The Voodoo Children have a lot of heart and soul in their music by exploring the darker side of humanity and adulthood in their new music video. Today, the indie sextet are premiering “Caroline” exclusively with AltPress.
Airy vocals and unique elements such as the harmonica make this a mind-bending indie-rock experience, leaving listeners on the edge of their seats in anticipation of their debut EP, Instant Nostalgia – Side A, due this spring.
AltPress got to chat with producer, singer-songwriter and leader of the Voodoo Children JT Daly. Formerly of Paper Route, Daly opens up about his previous work with that and K.Flay, this new music project and his hopes for a peaceful 2020. Check out the new music video and interview below.
The Voodoo Children are a brand-new project for every person involved. What was the easiest part about assembling this new music endeavor? What was the hardest part?
For the most part, assembling everything wasn’t as hard as you’d imagine. I was pretty specific about the people I wanted to be involved. The goal was to make a family band, and I knew if I got just one person interested, the rest would “get it.” As far as the hardest part goes, that might have been… me. Once I started this thing, regardless of how it was received or if anyone even listened to it, I was trying to make one of my dream albums. I couldn’t start this and not finish. I had to see it through. With my other bands, it started out as a moving unit. All the pieces move on the board together. With something like this, I knew I was responsible for all of it. Although, my manager would disagree with this statement because the hardest part might actually have been the 10-year pursuit I put him through on tracking down the brilliant Gregg Alexander [of New Radicals].
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You’ve worked with several talented musicians during the course of your career and on this new project, one of whom is K.Flay. What have you learned musically from your collaborations with her? What did she bring to your new album?
Well, we both love simple parts. Riffs that everyone can play. Drum fills that everyone can air drum to. We never set out to dumb down the music by any means, but we do attempt to hunt the catchiest, most primal part. K.Flay was one of the first people to immediately sign on. We wrote a few songs that are on the second half of the album. One of those songs was originally intended for her album even. On Side A, she’s featured on “1969.” That’s a song I’ve been wanting to do for such a long time. I’ve wanted to capture a moment where if you listened and closed your eyes, it felt like you were in the room with the band, and there’s a single microphone. People are just taking turns walking up to it to sing their part. I wanted the song to sound like a community. I grew up in the church, so preaching/speaking/rapping over a choir is something I’m always drawn to. It’s a dream to work with someone like K.Flay because I know I can just set her free, and she’s going to come back with the most crushing lyrics. She’s going to say exactly what needs to be said.
Tell us the story behind “Caroline.” What personal or life experiences fueled the writing process? Additionally, how did you go about writing, engineering, producing and playing every instrument on the recording? Walk us through it.
I had an album title scribbled somewhere for years… Instant Nostalgia. I could hear it in my head. I knew the people I wanted involved, but I had no songs yet…no pitch. “Caroline” was the pitch. I had read somewhere that Dave Grohl just one day started recording the first Foo Fighters album an instrument at a time. I realized I should try the same thing [and] focus on my strengths the same way a band would. I got my engineer Josh Lovell to set up stations, and I just played one thing at a time. We kept it all in the same room so it would feel like the same performance. It pushes and pulls a bit because I wanted it to feel as alive as possible.
I sang the chorus melody and lyrics because that was the only other thing I was sure of at the time. There’s a book called Life After God by Douglas Coupland, and I wanted the song to feel the same way I felt when I finished it. I took what I had started to Daniel Tashian and played it for him the same day we wrote “1969.” It was at the end of that session. He started humming some verse things, and we filled in some lyrics. I remember coming back to it about a month later with Jo [Meredith, Sad Penny], and she helped me finish it. This is a song about waking up as an adult and realizing the life you always thought would arrive hasn’t. You’ve been ready, [and] you’ve been waiting, but you’re still where you’ve always been in life. When it came time to mix it, I should be honest. I was talked into it. I’m happy I mixed it in the end, though. This whole thing was so pure. No one infiltrated the creative process with commerce of any kind. Everyone just showed up to create, just to create. I never even told people there was a release date.
How did you all create the music video concept? Did you draw visual inspiration from personal experiences or other artists?
We had so many music video ideas for “Caroline,” but none of them quite fit my massive 25 American dollars budget. We were going to start rehearsals up, so I knew we had a few days where everyone would be in the same place. I conned my friend and director David O’Donohue to film us for a few hours on one of those days. I drew on a piece of paper Abby [Wright] falling down into our arms and texted David the photo with a description. I told him the same thing about the Life After God book and explained further how this video would be capturing the moment someone breaks. We all have had moments in our lives where we just go numb. We max out. It’s then that we lean on our friends and family more than ever. This video is about us carrying Abby through life when she needs it the most.
How have you continued to evolve as an artist and progress your sound with this track compared to releases with Paper Route? How is it different?
I can say that now more than ever, I’ve become obsessed with the two sets of ears I listen to music with. There’s the set I use in the studio, and there’s the set I use when I’m just experiencing music. The people who work with or around music will understand because they’ve had moments in their life where they’ve let their guard down and a song catches them. Maybe it’s on a TV show, a commercial [or] at a restaurant. It hits you, and you aren’t thinking about the tones, the lyrics [or] the production, yet it has arrested your attention. I’m trying to only use those ears. I’m trying to implement every exercise possible to listen and work with music this way. The entire EP was made with this in mind. I kept telling the people involved, “This should make the 15-year-old version of you excited before blogs, before cool or before anything ever stole your sense of wonder.” It should feel like that. This is the music I’d make if no one ever listened to a single note of it.
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What should listeners know about the new EP? What are you most proud of?
I feel like all of the things I go to share are so nerd-heavy. For instance, there are no samples on this album. Everything is an instrument or a sound we created. Some of it was tracked live together. That was probably my favorite part. I put together “Camp Voodoo,” which was held at a ranch outside of Nashville. Some people even flew in for it. We stayed there and wrote [and] recorded a bunch of the album. The whole thing was captured on film, too. I’m very grateful for that. My least favorite part about releasing music is social media. It’s lame that I’m admitting this. I just am so much more drawn to the mystique around artists. I don’t think we should know everything about everyone. Keep the curtain closed on the Wizard of Oz. I want to keep believing! Anyway, I knew that when this was finished, I’d have to have the dreaded “content” for an adequate release. I decided to put that fire out early on and had my friends around filming, so it all felt really natural, and we left with real content.
What are the Voodoo Children most looking forward to in 2020? What should listeners and fans expect?
We here at the Voodoo Children in 2020 are mostly looking forward to a new presidential election, conquering whatever this coronavirus is, leaning in to our communities as they piece themselves back together and being there for our neighbors. Listeners I hope become fans, and those fans should expect much more new music.