Saturn Return: An interview with the girl-powered “punk and grunge rock-inspired” band rising in the Durban indie scene
Fronted by striking lead-vocalist and bassist Britt, Saturn Return is a three-woman, one man band hailing from KZN. They are on the rise, steadily building a fan following and a growing body of work, which includes a new album early next year, and a steady roster of gigs in the coming months. blunt mag caught up with the band to find out what they are all about, how they are patronised by chauvinist soundmen, what the hell their name means – and the upcoming Burn Reunion on December 2.
Interview by bluntEd. Photos courtesy Saturn Return.
Who are your band members? Do you have day jobs?
Britt is the bassist and lead vocalist. She has a graphic design studio and does tattooing on the side. Mandy is the lead guitarist and backing vocalist. She works as a marketing consultant predominantly in the vegan/vegetarian food industry. She’s our youngest, and purest member, but don’t let her fae-like appearance fool you. She’ll stab a paedo as soon as the next person. Carys is the Rhythm Guitarist and she owns an Airbnb Management Company. Lebb is drummer, backing vocalist and the only male in the band – known to us as the Fire King for his crazy energy. He works as a Clinical Psychologist in a prison at the moment.
How long have you all been playing?
Britt had never played an instrument or sang before Saturn Return. She learned bass as she went and they were originally looking for a vocalist, before realising that her pipes weren’t too shabby either. Officially Carys has been playing guitar since 2020, although she did know a few basic chords prior just from playing around on her old guitar. Lebb has been playing music informally since 2000 across a range of instruments including guitar, bass, piano, ukulele and even trumpet, but only started playing drums formally in 2018. Mandy has been in the scene playing bass since 2018, but only started playing electric guitar in Jan 2020. We’re all a bunch of newbies at our instruments, but we’re learning and growing together, and the process has been beautiful so far.
“The band manifested as a drunken conversation between two very bored and locked down besties. Originally created as a way to pass the time and maybe learn a new skill, they had no idea what a beauty it would turn into. They then met Mandy a year down the line (again over a few Zamaleks), and then Lebb through her, and bam! Magic.”
How did the band manifest?
The band manifested as a drunken conversation between two very bored and locked down besties. Originally created as a way to pass the time and maybe learn a new skill, they had no idea what a beauty it would turn into. They then met Mandy a year down the line (again over a few Zamaleks), and then Lebb through her, and bam! Magic.
What does the name mean or suggest?
The name comes from an astrological transit that happens when Saturn returns to its original position in the sky on the day you were born. This transit happens every 28-30 years and usually brings about drastic changes in your life, catapults you in a new direction, and even can help you round up some karma you have been dealing with in all the years prior and come into your true power. It’s a transformative transit, and that’s what we as a band are hoping to achieve and inspire in people. We also thought it was a fitting name since Carys and Britt were experiencing their Saturn Return and life definitely did change with them getting into music for the first time in their lives.
Do you have any particular message in your lyrics?
The first album was a sort of heartbreak and betrayal anthems, so the focus is very heavily there. But our next album will focus on a much wider range of worldly issues that we are all passionate about, including confronting the patriarchy.
What issues are you passionate about?
We are passionate about seeing a positive metanoia [ed’s note – means changing your mind or repenting, I had to look it up] in the world around us and contributing as best as we can to this. Collectively we are passionate about mental health for all as well as empowerment and upliftment of the oppressed or marginalised in society, especially on the basis of their gender or race. Carys and Lebb are big permaculture fundis and are usually found covered in mud and barefoot in the garden – bloody hippies!
How would you describe your sound?
A messy blend of 90s-inspired punk and grunge rock.
You’ve only got a few lo-fi tracks out there, are you planning on recording more soon?
Yes we have our first ever full-length album coming out next year! It’s called ‘Three of Swords’, and it will feature all the originals our friends and fans will recognise from our shows. It will also feature a cover of a well-known song from Adventure Time. We’re fans of the show, and the original song didn’t have a chorus to it. So we decided to write our own interpretation of it as a full-length song. The rest of the album is what we would describe as ‘angry girl punk’. A heartbreak album that serves as a catharsis for anyone going through a breakup, in a toxic relationship or going through the process of finding themselves again.
What are your long term ambitions as a band?
We are idealists and we dream big, so we have a lot of goals and dreams that we’re manifesting. We have already started working on our second album. We are planning to speak out more about injustices and inequality in our next album. We are feminists at heart, so our goal has always been to inspire women, and shed light on all prejudices in our society. We are also planning to tour the UK in the next few years, and we have our sights set on a few different countries if all goes well. While we always want to reach new horizons, we are still extremely passionate about being a part of the Durban scene. We are so thrilled to see the Durban alt scene make such a comeback over the last few years and we want to continue to help and support this growth.
