This March the fairly enigmatic, yet increasingly popular Australian duo VOWWS, who currently reside in Los Angeles, released their second full-length album Under The World. Music critics have been trying to define the sound of VOWWS by comparing them with the possible music influences. However, one can’t describe their work so easily. It is generated from the combination of outside inputs and personalities of Matt and Rizz which make their work sound so genuine and unpretentious. One thing is evident: the duo has an outstanding artistic capacity. If you wish to comprehend their work, you need to listen to it completely unbiased. After hearing Under The World, I wanted to talk to the band and share their thoughts on their work, inspiration, art and future plans.
1. Hi, guys, and thank you for accepting my interview request. I would like to ask you both about your earliest encounters with music. Can you remember when you became interested in music and how that interest led you to becoming musicians?
Rizz: Music was everywhere, in shopping malls, TV commercials, car radios. I remember properly noticing it from all the horror movies I used to watch as a kid. That’s when I was like woah whats this, and started trying to tape the sound from the TV with my boombox.
Matt: My earliest musical memory is singing ‘Shout to the Top’ by Style Council into a little toy gas pump, like it was a microphone. I played piano from age 7 to 9, but I didn’t really develop an interest in rock etc until I was like 13. That’s when I started guitar, but I actually wanted to play drums first.
2. Music critics often feel the need to label music. However, I would describe your expression as a mix of various influences and your own perception and ideas. What do you think is the main driving force behind your project? Where do you find the inspiration for the musical and lyrical content?
Rizz: I always find it hard to answer this kind of question cos it’s not a conscious thing. It’s not like “I’m doing this” or “I’m going to do this” … As far back as I can remember I was lost in my imagination and trying to use whatever tools I could to capture or recreate the things I would dream. Obviously Vowws is a project with another person and we release things etc… but I personally try to keep my mind out of that side of it as much as possible. I prefer spontaneous acts of creativity than passion projects.
Matt: I feel the main driving force behind what we do is probably our chemistry. Like, if we want to do any idea in Vowws, the other person has to vibe on it, so we are each other’s filters. Lyrically, we draw a lot from the drama of human relationships, and the tiny manipulations people pull on each other. But recently, we’ve drawn more from the fucked up state of the world than we would have otherwise.
3. While many people compare you to Depeche Mode, I hear Pixies. I assume it’s in our nature to compare what we can’t fully describe or put into a drawer. What was the funniest comparison you’ve heard so far? Do you feel flattered or disappointed with some of them?
Rizz: Somebody compared us to Teletubbies once… I thought that was a bit weird.
Matt: Not sure about the funniest – we’re OK with most comparisons, unless they’re super lazy. But if people take the time to describe in depth why we sound like Green Day and Pet Shop Boys’ love child, and they do it well, then that’s a legitimate angle.
4. Apart from music, you also draw your inspiration from the visual art, which is evident from your videos, photos and artwork. How do you combine music with the visual aspect of your artistic expression?
Rizz: Those worlds are very intertwined. We make visuals based on sounds and sounds based on visuals. We have a vision for what we do and it’s pretty complete, we know what our shit should look like, sound like, and how it should read. I dunno it happens naturally, nothing is really forced in this project and when it is, we often just scrap it and start again.
Matt: I often find myself looking at a great photograph or piece of art when I’m trying to write, I find that way more inspiring than listening to other music, which I find mostly uninspiring for writing. I also like it when visual artists tell us they listen to our music while they work, it’s like the completion of the circle.
5. I read that you enjoyed various film genres, including horrors. Which genres attract or inspire you the most and why? David Lynch came to my mind, while I was listening to your music. Have you ever been interested in his work?
Matt: David Lynch is a big influence, both his movies and soundtracks. For artistic inspiration, it has to be dramatic, and the darker or more disorienting stuff can be the richest.
Matt: Just spitballing. Sometimes it’s good to write with someone in mind, so it was just one step further to ask him to sing on it.
7. Why did you decide to cover Roy Orbison’s Crying? How do you feel about the original song?
Matt: The original is a masterpiece – and even though it’s about total heartbreak, it sounds so innocent. So I suppose we had an urge to take something naive sounding, twist it and give the lyrics a different darker context – cause they are really bleak if you take away the sweet musical backing.
8. What are your thoughts on Under The World compared to The Great Sun?
Matt: To me it’s more fully realized. We buried a lot of our hooks on The Great Sun underneath layers of tape distortion and stuff, this time we still took as much time as we could to get the best sounds, but we let them shine a lot more in the final mix. Also we got better at writing songs the way we wanted to, so the material is more mature.
Rizz: A lot of people that have discovered it seem to use words like original, ahead of its time, undefinable…. Don’t wanna seem like a wanker lol but these are things I like to hear.
10. How do you divide composing and writing lyrics between you? Has anything changed in that sense between the two albums?
Matt: I write the lyrics, but the germ of an idea often comes from the energy flowing between us, and our way of looking at the world. The first time we wrote a song together Rizz wrote these streams of consciousness on a piece of paper, along with a really weird looking sketch. I then tried to take the verbal and visual cues, and funnel those feelings into actual lyrics. It was really intuitive, and that dynamic is pretty much how we work now, if that makes sense. As far as the music, there is a lot of back and forth at all stages. But I tend to do more of the craft/technical stuff where as Rizz tends to guide more of the inspiration and taste-based stuff.
11. What does it take for the duo to successfully work together?
Rizz: Space, respecting each others personal journey… we come together when we feel like we’re on the same page with an idea then bring our best to the table and complete it. That means being prepared to have ideas cut down, or thrown away and not take it personally. Then we refine and refine until we both like it. But yeah most of the work is done alone, sifting through the stream and mining for gold before we waste each others time.
12. Your latest album is released on your Anti-Language Records label. What are the pros and cons of releasing music through your own label?
Matt: Pros include the freedom to make your own decisions, and pursue your own ideas, both artistically and business-wise. The cons include having to do it all yourself, and having limited resources.
Rizz: Oh hell yes, we can’t say anything yet but there’s a bunch of collabs coming out.
14. After you toured the US this year, can we hope for the European tour?
Matt: We want to get over there soon, we want to play live for the people who like the records.
15. We would most certainly like to see you in the UK. Can you tell us what we could expect from your live performance?
Matt: We do our best to faithfully represent the music live, from top to bottom. We’re adding additional members for live performance these days, we have a drummer we love who cares as much as we do about making the show sound, look and feel like it should. So if you like our record you’ll dig the live performance.