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EXCLUSIVE: Interview with LA band VOILÀ

VOILÀ are an LA based pop-rock duo who are ready to shake up your world with their captivating music. Made up of Luke Eisner and Gus Ross, the duo met at the Thornton School of Music after coming from very different backgrounds.

Gus originates from London, England and grew up busking and singing jazz music. Luke, on the other hand, grew up in Wisconsin and spent his younger years at the helm of pop/punk bands. The pair later moved to LA to pursue a career in music. After taking a few classes together in freshman year, Luke and Gus decided to join forces and the rest is history.

If you’re a fan of pop-rock then you’re going to love VOILÀ. The duo are extremely hands on to say the least. Not only are both Luke and Gus classically trained in guitar, piano and drums, but they also write their own material and handle all the aspects of recording and production. That’s what makes this duo so special – you know for certain that their heart and soul has gone into every inch of their music.

Earlier this month, VOILÀ unveiled their first two original tracks, ‘Hundredth Second Chance’ and ‘Lately’. The singles were premiered on BBC Music Solent’s ‘2018 Ones To Watch’ and received rave reviews from listeners. Both singles are the perfect introduction to VOILÀ as they show two different sides to Luke and Gus. ‘Hundredth Second Chance’ is bursting with energy and is completely infectious, whilst ‘Lately’ is a gritty and brooding ballad.

With their debut album on the way, 2018 is looking like it’s going to be VOILÀ’s year and we couldn’t be more excited for them. We recently had the opportunity to ask Luke and Gus about all things music, from their singles and album to their creative process and LA’s influence on their sound.

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First off, please introduce yourselves with a little known fact.

Luke: Before we were VOILÀ, our first band name was Goldilocks because we both have long blonde hair. I was pretty stuck on it, but luckily Gus made a case to switch. In hindsight, I’m very glad we changed that haha.

Gus: I’ve been to North Korea.

How did you first get into music, and is it something you’ve always wanted to carve a career in?

Luke: When I was younger, I was into athletics but had a really serious concussion from it. During that recovery, I was told I shouldn’t return to sports in the future. I was home recovering and watching a skateboarding video that had the song “Coast to Coast” by Elliott Smith in it. Something about it struck me in a very cathartic way. It was from this tune that I stumbled across the silver lining of the whole accident and got into music. I had latched onto it at such an emotional time I knew that’s how I wanted to express myself for the rest of my life.

Gus: I actually almost went down the path of trying to make it as a pro golfer when I was 16: for me it was either music or golf: I chose music. I grew up playing the guitar and singing and was always around music in school but more classical in genre. I then got into Jazz music (1920’s prohibition era) loved guys like Fats Waller, Dougie Carmichael etc. I loved the rhythmic facets of the genre and it inspires work we do on VOILÀ. There’s a track called ‘Waiting’ on the record that even has a saxaphone hook in it. I like to think that it’s pretty jazzy aha!

You both come from different backgrounds but ultimately met whilst studying music in California. Why did you decide to form the band and where did the name VOILÀ come from?

Luke: I remember the first time Gus and I got together we had written a song in the first few minutes and were jumping around in his dorm room. It just was always really natural for us to write songs together. Gus is one of those rare ridiculously talented people, and he’s passionate about the parts of music making I struggle with. It’s also like we can’t seem to do anything other than music when we are together. Even this New Years Eve we ended up just sitting in the studio recording a new song. The name VOILÀ comes from the fact we both loved magic growing up. It means “There you are” which, if you look at it literally, I hope can be understood as you can see yourself in us, which is the goal of any good storyteller. As VOILÀ is a French word, we associate it with what is a very romantic language and we are also drawn to french constructs like Art Deco and Art Nouveau.

You recently released your first singles, ‘Lately’ and ‘Hundredth Second Chance’, both of which show different sides to you. What can you tell us about the inspiration behind both songs?

Luke: To me, ‘Hundredth Second Chance’ is about a love that’s so broken in that its become actually broken. It’s that point where you realize a relationship is anything but good for you but you are so comfortable in it that you keep giving it second chance after second chance in it in hopes it’ll be like what it used to be. It’s this guilty pleasure of enjoying the chaos of getting your toes wet as you go down with the ship haha.