What do you think the obstacles are for you or for bands in general in South Africa?
As a female-fronted band it is disappointing at majority of times to see condescension from a lot of men that we have to work with including patronising soundmen, other bands and event organisers. There are some great guys like David James and Damon Miles from Mouse, however, who break the stereotype. Another thing is that a lot of the time we find the scene doesn’t know its true worth or power in raising itself up. As a result, crowd attendance can be fluctuating. In saying that, those that consistently are at our gigs stand out as blessings that make it all worth it. In Durban we also find difficulty with a lack of well-paying venue options and exposure to international venues. The former is definitely growing in the 031 which we couldn’t be happier for!
It can be tough, but what are the good things about being a band in SA?
It is a truly amazing thing to find ourselves at the rebirth of the Durban scene over the last year and a bit! Things are happening and it is an honour to find ourselves surfing that beautiful wave! It is also so humbling to hear women especially coming up to us telling us that our band inspires them to follow their own passions or just find their own strength and power. And the 031 does indeed have some incredibly powerfully-minded women so it is a beautiful experience when we receive that kind of feedback. We know we are doing what we always wanted to.
“As a female-fronted band it is disappointing at majority of times to see condescension from a lot of men that we have to work with including patronising soundmen, other bands and event organisers. There are some great guys like David James and Damon Miles from Mouse, however, who break the stereotype.”
What do you think can be done to improve the indie music scene in SA right now?
The scene to believe in itself more and realise how incredible they are. Too often the same people who complain about the dwindling scene are the same ones who have not been to a gig recently. Those that are there consistently know how the fires are well ablaze right now and just need the fuel to be added continuously from the fans, event organisers and bands alike. Things like booking events in synergy with other events instead of competing for a still-growing scene or bands attending gigs when they are not playing are good examples of this. Just a humble opinion.
What other SA bands are you rating right now?
Yoh, this one might take a while as we have some incredible bands that we are privileged to play with so we will just go (sorry for those we omit): Sons of Shem, Truth Decayed, Scrubs, Wah Wah Baby, Poster Boy, Skinwalker, Mouse, Thorns of Ivory, the Tazers, Your Cynical Sanity, Ruff Majik, Dawgzelyf, Tenacious 3, Drumfish, 3s and 7s, RIP Kevin and so many more! We actually have our own playlists for SA bands among other SR playlists that will be available from our Saturn Return Discord channel – message us for more details if you want in.
What do you love the most about playing live gigs and touring?
Britt enjoys connecting people and creating a powerful energy in a community. Mandy states: “It’s always wonderful to meet new bands and musicians in different parts of the country. We are so blessed with such talent in South Africa. It’s also always so encouraging and gives us full body chills when women tell us that they were so inspired by seeing us that they decided to pick up an instrument themselves and give it a go! There’s nothing that makes us feel better than knowing that we’re uplifting and inspiring people through the magic of music.”
Lebb loves being with his family onstage and on the road including his gorgeous wife and feels lucky to be able to play with such talented and powerful women who move mountains and kick ass. “Being onstage is my most comfortable state and the transpersonal experience of ascending from the ‘me’ and being immersed in the ‘we in that celestial collective unconsciousness union. We are honoured in our roles as musicians.”
What is the wildest gig you have ever played or craziest road trip story?
Well, in Saturn Return we drove through Durban flooding and carnage to play our gig at the Westville Warehouse. As most people had lost houses among many things, we wanted to uplift spirits but did not expect anyone to show up. Well, it was one of our most packed and well-received gigs. Personally, Mandy and I also once played a gig where, on the way, a taxi and bus had blocked the only lane and proceeded to have a shootout next to our cars. Casual. We are damn excited for a pinnacle gig in Durban’s music history: for the first time ever we will be one of several bands to play in the Engine Room of Origin at the Burn Reunion on December 2. It’s gonna be nuts!
Do you have anyone you would like to thank?
For Britt, Baphomet (jk)! For Lebb, there are too many! But to all of you who make this great scene what it is – you have no idea how powerful and influential you are. You make us push through the loadshedding and fuel issues to keep doing what we do. From the car guard who makes sure our equipment is safe to the fans that come through and sing our lyrics, you have been the fuel to our blazing fire. We love you, our beautiful family. To our own families, who believed in our rockstar fantasies long enough to see them become realities. And a special mention to David James who has been phenomenal in the work he has done for our upcoming album.
What next for Saturn Return?
The world… starting with our upcoming album in early 2023!
For bookings and more info email Brandon.