THE PARLOTONES.…a biography
Kahn Morbee (Vocals/Guitar) – Neil Pauw (Drums) –
Glen Hodgson (Bass/Keys/Backing Vocals) – Paul Hodgson (Lead Guitar)
Put simply, The Parlotones are South Africa’s biggest selling rock act ever with 600,000+ albums sales worldwide. All the more impressive when you consider this has been achieved via independent record labels in just a few key markets. Double Platinum, Platinum and Gold Records saturate the band’s discography. Their live story is even more humbling having played live to over 2 million people in their career to date. Add to that the 1 Billion people that watched the band on TV as they opened the 2010 soccer World Cup, and you get a sense of this band’s success so far.
When The Parlotones first met in 1998 in Johannesburg, little did they know that they would go on to write one of the greatest Rock ‘n Roll stories South Africa had ever seen. Their hard working, humble attitude, dedication and commitment to their music has seen them enjoy a career that has spanned 20 years, achieved multi platinum selling status and accumulated numerous awards.
In 2003, The Parlotones self-released their first album, the raw Indie tinged ‘Episoda’, an album which quickly compared their sound to bands like The Smiths and Coldplay. This Indie sound was the first of its kind in South Africa and quickly labeled The Parlotones as one of the freshest sounding bands on the scene, paving the way for their sophomore (and breakthrough album), which would cement their success and catapult them to the stars they are today.
‘RadioControlledRobot’ was released under the Sovereign Entertainment label in 2005 and spawned the hits ‘Here Comes The Man’, ‘Colourful,’ ‘Dragonflies & Astronauts’, ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Overexposed’. The music video for ‘Overexposed’ won 2 Awards for Best Video and Best Animation at the 2009 MK (TV) Awards.
‘RadioControlledRobot’ showcased The Parlotones as top songwriters in their game and was an upbeat, yet eerie, post-apocalyptic album about the state of a slave race. The album won the 2006 SAMA (South African Music Award) for ‘Best Rock Album’ and spawned numerous Top 40 hits, making it one of the most important albums of their career; shifting them from indie status to full blown, fan-adored stars. In the years following this release, the band toured addictively and won South Africa and the world over, tiny step by tiny step. They walked away with well-deserved awards for ‘Best Band’ at the You Magazine Awards and FHM Readers’ Choice Awards, in 2007.
The single ‘Beautiful’ was used in a FujiFilmTV ad in Ireland, which exposed the band to their first International audience and secured them a worldwide licensing deal with the International division of Universal Music, covering the territories of Ireland, the UK, France, Japan, Germany and Holland. A 12-track version of the album was released internationally in 2007, making it the first international album released by the band. ‘RadioControlledRobot’ is now an incredible 2 x Platinum.
The Parlotones are consistently known for their groundbreaking attitude and genre crunching attention given to their music videos, making them leaders in visual audio expression and winning them a multitude of awards. Their first major music video for ‘Dragonflies & Astronauts’ was created over 9 months and was entirely animated. This video went on to win an award for ‘Best Music Video’ at the MK Awards 2007 and proved that The Parlotones were adamant to push boundaries in all aspects of their art.
Constantly pushing the envelope of their artistry and setting the stage for being named one of the hardest working bands in the industry, The Parlotones entered the studio for their third album ‘A World Next Door To Yours’, which was released in 2007. The first South African single release was ‘A Giant Mistake’ which reached #1. In the UK the song “Dragonflies & Astronauts” became their debut single.
‘A World Next Door To Yours’, an album which is often considered the band’s “Magnum Opus”, was certified Gold in South Africa 3 months after its release, and platinum 3 months later. The album remained one of South Africa’s biggest selling albums for more than a year, and became the best selling album of the decade in South Africa, achieving multi-platinum status along the way. It has now sold more copies in South Africa than Oasis, Coldplay and The Killers combined.
The endearing music video for ‘I’ll Be There’ which involved a forlorn tinfoil knight looking for love, won 3 awards at the MK Music Awards 2009 for Best Video, Best Animation and Best Serenade and set the bar for music video animation. The video also won the ‘Loerie Kraft Award’, marking the first time a music video had won a Loerie. The song was also nominated at the South African Music Awards for ‘Record Of The Year’.
The band embarked on a 2 month, 3 continent International ‘A World Next Door To Yours’ tour to support the album release, which began in North America and continued across the Atlantic to the UK, including a memorable show with Starsailor. The unrivalled success of this album was beyond expectation and testament to the rock giants The Parlotones had become.
After relentless years of touring, performance and writing and with no signs of slowing down, The Parlotones released their fourth studio album ‘Stardust Galaxies’ in 2009. The album spawned the hits ‘Life Design’, ‘Push Me To The Floor’ and ‘We Call This Dancing’. It reached Gold Status in its first week of release and went Double Platinum shortly after. The Music Video for ‘Push Me To The Floor’ won MK Award for Best Music Video 2010. It also won big at the South African Music Awards 2010, including ‘Best Rock Album’ and ‘Best Music Video’ for ‘Push Me To The Floor’.
