[Jonathan Tait and Alex Muller of We Kill Cowboys rock District’s stage on 27 October. PHOTO: James Browning]

We Kill Cowboys is a Cape Town-based four-piece that has crawled out of long lockdown rehearsals to serve audiences a cocktail of punk, country, blues, and folk. What started as a solo project by Alex Muller, tattoo artist and co-owner of The Body Architects Tattoo and Piercing Studio, finally took to the stage in February 2021 after filling out the lineup with other local scene veterans.

We spoke to the band about how the project pulls together a sound from their broad set of backgrounds, finally returning to live shows, and the resurgence of a local heavy music scene.

The need for something loud

The project began with Alex writing a set of solo songs during lockdown, which she recorded with Jon Shaban at Atomic Studios. With a record deal secured under Sit The Folk Down and Just Music, and Covid-19 restrictions beginning to ease up, plans turned to making the project a complete live act.

“[I] love country music, did that whole jam, but now I really want to play some loud shit,” Alex tells us.

She assembled a crew of familiar faces and old friends, starting by calling up Jonathan ”Jono” Tait to bring in a second guitar. Jono also plays in the folk group Hatchetman, keeps things running at The Alma Café, and tells us he is the number one pedantic menace of Cape Town sound engineers.

Andrew Middelkoop was brought on as drummer, though you would quickly recognise him in his kilt as Nomadic Orchestra’s tuba player. The project initially had Miggs Auer (of Alive at Midnight and West Coast Wolves) on bass, but he left to pursue his own projects, and they brought in Matthew Gill as his replacement.

We Kill Cowboys

[Bassist Matthew Gill also works as an artist, creating paintings, murals, and woodblock carvings. PHOTO: James Browning]

“We just wanted to make loud music. There was no determined genre. We want to feel, we want to be energised. It’s been a hard time coming out of Covid, you know,” Alex explains.

Nothing forced

We Kill Cowboys’ sound covers cosmic bluesy strings in tracks like ‘Descent’, psychedelic rock with ‘Polar Operational Environmental Satellite’, and toys with more typical country leanings in ‘People Suck’. All this came together under Alex’s songwriting and echoing vocals.

“There’s no hindrance on genre. We’re just doing whatever the fuck we want. We bring punk in. I’ve got a lot of metal influences. There are blues influences [from Jono],” Andrew tells us.

“I think what’s happened naturally, as four of us come from different backgrounds, playing in many different bands — we all have loves for different forms of music. Something happens when you write together, and there’s nothing forced,” Alex says.

Alex writes the songs, bringing a basic structure and lyrics to the rest of the band. “Then they just fuck it all up — and it’s beautiful,” she adds.

We Kill Cowboys

[Alex Muller warns the crowd that she can get a bit chatty up on stage. PHOTO: James Browning]

“As far as projects I’ve been involved in, this one has been the easiest [for writing],” Jono says. “Musically and friendship-ly, these are my best tjommies now,” he adds. “Now we are this beautiful family,” Alex continues.

“We don’t use the term family loosely. It’s a love-hate relationship, and it makes writing a lot easier because there’s a degree of honesty. We’re not afraid to tell each other to fuck off,” Andrew adds.

A welcome return of the heavy

As a project, We Kill Cowboys is still fresh, having played under twenty shows so far. Despite that, they’ve had no trouble landing gigs at venues like District, Trenchtown, The Daisy Jones Bar, and the Misty Waters Music Festival.

“We’ve been so well received, and there’s a lot of gratitude around that. I feel like there’s a lot of honesty in the music we write, as people, as [to] who we are. We rehearsed for a year, playing no shows, so to come right into it and get such rad feedback and support is quite humbling and amazing,” Alex tells us.

We Kill Cowboys

[Andrew Middelkoop proved surprisingly proficient at keeping time with a fake severed foot scavenged from backstage. PHOTO: James Browning]

We caught up with the band at their gig on 27 October, where they played along with Filthy Hippies and Toughguy. The show was part of Foulplay, a weekly event that hosts three bands in District’s intimate upstairs venue on Harrington Street.

“There’s a resurgence of heavy music, and we’re kind of walking with the scene, which is fantastic. Obs is coming up again, town is being town again, people are forgetting that Covid happened, and it’s great,” Andrew explains.

“It’s nice to just play gigs and have a loud outlet,” Andrew says. “It’s our medicine,” Alex adds.

Drugs and disagreements

Their latest single, ‘I Don’t Want Your Drugs’, is a body-rocking rejection of self-delusion and wasted time. While Muller’s vocals are still prominent, especially through the emotional highs, the guitars really make the track. Fast and noisy, then distilled and meandering like smoke rising from a cigarette — there’s a great sense of pace throughout the song.

“I don’t do drugs anymore, or drink. I’m one of those weird sober people. So that song has always stood out to me,” Jono tells us. “It’s not as heavy as most of the stuff we do but it’s such a different kind of thing. It sounds like if Soundgarden decided to write [their version of] a ‘pop’ song with Alanis Morissette singing the lead,” Jono continues.

The rest of the band sternly disagreed with the use of the term “pop” anywhere near their sound, despite Jono’s best efforts to explain himself and his clear use of air quotes. We changed the topic to the track’s mixing.

“We’ve gotta give a shoutout to Jon [Shaban],” Matt says. “Once he had what we wanted to sound like as a band, it’s been so easy. We spent two days mixing ‘I Don’t Want Your Drugs’, and then the last four songs we finished in four hours,” Jono explains.

We Kill Cowboys

[When asked about plans for the project, Alex Muller quickly responds, “Everything”. PHOTO: James Browning]

Fun for everyone

We Kill Cowboys plan to have a new EP out by the end of the year. They’ve also got three professionally-filmed live videos coming to the Sit The Folk Down YouTube channel

The band will push the project as far as it’ll go, which they hope means some time overseas in Europe and the Americas. “We wanna be the best band in the world!” Andrew half-jokingly shouts in the background.

“We all suck at life, so we just want to go on tour forever,” Jono says. “The most important thing is that we keep having fun,” Andrew adds.

The band tells us they all live to get on stage and have a good time with a crowd. “We write with audiences in mind — how are we gonna make these people either shake their asses or mosh harder than they have before?” Jono says.


​​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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