Interview | BRYNN frontman Jules Terea

We chatted about the band’s origins, their upcoming debut album, ‘Querencia’, happy space frogs and starting an elephant sanctuary.


from left to right: BRYNN members Alex Smillie (Bass), Dave van Vuuren (Lead Guitar), Jules Terea (Vocals and Rhythm Guitar), Eddie Kriel (Drums) and Hezron Chetty (Violin)

BRYNN is the real deal. Anyone who has seen them live has a little twinkle in their eye when they mention BRYNN. If you haven’t seen them live before, then all those that have, know something you don’t. If you suffer from FOMO (and let’s be honest, we all do), best you find out what the buzz is about and make it a mission to see them play.

We caught up with BRYNN frontman, Jules Terea, ahead of their gig with Incubus. With INCUBUS, for goodness sake people! If that doesn’t say it all, maybe the following will.

We chatted about the band’s origins, their upcoming debut album, ‘Querencia’, happy space frogs and starting an elephant sanctuary.

The Pencil:

Jules – there’s a Kiwi slant to your voice – when did you move to South Africa?

JT:

I was born in Cape Town, and my parents are both from here. I just grew up there until I was about 10. I was back and forth until I was about at least 16 or 17, and then ended up being here ever since. This is home though man!

Pencil:

One time, so the Springboks play the All Blacks and you support…us? The Springboks?

JT:

Yeah, the Springboks, one time!

Pencil:

When did you realise you wanted to be a musician?

JT:

Bro, I started playing live shows when I was about 13. I was sneaking out of the house with a guitar and going and playing on Long Street, in bars, in pubs and stuff. I looked old, so everyone let me in, but like, there was a good three years of playing in pubs once a month and being vomited on by old guys…it was a nightmare bro (laughs). But, at the same time, it was the most exciting point in my life, playing shows…I learnt a lot.

Pencil:

So, when did you first pick up a guitar then?

JT:

When I was six.

Pencil:

Six!?

JT:

Yeah, my Mom bought me a blue Ibanez electric guitar when I was like 8 years old, with one of those little Marshall amps that you clip onto your pocket dude, and I remember playing it for the first time going, “Why isn’t it doing all the things that Jimmy Page is doing” and hitting the strings openly and being like, I don’t understand. Started getting lessons since then and yeah. Here we are.

Pencil:

First song you learnt to play and sing on a guitar?

JT:

To play and sing together?

Pencil:

Yeah, both at the same time?

JT:

I couldn’t sing and play guitar at the same time properly until I was about fourteen, and then I think the first song I learnt to play and sing at the same time was KT Tunstall, ‘Black Horse and the Cherry Tree’ (sings – I came across a place in the middle of nowhere with a big black horse and a cherry tree, woohooo)

*Jules is always singing tunes – anything goes*

And the only reason I could do that is that the singing part is muted strumming and as soon as you stop singing you start jamming, so that was the first thing. Started getting a bit easier after that.

Pencil:

BRYNN strikes me as somewhat of a supergroup?

JT: Feels that way sometimes, yeah for sure! The boys make it feel that way!

Pencil:

Yeah, it’s a supergroup, I mean you’ve got everyone in there doing their own individual projects and as I’ve heard you say before, everyone brings their own unique slant to their role within the band – how did you guys link up? I know you and Alex started jamming first, almost as a folk three-piece band, but how did you meet Dave and where on earth did you find Eddie? Eddie is everything.

JT:

Eddie is an angel. I’d say in like 2016 bro, I got back to South Africa – I was in New Zealand prior to that for about six months, and the first show I played was the New Breed Folk and Acoustic festival at the City Hall – with guys like Joshua Grierson and Majozi, all super acoustic vibes, and I got back and saw how close everyone was to each other, and the musical community was so strong…I was supposed to go back to New Zealand and it just couldn’t happen, I had to stay.

