explains.

Matty and the Cartoon Graveyards

[“Because [Wessel] knows my style and mannerisms so well, he sees what I’m doing before I do it,” Matt Carstens says. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

The Cartoon Graveyards were worried that those quieter shows would go downhill, but added that the audience reactions have been very encouraging. “Every show we’ve played has had such a great reception, meeting lovely people, and just general amazing positivity — which is something we stand for as a band,” Wessel says. Andrew and Matt chime in with wholehearted agreement.

Chasing support at home and abroad

Matty and the Cartoon Graveyards are eager to get out and play as much as they can, with the big goal for next year being a tour up to Johannesburg and Pretoria. However, as with so many local acts, they have their sights set on foreign shores in the long term. 

They see social media and streaming as ways to reach people all over the world at the same time. The band’s TikTok account is a chaotic grab-bag of performance clips and unhinged memes.

@cartoongraveyards

Attention Capetonians! Showtime Saturday!! 8pm at Armchair Theatre!!! Lets get ready for a punk rock party!!! #fyp #music #foryou #bandtok #tiktoksa #samusic🇿🇦 #capetown #capetownmusic #livemusic #liveshows

♬ original sound – Matty & The Cartoon Graveyards

“We’re klapping the local game as hard as the international game right off the bat. It’s something I certainly never knew was an option before [Andrew and Wessel] came in. I’m super useless with technology. I don’t know how to work TikTok, but we’re on it,” Matt explains.

Matty and The Cartoon Graveyards’ debut single is ‘Snake’ and will be released on 24 November. The band hopes to follow it up with another single release early in 2023.

Matty and the Cartoon Graveyards

[“We’re gonna gooi, dude,” Andrew Veldman tells us before the show. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

Don’t miss the chance to savour their flavour of catchy punk rock and cheeky mid-set banter live. The band members’ combined stage experience is palpable. It’s a pleasure to watch Matt let loose with the energy of a band behind him and without the restraints of a pop style. 

The Cartoon Graveyards also pull off an impressive cover of Wet Leg’s ‘Chaise Longue’ — a testament to the charming playfulness the band brings to performances.

Their next show is up the West Coast at the Malkop Summer Rock Festival on 9 and 10 December alongside Die Heuwels Fantasties, Glaskas, Albert Frost, and plenty more. You can also catch them on 27 December at the Stanford Hills Estate, alongside Sunset Sweatshop.

Author

​​I write about the tech sector in hopes we can find human-centred alternatives to the mess we’ve made for ourselves. I get involved in the music scene because leaving passion unpursued is a sin. When my feet aren’t busy on the sokkie floor, you can find me chasing silver linings.

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