- Posted on Mar 3rd 2011 5:00PM by Brian Voerding
You and a few other bandmates are originally from Florida. What was the change in culture like, moving to New York?
In Florida, I felt completely cut off from anything that I was really interested in musically. Florida, and even more so Miami, where I grew up, is such a long drive down the penninsula. It didn't make sense for a lot of bands to drive all the way down. I didn't have access to that music. When i got to New York, it was pretty mind-blowing to see what people were using, gear-wise, onstage -- amps and guitars and effects pedals I had never seen before, just doing what seemed to be completely advanced. I was envious. I talked to kids who owned that stuff since they were 15. I thought, "I'm just getting to college and learning about this stuff now."
Did you feel like you had to play catch-up?
I was intimidated by it for a little while, but more and more I realized what I'm interested in is melodies and songs, really getting to the feeling that the song wants to communicate. That's not amp- or guitar-specific. It's more like this kind of investigation to figure out which sounds are the right sounds to communicate. The more you have at your disposal, the bigger your palette is, but it's less important to think, "Wow, I have to hit the books and figure out what my guitar sound is."
The band's known for exploring any number of styles and genres. Where does that come from?
Growing up and seeing bands like Ween and Mr. Bungle do all of these things within one project was sort of a freeing realization. These guys are doing their thing, and they're incorporating everything. We do it to a much more subtle extent, but it's definitely there.
When I see a metal band, I think, "I want to be in a metal band," and when I see an electronic band with synths, I think, "I want to be like that." There are so many kinds of music that we love. The idea is leading a listener down a path and shifting it over and surprising them with a different direction.
Does the band's openness to melding all those things make writing songs difficult, or freeing?
One of the reasons I love karaoke is because it homogenizes all pop music, in a way. You can break it down to the digital information that's at the core of it. The sounds that are picked are almost arbitrary, functions that communicate melody. The song itself is just ones and zeros. Similarly, when a melody pops into my head and starts a song, it can go in a bunch of different directions, play out in a bunch of different tempos. It's usually what's the most exciting at the time that we roll with, but we've also done three, four, five versions of a song. We shoot from the hip and think, "What if we did it in this way?" And if everyone wants it to be a blistering guitar song, we'll do that.
You mentioned a few influences already. Any others?
I've always really loved Jimmy Page as a producer, guitarist, songwriter and general orchestrator, and as part one of the best bands in history. I've always seen a relationship -- maybe because if you squint your eyes they look alike -- between him and Kevin Shields. I'm a huge fan of My Bloody Valentine. As a kid I was drawn to pop songs that had a scary feeling to them, like an eerie, mournful thing, or the Latin romantic pop that my dad would play at the house. A lot of that stuff finds its way into our music, usually through the synth sounds, the way the melodies turn and give up and down in certain parts of the songs.
Did you play instruments when you were young?
I started playing guitar when I was 10. A pretty important shift for me was deciding that I wanted to play guitar, based on watching [a TV performance] of a song, 'Carrie,' by Europe. This guitarist had this badass yellow electric guitar, and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world and I wanted one. A handful of years later, I witnessed Kurt Cobain shatter all the hair metal bands, and that was a pretty crazy shift to watch.
As a songwriter, where does your inspiration come from? Do you try to punch a clock or wait for it to strike?
I find that if I sit down to write something I don't come up with anything I like. I've learned over the years that the songs I can listen to years later and still be into are the ones that just pop into my head as I'm walking down the street or about to take a shower, not thinking about anything. Immediately, I'll log it down and chase it later. I feel like that's the strongest way. A lot of times melodies or phrases will just pop into my head when i'm waking up in the morning, and I will try to immediately record it. Sometimes it's a song in my dream I'm humming, and I wake up and put it down.
So you dream in songs?
It happens to my girlfriend, Caroline, too. She's a songwriter. She just jumps out of bed and gets a recorder. I think it happens to a lot of songwriters.
The band draws a pretty wild list of comparisons. Are there any in particular you either welcome or roll your eyes at?
There have been bands I've never heard of before that we're compared to, or ones I've never listened to a lot. Usually I'm just stoked to be compared to bands -- like the Smiths, it's a huge compliment. I definitely think about them a lot when writing the bass lines to our songs. In the beginning, I really wanted the aggressive quality that Minor Threat or the Misfits had in the delivery of their songs, the group ethic of four dudes yelling together. I also wanted sounds like Wire. I love the synth sounds and the way they fit with the guitars, and it's still very much punk rock -- dark and mournful and alienating and weird, like what you'd hear at a dentist's ofice or a Duane Reade [pharmacy chain], coming out of the speakers. From the vocal standpoint, the Byrds, the Association, '60s bands, Buffalo Springfield. Those harmonies, all that stuff, I've always been drawn to. In the beginning it was an attempt to mesh those worlds and make a band out of it.
Where does the band name come from?
I was remembering this interview that I saw with [Chilean film director] Alejandro Jodorowsky on his movie 'The Holy Mountain.' They were asking about violence in his movies, saying, "A lot of people say your movies are too violent," and he interrupts with, "I love violence," going on about this thing where he can't stand people who can't look at a horrific image and see it as beautiful in some way. I loved the way he pronounced violence. I thought about the word, how it could function as a hybrid between violins and violence. It's a dynamic word. I've also always liked band names that started with certain letters, and "V" is one of them.
What are you working on now?
Myles [Matheny, guitarist, vocalist] and I have been doing a lot of writing on the road. We want to get them out. We're not into the record-cycle idea. We're into writing a song, trying to record it and sharing it with our friends. It always seems like with music you have to wait a year until you put something out. We wrote a song in December and just put it out last month. It's going to be on our site. Right before SXSW, if I get it done, we're going to release a second song. We're going to do nine of these. The artwork for each song is going to combine into one image after nine songs. The image will be revealed at the end. It's more in tune with how we feel about the music. It's nice to know people can listen to [new songs] if they want to, and not hibernate nine months before they come out.
Catch Violens' SXSW Set on Thursday, March 17 at Beauty Bar Backyard (617 E 7th St.) 9:45PM.
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