So, I started something called Duende sessions, basically like a live acoustic music platform, where I would invite those guys that I met to come and play acoustic music and then I would play on the bill as BRYNN, solo, and started to become close to all those dudes. As I started working with them, I met Dave through Alex. Dave came to a show at Alexander Bar that I played on my own and afterwards he sent me a message, like a really sweet message going “Dude, like, that was authentic and genuine, and I think that’s what music is about and thank you for sharing that”, and so after that message we started connecting. I went to a couple of Southern Wild shows and Dave & I became good mates. Then I met Hezzie through another Duende session, hosted at Bla Bla Bar, where Hezzie was playing with Jonno Tait from Hatchetman, and basically, at the time, I was very interested in shooting something like a live session video with a violinist. I was completely mesmerised by watching Hezzie on stage through the entire set – couldn’t breathe…

Pencil:

Yeah, he’s got huge presence…

JT:

He’s a wizard dude!

Pencil:

So, a lot came from those Duende sessions then right?

JT:

Yeah, everything came from those sessions man, and then Hezzie and I started rehearsing for a live video we were shooting with a friend called Alexis, started playing some of my songs and Hezzie was writing these incredible parts and it worked so well dude. We had such an immediate connection and then Hezzie, Alex and I decided to reboot the BRYNN band. We had another drummer at the time. We were in the process of it and I went back to New Zealand, and actually finished up writing a whole bunch of songs, including ‘White Collar Kings’, and a bunch of other tracks that I’d been working on with Alex. Finished writing them in New Zealand and came back, had a beer with Dave, and Dave was saying, all he wants to do was to play music full time.

We spoke openly about music and art and everything, and by the end of that conversation, Dave had joined BRYNN on lead guitar. He wanted a chance to step away from singing and just make sound, and just play and be a part of a passion project and at our first rehearsal, Dave, Hezzie, and Alex were there, and Eddie was flatting with Hezzie at the time, we were looking for a drummer, and Hezzie said to come through and jam to Eddie.

Pencil:

Yes, that’s synchronicity right there!

JT:

Yeah and then there was Eddie bro! There’s the band, done!

Pencil:

Hahaha, the enigma that is Eddie man!

JT:

Ja dude, Eddie is an absolute killer!

Pencil:

How did you come up with the name BRYNN?

JT:

So initially, I was going to call the band, Brother of Fynn, because my brother’s name is Fynn. He’s eight now. Then I went to search on Google if there was another band called Brother of Finn, and there was. What came up immediately thereafter was BRYNN. It was an Irish-Welsh kind of name, and at the time the music was very inspired by a lot of Irish musicians and it just felt right, it also looks so beautiful in capitals you know… it looks so beautiful written down and that was it, you know.

Pencil:

I love that, the aesthetic of the way the name looks on paper. There are so many cool names you could come up with for a band, but written down on paper, they just look shit hahaha…

JT:

Hahaha!

Pencil:

What was the last gift you gave someone?

JT:

Bought a couple of bottles of whisky for friends recently, bought a bottle of gin for Alex last year – trying to think of the last proper, proper gift…I think it must have been toys for my little brother and sister and I got my mom some perfume for her birthday.

Otherwise yeah, for my mates I generally just buy whisky and gin!

Pencil:

So pretty rock ‘n roll mostly, but a soft, sensitive side coming through there too….

How do you spend your free time? Throwing axes? That’s my latest wannabe hobby hahaha.

JT:

Haha, rad! To be honest, most of my free time I spend trying to write music, lately I’ve been exercising and shit, but the proper free time I spend with friends. Just being with people you love, you know. I get most of my happiness from being on stage or being with my family or my friends, so free time is them hey.

Pencil:

Together with Southern Wild, Bam Bam Brown, Hezron Chetty and the Zugzwangs and Androgenius, it seems like you guys almost have a mob mentality when it comes to the local scene. Is that the goal – to grow together, help each other and expand the scene as one big hurricane of local tunes – all synchronous and evolving with each other’s influence? There’s huge camaraderie between all of you and it doesn’t feel like there’s competition amongst all those bands.

JT:

Exactly man, we all pretty much share members and we’re a musical circle of friends that all collaborate with one another. The whole point is to build and cultivate a new scene of passionate and authentic artists that are supporting one another.

