Before Go Barefoot was ever formed or even thought of, guitarists Mike Dawson and Jonothan Smith started performing as an improvisational guitar duo at various restaurants around Johannesburg (2011). They would become the resident band every Sunday at 44 Stanley in Aucklund Park, Johannesburg in 2012. At this point, they asked keyboardist Noah Bamberger if he would join them.
This is where Go Barefoot’s sound was initially developed. The trio played instrumental, melodious pieces in a jazz style as they would spin solos on different sections and go back to a verse or chorus with melodies and riffs. The music was a mixture of improvisation and planned sections and the trio combined styles of jazz, pop, and instrumental folk that also resembled modern interpretations of certain traditional South African music. In the winter of 2013, the trio decided to move away from restaurant and corporate gigs. They wanted to form an active live band to perform independently.
Close friends Saul Nossel and Clive Vickers came in on drums and bass, turning the trio into a five-piece outfit of two guitarists, bass, keys and drums. The five-piece temporarily became a four-piece when keyboardist Noah went travelling for 6 months in Europe. During this time the four members would dive into Go Barefoot’s first few shows in Johannesburg under the name Rob Stewart. After a couple of consecutive nights and Black Labels, the name “Go Barefoot” was decided on. The name comes from the band’s desire to make genuine and down to earth music.
January (2014), saw Go Barefoot continue to perform throughout Johannesburg up until March, where the band went to Openroom Studios in Greenside to record four tracks, with engineer Stefan du Randt and producer Darryl Torr. “I Won’t Back Down”, “Stand Up Saul”, “Climb Through The Window” and “Johannesburg” were recorded during this time. Jonathan Smith wrote “I
Won’t Back Down” and “Stand up Saul”, and Michael Dawson wrote “Johannesburg” and “Climb Through The Window”. These songs showed Go Barefoot move from a more instrumental open-ended style to an indie-afro-rock sound that featured lyrics and vocals sung by the two guitarists.
These initial songs that were written in the first year of forming Go Barefoot displayed all the members affinities and different styles culminate into their young sound. Mike showed an affinity for traditional and modern African styles of music interpreted through guitar and he also looks to jazz from South Africa and around the world for inspiration. Jonny was brought listening to blues and classics and this has great influence on his guitar playing, he shows interest in rock and indie artists and so does Clive, who also takes strong influence from reggae and South African indie rock. Noah studied jazz and classical piano, and his affinity for electronic music brings in interesting elements of electronic music into the band. And Saul’s style comes from a mixture of interests in progressive rock, jazz and indie all fused and highlighted in certain elements of his playing. Their influences all intersect and they are inspired by any music that may inspire them as a band.
The first few songs of Go Barefoot were songs written by members alone that were re-interpreted by the band as a whole. It was after this studio session that Go Barefoot would start writing more collectively and this was the beginning of a path they still travel to find their musical voice.
At the end of 2014 Go Barefoot recorded two new and recently composed tracks at High Seas Studios in Rosebank with Jacque du Plessis and Adrian Erasmus. These two tracks were titled “Grazing” and “You Don’t Have To Go”. In 2015 Go Barefoot released their debut six track EP, “Routes” featuring the six tracks previously mentioned. Go
Barefoot started gaining more traction in Johannesburg and South Africa, playing their first shows around the country in 2015. That same year, guitarist Michael Dawson moved to Cape Town to finish his Masters at UCT and so the band continued as a four piece and would continue writing, rehearsing and performing with Mike when it was possible. 2017 sees his return to Johannesburg and Go Barefoot becoming a permanent five-piece. 2015 also saw Go Barefoot’s live show debut at festivals around South Africa. Go Barefoot continued writing and performing as a four-piece and five-piece and so this brought in the result of having different versions of songs and writing styles that incorporated improvisational elements.
For Go Barefoot it felt like every new song sounded different to the previous, while their set also displays a mixture of lyrical and instrumental material. In the beginning of 2016 Go Barefoot went into High Seas Studio to record their single, “Drive” that was released in March 2016. Go Barefoot began touring the country extensively soon after this release and then headed into studio again in June to record two more tracks before touring more in July and August. The tracks are going to be released in the summer of 2016/2017 as the first part of an album they plan to continue producing through the summer and 2017. It feels as if exciting times full of hard work lie ahead for Go Barefoot. We work hard to support South African artistry and culture and so we show our support to local bands, creative designers and thinkers. We wish to work together to build an incredible environment that all artists can strive in.