Shotgun Tori
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Shotgun Tori

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa | SELF

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa | SELF
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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Last night I stumbled, sodden and panting, through the open doorway of Alma Road Café. The street that I left was quiet, but for drops of rain hitting the tar. The evening was dark. The rainclouds saw to that too.

I had run through the streets of Cape Town to Alma to see Shotgun Tori.

The café is an odd-ball little place with sky-blue walls and shelves covered in rusted tins from years gone by. It exists to give budding musicians a space for live performance. For years it operated as a corner café but is now exceling as a burgeoning music venue. So single-minded is it in its aim that, at one time, neighbourhood visitors were asked to bring chairs to the show, and glasses for their wine. The music was, and remains, more important. Now, though, chairs are provided and you also get great food.

Two large, dusty speakers are fixed to the wall, one to the right of and the other opposite the low, carpeted stage. Richard, the manager, rests behind the sound desk during performances, his trademark, and curly, grey hair stretching reassuringly out from each side of his head. His introductions are as warm as the café, everyone is ‘brother’ or ‘bugger’, and he takes every opportunity to damn America-spawned Idols-esque music.

I collapsed into a plastic blue chair at a long, candlelit wooden table, and enjoyed the hubbub of a room built for thirty at a squeeze. Wine flowed, spaghetti filled and the guitars, signs and pictures on the walls endeared.

Opening for Tori was soulful and bearded Jon Shaban, whose deep, powerful voice seemed to leap at us as he sang of good, evil, the world and a man in the sky. He was supported by the raucous strumming of his guitar and, later, a young woman with a smile that infectiously painted the faces of the room with imitations. Her knees bounded on unmoving feet to the tune of the guitar and the audience couldn’t help but clapping with the end of each song.

Between sets we met at her small table in the corner of Alma and Tori told me about her tour and her plans for the future. We talked about her first full album and the last time we had seen each other and then the lights dimmed and I went to my seat, she to the stage.

As we went:

“You know that incredible song you played about the City of Roses and the Viking blues man?”

“Yeah.”

“I was so sad that it wasn’t on your EP.”

“It’s on this new one. I’ll play it tonight. I’ll dedicate it to you!”

*Happiness floods chest*

Leather jacket, barefoot, strumming forearm tattooed with a woman and a Leonard Cohen quote, small smile, soft joke, and then the music.

The first time I saw Tori perform was at a poorly attended art exhibition in Woodstock. She stood at the mic, whooping, serenading, jumping, stomping, throwing back her head and throbbing up and down, her body curled around a black guitar. I bought her EP and enjoyed it as a poor relation of the live delirium and a reminder of that performance. That was the night I missed Die Antwoord and Red Hot Chilli Peppers at Cape Town Stadium. I had sold my ticket. I tell people it was to pay rent. I didn’t want to go, really, which is strange, seeing as I adore both acts.

Not so strange, in hindsight, given who I ended up watching that night, for free. And I paid rent that month.

Back at Alma, under a soft blue light, Tori sang of cocksure but woefully inadequate lovers, daring kisses snatched from those off-limits, and forlorn memories of break-ups, make-ups and ache-ups. Her voice whispered and raged with the lyrics. Each song was saturated with energy, emotion and unexpected tonal leaps and drops.

At the end of each song, a lull and the applause.

Maybe we were so wrapped up that we didn’t notice it had ended for a while.

Maybe, we didn’t dare to clap. As much as it is the done thing when showing gratitude and admiration, it seemed so loud and harsh. Too brash, too exuberant. Inappropriate.

Maybe we didn’t want to break the spell.

“For the love of folk.” – Shotgun Tori - White Line Fever


It took me a little while to write this review, so interested am I in the burgeoning folk scene in Johannesburg and South Africa as a whole.

It has been ticking for a while but few true, honest songwriters are coming forth, at least with the focus and dedication that Shotgun Tori has. It was in the spirit of taking it all in, that this album struck a chord in me as a glowing example of what I consider folk honesty.

