Revolver has teamed with Vulvodynia for an exclusive blue with white and pink splatter colorway of their new album, Praenuntius Infiniti. It's limited to 200 — order yours before they're gone!
There are so many bands out there doing so many interesting things, it's hard to know where to turn. That's why we've created Uprising, a recurring feature offering a concise introduction to a band or artist that we think slays, covering their origins, process and vision. Our latest subject is Vulvodynia, the self-described "slam death bulldozer" from South Africa, who are gearing up to release Praenuntius Infiniti, their fourth album and debut for new label Unique Leader Records, on September 17th.
We recently caught up with vocalist Duncan Bentley to see what makes his six-piece band tick. In our wide-ranging interview below, Bentley lays it all out: from his fashion side hustle and love of bunnies to how horrorcore flows inform Vulvodynia's death metal, why South Africa's beautiful and tragic dichotomies create the "best conditions to sprout an extreme music scene" and more.
WHO IS VULVODYNIA — CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY OF HOW YOU CAME TOGETHER?
DUNCAN BENTLEY Vulvodynia is a group of six pals from South Africa with a love of extreme music, creating the music we've always wanted to hear. The band started in 2014 with the main intent of creating the most brutal music to ever come out of Africa. Growing up, the metal scene in South Africa was extremely small and lots of bands seemed to shy away from gutturals, blast beats, low tuned guitars, breakdowns, slams and other brutal aspects that we were dying to hear and see live. That inspired [guitarist] Luke [Haarhoff] and me to start the band seven years ago and recruit the best musicians we could find in the country — who later on became our closest pals in the world. The sound we had created quickly caught on with the international market and has taken us further than any metal act to ever come out of Africa.
IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE YOUR BAND'S MISSION STATEMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Our mission statement is to take over the world! Muhahaha! Seriously though I think our mission statement would be: Support those that support you. Don't limit yourself. Create the art you want to create. Love unconditionally. Don't be a "poes" [South African slang for female genitalia] and most importantly have fun.
YOUR NAME IS VERY EVOCATIVE — WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CHOOSE IT?
When we started the band we wanted to find a name with a ton of shock value that leaves the reader like, What the fuck! We were going through some online gynecology textbooks and came across the name. After reading the meaning we were immediately like, Woah, that's brutal. And that ended up being the name that stuck.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO EXTREME METAL?
I grew up in a household where classic rock was king. I never really had any exposure to extreme metal until about 2007 when I turned thirteen. My sister was dating a guy at the time who brought me the entire Obituary discography on a super scratched MP3 disc that he burnt on his computer. At first, I remember thinking it was way too intense. But one day I put on "Slowly We Rot" after smoking a blunt and I felt the grooves like never before. After that, I couldn't get enough and I never looked back.
VULVODYNIA'S MEMBERS HAIL FROM AROUND JOHANNESBURG AND DURBAN. WHAT IS THE MUSIC SCENE LIKE THERE?
South Africa is really a contrasted diamond in the rough. Beautiful weather, epic scenery, amazing wildlife and culture like no other. But on the other hand, our country like many others also has a dark past that is ravished by poverty, crime and corruption. This contrast of reality makes for some of the best conditions to sprout an extreme-music scene.
The South African scene has always been there but has remained fairly small throughout the years, never growing big enough to be divided into subgenres. Mixed-genre bills are a big thing here and amazing bands come and go, seemingly never breaking through into the international market — and this deters newer bands from starting up. We're currently trying to break the mold and giving future bands in our scene hope in their futures proving that hard work and dedication pays off.
BEING IN A BAND, WHAT'S THE HARDEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE COME ACROSS SO FAR, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
The biggest challenge we've come across as a band has definitely been expenses and the cost of touring full time before COVID. We're very isolated from the rest of the world and travel costs are a lot more for us than they are for a lot of other bands. We require visas for almost everywhere we go and we're always the last to receive vaccines and other things required to travel without worries.
We've overcome this challenge by branding ourselves and crushing it in the merch game. We've teamed up with distributors and stores all over the world to bring tons of unique items to our fan base. We've released all kinds of merch in the past, everything from bed sets and shower curtains to high heels and car seat covers. It's hard to attend a metal festival worldwide and not spot a Vulvodynia tee.
LIVE SHOWS HAVE BEEN ON HOLD BECAUSE OF THE CORONAVIRUS. BUT BEFORE COVID WHAT WAS YOUR PRESHOW RITUAL?
Our preshow ritual consists of a few beers and bongs in the green room while we warm up. Our drummer Tom [Hughes] and our guitarist Kris [Xenopoulos] blow a kiss at each other during the intro before every set. We feel like it's bad juju if this doesn't happen.
