Perth-based indie act Voltaire Twins are one of my picks for ‘must see’ at this year’s SXSW Music festival (along with Indian Handcrafts and Tashaki Miyaki who will have Sneakpeek’s Dora Hiller performing with them). You can follow Voltaire Twins’ US/Canada tour adventures and SXSW journey on twitter, which they’ve already been updating direct from Los Angeles over the last couple of days. One of my favourite mags – Nylon – had this to say about them: “With their dancey beats and fun melodies, this brother-sister team manages to stand apart from the rest of the indie-electronic music crowd.” Tegan was lovely enough to answer some questions before they headed overseas.
What kind of music would you say that you make?
TEGAN: Essentially we make pop music I think. Lots of comparisons are drawn and we often get called 80’s/new wave/electro/synth pop/indie, all kinds of things. To me it just sounds like pop music though.
What’s your first musical memory?
T: My first musical memory is going to my Nanna’s house and playing her piano. I think I’d have been about 2 or 3. She lived alone in this totally huge old-fashioned house near the river and often played the piano, so I would watch her and then have a go for myself. When I was fifteen I inherited that piano (it’s over 100 years old now) and it’s currently in my living room where I practice VT songs on it.
What are your songs inspired by?
T: Sometimes by the change of the seasons. Animals, stories, people we know or have known. They are often inspired by ideas or stories that we talk about together.
When do you like to write them and where?
T: To be honest I’m not the kind of person who was ideas on the fly that has to write little notes in the middle of the night or anything. I have to be really focused so usually over the summer, or when we have a block of time we lock ourselves away in one of our bedrooms for a few weeks and come out the end with some news songs that we then workshop as a whole band in the studio.
What’s your favourite thing about the Romulus EP?
T: To me it really paints a picture of a place that is volatile and wild. In my head it kind of exists as this other-worldly place that brings out the animalistic or primitive side of humans where the landscape and the seasons are wild and dangerous. I think I often attribute a lot of meaning to our songs after they’re written though, so it may not necessarily come across that way sonically or through the lyrics.
How would you describe performing? How do you feel when you get on stage?
T: It really depends on the show, how I’m feeling that day and where we are. For the most part I’d say I kind of become someone that only exists in that space. When we first started out I would get nervous and not really feel anything other than that, but now it’s pretty exciting especially the times when other people are enjoying it with you and singing along, that’s pretty ace.
What is your favourite song to sing live and why?
T: I think it would be ‘The Kate Bush’. It’s the only song where I don’t play any synth so I can jump around a bit. The lyrics are also pretty fun and require a fair bit of punch so I can go a bit silly in that song.
You have a US/Canada Tour (including a chance to play SXSW) in the works and have toured Australia too; How do you pack for tour?
T: My synth is almost heavier than me so I’ve got it scaled down to a pretty small bag. I’m pretty disorganised ( I leave in a day and have not packed and lost my last suitcase) so usually I just fill up my bag with all my favourite shiny things and then freak out when I land that I have forgotten the less exciting/more useful things like underwear and a toothbrush.
Tell me about the music community where you live?
T: It’s great! Lots of my friends are in bands here in Perth, Western Australia. Bands here are like bums. Everyone’s got one. So we all play shows together and help each other out and swap between projects. Being such an isolated city we’re all pretty connected and the audiences are good people who appreciate live music.
How would you describe the clothes you wear on stage?
T: Usually black and/or shiny. I’ve had some friends who are good at sewing make me some pretty mad outfits in the past including a fish-inspired dress, but lately it’s been pretty simple.
Who are your musical heroes?
T: Bjork has been a longstanding fave of mine. I think all round she approaches her art form from so many different angles, not just musically. She is a big collaborator, which I hope to be too, even though her music is so different to ours. Also, Caroline Polachek of Chairlift is pretty special, her role in her band is quite similar to mine and I think she does what she does so very well.
What do you do that’s creative when not making music?
T: I’m just this year venturing out as a residency artist in remote areas of Western Australia to work with kids. It’s terrifying to me, but also something I really want to try. It will also involve collaborating with other artists from different backgrounds too so I very much look forward to it. We put a lot of time and effort in to our music videos, artwork and photographs so sometimes we’re dreaming up ideas for those. Also, sometimes I have little crafternoons with my girlfriends from work, making little crafty things, but mine usually turn out a bit wrong.
Where are some places that you like to hang out?
T: Let’s see… the studio, the studio… aaaaaaand the studio! This year has been so busy so I’ve been light on the hanging, as we’ve been recording, writing and practicing like ca-razeee. But if I had some spare time, I would totally go for ANY kind of food, and for a bit of backyard partying with some fancy drinks, probably like a mixture of coke and red wine or something.
What’s something that you would really like to do one day?
T: Aerial trapeze! I love watching flips and tricks more than anything but I can’t figure out how they do it. I have dreams of doing acrobatics or something one day.
What projects are you currently working on?
T: The band, the artist residency stuff and that’s about it. It’s taking up every second of my time at the moment. And soon my acrobatics of course.
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*Photos courtesy of Voltaire Twins’ Facebook