Monday, October 5, 2015

"We turn emotional despair into a party." | An interview with Rizz of VOWWS

So how do two Aussie college friends from Sydney wind up in LA fronting a goth industrial pop audible orgy called Vowws?

We were actually part of 4 piece experimental rock band who came to LA in early 2009 to make our 3rd full length record with producer Rick Parker and also do some touring. At a certain point it was clear we all wanted different things and moving to another country together brought it all to a head. The two of us wanted to stay on in the states, so we did. 

For the next few years we moved around a lot, spent some time living in New York City, writing, playing shows, self releasing EP's, trying to figure it all out. 

Once we were convinced that our shtick was fully realized, we started to reach out for bigger opportunities. It just so happened that we had a lot stuff come up in LA so we took the Greyhound from NY back to LA (which was both horrific and exhilarating) and got to work.

 How would you describe the music of Vowws?And how much has that idea and sound changed and evolved since 2010 when yourself and Matt moved to USA?

On a purely sonic level I would describe it as Industrial Pop. It's heavy, big beats, distorted vocals, moody guitars, jarring synthesizers but all done with easy to digest pop structures. 

The emotional sentiment is the same in that the subject matter and melodies are pretty bent and maniacal, but we do it in a tongue in cheek kind of way. We turn emotional despair into a party.

I'd say our sound has been refined more than it's evolved. We have always written together the same way so there haven't been any big jumps in genre. It's always slightly bent, catchy, heavy music but instead of being a rock band, it's now got an electronic element because of the tools we use to present it. 

 The collaboration with Gary Numan was so fucking perfect. How do you just get Gary Numan to sing on a song and what was the experience like working with him?

I wish I could say we were all smoking blunts in the studio and having a creative orgy, but no it was much more business like than that. Our old manager knew someone who knew his manager and told us to write a song to submit to him on the off chance that he would like to appear on it. So we did just that, we wrote a song with him in mind and sent it to him. When we heard back that he listened to the song and really liked it we were so shocked. We couldn't offer him any money cos we were so broke, but he did it anyway cos he was that into it and here we are!

There is a dark almost androgynous void like feeling to the imagery that surrounds Vowws. How important is imagery and aesthetics to the music and the band respectively?

We're both so inspired by movies so we often end up starting with a visual inspiration. It might be that we're inspired by a character in a film or a story and we kind of make a soundtrack to it. This usually means the imagery is being developed at the same time so it goes hand in hand.

Androgyny is something that comes naturally to us. A lot of the people who have influenced me in my personal life or in art are tough guy men, so I kind of walk around feeling like I'm Tony Montana. I'm not soft or pretty, I wear severe shapes that hide my femininity and I always tell people to suck my dick haha.

And Matt… well I mean, those high cheekbones, sparkling pale green eyes and a thin lanky frame, he just looks like a little tortured princess. He's gonna hate me for saying that.

 One thing I love about the duo dynamic in Vowws is the mystery. Are they lovers? Are they related? Or do they just love and hate the same things? That bond I think translates outside of the music. How important is the duo relationship and how does the creative process work with Vowws? Is it I do the lyrics, you do the synth.. or is it always a collaborative effort?

Always collaborative and we don't like to work with anyone else so it's essential we remain a duo. It's a very insular band where everything is done in house. Literally every beat, lyric, melody, sound, image, video, artwork, photograph etc is created by us. To the point where it can be super difficult and impractical to execute, for e.g. music videos man… try doing the lighting, directing, shooting, editing, make up, set design, playback, lugging shit around all day and then having enough left in you to actually perform… but the energy we have between us is so potent, it's too risky to have anyone else around to get in the way.

We've spent over a decade fine tuning this shit, so I mean really, everyone else can fuck off, we got it sorted.

In regards to the actual creative process,  we throw ideas at each other almost constantly and spit them back after putting our individual spin on it. It's like Chinese whispers, it starts out one way but after going round and round, it ends up as something we wouldn't have expected and couldn't do without each other.  We have different ways of approaching writing: Matt is measured, disciplined, practical and has a way with words. He is very clever about taking a simple idea and making it a riddle. I'm more visceral in the way I work and I end up adding a lot of dynamic elements and crazy sounds to sit like an icing on a solid foundation, so I guess we balance each other out. 

If it was all him it might be a little too clever and alienating for most people to connect with but if it was all me it would be a bi-polar mess. 

 When it comes to writing lyrics and the band ethos. What themes etc do Vowws touch on and what's most important to the band?

We're both drawn to violent films with characters that are cold, sociopaths, nihilistic, narcissistic, immoral, self destructive… Usually people like that are intensely sensitive at the heart of it and drift toward those traits as a way to self preserve. You know, fuck the world before it fucks you. 

Those types of complex and intense ideas make our imaginations run wild and we have fertile ground in which to start writing from.

When writing lyrics we'll do countless variations of a message or idea to make sure it's not so literal and that it's sort of open to interpretation. It's important to write from an honest place and more often that not the truth has many layers to it so it takes a little digging to get to the heart of it. We play with words to give a pretty simple phrase multiple meanings. People are complex characters, you can't put anyone in a box, so we don't serve up an idea on a silver platter you know, we wanna make you work for it and make it your own.

 Who are some of your music influences and idols? And who are some of the current acts you are into at the moment? 

Some of the bands we're both into are Mr Bungle, Ween, The Doors, Fantomas, Madness, INXS, Blur and lots of metal stuff like Pantera, Sepultura, Meshuggah, Cannibal Corpse… Then I kind of drift off into soundtrack land, I love Danny Elfman, Christopher Young, Phillip Glass… And Matt loves his bent pop like Talking Heads, The B52's and Bowie.

 What can we expect from your debut full length "The Great Sun" when it drops October 30th and what can you tell us about it?

It's what you would wanna hear if you were at a rave in the middle of the desert on the eve of the apocalypse. Epic melodies, booming machinistic beats, distorted vocals and twangy, driving, western guitar tone which probably comes from being Australian.

It comes out on Cleopatra Records and it features appearances by Gary Numan, Thor Harris from SWANS and Beki from The Mavis's who is a close friend of ours and also living here in LA.

Jimmy Urine from Mindless Self Indulgence remixed one of the sickest songs from the album too, we can't wait to share it.

 Australia can be very limiting creatively and in terms of opportunities and as a result so many musicians fly the coup overseas. What do you think the music industry here needs to do to encourage our musicians on home soil? 

I was so bummed out to hear that in the 5 or so years we've been here, at least 5 iconic venues in Sydney have closed down for good. Venues that weren't intimidating where you could book a show with your friends, drinks were cheap and a strong scene developed. Some of the bands we've ever seen or played with are from those days.

One of the problems I remember was poker machines in live music venues. It was a revenue thing for the venues cos pokies bring in easy money but it made it so instead of venue owners putting real effort into making the live music side of things more lucrative by working with promoters, advertising etc, they just kind of treated it as an inconvenience. So most of these places got rid of the live music element completely and turned into sports bar type places.

Are we likely to ever see Vowws playing on home turf again?

We would love to tour back home, It's all about timing at this stage.

 Whats on the cards for Vowws for the next 12 months? 

We have a lot of shows coming up. In a couple weeks we play New Noise Festival with Ariel Pink, Prayers, Run the Jewels and a ton of crazy good bands which we're so excited about.

There's this big Halloween art/music event we got coming up Oct 30th and pretty much touring most of December. Expect to see lots of videos and random shit posted surrounding this album and hopefully just touring until we wanna kill ourselves.