London-based four piece Voksal are on a mission to create catchy music that pleases both themselves and listeners who see them live. Shaped in the mould of LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes and Foals, the want to blend up-tempo guitar music with more progressive sounds - we spoke to them ahead of the release of EP Visual Kei on Friday, April 21st.
The thing about music is it enables you to sing things you can’t say, and there’s definitely some of that in this EP.
First up, tell us bit about the band's beginnings - what led you all to forming Voksal?
About four years ago Zak (singer) posted a Gumtree ad looking for a bass player and met Dom (now the guitarist). At the start there were a lot of Saturday’s spent recording demos in Dom’s small drafty bedroom in Old Street. As well as sitting around waiting for his flatmates to stop running the water so we could record vocals, we started to develop the band’s sound. Once we got something we liked we added a drummer and guitarist to the lineup and began playing gigs around London.
Over time, other than Zak and Dom the line-up has changed a fair bit, in a way that’s really developed the music. We played with three for quite a while, but we always wanted to be a four piece; so we could have someone adding both guitars and keyboard. But, it was really difficult to find someone who could do that job and was on the same wavelength. We decided to try something different switched Dom to guitar/keys and began looking for a bass player. When we found Kasper everything just clicked. When Chiara joined the band on drums, she fit in seamlessly bringing an array of musical and production skills that has taken us to another level.
How does the mix of nationalities in the band help with the writing process? Does anything ever get lost in translation?
In any band the most important thing hands down is musical chemistry -sensing the right point to play loud or soft, raising the intensity at the right point and knowing when to stop playing altogether. You have to be able to shape songs primarily by listening to each other. If you’re talking all the time about what you’re doing you’re probably missing the point. Musical chemistry doesn’t consider nationality. But it’s worth saying that being around people who have grown up in different parts of the world, with different points of reference adds to the creative process.
Your debut EP Visual Kei is out in April. When did you write and record the songs?
The songs have been developed over the last year or so. When we write a new song it’s quite a full on process. We’re not one of those bands that just goes in and has a jam and leaves it at that. We record a demo really early and then refine and refine and refine, both in terms of structure and the individual parts. Zak normally comes in with the bare bones of a song-vocals, chords maybe a bit of melody and then we go from there. We listen, over and over until the song sounds right. Kasper in particular is great at trimming the fat from songs, taking out anything that might start sounding over-indulgent, keeping the songs sharp and to the point.
What’s the overriding theme to the EP?
Musically, it’s probably pairing melodic synths and guitars with a really driving rhythm. As mentioned before we try to make every song sharp and to the point, but with enough depth that you’ll remember them afterwards. The idea was to have the drums and bass push guitars, keys and vocals along, but in an intelligent melodic way.
Lyrically, most of the songs focus on the inability to communicate; how you can know someone really well, but not be able to speak or hear each other. The thing about music is it enables you to sing things you can’t say, and there’s definitely some of that in this EP.
How did your sound develop when writing this EP?
Broadening the songs out with keyboards was a big thing. Before, everything had been quite guitar based, and while the heart of the song still lies in the guitars, bass and drums, we’ve become more open to using keys to do something different. Likewise with vocal effects, our newer songs now draw from a wider range instruments and effects.
Which song are you most proud of?
‘Visual Kei’ probably, the song has a really strong rhythm that opens out in the chorus. It feels like the balance is right between all the instruments and when we play it live it feels really natural. ‘Kyoto City’ is also a really fun song to play live and is so punchy.
Which was the hardest to finish?
‘Blue Knuckle Twist’ was probably the hardest one to get right, we had a really stripped down version to start with and it wasn’t really working. The keys and effects on the vocals our producer Roberto put on the pre-chorus really got it to where it needed to be though.
What are your hopes for the EP?
We’d like to reach a larger audience with this EP and share our music with more people. But, to be honest, if just one person enjoys listening to it enough that it becomes a part of their life, in that beautiful way that music can, that would be better than anything.
You’re touring the UK on the back of ‘Visual Kei’. Where can we see you and are there any venues you’re most looking forward to playing?
We’re playing some dates in and around London and then we’re coming up to Scotland. It’s great fun playing in London where all are friends are, but Scotland is amazing for music. Scottish people are really open to listening to new stuff so we’re really looking forward to that.
If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be?
Daft Punk, apart from the fact they’re both musical geniuses, the attention to detail they bring to every track is incredible. Plus, they’ve pretty much never worked with bands so it would be amazing to see what they would do.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, when would it be and what would you say?
Don’t take shortcuts; it never works, if something doesn’t sound right, keep going until you get it to where you know it should be.
Finally, if you could wish for one thing to happen to the band in 2017, what would it be?
To play a big festival, they are the most fun thing in the world.
Listen to Voksal on SoundCloud below. For news and tour dates go to voksal.co.uk.