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August 7, 2017 | by  | in Music |
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Interview with Voe

Local musician Rhys Stannard has been developing his solo Voe project with quiet determination over the last few years and has recently formed The Happily Headless with Douglas Kelly (Girlboss/Date Night), Mike Keogh & Isaiah Wilson (Kobra Club), Louis Reeve (Lilah/By A Damn Sight), and Jazz Kane. We caught up for a chin-wag.

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How would you describe the current Voe sound in a nutshell to someone who hasn’t yet heard you?

It’s hard to pin it down because I’ve alternated between different styles of music over the years. I get bored of doing the same thing over and over again so I’m always changing up the concept I want to pursue. I think mostly it is determined by what gear I have (or don’t have) at hand. I think the only constant things running through my material are multi-tracked vocals, and that I’ve always recorded digitally. In some ways I respect artists who are able to produce consistent material but mostly I get tired of hearing the same formula repeated. My friend Joe Sloane once called it “emo wave” but he makes house music so what does he know!

 

I enjoy getting lost in some of the strange and dangerous sonic idiosyncrasies of earlier artists such as The Byrds, over highly polished sonic qualities inherent in modern music. How do you believe Voe’s sonic aesthetic straddles the line between the past and the present?

Considering that the highest standards of production and latest technology are in contemporary hip-hop and pop music, other genres like “rock” and its various derivatives have been sounding relatively stagnant and recycled (of course there are exceptions… Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing, All Seeing Hand, for example). In New Zealand we have a strong cottage industry — i.e. an industry in which artists are almost entirely or completely autonomous and can create and produce music from their home or music space.

It started out pretty low-key, but now we have access to more sophisticated sound equipment at lower prices as well as a rekindled love for old “redundant” gear so there are diverse styles of production being used all over. I personally just use what I have at hand, what I’ve heard about, and what is easiest. For the last few years I’ve been using drum samples in lieu of recorded drums which I find are far less time consuming and easier to get a decent sound. Lately I’ve been using basic drum samples to figure out song structures with the intention of playing songs live. The fact that I’ve used Roland TR-707 samples was purely because my friend Isaiah Wilson downloaded them on to my computer one day, not for any aesthetic quality. More recently I’ve been using Alesis HR-16 samples which have a heavier sound. You can download pretty much any of these samples off the net. I’ve never recorded in a studio, so I guess the aesthetic qualities of my music are somewhat defined by my inaccessibility to high standards of production. As far as intentional sound goes I guess I’m pretty interested in the continuity of music and the lineage that defines it, so I attempt to echo some of my heroes from the past while (hopefully) making it my own.

 

Voe has been primarily a solo endeavour. Do you enjoy the merits of writing, performing, and recording independently from others, or has Voe as a solo project been more of a necessity to remaining productive thus far?

There are pro and cons to both of course. As a way of being productive over the years working by myself has been absolutely vital. In my teenage years it was easier to be in a band because my friends and I had far less commitments and pressures. As I’ve gotten older it has become more of a struggle to organise a band over a long period of time because so much can happen — people move away, study, get “serious” jobs, lose interest, etc. A few years ago I began to question why I was still making music because I wasn’t really sure if it was necessarily relevant to what was happening culturally in our small music scene, and I knew I was basically convincing people to believe in what I was doing and to give up their time for me, even if nobody else or even myself seemed to care. Although thankfully now I feel more grounded with my own artistic identity. I have a lot of time for people who can manage to keep a band going for a long period in New Zealand considering the sacrifices you need to make.

 

Is your aim for the live band to re-create songs from the forthcoming album or have you been writing material to adapt to a band setup?

Currently I’ve put all my focus into playing with The Happily Headless.

 

What is your outlook on the state of the music scene in Wellington? Who are some local artists that you respect and are there any that you would perhaps like to collaborate with?

I think Wellington is in a really good place with music at the moment, better than it has been for a long time. The cost of living in Auckland has pushed more artists down this way, and it’s been really refreshing to see new bands doing their thing. In saying that I also think this question is a hard one for me to answer because I’m not as immersed in the social scene of music as I was as a teenager. I think there are great efforts being made to promote and organise music and recently when I have gone out to gigs it’s been nice to see younger crowds present. I know there are efforts being made to follow similar models that exist around the country (like Palmerston North) to put on all-ages shows which is great. I think the end of venues like Mighty Mighty, Happy, Puppies, and Bodega were a real blow as social and cultural spaces, although as a community we have endured will continue to do so. It has always been a bit of a numbers game here in Welly, and there isn’t really a large enough population here for a creative scene to fully flourish like larger overseas scenes. But this is also what makes it distinctive as well.

Personally I’ve never felt there was any label support in Wellington, and most of the labels that do exist are very tightly defined or only have the interest of immediate friends or family. I think the lack of money involved in the pursuit/facilitation of music attributes to this (I mean even just to earn a living wage) and it leads many bands and artists to isolate themselves from each other or move elsewhere. The music “scene” is also a place I’ve never felt included in or entitled to claim. I think the smallness of wellington means that some bands will occupy a temporary custody of people’s attention, but I have no interest in this kind of work/politics/social manoeuvring. As far as collaboration goes, I’m open to anyone — some of the New Zealand Birds compilations have been good examples of things coming together nicely and we’re working on our third installment currently.

Favourite wellington band of all time: Golden Awesome. I have heard on good authority that they will be releasing their second album sometime this year.

 

What do you perceive to be the biggest challenges in getting your music “out there” and how do you aim to spread the gospel from here on out?

Well I wasn’t picked up by Sony as a tween so I missed the boat on that one, just hoping to gain 2,000 Facebook and Twitter followers and confirm my New Zealand nationality in eight different ways. But seriously, from my perspective the establishment has always seemed like a smoke and mirrors kind of exercise smothered in self-loathing and shameless self-promotion so as far as getting my music “out there” is concerned I have no interest in playing that game. I can’t remember who said this but blow me down they hit the nail on the head when they commented that New Zealand bands that sound like whatever is hot overseas (i.e. Lorde) do really well in New Zealand whereas our own more distinctive and “New Zealand” sounding music tends to do poorly here but gain cult following overseas. I feel that to some extent this is changing due to the current wave of recognition that some of the older generations of artists are now receiving.

I am an optimist.

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