Something that has me very excited about music at the moment is the way that singer song-writers the world over are slowly absorbing the strange and otherworldly sounds and aesthetics of the various underground electronic music scenes and are utilising them to bring their music to new creative plains that are ripe for experimentation. A prime example of young talent who are making the most of this relatively untrodden ground are a pair from Galway Ireland who go by the name of Voids. The duo released their debut EP ‘Begin’ back in late September and upon first listen its easy to hear the stripped back, softly spoken two piece ensemble and draw similarities to contemporaries such as The XX, Daughter or some of the newer Warpaint stuff, but its undeniable they are bringing their own personal charm to the table as well with this well written and masterfully produced collection of tracks.
The song writing and general musicality in these tracks is more than enough to carry these songs on their own, however its the smaller details that keep you coming back to these tracks time and again. Splatters of glitchy percussion and warm blankets of reverb are distributed throughout the EP and sounds like the broken glass being used as a snare in the opener and title track, Begin, cut through the mix like a razor in contrast to the hypnotic, whispered vocals and the fuzzy bass.
Another interesting thing about this release is that while the first five tracks are the original songs, in the second five tracks, various producers have turned their hands to remixing the tracks, taking them to entirely different places all together, the stand out of which has got to be the Lewis James remix of Knowing, the second half of which is borderline terrifying.
We aren’t the only people feeling these tracks either as support is coming through strong with Cosmic Bridge leader and recent Metalheadz mercenary quoted as calling it “Beautifully dark and spacious – love it!” and Hyperdubs LV claimed it “Sounds like treacle“, and the Knowing remix has gotten radio play by Fracture. But anyway, we thought we’d get a few questions over to the duo and learn a bit more about what it is they’ve done, what they’re doing and what they’re planning for the future. Here are their answers…
So Voids came to exist in 2012 and since then you’ve been playing out live and perfecting your craft, how long had the tracks that were included on Begin been floating around in your repertoire for? And have you got any other tracks your hoping to get recorded any time soon?
Well ‘Begin’ and ‘The Fear’ were some of the first tracks we wrote and performed as part of our set. Most of the songs that we wrote during that initial period were experiments in finding our sound so some have remained in the repertoire and others we’ve moved on from stylistically. We record regularly at home so we’re always working toward the next thing.
The two person set up you guys have opted for is interesting, from what I understand your live sets are comprised of bass guitar, vocals and an MPC. Is this the original set up you had envisioned when you started up or was there a bit of trial and error before you came to this conclusion?
Yeah that was roughly the set up we had in mind. I (Andrew) had always wanted to be involved in something where I was making loops on the fly just using bass. Originally I made percussive sounds on the bass for beats but those kinds of sounds don’t really cut through in a live scenario so that’s when the mpc came into play. The first few gig we played I was just looping everything; playing a beat on the pads, then looping that, then playing the bass parts and layering them up with the looper. It was mental. Now we’re using Maschine to play the beats so I can concentrate more on looping the bass parts and effects processing. A huge part of our development is due to trial and error from playing gigs. Every gig is an opportunity to learn something and improve, it’s never perfect. It has always been a goal of ours to play as much of the music ‘live’ as possible so for example, when we play the EP tracks every aspect of the music (bar the beats) is recreated live. This also includes the vocal effects and layering that Alison does with her vocal fx pedal/looper. The original concept is pretty much the same, we just keep working on it and try to iron out the kinks as we go.
Would you be interested in bringing in new elements and members to try and progress your sound further over time?
Possibly incorporating new elements but we have no intention of seeking new members for the moment. We’d like to focus on refining the sound we have rather than adding a new variable. There is still plenty of room for us to grow as a duo. That’s not to say we’re not open to collaborations.
And speaking of additional members, your producer Lewis James, has been in my musical peripheral for a while now, he’s doing some really interesting things with half time D&B (although I think his sound is far too broad to be pigeon holed into just that category at the moment). How did you meet and what did he bring to your music?
Lewis is a great producer, it’s been so rewarding to work with him and he’s played an integral role in making the EP happen and sound the way it does. We met at the Community Scratch Games weekender in Galway in 2013 after we played our set and he ended up inviting us over to Amsterdam to do some recording. We made two trips over to him last year and recorded the 5 tracks on the EP. Our vision for the music was based in a live context and Lewis helped us to explore how best to represent it in a recording. He had the challenge of producing the tracks without compromising our live set i.e. that we could still recreate everything live with bass, vocals and a drum machine. For this reason the EP can sometimes feel minimalistic, so the focus was to create depth and texture within the sound as opposed to instrumental complexity. The plan is to work with him again on the next release for further explorations.
