Mixing elements of folk, Zulu jive, Celtic reels, and driving rock Urban Creep burst out of Durban in the ’90s with a sense of vitality, energy, and fearlessness that infected audiences countrywide with their irresistible music … Recently remastered with bonus live tracks “The Best Of Urban Creep” gathers together the band’s choicest tunes including, “Tightroper”, “Fly”, “Universe Unwound” and their signature jig “Sea Level”.
Chris Letcher: Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards & Accordion
Brendan Jury: Vocals, Viola & Keyboards
Didier Noblia: Electric Bass
Ross Campbell: Drums & Percussion
A Universe (Unwound)
I distinctly remember watching Urban Creep playing at the legendary Jam & Sons in Durban around July 1994 and thinking that Brendan and Chris were like polar opposites brought together in some amazing karmic showdown. It had something to do with Chris’ awkward introspection and Brendan’s audacious theatrics, and it was those very strengths that they relied on in each other, and that got us through most of that decade, both inspiring and challenging my perceptions of music.
What I can’t remember, is that point when my friend and bassist Didier Noblia and I decided that we absolutely had to be a part of this band. We were the then rhythm section for Nibs van der Spuy’s ‘Landscape Prayers’, and our citing something along the lines of ‘destiny’ to justify our pending departure was inexcusable, devastating, true, and left me guilt-laden for life. Chris and Brendan had been thankfully thinking similar thoughts, and once we’d realized the collective potential through a couple of really awesome rehearsals on the sly, had an equally miserable time down-sizing Ian and Simon.
We were really thrown in at the deep end that September with production already started on ‘Sea Level’, rehearsals were a full-time slog followed by a self-imposed tour schedule (taking in a support slot for Midnight Oil that October) that required every ounce of unwavering self-belief. From Kokstad to Kimberley, Nelspruit to Newcastle, we should have written a guide to road conditions, complete with how and when to tackle Transkei, heartburn, flu, tonsillitis, Knysna, junk food (the best petrol stations list), contraception (before) spirituality, table tennis, packing an entire rig into and onto a Sierra station wagon, overloading horse trailers and how to plan for the resultant insurance claims, Mossel Bay, no lights, no stage, no plug points, old goths, and new hippies.
It was the time when “rainbow” was being tagged to anything and everything in our dear country, festivals were springing up left, right, and center and we were riding the wave, hoping to break through South Africa’s cultural isolation into some global blue beyond. The music certainly had this vitality to it and was a real product of those days. Didier’s love of African bass rhythms had brought him to South Africa where he stuck out like an over-accomplished sore thumb (just listen to ‘Sea Level’s’ bass line!). Brendan and Chris’ actual tuition, rich knowledge, and love of our country’s musical history really informed their individual songwriting styles and lyrical content giving depth to the music scarily absent in our current musical climate. It also led to their hooking up with the late James Phillips and Lloyd Ross of Shifty Records fame who became the group’s producer over the two Creep’s albums and various other related projects including the two fantastic ‘van der Want / Letcher’ albums.
Also at the heart of it all was the shorts and sandals of Gary Hersalman, Mladden, and Alex on the Tic Tic Bang! the team making our releases possible, Janike Strijdonk who managed to convince Belgians that we should be on one of their festivals and of course Kevin Winder who really stuck his neck out for us across the country more than once. On top of this was the ridiculous sense of humor that bordered on serious cabin fever, a really brilliant work ethic, and a huge dream always driving us like we were on some quest for the holy grail. Underneath, an inability to deal with emotional feelings raging over the very essence of who we were and where we wanted to take the music.
Two albums, over 300 gigs and 100 000 km of road, at least one New Year’s Eve in drag, lunch with Ani Difranco, the first of many Oppikoppi festivals, warm Wesley St. floors and the old Ruby, The Zaps in full flight, Kokstad the night SA won the rugby World Cup, Knysna ghosts and the Tin Roof Blues, Volka’s banana bread back in the kitchen of Jam & Sons, the opening of the BAT center in Durbs, Wings Beat Bar, the old Tandoor in Rocky Street and those fantastic bacon and avo ciabattas at that spot just up the road, extreme table tennis at Lloyds, pool in Melville, Isabella Rossellini on Llandudno beach, that weird caravan park in the middle of the mine dumps in Kimberley, many a Grahamstown smoothie, 2 days in Paris and in two and half years, coupled with some serious burn-out, I quit. My plan to force change within the band by doing so… backfired.
The Creeps continued on sporadically for about a year with Gaston Goliath on drums and later Sean Ou Tim on bass once Didier had decided a life of healing and therapy in Seattle was in order. From there, Chris started performing and recording with Matthew van der Want and is currently doing his Ph.D. in composition over in London; Brendan continued work he’d started during the Creeps recordings with Warrick Sony on Transky, recorded a great album on Melt 2000 as Ohm and is now playing with Arno Carsten’s New Porn and running his own studio; Gaston went over to the UK, Sean has worked with many projects including the current Max Normal, I joined Fetish and Benguela and I hear Didier picked up his bass the other day and started fiddling…
Urban Creep was the real deal for me. All consuming. The highs were really high, the lows really low and through all of it we were there for the music.
Ross Campbell, Cape Town, 2004