Shotgun Tori’s voice is strong with just a dash of rasp to reflect where the themes of her music come from - straight from the underbelly of life’s experiences. All tracks on her debut album are written by Shotgun, her real name Victoria Landey, and really, as she says, the album is a result of hitting a kind of rock bottom and deciding in her ‘Lucidum intervallum’ - a lucid moment in an otherwise crazy mind, that the one thing she regretted was not having toured the world as a full-time musician.

And here she is in full glory. So full that some say they feel they have read her diary after watching one of her performances. Themes range from infidelity and heartache and otherwise from her well-weathered life; shattered love, if I may be so bold isn’t that where all music comes from?

Is she a hippie? Yup. But I have a soft spot for bare-foot performances and it does add to the allure of her brutal honesty. Although she only got things started at the end of 2010, the following year proved to be the confirmation that she was doing exactly the right thing with over 100 performances, an album, a music video, and a growing following that can only wait to see what else she can wrangle out of her heart.

She does confess that pouring so much into her music isn’t easy. It isn’t easy financially. But she does say she is happier than ever before. “I find that music is a therapy and the more honest I am (no matter how very uncomfortable and revealing that may be) the more my music speaks to people”.

The album, Are We Fine Yet?, has more than one goose bump moment and I, for one, am very keen to see her live again, very soon.

Shotgun Tori is the embodiment of a quote by Charles Bukowski, the American writer, I found on her page, “Find what you love and let it kill you.”

I love that. - The New Age


They say that music is one of the best forms of communication. For Victoria Landey music is her voice – her personal outburst of melodic verse.

Each song tells the tale of a little girl struggling for survival in a fallen world. Her words speak of truths, love, heartbreak and retribution. Unanswered questions find poetic license in a chorus of passion.

Heat Magazine described her sound as ‘a shot of rum in a hot chocolate’. Leaving nothing up to the listener, Shotgun Tori is one of the most convincing performers I’ve seen in a long time.

The EP kicks off with the sound of clamouring guitar that spreads a good old country feel and opens up a grandeur of fun-loving tunes. Opening track ‘Skin you’re in’ is your first introduction to Landey’s powerful vocals and extremely personal touch of talent.

The album than feathers into an array of heartfelt tracks that carry your emotions on a swoop of fine-tuned notes. Brazen in song, the album comes to end with the dark and powerful song ‘Fucking Therapist’ – that leaves you thinking “Are we really fine yet?”

Definitely a must! - Indie does it


Shotgun Tori is the musical pseudonym of Joburg-based singer-songwriter, Victoria Landey. And, while in so many cases and acoustic lady singer conjures an image from a long-haired hipster on top of the Oppikoppi hill in Northam, when I hear Shotgun Tori’s debut EP, Are We Fine Yet..., I imagine an image of a dulcet singer in a jazz lounge whose emotional words would cut clear across the room if they weren’t so darn pleasant to hear.

(I’ve never seen Landey play live, and that visual might be way off the mark, but it’s the vibe her music gives me.)

Ever looking for something to quantify a new band with, I’ll tell you that Shotgun Tori is like an indie rock Norah Jones, or like a KT Tunstall who’s discovered her sultry, soulful side.

ST’s debut EP is heartfelt and occasionally sorrowful, but leaves you feeling like you’ve been party to something really beautiful, instead of something emo. Because even the moodiest moments are beautiful in their design – the line “but now it seems that exes are no longer taboo because my best friend and my band and my therapist are fucking you” is intimately sung over an acoustic guitar accompaniment. It taps an acoustic hook into your brain and will stay rolling around in there for a long time.

“Sweet Weather” moves away from exes and towards affairs, and manages to sound even happier: - A Thousand Guitars


Shotgun Tori is definitely not just a voice, or a pretty face. She is a song writer extraordinaire. Her debut album “Be Brave”, produced by Jay Bones of Fuzigish and Rambling Bones, is testament to that. Her lyrics are soulful and true, each sung with such meaning, feeling and relevance to the modern conditions of love, life and everything in between.