I must admit I’m glad to have been introduced to the other producers you got on board for the second half of the EP, there are some absolute gems on there, did you know the rest of the guys personally or were they just producers whose music you liked and who were game for taking up the challenge?
Well Bosco (SertOne) runs the Fly High Society label with whom we released the EP and everyone else (apart from Lewis) is a member of that collective. Bosco wanted to involve people that he knew so he was the one who got those guys on board. We’re happy to have been introduced to them too and pleased with how the remixes came out.
Lewis wasn’t the only recognisable name associated with the release, EAN, who took over the mastering process (and did a superb job) has been making waves over at Cosmic Bridge and is a pretty recognisable name to those with an interest in the more experimental side of the higher BPM categories. How did you manage to get him on board?
Lewis put us in contact with EAN. We didn’t deliberate over the mastering too much, Lewis trusted EAN and we trusted Lewis. It all worked out pretty well we reckon.
So am I right in thinking that the two of you are based in London now? And have you had a chance to play out over here yet, and if so, how’d it go?
We’re actually based in Galway. We haven’t had the chance to play over in London yet but who knows, maybe we’ll do a few dates over in the UK next year.
What was it like trying to push your sound in Galway, and did you enjoy the music scene there whilst you were growing up?
Playing in Galway has been pretty positive overall. There are plenty of people making good music and putting nights on in Galway, across various genres, and there are opportunities to play and get heard. We’re starting to attract some interest so hopefully that continues. On the other hand it’s quite small and there is a limit to the amount of people you can reach.
I found what I’d read about your studio processes really interesting, the fact that the tracks are written around the bass guitar gives them a real melodic quality, and it sounds as though you do your best to push that particular instrument to its limits through the use of looping stations, delays and a healthy dose harmonics. Who do you look to for inspiration when you pick up this instrument?
Andrew: I look mostly to electronic music these days to inform how I play the bass and the sounds I try to create. Harmonics are certainly a fundamental aspect of how I use the bass and in the past I would have drawn influences for Tom Jenkins (Squarepusher) or Jaco Pastorious. I get a lot of enjoyment out of running the bass through multiple effects and get inspired by the sounds I stumble across. I think these sounds often inspire the melody as opposed to beginning with a typical bass line and building the atmosphere around that.
And more generally speaking, what musicians and genres do you feel have had the biggest impact on the music you’ve made so far?
Andrew: It’s hard to say what music in particular impacts your work, I suppose anything that inspires you, could be Erykah Badu or Jon Hopkins. The most recent thing that blew me away was that track by Lorn, Acid Rain. The power and simplicity of that beat and emotional complexity of the music is astounding. The Lewis James remix of “Knowing” also knocked me on my ass, it’s savage.
Alison: I can’t say that any particular genre or artist inspires me most. It’s more the sounds, textures and sentiments in music that appeal to me regardless of the style. I’m probably more drawn to music that has elements that are hard to identify, like warped or distorted sounds – otherworldly noises. As a vocalist, I feel that the voice is a powerful instrument and find choral music, a cappella pieces, and vocal harmonies particularly inspiring. The feeling that you get from listening to a roomful of just human voices singing in harmony can be quite compelling. So I guess anything that has lush, rich vocals works for me too.
Have you got your eye on any other up & comers who deserve a nod, someone for us to check out next?
God Knows & mynameisjOhn come to mind. They’ve been making waves since their recent album release “Rusangano/Family” and their live show is explosive, definitely worth a look.
What have you got coming up over the winter? Will you be touring or is there another release around the corner?
We don’t have any plans to tour as such but want to do more gigs outside of Galway. We were hoping to launch the EP in Dublin and a couple of other places but haven’t got there yet. We’re working on new material so there will definitely be a release in 2015.
There you have it, a new EP to listen to, another potential EP to look forward to and a sense of relief in the fact that more traditional song writing is comfortably keeping its head above water in current musics predominantly digital landscape. Thank you Voids and we look forward to hearing more from you in the coming year!