It has been years since fans last saw an official body of work released by CrashCarBurn. The day has finally arrived for the band to release their 4th studio album, entitled Headlights.

In a music industry obsessed with producing back-to-back singles, CrashCarBurn chose to take their time and release a full-length record – a defining choice from a group of musicians that understand the importance of identity. The band recorded the album with Jacques du Plessis and Adrian Erasmus at High Seas Studios in Johannesburg.

The band describes the album as ‘calmer’ than anything they have released previously. Whilst experimenting with a new sound filled with synths, falsetto and electric drums, the tracks still feature the soaring melodies, anthemic choruses and crafty earworms that have always been their trademark.

‘Headlights’, the title track of the album, is a sonic and lyrical departure from what fans would expect from CrashCarBurn. Featured at the halfway mark on the album, the song is about finding comfort in someone you love and trust. “There is a safety that comes with headlights, a reassurance that everything is going to be alright because you can see where you are going.” – explains frontman Garth Barnes.

The band extends this metaphor to the album artwork, which features the graphic image of a burning car. “Ironically, after 10 years of fighting any literal interpretation of ‘CrashCarBurn’, this time we embraced it. We bought a car, towed it into the middle of Johannesburg city center in the dead of night and set it on fire to shoot the cover photography and a promotional video for the album.” – explains drummer Brendan Barnes.

“We didn’t overthink these songs. In the past, we may have scrapped a song because it was too slow to play live or a sound we thought our fans might not respond to. This time around, we asked ourselves only one question: Does this sound great? Okay, let’s see where it takes us.”

Check out Headlights right here!

With that said, we had a quick chat with Brendan Barnes:

Hi, Brendan! Thanks for the time to chat. It has been 6 years since you released a new album, why the wait? And how did it come together after 6 years?

The industry trend right now is to release singles rather than full-length albums. We did that for a while and, even though we haven’t released a full album since 2012, we’ve released a good number of singles during that time. The problem with only writing singles is that you focus on creating tracks that you think will have traction on radio. You begin to miss out on other gems that might not be right for radio but are still great songs. It’s an easy way to lose track of the identity of the band as you continually chase what is popular with mainstream media. I’m glad we took a step back, slowed down and decided it was time for an album.

You blew up a car for the album cover… how did that come about and did any of you have any reservations about it?

For years we’ve been avoiding the literal ‘burning car’ interpretation of our band name. After writing the title track ‘Headlights’, we thought it was a good opportunity to create a visual metaphor that could extend through the album art and a promotional video.

It was surprisingly difficult to find a car we could blow up! After visiting half a dozen car scrap yards, we eventually struck it lucky and found a good looking vehicle that would be perfect for the shoot. We towed it to a dodgy city street in the dead of the night and made a round of Molotov cocktails to get the party started. I never expected it to burn so violently so thankfully, we had proper fire marshals on the scene to control the blaze.

What is your absolute favorite track from Headlights, and which track are you keen on playing live?

Yowzers! That’s not an easy question to answer. I am super happy with how all the songs turned out but my current favorite is a track called “Out of Control”.

You’ve been around for quite some time, how hard is it to stay relevant in the South African music scene?

CrashCarBurn has been around for almost 12 years now. We’ve seen bands come and go and music trends completely flip. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to spot a guitar or drum kit at some live music events these days. I guess our secret is that we’ve never really tried to chase trends or follow what the scene is doing. We don’t aim to “stay relevant”, we aim to get better. Slowly but surely, we’ve become a better band, a better live act, and better songwriters.

What is next for CrashCarBurn?

We’ll be touring the new record for the next few months and hitting some festivals along the way.

Header image by Andre Badenhorst