You can’t help relate to her stories of slipping out of an elevator, being stared up and down by the security guard on the way out. About sitting and discussing dreams of travelling the ocean, of being stuck in an office passing the time, waiting to resign.

“That song, number two, ‘Dear John’ is my probably response to this whole Max and Montle thing.” I’m sitting with Tori at Hello Sailor in Observatory discussing gender, politics and language. She points to the song track as we marvel the albums cover illustrations done by Lauren ‘Peachfish’ Schlachter.

I couldn’t agree more with her lyrics, of how boys view girls as sexual objects. Not looking for anything serious, getting drunk in clubs and pushing girls into things they know they shouldn’t be doing, and girls knowing better then to spend a night with “boys like you.”

Tori is a strong and sensible voice ringing out alone in the sea of meaningless songs that get passed off for music. Full of sneaky humour, irony and social commentary the songs speak for themselves. When complimented with a full band the songs reach a whole new level. The album “Be Brave” is beautifully produced, subtle when necessary, brash when it’s called for. It runs through a range of genres, seamlessly intertwined. From country to min tech, to Waitsy swag and folk.

The album was recorded by JP de Stefani at B-Sharp Studios and features a host of distinguished South African guests artists: Lucy Kruger, Amy Mann, Max Lehr, Leighton James Powell, William Bishop, Eric Charles Wright, James Finnemore, and Jay Bones. The combination of which has led to a beautifully polished product.

Definitely a must have - Underground Press


Victoria Landey, playing as Shotgun Tori, is one serious vocal powerhouse coming out of South Africa music scene today. Since her 2011 debut EP Are We Fine Yet?, Shotgun Tori has performed over 300 live concerts in South Africa, Namibia, and Mozambique, as many as three performances in one day. In case that wasn’t enough work, her newest album, hot off the press Be Brave, is funded through IndieGogo crowd funding. Even with her early stage career, she’s received award nominations, a number of large festival shows, and opened for Xavier Rudd.

Since receiving this album earlier in the week, it’s quickly become my go-to pick-me-up album. The title says all that I needed this week and good music surely serves to help steel the soul for me. Make that music as subtly powerful as Shotgun Tori’s and there’s no way I can’t feel emboldened and ready to conquer anything in my way. She blends folk, rockabilly, and alternative for a sound that can go from gritty to dreamy in just a few minutes. While some critics have stated that the concept of strong female artist with a guitar is one that has been done “ad nausea”, Shotgun Tori brings new life and new sound to the scene, and no one’s critiquing the fact that far more men have used the artist with a guitar model, and they’re still recognized as not replicating other material.

Be Brave opens to quiet, somber sounds in Brightside, wherein Shotgun Tori calls herself “just a woman” and then spends the rest of the album demonstrating exactly how much of an understatement that “just” is. Dear John has a much brighter sound, with its jazzy horn and retro keyboard bars. The beginning of the title track channels the gentle rebellion in every survivor or overcomer of obstacles- “I’m not gonna behave”- while the breathy abstract vocalizations give an almost primal feeling to points in this poetry. Nights Like That brings Shotgun Tori’s country styling to the forefront, with a gritty voice that manages to do loop-de-loops somehow. Coming down from the barroom Joplin sound, Wooden Decks has a loping feel with a modern touch. She’s in no hurry, and is intent on moving at her own pace, so no sense trying to change her. Game Changer is rough and tumble vocally, with solid guitar backing. In Neon Lights, we hear some stunning background effects and soaring vocals alongside a simplistic but beautiful guitar. Going whispy and wonderful on Some Sort of Grace, Shotgun Tori sounds the part of one of those gems in a coffee shop on open mic night. Grand Delusion has a spunky, wiry sound that gets your energy up but not in an over-caffeinated way; you won’t buzz yourself into frenzy with this one. Backing off a little for Where Did I Go?, Tori continues to display how her vocal dexterity rivals her finger dexterity while lamenting the impact internalizing negativity can have on people. Zombie Song is a silly story of a popular topic in pop culture- zombies- and pulls off the gruesomeness inherent with the living dead with panache and verve. To end the album, Love of Folk goes soft once more, as the music leaves like a gentle kiss on the cheek before dawn.

