“It all started at 17
Just trying to fit in the scene
All my friends are gone
I’m still trying to be someone”
I’ve always thought that being in a band must be addictive. Once the bug bites, it seems impossible for musicians to stop getting together to try and make some magic together. Only a handful of my friends have ever really laid down their instruments for good. Once someone has had a taste of band life, most keep forming bands as a matter of necessity. Weed Dealer seems to be the latest South African band formed out of creative necessity by a unique blend of musicians who just can’t help but be in a band.
Weed Dealer is essentially a South African super group, with some of the tightest musicians this side of the equator teaming up to bring you all of that feel-good nostalgia with an uncomfortable dose of reality. The band is made up of Martin Barrios (City Bowl Mizers, Meth Breath, Young Hands), Richard Staub (Conqueror, The Dead Will Tell), Gianluca Tadiello (Satanic Dagga Orgy, The Slashdogs, Laurie Levine, Wandile Mbambeni), Benjamin Van Wyk (The Dead Will Tell, Wolfgang Marrow), & Etienne Hachler (Wrestlerish).
Reading all of those band names probably has you wondering what sound could possibly come out of that combination of people. Well, they’ve openly and blatantly gone for a nostalgic alternative rock & pop-punk sound, and they do it really fucking well. It’s upbeat feel-good vibes that sounds like it’s influenced by equal parts Weezer and Fall Out Boy. Someone even mentioned Sum 41 when I played the single “Common Taste” for them, which is fair, although Weed Dealer definitely offers much more depth, especially lyrically.
To be honest, lyrically the EP is a complete fucking bummer and a morose take on modern life. But hey, it’s catchy. It’s clear Martin Barrios has been going through some shit, offering the listener no redemption from depression in the 4 tracks despite sounding like he’s having the best time. The juxtaposition is a bit unnerving, but I think that might be the point. Putting on a happy face to the world when deep down you’re struggling to make sense of everything. While the sound of the band invokes youthful optimism, the lyrics are full of mid-life cynicism. It’s an honest look at 30-something life, and it’s probably an accurate reflection of the times as there’s no glimmer of hope given to us.
There’s deliberate irony in the music video for “Common Taste”, and I guess in the sound of the band itself. Whilst Martin sings “You better pick somebody to emulate”, visions of music videos from the past appear before you and we’re taken back to the days of MK89, Fokofpolisiekar, Jack Parrow, Dune Rats, and a handful of other bands get referenced in this trip down memory lane. They’re completely aware that they’re revisiting the past and emulating the artists that they grew up with. Listening to ‘The Chain’ for the first time doesn’t sound like listening to it for the first time because it fits so neatly into that early 00s pop-punk sound. There’s nostalgic comfort to ‘The Chain’ because it sounds familiar, but if you listen to the lyrics closely, modern discomfort awaits.