Gus: ‘Lately’ stems from a similar place to ‘Hundredth Second Chance’ in that it talks about the concept of a love growing futile. ‘I’m done you’re overrated’ opens the song and this line really sums it up honestly. It’s funny how we let the opinions of others cloud our own emotions at times. Ever carried on with something just because it’s easier to and you and you feel as though you’re doing something that others approve of? ‘Lately’ goes against this systematic reaction and instead comes from a place of courage and determination. ‘Lately’ encourages us to step up and be counted instead of falling into a banal cycle of repetition that might seem ‘right’.

You premiered the songs on BBC Music Solent’s ‘2018 Ones To Watch’. What was that experience like?

Gus: It was pretty surreal honestly. Growing up in England l would listen to BBC radio every day and then to suddenly have them introduce our song was crazy. My mum called me the second it finished and told me that her and my father had been sitting in the kitchen at home huddled around our old school radio listening in. That was a wonderful moment.

Luke: It was an absolute honor. What was most exciting was watching Gus’ reaction to it because it literally hit close to home for him. You could tell it was one of his childhood dreams come true and that was a really heartwarming thing to see.

We’ve heard that you’ve got an album in the works. What themes can fans expect from your debut album?

Gus: Yes we have a 17 track album done! It’s a varied record with rock and electronic influences scattered throughout. Quite a few of the songs actually come from quite a dark place but our sound is somewhat anthemic so that dichotomy is an interesting one and we think it might be that combination that sets us apart sonically.

Luke: The album is called “Ask Me Yesterday” which of course is something that is impossible to do. It’s a hopelessly romantic commentary on how quickly you can go from dying to see somebody one day to wanting to die if you saw them the next.

Having released music under different aliases in the past, what drove you towards launching a pop/rock project?

Gus: We always knew that we wanted to write original music ultimately. But we hadn’t ever put out any original music up until this point as it took us time to find a sound that we could call ours. It took the best part of three years. This record feels like the culmination of thousands of hours of experimentation.

Luke: It’s like if you try to force something to fit you end up changing its shape. I think when we were trying other genres we were changing who we were as communicators in the process of trying to fit the scene. I think Pop/Rock is the best vessel for our storytelling baggage. I’m biased, but I also think that this sound provides a great framework for Gus’ voice.

It’s clear that your songs are more mature than your average pop song. How would you describe your creative process?  How do you go about putting a song together?

Gus: Cheers! Luke actually summed it up pretty well the other day! Something about one person being an inputter and one person being a pacer.

Luke: Yeah I heard this theory in screenwriting that in any successful partnership you need an inputter and a pacer. So basically one member has to be able to sit still, be hands on and detail oriented and the other has to look at it from the big picture and communicate ideas with the inputter. Gus is the inputter and, much to the dismay of his carpet, I’m the pacer.

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You’re both songwriters, are classically trained in guitar, piano and drums and handle all aspects of recording and production. To say that you’re hands on is an understatement! What’s your favourite part of the creative process?

Luke: That’s thoughtful of you thanks! My favorite part of the process is the first moment we have the song recorded in some format and being able to hear to it for the very first time as just listeners. It’s at this point that you know right away if it’s an authentic song. If you get the goosebumps and the chills then you know its worth continuing because you hope people’s first impressions will be the same.

Gus: I like the moment when the mix finally feels right. You can be tweaking different aspects for days but then there always comes a magic moment when you have a listen to the song front to back and there’s no more notes to give. It makes all the hours spent tweaking technical intricacies worth it!

Luke, you’re also a poet, whilst Gus used to be the lead vocalist in a jazz band. How have these qualities helped you to create your current sound?

Luke: I think wit it is the quality I aim for the most. I listen to music for the lyrics so it allows me to really soak in a lot of different genres. I listen to anything from country to metal to gospel and all the cracks in between as long as the linguistic qualities are strong. I think because I do this, subliminally I’ve sponged up a lot of different qualities of different genres. I also always liked writing love letters and I think a really well crafted song can be just as personal as a letter. From a poetry standpoint I think the biggest influences are the children’s poets. I think Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein were like the best pharmacists. They knew how to make medicine really tasty. They would disguise these deep messages in such an entertaining way that you didn’t know you’d end up enjoying getting a dose of meaning. I think a good song should act in the same way.

