From the very start, the new music group DECA has conquered hears of fans nationwide with their striking instrumental arrangements. Their fresh, modern and charming interpretation of crowd favourites is the key ingredient behind their instant success and resonates with audiences of all ages. Guitarist Douw Steyn spoke to me about their debut album Black Sails.
Promotional video for their debut album 'Black Sails'.
Please tell me a little about the group and the meaning behind the name DECA?
Douw: I grew up in a very musical home. My mother, Christa Steyn, was a well known pianist and composer in the Afrikaans music industry and Herman's father was an opera singer. So our love for music started from an early age. My mother was a pianist for vocalist Jannie du Toit who had a record lable called JNS Musiek, who I started working for as well. Herman later joined the company and that is how we met. About five years ago Herman started a band called Shiraz where I was the guitarist. Last year we decided it is easier just the two of us since getting everyone together can be quite difficult. We thought DECA would be a nice name because in Greek deca means ten. There are four strings on the violin and six strings on the guitar which makes ten, easy maths for a musician.
How long ago did you start thinking about putting out an album?
Douw: About a year ago we started looking at repertoire. Herman and I both like to busk, so we would go to malls or festivals or markets and test the material on the public and see what their response is. The songs that got the best response we then chose for the album. We started Black Sails in August last year and finished around November. We went into production in December and the album was released early this year.
“...Being a debut group, you have to have a link between original music and covers to draw the listener who doesn't know your songs...” - Douw Steyn, DECA
Even though you are from the Afrikaans community the album is not language-bound. What has the response been?
Douw: Absolutely, it's not language bound so we do a lot of corporate functions and weddings. The response has been awesome. As a debut instrumental duo, as a team it's been going quite well.
You have quite a few own compositions on the album as well as a number of covers, can you tell me a little about that?
Douw: Herman and I wrote the four songs that are own compositions. Being a debut group, you have to have a link between original music and covers to draw the listener who doesn't know your songs. The track Black Sails obviously gives you the idea of a piraty feel while Picnic is a type of song that we felt you can put on when you're having a picnic with your girlfriend next to a river. It was actually called Picnic by the river but we thought that might be too long so we just called it Picnic.
I read somewhere that Picnic is actually your favourite song, why is that?
Douw: Herman and I are really into and really love film music, so that song is leading towards that vibe.
Moving away from the album for a moment, tell me about working with mix engineer Chris Lord Alge?
Douw: That was one of the best experiences of my life. Most people perhaps won't know Chris Lord Alge but he has mixed albums such as American Idiot by Green Day, Joe Cocker, Madonna and Lady Antebellum. And that is just to name a few. He is a multi Grammy award-winning mixer and producer and is just an unbelievable guy. I had the opportunity to go to a ten day workshop in France, in a world class studio, to just be there and play around in terms of mixing.
How did that opportunity come about?
Douw: I am always curious about mixing and started following a youtube channel online on which they talk about mixing and producing music. They advertised that these guys will be doing a seminar and I applied. I had to send in my best mixes and they said it's good, I can come.
So it wasn't first come first serve, you had to go through a selection process?
Douw: Absolutely, you need to be on a certain level to understand what they can teach you.