The best thing is that even if we’re not playing a show together, you will see the rest of the crew there if they can be there, so we support the fuck out of each other yeah. That’s the point.

Pencil:

You’re launching your first album in March – Querencia – tell us a bit about that and are there any over-arching themes to the album?

JT:

Well, Querencia itself is the theme. Querencia ‘is a place from which one’s strength is drawn and the place where you are your most authentic self’ via definition, but basically, the word for me is more than just, say, a physical place, it can be a place within somebody else, an emotional place. So, yeah, the whole album is, first, exploring the theme of figuring out who you are and second, why you are, and then acting on it and doing what you genuinely love and fighting to live the most genuine life you can.

Pencil:

Tell us about the songwriting process in the band? Melody or lyrics first? Or does it depend? Who does most of the writing?

JT:

Well, for this record, ‘About time’ and ‘White Collar Kings’, Alex wrote the chords for them, for most of the tracks otherwise on this record I’ve written the melodies and the lyrics because essentially a lot of the tracks on this record I wrote before we got the band together. The band got together and brought the songs to where they are now, I mean, the songs have changed so much since we started working together, everything grows and changes. I kind of brought them to the band as acoustic songwriter tracks, and we kind of, together, pulled them apart, rearranged them and completely changed the way they sound.

Of course, when we stepped into the studio with Raiven Hunter – Popsicle Studios, we did a lot of writing in the studio in terms of parts. Raiven had a huge influence in terms of the record, and what’s crazy is we’ve been working on this record for about a year. The influences that we’ve picked up along the way have ended up on the record too, so I feel like the songs on this record are an amalgamation of basically a year’s growth with BRYNN. As humans as well as musicians…

Pencil:

UFO’s? Yes or no? Are we the only life forms in the universe?

JT:

Ah bro we’re not the only life forms in the universe, there’s definitely other shit out there….

Pencil:

So, tell me more?

JT:

I feel like whatever there is out there…that’s rad…whether there’s UFO’s or space frogs and shit, that’s cool with me hahaha!

Pencil:

Hahahahahaha!

JT:

I feel like whatever’s out there, as long as they’re happy bro…just don’t come on our planet and blow shit up like one of those Michael Bay movies…robots and aliens blowing everything up…they’re probably rad bro, they’ll probably come here in like ten years’ time and be like….

Pencil:

Well, they haven’t done anything to us yet so…keen on seeing a frog in a spaceship at some point in my life I won’t lie…

JT:

Yeah man, a proper David Bowie space frogman!

Pencil:

Any regular inspirations you look to when it comes to writing the lyrics? Any authors or poets you fancy? Do you write about current life, future life, feelings, emotions? Where do your inspirations come from?

JT:

To me, particularly on this record, I don’t tend to write a lot about love, or personal experiences that I’ve had, especially with BRYNN. I feel like a lot of the songs are about things that I feel, or things that we collectively feel, as people, as artists and just generally.

‘White Collar Kings’ is about a generation of youth being raised by iPods and TV screens and about accepting, the fact that, you know, we’re part of an algorithm and trying to deal with that

Pencil:

For sure man, wow. That’s a fucking cool thought…

JT:

Yeah and trying to fight against that. There’s also a track called ‘Who you are’ which I sort of wrote about a mate of mine in NZ who is constantly on the same cycle of booze and never growing anymore. I’m kind of saying that’s not who you are, you’re a better person than that. A lot of the stuff is commentary and about other people, I care about.

It all goes back to the same theme, of hoping we can all find our most authentic selves.

I feel like all the tracks, lyrically, are a little bit different in terms of writing style, some of them are a bit simpler, some of them are very lyrically driven…

I mean, my favourite authors…absolutely in love with James Joyce, a poet in Australia called Michael Leunig, who is the sweetest, most profound, he’s like, he’s sweet in a, I wouldn’t say in a Forrest Gumpy kinda of way but…

Pencil:

Hahahahahaha

JT:

It’s innocently beautiful, you know? Then the Maori filmmaker and director, Taika Watiti, I like his writing in terms of screenplay, yeah that’s what I really love reading.

