VOLK // Feature Friday
Written by: Kayla Lee
Meet VOLK, a powerhouse duo turning out bold, infectious tracks that will make you want to move your body and stomp your feet to the music. While currently based out of Nashville, VOLK members Chris (vocals and guitar) and Eleot (vocals and drums) fused their creative interests while living in Germany. What they brought back to the states was a beautifully crafted gothic western rock meets folk with a sprinkle of twangy bluesy vibes that, although consisting of familiar parts, is an original and fresh creation. Hailing from California and Texas respectively, this pair pulls you in from the get go and takes you on a wild ride throughout their debut maxi single, Boutique Western Swing Compositions.
VOLK's live performance is not one to miss, as both Chris and Eleot radiate high energy and passion for what they do. Their recent performance at Phat Bites, a cafe doubling as a venue in Donelson, TN, was a wonderful example of a good ol' rock and roll show with the expressiveness of both members, coupled with the in-your-face-guitar and you-can-feel-it-in-your-bones drum beats.
Performing tracks not included on Boutique Western Swing Compositions such as "January", a track written about their time spent in Germany, VOLK engage the crowd and draw them in from the start. Complete with humorous stage banter, it's no wonder that VOLK already has a large amount of live performances under their belt. With even more shows scheduled for 2017, it's sure to be a busy year for the pair.
Boutique Western Swing Compositions, the maxi single recorded in Germany and released by VOLK in January of 2015, is sure to rock your world and leave you questioning why you hadn't listened to this group sooner. The interesting aspect of this recording is that all four tracks were recorded live in studio onto 2" tape, followed by being mixed and mastered analog as opposed to digitally. This method certainly adds to the classic audible feel of the music, and compliments VOLK's over all sound rather than degrading it.
The first track, "Simple Western Song", opens with with a lighthearted drum beat mixed with deep guitar chords that immediately reach out to reel you in. Eleot's voice is seemingly smooth with ease yet powerful and rough all at once as it cascades across and above the instrumentals, making it the true guiding force in this track.
With the line "The film fades with a simple western song" being a constant, the drums pick up the pace and are met with a wailing guitar to deliver a mysterious yet exciting feeling of being taken along for the ride on an adventure that you're not sure if you're ready for, but would be a fool to miss out on.
Leading into "Just Anybody", Eleot begins by humming a familiar tune that is quickly met with drums and accompanied by guitar. Catchy lyrics, such as "We don't have to be compound or complex / We can keep it simple / Present tense / Those three words you've gotta never say / To anyone just passing your way" allow this number to replay in your head long after you've finished listening.
Moving on to "Revelator's Bottleneck", a bold clash of drums and guitar initially set the stage. Laced with a classic rock edge, this track draws you in and envelops you with dual vocals that weave together. Offering a well paired mix that differs from the norm due to the fact that both Eleot and Chris have their own vocal style rather than perfect harmony, VOLK's musical abilities emerge fully as the song progresses. Pulling you in with lyrics such as "We're all just trying to make it down devil's road / but just where the hell we're headed no one knows" take you on a journey with VOLK through clashing drums, pounding guitars, and full vocals that tie this track together.
Closing with "Like A Fool", Eleot begins with soft vocals that quickly intertwine with Chris' to sing, "I waste my time / Flipping tricks, riddles, and rhymes / For the big shiny light / Like a fool". Exploring the concept of chasing dreams and fantasizing about ones future, the lighthearted yet serious tone of this song evokes feelings of mystery, possibilities, and "what if's?" Kicking up the pace towards the end, Chris and Eleot churn out a track that encompass the powerful, explosive range of VOLK-- one can only wait to hear more from this promising group.
We chatted with guitarist / vocalist Chris about upcoming tour plans, living in Germany, VOLK's creative process and more! Read on to learn more about VOLK and to check out some live shots from a recent show that they played.
Q: First and foremost, how did you come up with the name VOLK?
A: We both started out separately playing folk music at open mics in Berlin. Both of us are heavily influenced though by over the top rock like AC/DC, Queen, The Killers, etc. So as Eleot (from CA) picked up the drums and I (Chris, TX) started getting louder with an electric guitar, all of our folk music became electrified, obnoxiously loud rock songs. Folk + Voltage = VOLK. Its sort of helpful, in a way, because we can play one song in about 3 different ways: one for the coffee shop, one for the brewery, and one for the rock festival.