YOU MENTIONED SOME OF THE STRUGGLES BEING A TOURING BAND FROM SOUTH AFRICA. BUT WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT HITTING THE ROAD?
There are so many amazing things about being on tour! The best parts are traveling all over the world to places I've never been, playing shows, hanging with my pals and most of all being able to meet and connect with the fans. Being so isolated from the rest of the world sometimes leaves us wondering if the fan base we've accumulated online is actually real. [Laughs] … Leaving Africa to tour Europe for the first time and seeing the response we got really brought a tear to my eye and made me realize that I want to do this till I die. I really do miss it more than anything.
SO AFTER ALL THIS TIME YOU'VE GOTTA BE ITCHING TO GET BACK ONSTAGE.
Yes! This new album was the first album we were able to write together as a band and record together — all our previous albums were written and recorded separately in our own home studios. This really brought our songwriting and music to the next level. This is also our first record to have real drums recorded by our pal Tom Hughes. We've also had a lot more time to plan the release and make it the release we've always wanted to do and I'm so excited to unleash it on the fan base.
WHAT'S THE WEIRDEST PLACE YOU EVER SLEPT ON TOUR?
On tour, you very seldom find a good place to sleep unless you're on a night liner. [Laughs] We've slept in all kinds of strange places from bug-infested bunk beds in venues to fans' dirty bedrooms to the floor of the van in dodgy neighborhoods.
One night we performed at an old war bunker in Germany that had been converted into a venue. The venue owners locked the entire tour package in the venue with our sleeping bags and said they'll return in the morning to open. We took advantage of the open stage and mixed and matched members from different bands on the tour package and jammed for hours. [Laughs] Later that night I slept in a sleeping bag on the stage that we had performed on and it was the weirdest feeling ever lying there in silence looking down at where the crowd had been only hours before. Felt surreal and made me really cherish my time on other stages around the world.
WHAT'S THE CRAZIEST OR MOST MEMORABLE THING THAT'S EVER HAPPENED AT ONE OF YOUR SHOWS?
There are tons of crazy moments from tours and shows that stand out to me. Way too many to mention actually. This one time in Germany a fan bought me a beer and a Jäger shot. We proceeded to take the shot and the crazy motherfucker ate the plastic shot glass right before my eyes. [Laughs] The craziest moments for me though have to be when I meet an artist I look up to and they know about us and enjoy our music.
ANY SUPERFAN STORIES FROM MEETING ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE BANDS?
I am a superfan of Suffocation and the Black Dahlia Murder and I had a massive fangirl moment meeting them a few years ago. We were performing at Deathfeast Open Air, and Suffocation and the Black Dahlia Murder were on the lineup after us. We ended up meeting them ... and they knew about us and wanted to hang. [The Black Dahlia Murder singer] Trevor [Strnad] even knew me by name and that absolutely blew my mind and we later went on to work on a song together ["Reclaim the Crown Part I: The Burning Kingdom"] from our 2019 release Mob Justice. Would love to work together with Suffocation one day.
OUTSIDE OF THE BAND, AND MUSIC IN GENERAL, WHAT ARE YOUR PASSIONS?
I have tons of passions outside of music and a lot of them bring in extra money for me as side hustles, keeping me afloat money-wise allowing me to do music full time. Photography is one of those passions and I enjoy being able to use it when I'm on tour traveling around the world. Music collecting and selling is also one of my passions, I buy hundreds of CDs and vinyl every month and sell them via my online record stores on Discogs and eBay. I also have two pets — a bunny and a tortoise — that I'm very passionate about. I also love doing graphic design and fashion design. I own a clothing brand called Crowdkill Apparel and I get to incorporate a lot of my love for those things into that.
DO YOU HAVE ANY MUSICAL INFLUENCES THAT MIGHT SURPRISE LISTENERS, AND HOW WOULD YOU SAY THEY IMPACT YOUR OWN CREATIVITY?
I am heavily influenced by 90s hip-hop and early horrorcore artists like Three 6 Mafia, Brotha Lynch Hung, Gangsta Pat, Gravediggaz, Koopsta Knicca, Lord Infamous, Esham and more. Some of these artists have lyrical content that would give some death-metal bands a run for their money. [Laughs] These artists have mainly impacted my lyrical flow when it comes to writing metal. I've recently started incorporating a lot of triplet rap flows that were originally created by Lord Infamous of Three 6 Mafia in the early 90s and they sound phenomenal in death metal.
IF YOU COULD ONLY PLAY ONE OF YOUR SONGS FOR SOMEONE TO INTRODUCE THEM TO YOUR BAND, WHAT SONG WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
"Drowned in Vomit" because it was the first song we ever wrote and recorded also … surprise, motherfucker!