When I was nineteen I decided to move to Glasgow. Throughout the year preceding this move I had written a number of songs that I wanted to record with a full band prior to moving across the pond. This way I would have a solid piece of recording that reflected the kind of stuff I wanted to be playing with the band I would hopefully acquire. To fill out the pieces I gathered Matt on drums (who I have known and played music with since the age of eleven or twelve), Mitch on guitar (who I lived in a dorm room with in Boston), and Jason (whom I randomly approached at a party in Austin- perhaps the best impulse decision I ever made). We completed this initial set of songs over the course of the summer, and suddenly it was September. As I have discussed previously on this blog, when I arrived in Scotland I discovered something much different than I had expected and spent much more of my time in nightclubs than I did behind a guitar. However I still continued to write songs and when I would return home for summer or Christmas holiday we would work up the songs just for fun.
I had never had any expectation that Voxtrot would ever even be a live band. In fact the name did not come about until necessity forced it to do so. Jason managed to get us a show with out friend David Longoria, who was at that time playing with an incarnation of what is now The Black. In the winter of 2002 (I think) we recorded the Start of Something, which was followed by a handful of recordings with Carlos Jackson (The Shells), however there was never really any plan to release anything. It was mainly just passed around between friends and sold on CD-R's whenever we played out, which was not often. Gigs were usually either at Emos Austin or at House Parties, which is where we probably gathered the grand majority of our fans. Most of our "fans" were actually just friends that we knew from hanging out in Austin who liked the music and liked going to parties (who doesn't?).
Often times our live performance was (perhaps still is) a little choppy, technically speaking, but the atmosphere was/is really nice and people danced. In my mind this kind of enjoyment compensates for a little infidelity performance-wise but that's just me. I think that we have gotten much more solid in terms of playing live, and hopefully that improvement curve will keep on its path. Last year James Minor (who worked at Emos and 33 Degrees Record Shop and now lives in New York) offered to become our manager. James is a very good friend of ours and is one of the first people who I become close with I started actually meeting people in Austin. Before James, our friend Helen helped us to find gigs in Austin and is the one who initially sent James a Voxtrot CD-R but she was not exactly a 'hard-hitting, wheeling and dealing' manager. She was just a friend who wanted to hep us play somewhere other than people's living rooms.
James' offer was kind of terrifying because it meant putting off the remainder of my degree, but all I have ever wanted to do is to play music so I accepted and we about one year later trying to make it work. Now I will quote from a discussion thread:
"the general impression I have of voxtrot is 'exceedingly lame'.. I guess I totally want my music to be popular too, but I'm not going to write a bunch of crowd-pleasers just to make it happen. I want to write music that's good, whether it will be popular or not."
Okay, this notion that we made a conscious decision to abandon twee pop in favor of a more popular current sound is an unfortunate misaprehension. I have nothing against Bloc Party, The Bravery, etc... Primarily because I have never heard a single album by either one of those bands, not because I am a snob but rather because I have spent more of my time listening to dance records, and of course my old indie and sixties favorites. Belle and Sebastian, The Smiths, The Field Mice, etc... I still love all of that shit more than I can tell you but it would be ridiculous to keep writing songs in the same format and style year after year. Personally, I wouldn't exactly say we've strayed far from those twee pop roots. For me the main component of song appeal is melody and then lyrics; that's what really grabs me. However, over time I decided that incorporating a bit of drive and gusto in one's songs can be a beautiful thing. You come to anticipate the way a crowd will react when a certain energy builds in the song, and when it happens both the crowd and the perfomer are feeling the same wonderful thing. It's fun.
As an artist (perhaps this is true for every profession) you want to reach the greatest possible number of people. You also want to be able to support yourself, and I think a lot people have this notion that trying to integrate your band into the realm of being a 'profession' completely denies the purity of the experience. It's kind of a catch-22 because in a way I'm sure this is partially true, but this is where the argument against 'artist as commodity' comes into play. In some countries (ie. the United States) it is extremely hard to survive as an artist. There is very little government funding and let's not even talk about socialised health care. Despite any apparent growing popularity you still have to fucking struggle. And chances are you are doing it because you love music, not the other way around. Some people love attention more than music, but popularity is not necessarily an indicator of that trait, as many have surmised. Personally I think it's pretty shitty to see Austinites tearing down their own bands instead of supporting them. Sometimes we don't make the absolute best choices business-wise but trust me the prime motivation, the original motivation, is music.