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First, they set about establishing themselves as the supreme rulers of local playlists. Next, they amassed an eager army of international fans. Now, they’re poised to help other African artists enjoy similar success.
For Juliet Harding, Ben Peters and Matthew O’Connell – the talent behind GoodLuck – being at the top of your game means helping other people reach the top of theirs. That’s been the band’s ethos since its inception back in 2011, when Peters asked Harding whether she’d be interested in breaking away from the group they belonged to at the time to focus on a more electronic sound.
“We hosted our first gig at a little club in Claremont. Watching people get up and dance to our music was very exciting. I remember it vividly,” says Peters.
From there, it’s been up and up for the band – no small accomplishment, given the complex nature of South Africa’s music scene.
“I think the industry is hampered by a ‘grass is greener’ mentality, but it’s also got a lot to do with how we push each other to develop from a peer perspective – or don’t,” Peters observes. “It’s almost as though we believe ourselves to be isolated, so we only give 80%.”
In contrast, GoodLuck owes its longevity in this fickle industry to the band members’ emphatic refusal to give anything less than their best. “We took a very measured approach when we started out. We didn’t want to have a meteoric rise and then fizzle out. Instead, we went for slow, steady growth,” Peters says. “We’re in this for the long run – it’s not about following trends.”
In fact, he suggests that it’s almost because the band “isn’t very good at what it does” that it’s remained a favourite among local audiences for so long: “There are loads of producers and songwriters who can regurgitate a popular sound. We can’t do that; we’ll be inspired by something we hear and, in trying to replicate it, we’ll end up with something completely different.”
It’s not a bad problem to have, given that it’s helped the band’s sound move beyond South African borders – and onto the next stage of its development: the establishment of GetLucky Records in 2018. It all started when German entertainment manager Row Weber got an earful of GoodLuck on SoundCloud. He made contact with the band to discuss how they could take their work further by creating a label for African musicians. The band had already worked on collaborations with other artists, so they weren’t new to the field. They loved the idea of helping others develop their sound.
The ride has been an easy one so far. GoodLuck is, of course, the first band to release music on the label and, having gained a significant following on online music streaming service Spotify, their latest single, Be Yourself, has been playlisted in the Netherlands.
The label has also signed Freddy Lalendle, winner of The Voice SA, and there’s plenty more talent to uncover, insists Juliet. “We’re not looking for a particular sound. We like what we like; if we love someone’s sound, it will be easy to work them. We’re just working to make people understand that South African and African music is world-class,” she says.
GetLucky Records isn’t just about launching careers, though – it’s also about harnessing the power of music to uplift communities. The band members achieve this through their involvement in Bridges for Music, an initiative that uses electronic music as a medium to educate and empower disadvantaged individuals. A portion of all GetLucky’s profits goes to a school established by Bridges for Music in Langa, where aspirant musicians can learn about the industry from an entrepreneurial perspective. The band also fundraises regularly, recently raising R50 000 for the initiative by participating in the Cape Town Cycle Tour.
Clearly, this trio has no need for luck – especially when you consider that their plans for the next few months include a tour of Europe’s gigs and festivals and collaborations with exciting artists in Germany, the UK, Dubai, the Netherlands and Asia, before they head back to SA to take up their summer residency in Plettenberg Bay. They’re also looking forward to the day their own studio – a creative hub where artists can take their music from an idea to a finished product – opens its doors.