Gus: Haha listen to him, the man’s a lyricist damn it! Yes, for me, being able to produce my own vocal sound is something I really value. That way we can get harmonies and screams and stuff like that just how we want them to sound.

How would you say that LA has influenced your sound?

Luke: Traffic. I am in traffic for hours a day. However, it is where I write most of my lines and listen to audiobooks and music. Something about the white noise of the engine running and brakes lurching is really conducive to thinking. I have so many audio memos on my phone for when lines come to me.

Gus: I think breathing in the smog has made my voice more hoarse in tone! Honestly though, this sunshine helps. It’s inspirational!

We’re sure that you’ve written hundreds of lyrics over the years, but do you have a favourite which sticks out from the rest?

Luke: This one made me think! I say every song I write has to have one line I would get tattooed on me. To keep it simple I’ll keep it to the two singles we have out now. In ‘Hundredth Second Chance’ I like the line “They should name a hurricane after her but a dance in the rain’s what I prefer”. It means this girl is untameable and a force to be reckoned with but sometimes a walk on the wild side is addicting. For ‘Lately’, I like the line “I still wear that smile you gave to me, but it’s out of fashion it’s fading”. It comes from the idiom where someone says “you gave me the biggest smile”. The thought is, if you take it literally and wear the smile someone gives you like an article of clothing, over time it will wear out and fade. It stands then as a metaphor for the happiness in love. The girl in the song is also obsessed with trends and material things, so ‘last seasons’ smile going out of fashion seemed to fit.  

Gus: I also don’t want to give anything away about what we have coming so will stick to the ‘I want that new Mercedes’ line in ‘Lately.’ It’s about how people are conditioned to think that the grass is always greener on the other side. We tend to dispense with living in the moment when considering the fact that there might be better fortunes to be had in different scenarios. ‘Lately’ calls out the stereotypical ignorance associated with this sort of viewpoint. This lady wants a new car but doesn’t realise that her obsession with something she doesn’t have causes her to lose something that she does have (i.e a man who ultimately loved her).

Who are some of your favourite musical influences?

Gus: I’m a big 30 Seconds to Mars fan, I love Coldplay and Imagine Dragons. Also a huge Paramore fan, I love Hayley Williams’ voice. It’s so huge sounding!

Luke: My first concert ever was the Goo Goo Dolls. Then I was a wedding DJ in high school so I was inspired by a lot of the “first dance” love song acoustic kind of artists. I was also in emo bands at the time and we always tried to emulate the Fall Out Boy / Panic at the Disco style. My guilty pleasure at the moment is Sam Hunt. I think that guy is so genius and catchy with his wordplay.

What do you hope that people will take away from your music?

Gus: Our debut album ‘Ask Me Yesterday’ is something we hope that will resonate with many. This is for anyone who’s been betrayed in any shape or form. It’s odd how a split second decision made by someone else can throw your whole reality into despair. This album confronts that. We’ve got to be stronger. Embrace what flaws us and find it in us rise up and make it something to be united about. That way we can control our own path in life. Oh my I sound so pretentious!

Luke: There’s the old adage “Wear your heart on your sleeve”. I hope people will take away that you can wear a broken heart on there and be proud of it all the same. People admire scars, it means you’ve been through a battle and survived.

What else can we expect from VOILÀ during 2018?

Gus: We’ve got so many different exciting things in the works revolving around much more content and music and in the worlds of the one and only DJ Khaled, ‘more life!’

Luke: A global tea shortage with Gus entirely to blame.

Thank you so much to Luke and Gus, aka VOILÀ, for their time. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for more from this incredible duo very soon.

Keep up to date with VOILÀ by checking out their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Let us know your thoughts on VOILÀ on Twitter @CelebMix

Written by Katrina Rees

I'm Katrina, or Kat to pretty much everyone. I'm an editor for CelebMix, a content writer, a boyband lover and an all round music fanatic.
Twitter: @lifeofkatrina
Email: katrinanaomirees@gmail.com