Sunday, 10 December 2006
ARTIST: Voxtrot
The current gods of the EP are back
DATE: 10-28-06
WRITER: Casey Lombardo

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Now Playing: “Trouble” from Your Biggest Fan

In 2005, prior to being sucked into the same online buzz machine that launched a thousand Arctic Monkeys, Voxtrot was just another idiosyncratic indie pop band amid a sea of such bands in Austin, Texas. Today, they’ve established a dedicated cult following thanks as much to their literate, Anglo-informed brand of music—somewhere between the melodrama of The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian’s faux-orchestral grandeur—as untold kilobytes of ecstatic essays linked feverishly across the blogosphere. Led by Ramesh Srivastava’s loquacious-yet-plaintive vocals, Voxtrot toured heavily in support of the acclaimed Mothers, Sisters and Wives EP including, appropriately enough, a prominent stop at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. Having just inked a deal with Playlouder/Beggars Group and notching yet another EP on its bedpost in the process, Voxtrot is currently composing songs for its full-length debut coming in 2007. Srivastava recently took a break to sit down and clue us in on the creation of the band’s sound and more.

What is the recipe for a Voxtrot song?

Basically, I just bring a skeleton in that’s kind of like the chords, melody, lyrics—whatever you could potentially play by yourself and everybody writes their own parts and builds it from there. Jason, our bass player, is probably the one who adds the most specific arrangements, and then Jared, the keyboard player, writes all of the string parts. You’re basically recycling the same chords and all melodies are composites of other melodies, so you have to do something a little different to make them unique.

Your Biggest Fan will be the band’s third non-album release. How did it come about?

The two tracks that I guess are the b-sides were both recorded in Austin. Then we went to London and sandwiched in the recording of the first track, which was a weird experience because we were much more separated from the process than ever before. It might not be the sound that I was most hoping for, but it’s something that helps us to learn that we’re a band that would probably like to be involved in every step more than other bands would.

Do I hear a little Broadway in the title track?

See, that’s not really the intent. I’m hesitant to say things like this because I don’t know how it’ll be interpreted, but if I would’ve been there, it wouldn’t have come out the way that it did. I think it sounds too safe and could’ve used a little more edge. Maybe the production’s too good or something.

What inspired “Trouble?”

I went over to London to do this official signing of the record contract. We had a big, official dinner when I signed the contract and we got really, really drunk. I think we were drinking pink champagne. At one point, our A&R guy Simon said to me, “Why don’t you come to Sonar in Barcelona with me tomorrow,” and I thought, “Oh, that’s a great idea!” We changed my American flight and tried to buy a flight to Spain, but since it was starting later that day, there were no flights. So I was stuck in London for weeks with no money in this flat above the Beggars Group office. I would just come up with these song ideas during the day because I didn’t have anything else to do.

“Sway” is a departure. Where did those strings come from?

The strings are from the Tosca String Quartet. They did an album with David Byrne and they did all the music for that Richard Linklater film Waking Life. That’s actually my favorite one by far on the whole thing.

Voxtrot has been enthusiastically embraced by sites like Pitchfork as well as the blogging community. How does the term “critical” darling ring in your ears?

Shit, I dunno. I think maybe I liked that term for a while because it’s easy. I feel like that probably has more to do with Pitchfork than anything else, because blogs are one thing, but they’re not quite as pivotal. I hope that people that really listen to the music have an emotional attachment to it. I hope they’re into the music whether we’re a critical darling or not.

Do you feel this kind of attention has affected the way Voxtrot is perceived?

I would have to say yes definitely in terms of how enthusiastic people are at your shows or about wanting to seek you out if they don’t already know you.

What do you listen to that might surprise people?

The thing people always are surprised about is that I listen mostly to electronic and techno music. When I lived in Scotland, I discovered these really great dance clubs and raves. From there I found No Wave and later got into things like Liars and Matmos, but those are pretty much the only types of records I’ll buy now. I think that Babyshambles record was really good and Comet Gain I really like, but there’s very little indie stuff that really grips me.

I understand you used to teach pre-school.

“Teach” is a loose term. You’re just instructing on social behavior. You have all the kids in one room and you say “go!” and then in 30 seconds a fight breaks out.

Did any of that experience prepare you for life on the road in a van full of guys?

Yeah, I wish I could referee them.

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