Voytek release their debut 7" this Friday at the Hexagon
Voytek are set to transfer the party from the stage and into your household. That's right: the two year-old band is releasing their first piece of wax, and the celebration will be both dirty and ridiculous when they hit the Hexagon on Friday for their release show, take two. The band's first take was scheduled for April 8th, but pressing plant issues pushed back shipment. As they say, the show must go on, so Voytek rocked the Hexagon minus the vinyl that night. Over a month later, the group is set once again for their Big Action Records debut.
Photo by Sharyn Morrow
The band was started by brothers Sam and Max Gerard and has shifted members here and there until settling with the current four member line-up. Gimme Noise caught up with Sam Gerard and Jon Tester to talk about Voytek's approach to conquering the world via song, mostly through such high art pieces as "Saturday Night Again" and "Voytek Party," both of which are on their new single.
Gimme Noise: How did the band get started?
Sam: The band was started in the summer of 2009 by me and my brother Max. I had been playing in mostly metal and heavier types of bands. I wanted to play in a fun punk band. Our dear friend Dusty Miller started playing bass with us. We went on tour with Red Pens. Then we tricked Jon to be in our band. During this time Dusty's job had him traveling the world, so we got our other friend Taylor to play bass with us. Dusty then got married and had a baby. Dusty then was no more.
We then changed from a five piece to a four piece. This takes us to where we are now. There is more but we'll save that for when we are on Prairie Home Companion.
Jon: I moved back to Minneapolis from Denver and accidentally moved into the apartment below Sam. Voytek was already a band--just not a band with me in it, yet. I saw them at Nick & Eddie's with the Red Pens a year or so ago. After they finished, we went outside to smoke a cigarette and I said, "So, you want another guitar player in your band?" That's how it started for me.
What's the difference between playing in Voytek and playing in other bands? How is the approach different?
Sam: Well, it's like we're a gang. All of us except for Taylor live in the same building. We all see each other a lot. Like, we're not just a band: we're bros for life. Like, Max and Jon let me break into their rooms and steal beers.
Jon: "Hey, check out this riff." "Oh, it sounds kind of like '______' by _____, doesn't it?" "Oh yeah, I didn't think of that. Fuck it, they don't own those notes." "Cool, we got a new song."
Voytek songs aren't exactly serious. What's the writing process in putting together a song like "Voytek Party"?
Jon: Alright, let's say that you have this song that gets written and you just sort of play it at practice because it's out there and you all know it, so why not play it, right? Now, it's time to record it and you're getting lyrics all perfected and thrown in their magical little spots that they'll stay in forever. Right around this time, you say, "This song is really boring. Why are we even recording it?!" Then, you drink a little bit of brandy and decide to basically make the song a throw-away, so you give it the most ridiculous lyrics you can think of. When you finally get to record it, you think, "Hey, if this song was sped up a bit, I think I might actually like it." So, you speed it up, add some group vocals and it becomes one of your favorite songs you've recorded. Then it gets released on a 7".
Sam: Our songs are about girls. Isn't that what most rock songs are about? But mostly songs are written at practice. Just us asking each other "what do you have" and then we work it out from there.
Lyrics are where we excel. We'll hang out at one of our apartments, drink some High Life or scotch and then we begin our magic. "Voytek Party's" lyrics were started because we wanted to have a song with our name in it. Then me and Jon just started talking about the parties we've had. We started picking out our favorite memories and those soon became the lyrics to "Voytek Party." All those lyrics are real. We're writing a new song based upon all the unsent love letters my roommate wrote to her middle school crush.
Photo by Sharyn Morrow
What's some of your guilty pleasure music? Do you think it seeps into your songwriting?
Sam: Voytek has an enormous amount of guilty pleasures. Taylor could go on and on about New York City hardcore. He grew up in NYC and fell in love with the straightedge scene. I never thought I would really begin to understand what Strife was really talking about. One cover we do is the classic Chain of Strength song "True Till Death." Max is a mystery, he's like that bald guy on Lost. The guilty pleasures he has escape me. I know he likes She and Him. For me, I gravitate towards my man Stevie Ray Vaughan. He had style: he could play the guitar amazingly and wrote the catchiest blues songs I've ever heard. Jon knows way way too much about modern pop music or, wait, the Millionaires! Those foul-mouthed girls are his favorite. And me and him love love love Guns n' Roses and Skid Row and Poison. I think all of this music seeps in together to create a true Voytek song. If we didn't listen to this music we would just write songs that sound like Modest Mouse.
Jon: When it comes to music, no pleasure is guilty. I can sit in a chair and listen to "Shangri La" by the Kinks on repeat and get taken on a magical whirlwind tour of floating in space and hammocks on the moon, which is great. When I listen to it with music nerds, they're like, "yep, good song." On the other hand, take "Twist" by Korn. Hand's down the most hilarious song of all time! I can listen to that song on repeat and laugh hysterically. Do I think it's a good song? No, but a man in Adidas pants scatting over slap bass and 7-string guitars for 30-40 seconds?! It's like if Eugene Mirman's entire stand-up was jammed into a song. And it's the opening track on their record! We're (probably) never going to record a rap-metal record....at least as Voytek. We might. Who knows?! If we do, it will be funny, though.
So what is the most serious song that Voytek has written?
Sam: That's hard to say. I think all our songs are serious about good times. There are ideas being talked about. We want to write an amazing love ballad. Something I can play at my wedding. When the guitar solo comes in I can look into my future wife's eyes and say, "I wrote this for you, now lemme french you while we listen to my guitar solo".
Jon: Probably 'Boobs." Actually, for real though, 'Saturday Night Again' can be kind of a bummer if you take the lyrics a certain way. Bummer=serious? I don't know.
What's more important: playing a tight set or having fun?
Jon: Hop into the magical time machine of YouTube and look up some Eric Clapton live videos from the early-90s. Woo boy! That band sure is tight, huh? Are you enjoying it? Now scroll back to the top and look up a live video of "Trash" by the New York Dolls. Johnny Thunders is just flailing away and hitting some wrong notes but it's got soul, right? Not saying we got soul or anything, but you probably catch my drift.
Sam: Honestly, I know we're goofballs. But I don't want to be fools. I want us to sound good. For me D4 is a huge influence of seeing a band be hilarious and you can see them having a great time. But at the same time they sound great.
Voytek, Howler, Wisconsin Night Life, and Hot Rash play the Hexagon on Friday, May 20. 21+. Free. 9 p.m.