“Don’t ask us where we’ve been, we’ve been here.” – The Muffinz

The critically acclaimed band overcame a few obstacles since their widely successful debut, “Have You Heard”, including the departure of a member, but they want us to know that they are still very much about the music.

By: Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
Photos: Courtesy of Just Music

The Muffinz’ debut in the music scene, marked the arrival of a power band. Their album “Have You Heard” propelled them to stardom and churned out hit after hit, including the famous “Soundcheck” and “Umsebenzi Wendoda”.

With a sonically eclectic sound, electrifying live performances and visually stimulating music videos, they instantly became trail blazers in the music scene.

The release of their second album “Do What You Love” – which was more socially conscious than their debut–failed to recapture the success of their debut but they still maintained their position as a popular live act both nationally and internationally.

“There was not a lot of marketing behind the second album, generally when things are not marketed; they seem to have dark energy behind them.

When people don’t hear it on radio they assume that it must not be as nice as the first one,” explains Sfiso Atomza, while juggling between doting over his daughter and the interview.

People don’t understand that there are many factors that can lead to a second album to not be as popular as the debut. – Atomza

As we sit at the Just Music recording studio, it’s hard not to notice that they are one member short. They reveal that they are dealing well with the departure of Karabo “Skabz” Moeketsi and that it’s a clean divorce.

Now a quartet, the band compromises Sifiso “Atomza” Buthelezi (Electric guitar/vocals), Mthabisi “Mthae” Sibanda (acoustic guitar/vocals), Gregory “Keke” Mabusela (drummer/vocals) and (Lead electric guitar/ vocals) Simphiwe (Simz” “Kulla).

The release of their infectious new single Where You Are – has already been met with praise by fans – showcases a more mature side of the band. Fans are already saying it reminds them of why the fell in-love with the band.

Blacklight: People are saying your new song “Where You Are” is a reminder of your earlier sound. Where do you think that comes from?
Mthae: I think, even on the second album the sound didn’t change much. I just think the message was too direct, whereas, on Have You Heard the message was lighter. I don’t think the sound has changed much, though.
Atomza: People don’t understand that there are many factors that can lead to a second album not being as popular as the debut.

Mthae once said that: “You can only become a breakout artist or a newcomer, once”, eventually the novelty of becoming a newcomer disappears with the second album.

There also expectations that are built in the people who loved the first album and they expect a certain sound.  When they don’t get that sound – it doesn’t necessarily mean the sound is bad or anything. With us it was more the marketing of the album that sort of gave it that dark aura.

We were going through a terrible time then, because the record label was shifting and that sort of messed with the plan. But, I believe the music is going to make sense to the people, especially when they get revealed to it, because Do What You Love talked about things that are happening, now.

Listen to the new single by The Muffinz: 

Blacklight: You say you went through some tough times, how did you manage to move forward, as a band?
Atomza:
For me, it’s an answer that I am realising now. I believe we must live in the moment – in the now – because we dwelled so much in the past and in the future and forgot about what we needed to do, at that moment. We got distracted by everything that was happening with the record label and also focused on who we were on the first album, instead of who we knew we should be. Sometimes it’s about doing what you need to do, as an artist, focusing on the now, what you need to do now. As artists, we tend to forget about this and focus too much on our greatness and live in the future.

Blacklight: You guys are now a quartet. How are you managing with the change?
Atomza:
I thought it was going to affect me more but then I was fine. It’s something we have always been going through, because Karabo was not there most of the time, in terms of performances (considering the fact that he didn’t play on Fridays and Saturdays), so we always had to try find someone to fill in for him. Not much has changed – it’s like a divorce, it’s not the end of the world but it’s more like things are just not working out. It’s a clean divorce though, it’s not too messy.
Keke: To put ourselves in our followers shoes, it’s like when you have your favourite soccer team and then all of sudden there is that player who is no longer there, you become sad. For them it’s not the same but we are here and the music is bigger than us.

Blacklight: When you went back in the studio, what did you want to capture this time around?
Mthae:
The new song is like three years old, it was just there and we thought let’s just pull it out.  We are musicians and we always want to grow and experiment. We try and do what we feel is right for us at the time and this song feels right at this moment. We are also tired of this guitar sound all the way and so sonically we wanted to try and go for something different.

(Far Left)Atomza, (Left center) Simz, (right center) Mthae (Far right) Keke. (Photo supplied)

Blacklight: What can we expect from this chapter, musically?
Keke:
It’s going to be a lot of love jams.
Simz: It just feels like we are in a love story, right now.
Atomza:
The majority of us, right now, are married or in serious relationships. So, love is a big part of our lives and also a big part of life. We made a conscious decision not to write love songs on our previous albums. The world already had a lot of love songs and it was expected because we are a boyband, we must have love songs. But, I believe there are so many types of love to sing about and it doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic, all the time.

Blacklight: What would you say is your intention as musicians, right now?
Simz:
There is a lot of intention that goes into making music – every sound, lyric and arrangement (even in the production process). However, I don’t think there is a general, overall intention – we do this because we like doing it. I think that’s what we know best, we know how to translate ourselves into the music.
Atomza: I think intention is a bit self-indulgent. With the second album, there were certain songs I wrote with the intention to enlighten people but who am I to think I can enlighten people. I think you must just do what you do without being too focused on changing or affecting someone’s life because if I do that then I am doing something to try and change your will.

Blacklight: What would you like your fans to know about The Muffinz, now?
Mthae:
Fans must know that there is no rush for an album, now. We are just going to keep the singles coming.
Atomza: You hear people say, “The Muffinz are back”, back from where? Don’t ask us where we’ve been, we’ve been been here.

And also, it’s okay to be fans of just the music and there is no need to critique The Muffinz for making music they don’t like. If you don’t like the music, you don’t have to say anything terrible about it because there are others who are listening to it. Maybe you are not with us now, but you will get there later.

Watch the video for The Muffinz’ hit single “Soundcheck”:

Blacklight: What are the plans for the year?
Atomza:
We are working on a tour and we want to cover the rest of the country because people still come to us after our shows to tell us they are seeing us for the first time.

For me that’s always the best thing – to think that we have been doing this for seven years and to still get the amazing responses.  Even if it’s one person, that always gives me a sense of hope. I believe if you change one person, you change a whole generation.
Mthae: What we want to do is to keep finding new people to listen to our music. It’s always nice to know that the music is appreciated and to be part of that moment when someone experiences your music for the first time is really special.

The Muffinz’ latest single, Where You Are, is available on iTunes and all DMS platforms.

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