Their 2009/2010 ‘Stardust Galaxies’ world tour was the band’s biggest to date and culminated in sell-out headline arena shows at the 20,000 capacity Coca Cola Dome in Johannesburg and the Grand West Arena in Cape Town. This was a feat never before achieved by a South African rock band and it set the stage in 2010 for the band to perform to an International live broadcast audience of over a billion at the Kick-off Celebration Concert for the FIFA World Cup.
Keeping themselves busy with a non stop-touring itinerary, the band have toured internationally since 2007, spending months on the road building up solid fan bases in the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and North America. They have also toured in South America, Canada, Australia, Japan, Russia and have shared the stage with Coldplay, Starsailor, Snow Patrol, Live, Ash, Blue October, Violent Femmes, Imagine Dragons & many more. Their live concert circuit has included festivals like T in the Park, V Fest, St Gallen Switzerland, SXSW, Deluna Fest, Canadian Music Week, Midem and more.
Always willing to expand their horizons and unleash their creativity, The Parlotones expressed their love of wine by collaborating with a local South African vineyard and producing three different ‘Parlotones’ wines, blended and created by the band during 2009 and 2010. These wines were named after some of their most popular songs: ‘Giant Mistake’, ‘Push Me to the Floor’ and ‘We Call This Dancing’.
The Parlotones have always aspired not only to have fun making music, but also to give back to their community. Over the years, they have raised funds and awareness for a variety of social and environmental organizations, lending their high profile to initiatives such as Live Earth, Earth Hour, The South African Broadcasting Corporation’s Carbon Free campaign, Nelson Mandela’s 46664, and Live Earth’s Run for Water, among others. They are also ambassadors for the anti-poaching organization Rhino Force, United Against Malaria, and several other non-profits that combat problems that acutely affect South Africa. In March 2012, they joined with Africa Unites for a climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise global awareness about ending violence against women and girls in Africa.
“People in the public eye have the ability to spread a message very quickly and effectively,” Morbee says. “So we try to do so when it concerns issues we feel strongly about. South Africa is our home and home to our families and our friends. We certainly want to make sure they have a bright future. If we can get involved and encourage people to get involved, it can only have positive effects.”
Just before the release of the band’s 5th album ‘Journey Through the Shadows’ in 2012, the band embarked on a US club tour and were met with media fanfare and critical acclaim. The Boston Herald predicted, “The Parlotones could become huge here. Killers huge, Muse huge, Coldplay huge.” Filter magazine reckoned that “their earnestness, work ethic, and charm may be their biggest weapons.”
Not only praised for their songwriting and melodies, The Parlotones are adored for their expressive live performances, their iconic face make up and their willingness to interact and touch their audiences. In 2012 the band performed a rock opera called ‘Dragonflies and Astronauts’ which was broadcast live around the world in 3D via DIRECT TV, in 2D live on Facebook and broadcast live at various theatres around South Africa.
In 2013, The Parlotones released their 6th album ‘Stand Like Giants’ on Virgin Atlantic flight VS602 from Johannesburg to London. Long standing friends of Sir Richard Branson, this was the world’s first ‘on board’ album launch. The album included the critically acclaimed single ‘Sleepwalker’ featuring Hip Hop star Khuli Chana. The song climbed the charts and was named as one of the biggest South African collaborations in music history. The band went on to receive multiple nominations at the 2014 MTV Africa Awards and South African Music Awards for ‘Best Alternative Act’, ‘Duo or Group of the Year’ and ‘Best Rock Album’.
In 2014, after 12 successful years alongside record/management label Sovereign Entertainment, The Parlotones and Sovereign Entertainment parted ways and the band took over their own reins. The following year, The Parlotones released the album ‘Antiques and Artefacts’ and this was soon followed by the album ‘Trinkets, Relics & Heirlooms’, a collection of B-sides from the ‘Antiques & Artefacts’ sessions. This album also includes solo work from band members Kahn and Glen.
In 2016, the band embarked upon a selection of select theatre shows, backed by a chamber ensemble. ‘The Parlotones Orchestrated’ included contemporary yet classical versions of their extensive discography, whilst still treating fans to everything they have grown to love about The Parlotones. The fruits of these shows have just been released on DVD and audio album, entitled ‘Orchestrated (Live)’.
More recently, lead singer Kahn Morbee has become a coach on South Africa’s version of ‘The Voice’, allowing a new generation of music hopefuls to benefit from his incredible journey and vast experience.
2018 – their 20th anniversary year – will see a brand new studio album released on an international scale not previously seen. The Parlotones may have been together for a lifetime, but their journey has only just begun….