Pencil:

Any national tours lined up for the album launch?

JT:

Yeah, dude, we’re doing the tour prior to the album launch, so our tour is starting with opening with Incubus. We have a show in Stellenbosch at Balboa Balcony Bar on March 1st, then we’re going to JHB the next day and doing an interview in the morning and then playing that night, at Thirst @ 28 degrees (March 2nd). Thereafter, we’re playing at Spark festival in Nelspruit, which is a new festival and going to be awesome.

March 4th, we’re playing with Bye Beneco at Railways in Centurion, then the following Friday at Mercury (March 9th), which is our album launch, our official album launch.

The album becomes available online on March 14th.

Pencil:

So, on that note, run me through the thoughts that came into your head when you got the phone call saying, BRYNN is opening for Incubus?

JT:

Duuude, I got a phone call from a good friend of mine, Lea, she called me and said, “Have you got the phone call yet?” I said no, and I didn’t know what she was talking about, so she said, “Well you’re going to get a really great phone call,” well she said, “You’re going to get a phone call soon”, and I got a little fright because I didn’t know what she was talking about. I asked her to please tell me, but she refused and hung up.

She called back and said she’s allowed to tell me a little bit, and it could be something like Kirstenbosch or something like that and hung up again. Which I thought was pretty darn rad! So, I messaged my booking agent – That Other Booking Company and asked them what was going on and my agent was like, “No one should be telling you anything because it’s a surprise and I’m keeping it for you!”

Then Lea called back and said I’m allowed to tell you now and said, “It starts with an I. N. C. U. B. U. S”

Pencil:

No friggen way, I can’t even imagine…

JT:

Yeah, she said, “You’re opening for Incubus at Green Point Park”. Dude, I was sitting in some café, somewhere, having lunch, and the salty tears were pouring onto my food bro, I couldn’t breathe the whole day…

Pencil:

You’re obviously a fan?

JT:

Bro, I haven’t…like…listened to a lot of their music…the period in my life when a lot of my friends listened to Incubus, I was more into stuff like Damien Rice. However, Incubus is way more relevant to me now, at this point in my life. The main thing with Incubus for me right now, it’s like Pearl Jam, those kinds of bands have shaped the way we play music today. They shaped everything, and I think none of us would be playing the way we play today if it weren’t for them. So, for them to validate us in this way, listen to our music and select us to perform with them, its huge for us, I mean, shit, we’re on the right track and it’s basically the best thing ever.

Pencil:

3 words to describe yourself?

JT:

I can give you two.

Here now.

Got this tattoo (shows me his arm with the words). I was working at a place in NZ and being treated very badly, feeling very lost and it was winter and dark and miserable, and I wasn’t writing any music. Every day I’d get on the bus and ride to work and I was so miserable, I never took the time to look up and see what I was driving past on that bus every single day.

One day, the sun was coming out and there was a harbour and all this beautiful blue water and this island with the beautiful city in the background, and I thought, for how long have I been driving on this route and I’ve never taken the time to look up and appreciate how beautiful the route is and how beautiful the city is?

I wanted to put a permanent reminder on myself to just be here now and appreciate what you’re looking at and experiencing. Then I went to Australia to see my friend Ty, and he’s got one too.

Pencil:

One word for each of your band mates?

JT:

Eddie – Angel

Alex – Bear (a teddy bear)

Dave – Wolf (he’s protective and loyal and he’s a powerhouse man)

Hezron – Panther! Hezzie is a hustler

Pencil:

Perfect day for Jules Terea?

JT:

A perfect day would be waking up at like 6 am, which I never do, and then going to a beach, a bit of mist and shit…

Pencil:

Moody morning?

JT:

Yeah…and then watch the sunrise through the mist kind of thing. Then from there, my favourite is something like what we just did, getting our album cover printed, getting it in my hands, basically harvesting the goodwill, then seeing some mates, then prepping for a gig. Then, that night, gig of our lives. Food-wise, I’m completely obsessed with Lebanese food now man…

Pencil:

Oh wow, chickpeas and the like?

