Through @ 2: Buffalo Trace, Bunny Chow, and Bobotie With Koko & the Sweetmeats"/>
The situation It's a Monday night, and I'm sitting in a shadowy booth at First Hill's Vito's, the bar most likely to be frequented by Tony Soprano, were he a Seattleite. Sitting by me are some decidedly non-Mafia characters, Garett van der Spek and "the woman of his dreams," his wife Laura, of the blues-rock duo Koko & the Sweetmeats. Team van der Spek is drinking me under the table with round after round of Buffalo Trace, neat, while I'm attempting to keep up with some red wine.
How They Got Here Laura's a hometown girl, but Garett hails from Durban, South Africa, where he fronted a band called Super Hot Joy.
"It was a good band, even if it had a stupid name," he says. Ultimately, though, Super Hot Joy got left behind when Garett decided to pursue his musical career on a larger stage. "There's not a lot of venues [in South Africa], and shows are pretty sporadic," he says. "There's not enough of a scene to accommodate music every single night."
Shop Talk After making an acoustic record and a few EPs, Garett spent last year writing and recording the dynamic and squalling full-length Foreign Island, simultaneously working full-time at the SoDo boutique Alchemy Goods to hold down his green card and shacking up with Laura's family.
"That's why it's such a dark album. It's about living with my parents!" says Laura, laughing.
"No, it's just about getting through all that shit. Immigrating. It's not easy," says Garett, who moved to Seattle without knowing a single soul in the city. "It sucked to go from selling out shows [in South Africa], if you need a PA you know who to call, if you need to book a venue you know who to call. I was plugged into a network, and then I went to not knowing anyone. No one knows you, you don't know anyone, you're playing shows with the most unsuitable bands at the worst venues, and no one's there because you don't know anyone."
Nowadays things are considerably less bleak for Garett--he's got a wife who taught herself to play the drums for the band ("I was a dancer for 20 years, so I knew I had a good sense of rhythm," she says); his band plays regular gigs at the Comet and the Tractor; and he's made friends, which is obvious when Vito's bartenders bring us a round of rum punch on the house.
BTW Garett and Laura did eventually get their own place--a house in the Central District where they host summertime parties that involve bonfires, beer, a "dance dungeon" in their basement, and lots of South African cuisine--like "bunny chow" ("It doesn't involve bunnies," says Garett. "It's just a half loaf of bread with curry") and bobotie, a horrifying-sounding casserole that apparently comprises ground beef, white bread soaked in milk, apricot jam, raisins, and a beaten egg poured on top of it all.
Foreign Island I love. Foreign bobotie I'll pass on.
Koko & the Sweetmeats play the Sunset Tavern this Friday, February 11, with NighTraiN, Watch It Sparkle, and Tax & Leisure Corporation. The show is $8 and begins at 9:30 p.m.