Rocking travel tales with Gangs of Ballet frontman Brad Klynsmith

Posted on 21 April 2015

Gangs of Ballet guitarist and singer Brad Klynsmith is kept on his toes travelling for gigs around the country. However, he still reckons his über-chilled hometown Durban is the best place to kick off his shoes. We asked him to recommend a hotel in our April issue.

Brad Klynsmith at the front of the Square Boutique Hotel in Umhlanga, Durban.

Brad Klynsmith at the front of the Square Boutique Hotel in Umhlanga, Durban.


You have a fellow rock and roller visiting from Australia, where should they stay?

Three Cities Square Boutique Hotel and Spa in Umhlanga Rocks.



We did a celebrity cook off at Gateway Theatre of Shopping, and Gangs of Ballet won the first round and they put us up here. My wife and I stayed here for the night, and the rest of the band had a room. She likes boutique. We’re both creatives so when you get put into a bespoke place I think it speaks more to the senses. The service was great: friendly, happy, and helpful, zero issues. For me a good hotel is comfy, has good shower pressure (don’t underrate shower pressure), service, and a good breakfast. I’m not a hotel snob. If you’ve got those four things I’m a happy guy.


You love Durban…

It’s consistent. The people are consistent, the weather is consistent, and the traffic is consistent.

My life revolves around family, friends and surfing. I’ve got quite a small little world, everything is 10 minutes away and I run around on my little scooter. I am a very proud Durban dude – I think it’s important, you’ve gotta love the place you live. If there’s new restaurant, or designer, a trendy haircut dude, or any new vibe we always make sure that we’re there. Not because we’ve been asked, but because we love the city so much.

And if you really want to get out for a day, you’ve got the north coast, South Coast, and the Midlands. I recently spent a lot of time on the South Coast and for me, as a surfer, it’s gold. I recently discovered Ndesingaan, near Bazley Bay 45 minutes from Durban. It’s like a point break and when you’re in the water, there’s this huge green headland and a double volume train bridge with huge arches – very European-looking. The coastline is spectacular, and I’ve seen a lot of the coastline in this country.


What’s your first travel memory?

We used to go to East London a lot, my gran used to stay there. She lived in an area called Bonnie Doone on an original farmhouse on a hill overlooking a big river. My two younger brothers (the youngest is the drummer for Gangs) and I spent our days at the beach and had hours of fun running up and down the sand dunes in Speedos.


Are you still into Speedos?

(A quick) No.


Musicians travel a lot. Are you good or bad at it, and why?

Good. We do it so much we’ve become efficient at it. We have our routine. We’ve organised a power strip in our car and connect it to the lighter socket and plug in all our laptops and phones. We don’t complain that much either anymore.


One thing you never leave home without?

My iPhone charger or any charging device. I’m obsessive about electric devices. If my electric toothbrush goes flat… day ruined.


Where in the world have you been?

I’ve been to all the different parts except for South America and the East Asia. I’ve been to New Zealand, Australia, Dubai, Qatar, America. Mauritius. Egypt, Botswana, Zimbabwe.


Your favourite?

India. I snowboarded in the Himalayas. They had just had hotel bombings the week before. We landed in a military base and every 200m there was a guy with a gun on the roads. We went up into the mountains. There was just a gondola and no runs and we just snowboarded through trees.


On the continent?

I went to Egypt and saw the pyramids. It’s a negative-positive memory. I was so let down it became one to remember. I remember being there for one day and thinking I just got to get out of Egypt. The whole buzz of it is still so positive in my mind because it was an adventure: we hired camels and went around the pyramids. It’s filthy. The driving… they don’t use the lanes, it’s ultimate chaos – if it’s three lanes, there are five cars next to each other, and they’re all banged up, and they drive with one hand on the hooter. The pyramids themselves have got tarred roads, ous are selling stuff out the front, and they’ve got built-in chairs in front of the Sphinx because they have a laser show. I mean… what were they thinking. It was memorable chaos.


You’ve seen a lot…

In December 2014 we did 10 – 12 shows and drove the whole Eastern Cape and Cape Town just over two weeks. There are some crap journeys, like Durban to Joburg – boring. But if you take five friends and just get in the car you can drive around SA for a month and be content. It’s bittersweet in that it’s tiring and hard work but I reckon 90 percent of South Africans haven’t seen their own country so I count that as a privilege. We’ve been to all the CBDs, one-horse towns; we’ve driven the whole coast and walked the rocks of PE. We’ve seen all these different spaces and that’s the sweet part of it. It’s long hours in the car though. Everyone wants this wonderful radical life, but they are not prepared to pay a radical price for it. I get to see a lot of nooks and crannies but Durban is still the best place to come home to.


Brad’s recommendations for Durban

Stay at the Square Boutique Hotel and Spa

Located north of Durban, in the resort town of Umhlanga the Square Boutique Hotel and Spa is 15 minutes away from King Shaka airport. Its fresh, contemporary design includes 43 Superior rooms, seven deluxe, and one honeymoon suite.
Cost: Prices start at R1 570 per person
Contact: Tel 031 566 1814


For coffee

I love coffee and there are some great spots in Umhlanga: Duke and Duchess (Tel 031 584 7411), they sell custom motorcycles at the back; I want my Coffee is cool (Tel 076 366 8390); they have an Internet radio station inside. It’s called I want my Radio and it’s run by Ard Mathews of Just Ginger. There’s another place called Jacksonville, also amazing coffee (Tel 031 940 5556).


For good vibes

We played at the opening of The Dutch in Umhlanga Village (Tel 031 561 6969), an upper-class New York-style bar. There’s a dress code: smart, closed shoes. They don’t serve anything that’s not craft and there’s no way you’re getting in there looking like a slob, which is tough for Durban.

There’s another place in town called The Chairman (Tel 031 368 2133), it’s amazing, a beautiful spot. We hit it all the time, it’s similar to The Dutch: retro seventies, some jazz, and a resident band that plays every night. They’re trying to cultivate that old-school quality, New York jazz vibe. I think it’s going to take a while to train Durban though. We don’t dress up to the nines everyday: we wear shorts and slops and we’re the happiest people in the world.


For good food

Republik in Durban North only sells burgers and craft beer and I like chowing there (Tel 031 573 1429). Durban has a clubhouse mentality and when spaces like that are created, there are often 15 or 20 people sitting on the tables hanging with the owners. They’ll put music on and dance. It’s a bit surreal but it’s a vibe. The food is amazing, the coffee… incredible.

I’m a sucker for chicken. In Ballito there’s Mo-zam-bik – Portuguese style food in a traditional Mozambican tree house (Tel 031 836 1574). There’s also a branch in Gateway. I’ve only ever ordered one thing from them: garlic and lemon half chicken. I sit there and every mouthful is like ahhh.

There’s another spot called Freedom Café in Greyville (Tel 031 309 4453). We’ve had some great chow there.

And then there’s Afro’s Chicken Shop (Tel 071 522 3070). They’ve done it out of a container on Golden Mile. It’s yellow. They do coffee and only cook chicken pregos. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! (Ed’s note: this is one of our favourite Durban spots too. It’s featured in our dropping into Durban photoblog, as well as this family guide to Durban.)

This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Getaway magazine.

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