Sherlin Barends talks to musician, engineering student and radio presenter, Louise Kühn, about his jam-packed life.
He “loves” Bohemia, one of Stellenbosch’s busiest waterholes, because of the “nice pizzas, cheap beer” and since there are always people that he knows. Yet today we are off to Café Art, where nobody needs to shout in order to be heard.
“I grew up listening to Radio Head, Lincoln Park, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Jack White, The White Stripes, Jack Johnson, Muse, 30 Seconds To Mars, Lincoln Park (I’m a big Lincoln Park fan, it is the first album I ever bought). I love pop and I love soul as well, but alternative rock is more or less the foundation of my music taste”
“At high school I was part of a band that opened for Third World Spectator. I was in awe of them. I was a fan. Then I was hired to play for the theatre production of fame….I want to live forever!” he goes on to sing in his husky voice. Justin Versfeld (guitar) played in the same show and they became friends. In 2011 Third World Spectator’s bassist left. Louis got a call to audition and the rest is history.
Peter Crafford (vocals) notes how, “when Louis joined the band we had already had six bassists in and out of the band in the course of six years, and when he joined the band everything just changed”.
Louis’ timing was perfect, as he joined before the music label Universal signed the band, the first album, -tour and -music video. The label has since dropped them: collateral damage after a merger.
Louise Kühn (22) was born into an Afrikaans family. He says however, “I struggle to express myself artistically in my mother tongue”. He blames words and phrases like “bokkie” and “bietjie-bokkie-liefie” which are used in one too many Afrikaanse treffers. Though while flashing his “Colgate smile”, as Third World Spectator’s lead vocalist, Peter, affectionately refers to his pearly whites, this rocker admits, “I like Theuns Jordaan, it is a little guilty pleasure”. While other Afrikaans artists like Moses Metro Man, Straatligkinders, Glaskas and Polisiekar are seemingly enjoyed, void of any guilt. Like the Black Label he just ordered.
He pours it skilfully into the glass, creating a thin layer of foam so that with only the first sip, a beer moustache is barely visible above his lips and three day stubble.
“If Third World Spectator was a beer, Justin (guitarist) would definitely be the beer itself, just because he is the most rock & roll person on the planet. Peter (lead) is the label, the shiny outside and the attention whore. His vocals are 90% of our sound. I would say Andrè Wentzel (DrumsWentzel (drums)is the bottle, because he is the solid foundation that keeps the band structured. Ilan and I would be the foam. Without us, the beer would not be the beer. You don’t always notice it (the base and keys), but if it is not there you will miss it.” He raises his glass, takes a satisfactory sip of the golden liquid and adds: “You can’t have the beer without the foam”.
“I’m not trying to be arrogant”, he says and continues with the beer analogy. If Third World Spectator was a beer we would “taste a bit bitter, like aGrolsch, so not everyone will enjoy it. Our sound is dark, alternative rock. Peter likes to accentuate his falsettos, Justin rips solos on the guitar and André goes ballistic on the drums”. He compliments his band mates with such grace and ease, but forgets to comment on the “foam” that he brings to the table: the subtle background sounds, complementary vocals, foot tapping, head banging and hip swinging motions which are present in every music video and during each stage performances.
He is aware that, “not everyone likes hard rock & roll. Yet, everyone likes a little folksy music that you can dance to.”
Fortunately Peter says his “musical brother has the ability to adapt to so many styles”. Louis “can switch from a piano to a base, to the acoustic guitar and he can sing”. Moreover, “he is extremely versatile and well versed in musical theory”.
Therefore Louis has an additional venture called El Keen, which has a distinct folksy, acoustic sound. The other half of El Keen, Lloyd Mali says Louis is “very pleasant to work with, but sometimes he can be stubborn, because he always wants the best”.
Because of the amazing chemistry between Louis and Lloyd, the 2013 Maties got Talent runners up, are often mistaken for a couple. This doesn’t stop girls from throwing themselves at Louis. “He kind of likes the attention though”, says Lloyd. She has had to pretend to be his girlfriend when things got too rough though.
Dalene Kühn, Louis’ younger sister, is fan of whatever her brother does. “I think he is going to be famous. Everyone that listens to him loves him.”
“I prefer El Keen. It is not too intense. You can listen to it while you are chilling. Third World Spectator’s music can be a bit overwhelming at times”.
Besides his music projects Louis is also an engineering student and argues that “when you don’t do a lot, when you do just one thing in life, you just sit around and do nothing but watch rubbish on TV”
“But when your life is jam packed, you don’t have time for rubbish and you end up having time for everything important.”
Important things like getting up before 2am every Sunday morning for the graveyard shift on community radio station, MFM92.6. He has the voice you would want to wake you.
One of Louis’ favourite lyrical phrases comes from Third World Spectator’s Extraordinary: “I don’t want anyone to tell you, you not extraordinary”. It’s strange “someone will think the moon is shining out of your ass, but you will not see yourself in that light.”
It is ironic that he quotes this, as it seems he cannot see what everyone else sees when they look at him.
If you ask me he is more than just the foam. He is the bottle cap of that Third World Spectator beer, the thing that keeps the beer fresh and tasting good.
But talking foam, Peter says Louis is the “king of fomo (fear of missing out)”. His “inability to say no and the fact that he us open to absolutely everything is his best and his worst trait”.
“If you tell Louis that we are going to skinny dip at 3am in the morning he would be like, ‘cool, let’s go for it’”.
Justin tells of a new years eve, “probably one of the most fun things Louis and I did together. We played at an event and at about six in the morning Louis and I jumped naked off the bridge in the Busman’s River”.
Third World Spectator is currently preparing for a huge show at Aandklas, fittingly dubbed the Frat Party, on Saturday the third of May. The band will be performing a brand new set of songs, all from their upcoming album.