I don’t know if it’s something about the name Tori, but Shotgun Tori joins a line of hard-hitting, soul-searching female singer songwriters by the same name. I have a feeling that this star is headed just as far as the likes of Tori Amos, and you should check her out and show her some love from this hemisphere. At the moment, it might be a bit harder to get her album, but it’s on last.fm to check out this piece of emotion set to music. This album is powerful, both technically and emotionally. Struggle is such a universal experience, but unfortunately some groups get far more of it than others, and based on attributes that they don’t control. For all of us, a reminder to be brave and that others are being brave alongside us is a powerful thing, and helps us to be brave. This album is that reminder. - Ear To The Ground Music


Discography

'Are We Fine Yet', released Nov 2011 - Debut EP

'Be Brave', released June 2013 - Album

Photos

Bio

"A little bit of folk; a little bit of country; a whole lot of raspy cut-to-the-heart feeling." - Rolling Stone Magazine (SA)

Shotgun Tori is, at heart, a storyteller, a woman with a voice and a guitar, her subject matter approached with an interesting, occasionally humorous, yet always insightful life view. Her touching, raw vocal delivery is both tender and powerful, and listeners are left with no doubt that she sings straight from her heart. Tori’s music puts you on the spot, in the moment, while sometimes fun and upbeat, it is often gentle and heart-wrenching.

With way over 300 live performances since her debut in 2011, her personal record being three shows on one day, Tori has toured the length and breadth of South Africa and thrown in Namibia and Mozambique for good measure. Her commitment to her craft and her dedication to performing live has seen her become a music festival staple with performances at Oppikoppi, Strab, Afrika Burns, Mieliepop, Parklife (where she opened the main stage for international headliner Xavier Rudd), Rise & Shine and more.

Sweet Weather, the single, with accompanying video, off her critically acclaimed 2011 debut EP Are We Fine Yet?, had a 9 week run on the MKTV Top 10 reaching the coveted number one spot and a receiving a nomination for an MK Award in the “Best Solo” category. The song also reached the number 2 spot on the Jon Savage 5fm Chart Show.

Her latest music offering, the aptly titled Be Brave, and her first full length album, was released end June 2013. Wanting to retain her musical independence Tori received most of the album funding from fans through an online indiegogo.com crowd funding campaign. The album was produced by Jay “Rambling” Bones and engineered at the legendary B# Studios by JP Destefani. The album is available on iTunes and other digital outlets and physical copies can be purchased directly from Tori at shows.

Tori's Influences include: Ryan Adams, Lucinda WIlliams, The Waifs, Martha Wainwright, The Be Good Tanyas, Ani Di Franco, Amanda Palmer and Leonard Cohen.

So take the time out to listen to Shotgun Tori, she has a lot to say about things you’ll love to hear and get ready to follow her on her adventure, and revel in her desire to live excellently, love big, tour the world and keep on singing about it.

PRESS QUOTES:

"One of the brighter lights in the, happily, burgeoning South African alt-folk scene, Shotgun Tori (aka Victoria Landey) is a passionate, convincing performer." The Citizen

"Shotgun Tori is one of the most convincing performers I’ve seen in a long time ... Definitely a must!" indiedoesit.co.za

"[Shotgun Tori] belts out her folky tunes with a sincerity that draws the crowd in." jhblive.com

"heartfelt and occasionally sorrowful, but leaves you feeling like you’ve been party to something really beautiful" athousandguitars.com