Monday, 16 February 2009

Voluntary Butler Scheme Interview - Noize Makes Enemies

“I was at a social gathering the other day and a guy I don't know was there - he'd come straight from work and he had dust all over his clothes and kept talking about sanding wood – I felt jealous for the first time in ages!! So I'm starting to think I'd like to do something with wood if the music looks grim...”

Swittching from tunes to timber? No, perhaps not your normal choice of career path, but Rob Jones is not exactly your generic music artist. Describing his music as “a zesty, slightly under-bombastic, ooh-that-sounds-a-bit-like-the-old-days-but-newer kind of pop”, his natural laid back approach to what he does and eccentric tendencies are a refreshing change to the standardized musical packages that the industry churns out with the aim to just make money. Something that is reiterated by Rob releasing his last EP, The Vol-Au-Vent EP, as a free download:

“I remember on this day thinking - right, I’m gonna write four mini tunes today on my lunch break and record them after work tomorrow night and just give it away. So it was intentional and quite liberating to be so flippant about finishing them. I think you can't take writing too seriously - and sometimes it gets dead serious in your head and you have to slap that out of you by doing something that's not precious. But then that stuff ends up being the precious stuff.”

And precious it seems to be, with The Voluntary Butler Scheme’s new single being hailed as Q website’s Track of the Day. ‘Multiplayer’ is out early March and incorporates typically quirky lyrics like ‘I’m gonna get my hair cut, even if I have to cut it myself.” Rob explains his inspiration:

“ I wanted to write a tune that sounded a bit like a 70's Nick Lowe thing, mixed with Saturday night fever and modern Kylie - but with my shitty voice singing evasive love lyrics - and I think I got there.“

Rob’s humble take on his musical capability may because his one-man-band is only a year old. After being unintentionally spotted last year on his MySpace page, and then asked to do a gig in West Midlands, the wheels of the Voluntary Butler Scheme were set into motion;

“I had some tunes on MySpace under the VBS name - with no intention of doing much, but I got asked to do a gig in Birmingham through the MySpace. I sherked it for ages, but decided to do it cause it was local. I'd never sang in public before and I didn't invite anyone. There were about 12 people there, I only had 6 songs and I was 'headlining'. I came away from the gig thinking 'I enjoyed singing, but I think all my songs might be shit?' So for weeks I wrote intensively trying to write some tunes I'd be proud of singing...the rest is history...but I doubt it'll ever be in a history book? Or taught in history lessons at schools…?”

And once it all kicked off, 2008 had plenty of exciting points for Rob:

“It was amazing! It was my first year of doing this and I got to do some amazing things. Highlights were defo touring with Duke Special, doing a session on the Dermot O’Leary show, BBC Maida Vale session, Marc Riley session, getting asked to support James on their Isle Of Wight warm-up show as personal request from the bass player, making a video, getting a bit of airplay out my first single, playing the Lattitude festival...loads!”

Whilst inspired by the likes of Granddaddy, Flaming Lips and Slade, the ever-relaxed Rob has no plans to follow in their footsteps and form a band:

“I really struggle with taking it too seriously. The thing I most enjoy about doing it on my own is - if I don't feel like doing it, I just don't. If I haven't got any ideas I like I just don't record. But when you're in bands it all gets a bit 'Right, we'll record some new stuff on Sunday' and I don't think I can write like that.”

Yet, Rob does have some plans for a change in direction for the future:

“I defo wanna do something more collaborative at some point. I've been getting some remixes in of 'Tabasco Sole' which is the next single. One has some amazing semi-rapping on - and that made think how much I'd love to do something colourful and beatsy with some rap on. But I don't wanna rap so it'll have to be a more collaborative thing. I'm jealous of all the hip hop sounds! I wanna work with whoever's hogging the hip hop sounds - I'm starting to sound like Elton John over here without you!”

Whilst his hip hop leanings may be a while off (…not to mention Rob’s potential carpentry career!) with an upcoming tour with Brakes in April and the new single out in March – the immediate future is looking quite exciting for the Voluntary Butler Scheme, even if Rob is characteristically humble about it:

“I was a really really ambitious 20 year old! I'm a slightly less ambitious and slightly more beaten down 23 year old now - but i have still have a positive streak keeping me going. In ten years I’d still like to be in contact with music - even if it's just hip hop at weekends you know.”

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