Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spotlight on Local Artist - Robin Vote - Pittsburgh - January 2011

Our first of the year local spotlight is Robin Vote. They were kind enough to answer a few questions about their sound, beginnings and favorite places to play. Be sure to checkout the songs throughout the interview.

How did the band come together? Were you all friends that went to school? or?

we came together one at a time. i have been a wild-card in various iterations of my friend anita fix's projects. z gave me my first real shot. i took it and i asked for another my first incarnation was as an acoustic three piece, doom-folk, i-am-your-neighbor sort of thing called 'the sorrowful wife'. i played with a long-time, school friend mika metz, and with an acquaintance, nathan kukulski, who we knew from the coffee shop on the corner. that was guitar, mandolin and violin/accordion and we just didn't stop. then julie sokolow sang with us for a minute and we were called 'dead bird'. that passed zach harass was playing a snare drum when we became 'colin and the shots'. then i heard a violin coming from a window in a house across the alley from anita's and anna finley joined the band, much the way a spirit becomes human: by unanimous assumption. mika and i are long-time friends, so he left the band and anna suggested andrew stewart could play bass and matt cummings could play drums. we were beginning to become electrified and the wheel was shuffling the line up jason boggs hung in there on electric guitar for a good six months. he also was quite helpful in organizing the recording process we went through. he and nathan split to do their thing 'we are the dead', but by that time jesse phillips was in position on the drums and we had become a tight four-piece called 'robin vote'.anita fix was doing time up in queens where she became ayshe. now she takes the bus to pittsburgh to play electric guitar with us. sometimes she invites me to play in her troupe 'the ecstatic gestures' or 'anita fix+bambam'. those shows are wild!

telephones by robin vote

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?

as far as what we sound like, we definitely have our roots in the panic, existential tumult, and doom-folk scenes. so, if you mix that with skiffle and fairy-tale, you get a sort of glam-jazz. but lately, i have been aiming for a more chiaroscuro sound.

Are you all originally from the Pittsburgh area? Families here as well?

i was born in white plains, ny, but i grew up in murrysville, east of pittsburgh. everyone else lives in pgh, has family in the area and was probably born in the vicinity thereof.

Do you all create music full time or is this more of a part time venture? Do you have day jobs?

everyone in the band, now or ever really, is naturally creative and musical. everyone of us has had to struggle to maintain our 'artistic' pursuits in the thick of paying the bills. this year, 2011, is when we are really taking steps to integrate our passionate endeavors with productivity and returns.anna is classically trained on violin from an early age and plays with various chamber ensembles, and still she maintains jobs ranging from a counter girl at a bakery to a food chemist in a lab. she does her own songwriting and composing as well.
andrew is a philosophy major with a kink for absurdist drama who currently works as a financial analyst. presently he is writing a script for a play called 'the life of leisure', for which anna is composing the score. he plays bass because it is fun. jesse is a carpenter, painter and all-around good-guy. he can probably do anything and finds little trouble juggling the demands of work with those of playing. he plays with another pittsburgh phenom: 'lungs, face, feet', a horn and drum outfit sure to make your face jump off. i do whatever it takes: i've mucked out horse stalls and i've painted sets on high-budget films. i often am making dust in my own home, knocking down walls and then rebuilding them. i have treated my lungs like punching bags; i'm trying to change my ways. i work most every day even if it is only chopping wood to heat my house. the only one of us who has really come close to being unemployable is ayshe; z is just too good. its best to just keep her at home where z can cook and clean and write her songs and stories. i'm aiming to take after her.

How do you create your music? What is the song writing process?

the music comes mostly from thin air, or maybe empty space. sometimes a fragment of a poem or a song will lead me to write something with a particular phrasing or to sing in a certain key, but for the most part, i dont know where it comes from. the important thing seems to be listening well whenever i hear a song emerging and to write it down or remember it. and as ayshe puts, it just takes time.

Rustling Autumn Leaves by robin vote

What are your goals for the band? What would you like to accomplish? Are you trying to get signed to a label?

basically, we want to play more shows, for more people, in more places.  if getting signed to a label helps us to do those things, it will be considered. we play music for the same reasons some people go to church or to war, only with a less-imperial agenda. 

What advice would you give to local acts trying to make it?

i would give anyone else the same advice i give to myself: hang on, buddy.

Being in the Pgh area, do you find it more difficult to try and succeed?

being in the pittsburgh area is wonderful. you can do anything, you just have to do it. it doesn't really happen on its own unless you live a charmed life, which can be very valuable in any endeavor. i think that learning the skill of charming oneself is a good first step, because you're the one who is going to have to back you up. you're going to have to do the work and the chores. and that's most of what i write about: chores and conviction. pittsburgh has beautiful topography, though it may display an uncanny similarity to the folds in the surface of the brain of a schizophrenic. it is big or small depending on how you look at it. there are fantastically creative and talented people here, mind-bending writers and film-makers, bastions of resistance and poetry, a diverse assortment of musical sounds. you might even find a job here if you really try.
What are some of the obstacles you face trying to create some 'success' in Pgh?
i think that the most difficult thing or biggest obstacle to success of any kind in pittsburgh, particularly, is choosing comfort over accomplishment.  its so easy to just get by here that one could be easily tempted to do the bare minimum and not take advantage of the fact that it is easier here to do more than just get by.
Is there a venue you have enjoyed playing more than others in the area?
'howlers coyote cafe' has been a favorite spot to play for years and we have recordings of several live shows there. one show particularly, july 26th 2010, was an awesome show. ayshe was in town and we just tore it up- so nice. jo albright, who runs the bookings, is really good to the bands. another favorite is 'the shop' located on main st. in bloomfield/lawrenceville. the shop is an art and performance venue with strange walls. it is a great place to see or play a show; as was its predecessor, 'the nerve', located a year ago and a few blocks away.
Have you all toured nationally? Or do you usually stay more regionally?
we have only been playing as 'robin vote' for one year now and have only played as far as brooklyn. we play all over pittsburgh, though mostly in the east-end area.