Q: I know that ya'll have lived in Germany for a few years prior to moving back to the states. What made you want to move there, as opposed to other places?
A: Eleot moved to Berlin for theater and I took a job teaching at an international school there around the same time, so actually the whole music thing is an aberration for the both of us. Berlin is a great place to start as an artist because its so culturally and artistically open and cheap to live.
Seriously, a lot of weird music gets played at Madame Claude's. It's awesome. So neither of us were very satisfied with our career paths and I think Eleot and I both felt comfortable enough to develop as songwriters and musicians there. Nashville is awesome, but I wouldn't have had the confidence to come here to do music if I hadn't had time to test the waters in Berlin.
Q: How does the music scene in Germany compare to the music scene here, and is there anything in particular that you miss?
A: Europeans in general love live music; German, French, Italian; they aren't too picky about genre. Berlin is a different beast entirely though. Its the Mecca of EDM and anti-folk- I'm probably screwing up terms here. Either you're trying to be the next Daft Punk or the next Bob Dylan; there's no room for in between and venues there hate loud drums.
Once we became a full fledged rock band it became a struggle to find places to play. Also I look like Eleot's dad so I'm sure its visually jarring to see the two of on stage for the first time rocking out. Neither of us had a car so it was a huge project setting up a tour out of town. Since we could never really find a scene that was interested in LOUD Volk, we decided it was time to head out. We'll always be thankful to Berlin though for giving us that space to develop.
We miss German public transportation and universal healthcare something awful. Berlin actually does have sort of a cool New Zealand expat country scene with bands like Bannerman and The Great Danes. Great Berlin rock bands like Faunshead and The Dead Lovers, both who were super helpful in getting us gigs, are still fighting the perpetual fight against auto-tune and drum machines.
Q: Do you have any advise for other artists that are considering moving out of the country to pursue their dream, but aren't 100% certain about going?
A: There is a great interview online with Sturgil Simpson's management team, and I think there is one point where his manager Marc Dottore recommends that any American artist looking to develop should go tour Europe for like a year straight.
As I said, Europeans just love going out for live music. They don't care too much about scenes or genres. And Dave Grohl said it best, as a musician you have to be okay with sucking for awhile and Europe is a great place to suck and improve and develop your stage presence, your song writing, your act, your tone, etc. etc.
Q: When it comes to crafting a song, what's your creative process? Your overall style and sound is definitely unique, and I'd love to know the inner workings behind that.
A: I can't really answer for Eleot because she has completely different ways of approaching songwriting than I do. That probably helps with the uniqueness because each VOLK song is a fuster cluck of our creative tactics. Also we're a two piece trying to pose as either a honky tonk country duo or a full-fledged rock orchestra, so its gonna sound funny.
As for me, I'm constantly writing notes in my phone when I hear a good line or if I happen upon a guitar line I like then I'll record it. Tom Waits described songwriting like trying to reel in a big fish, when you get a little nudge you gotta pull at it slowly in and be patient or you'll break the line. In-writing editing is my worst enemy though and I get caught in an over-analytical vacuum and I'll hate what I've written after awhile.
I think Bob Dylan said in Chronicles that songwriting is a mixture of creativity, observation, and ?inspiration? So I guess a song just comes from me 1) being in the right temperament, 2) having brainstormed enough similar images and metaphors to lace together to create a consistent theme, and 3) finding a melody and guitar riff to cram it all into...all that in no particular order.
As an English teacher I just think of it how I taught poetry, you're combining sound, figurative, and structure to create a theme. Its really annoying how simple it often is when you happen upon what you want out of a song though. And I really need to learn how to get out of my way more cause sometimes it takes about three to four years to bring in that damn fish...
Q: Do ya'll have any big plans for the near future?
A: Yes we do!!!!! We'll be recording our second EP in September. Good timing too because we are about to run out of the original vinyl pressings our first EP, Boutique Western Swing Compositions. We'll spend the rest of the summer getting ready to record and working on the launch.
On top of that, we've got almost 30 more shows left for the summer taking us all around the Midwest and the Southeast. We'll finish the summer with a really big show at Cobra Bar in Nashville on August 24th. We need everybody to come out for that one.
We're playing with fellow rocker friends the Hollows, Resistance House Band, and Casey Jo and The Friday Night Dads All of these bands put on great shows so if you're still a true rock fan ya'll need to be there!
You can stay up to date with VOLK on Facebook
VOLK | Phat Bites | Donelson, TN