JT:

Dude, there’s a place called Man’oushe in Stellenbosch, have lunch there with the boys and the whole crew, family, the works, probably spend most of the day there. There’s that one street where Balboa is, Man’oushe is there (Andringa Street – Stellenbosch), countryside vibes man. A nice wine estate with a bunch of buddies. Then hit the show.

Pencil:

If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

JT:

Dude, I’d probably be a fox bro…

Pencil:

Yeah man, that’s sick, I feel like foxes have a bad rap for being sly and devious and shit, but I reckon they’re pretty resourceful and sweet animals.

JT:

Exactly, they’re resourceful and lovely. But I wouldn’t just be a normal fox, I’d be that fox from that Wes Anderson film, an animated fox with a suit…

Pencil:

Hahaha, a nine-tail fox perhaps?

JT:

Yeah man, standing on two legs, with a good suit, like a tweed suit, I’d be that fox.

Pencil:

Almost Fantastic Mr Fox?

JT:

Yeah man, my ideal animal would be Fantastic Mr Fox! Yes!

Pencil:

Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?

JT:

Yoh that’s difficult. I feel like every musician has to be a bit of both. I feel like my entire band is full of hunters, every day we’re hunting and we’re fighting for our music, fighting for our careers, we work hard man, every day. But at the same time, every member of the band knows what is really important, namely family and friends, and our music is what we really love to do, and we fight very hard for it. Some of our happiest memories are after shows and at braai’s and shit, as a family…so I think we’re a bit of both.

Pencil:

Which bands do you look up to and which inspire you? I know you dig a little Gary Clark Jnr?

JT:

At the moment Anderson.Paak, Matt Corby, Foals, another band that has blown my mind is Half Moon Run, Dave actually introduced me to them and Alex is in love with them too, and our friends Kosi and Teagan and Jamie. My two all-time favourite musicians are Jeff Buckley and Ani diFranco, so no matter what, they always inspire.

Pencil:

You’re a new addition to the crayon box, what colour would you be and why?

JT:

I’d be like a maroon red. Like a Merlot hahaha.

Pencil:

It’s tough to describe and I know artists hate it, am I correct in saying you’re a rock ‘n soul band? Maybe progressive folk? Reason being obviously your musical roots but also the violin influence. I’ve had a lot of people say to me it adds an ethereal sound to BRYNN.

JT:

Yeah definitely man, that’s the thing. That’s what has made the sound so unique., It’s not just rock, it’s not just folk, it’s not just soul, Hezron’s influence has come from all over, as well as his style of playing. He’s taken inspiration from his journey across the UK and Europe and his time in Morocco and India. My influences are mostly very soulful musicians and my primary influences are people with tons and tons and tons of passion. I’m also a massive Howling Wolf fan, obviously, Damien Rice and Jeff Buckley and those guys inspire me a lot. Dave is very rock inspired but like proper soulful, emotive rock. Alex has a very eclectic music taste, but a lot of the time Alex is into very soulful and tempered music. There’s a new band called Royal Blood, also a fantastic act that he’s big into.  So, I think the way we’ve been describing it now is emotive soul rock.

Pencil:

You’re given an elephant. You can’t give it away or sell it, what do you do with it?

JT:

Wow. My sister loves elephants. Dude, I would take a month, if I had the cash. Let’s pretend I’ve got millions of rand, I’d buy a massive plot of land because we’ll need to get more elephants or mine will be lonely….

Pencil:

This is the angle I was hoping you’d take, showing us your sensitive side hahaha

JT:

Haha! Yeah man, if the poor elephant is on its own it’ll be kak bro. Imagine. We can’t put it in a kitchen and throw bread in there every so often, so yeah, go buy some land somewhere rad, and if it’s a lady elephant, buy a nice muscular hunky man-elephant, or vice versa, and just leave them together in a massive plot of land. Start an elephant farm, and when it gets a bit much, open the gates and set them free. Then they can go and do what they want man. Like Free Willy! Hahahaha.

Pencil: 

Thanks for this brilliant interview… We’ll see you at I.N.C.U.B.U.S


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