By MICHAEL HIXON
Special to Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Four friends from Johannesburg, South Africa formed The Parlotones nearly 15 years ago.
With lead singer Kahn Morbee, drummer Neil Pauw and brothers Paul Hodgson (guitar, keyboard) and Glenn Hodgson (bass, piano), the quartet quickly vaulted to superstardom in their home country with multi-platinum albums and sharing the stage with bands like Coldplay. Yet for all of its success overseas, The Parlotones have yet to conquer the U.S.
Hoping to correct that, the band recently moved to California and has embarked on a cross- country tour that will end at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles on June 7.
The band released its first album, “Episoda,” in 2003, but it was the release of “radiocontrolledrobot” in 2005 that put them on the map. Their biggest selling album, “A World Next Door to Yours,” was released in two years later. The group recently released its latest EP, “Shake It Up.”
With their new home base in Los Angeles, they plan to record a new album after they finish the tour.
“The difference between America and most other countries is that most countries there’s a channel or medium that kind of springs across the country,” Morbee said. “American is not quit like that, it’s very isolated to regions so even if you’re being played on the radio stations, I don’t know, in San Diego, there’s no inference on other areas and vice versa. In South Africa, there’s a few stations that either dictates an entire state or a national station that sends music out to an entire country … so it means you have hit every town and treat it like its another country almost.”
The Parlotones have become the largest selling band in South Africa and have released 16 Top 40 hits in that country. All of that success stemmed from the friends who went to the same private grammar school and high school. That chemistry that formed early in their lives has kept them together all of these years.
“We’ve played with and we’ve toured with some amazing bands that break up because the chemistry isn’t right and we’re very fortunate that it is,” Morbee said.
Morbee said he grew up in a house “immersed in music.”
“Not everybody played an instrument, no one pursued that passion, but they were certainly passionate about music,” he said.
This U.S. tour brings them back to their roots, playing more intimate venues then they have been familiar with over the past decade. More than a billion people around the globe saw them perform at the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Celebration concert in 2010, and they opened for Coldplay when the British superstars traveled to Johannesburg and Cape Town in 2011.
“I think the day the size of the audience dictates the level of enjoyment then I think maybe we’ve lost the love of it,” Morbee said. “But that certainly hasn’t happened yet. We know we’re not always going to have the most comfortable environments or the luxuries we’re used to back home, but that’s just part of the adventure. But we’ve done it a million times before and in a strange way we feel more comfortable in the smaller environments because we’ve probably played thousands of those types of shows … you don’t have the luxury of the smoke and mirrors (of a large stadium show).”
The band is expected to try out some new songs on tour.
“We’re going to get a feel from the audience what they like,” Morbee said. “The more you play them, the more you know what you want to change or what you want to add or do differently,” Morbee said.
He says he and his band mates feel “more aware of the songwriting craft” as they have matured.
“That’s not to say we’ve reached a new level of expertise, I think … you’re always striving to get better and better and hopefully you write that perfect song,” he said.
For more information about the band at its upcoming tour, visit www.theparlotones.net.