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INTERVIEW: Simone Dow – Voyager

With progressive metal being one of the most diverse and fluid genres around, it’s hard to be stand out and make a distinction for bands. In order to make an impression on an audience, it’s asking to be both flexible and yet solid. However, one of the best bands for making such an impression is VOYAGER. Having completed sixth album Ghost Mile, we questioned guitarist Simone Dow on what the band feel about their individuality, the complexity of being present for so long in the world of Prog and, of course, their latest album.

Once again, another brilliant album from VOYAGER. Are you looking forward to getting Ghost Mile out there?

Simone: Thank you very much. We are beyond excited to release Ghost Mile! We just had the pledger listening party on Saturday and our first lot of reviews starting to come in and it seems like everyone is digging it so far which is great.

As a band, VOYAGER always make music with both a vast variety of sounds and yet a style that has for the most part been completely your own. After winning a WAM award for Best Heavy Act, do you feel you’re getting the recognition finally for creating something original?

Simone: I’d say since The Meaning of I, we really started to find our feet and feel confident with what we were trying to say musically. I wouldn’t say we were ignored before then, but it’s been a gradual climb for us. V (our last record) was where we really started to kick some massive goals, score some amazing touring opportunities and win WAM awards. It’s certainly wonderful to have that recognition from your peers in the WA music industry, especially when there is so much talent here. We’ve been very fortunate to have such loyal and crazy fans who have stuck by the band and loved what we were doing from the very beginning. They seem to get us [laughs]

It’s clear that VOYAGER’s music is varied in its tonality, with pop influences fluttered over your heavier soundscapes and progressive songs. Obviously, some people love that and others find it a little hard to handle. You do care much for that side of things, people understanding where you’re coming from?

Simone: We don’t consciously sit down and say “I want to write a prog song” or “I want to write a pop song”, what comes out is completely natural for us, and even more so this time around with Ghost Mile. It’s a very organic process these days in our rehearsal space: someone will come in with a riff or an idea, and it evolves into a song through the five of us channelling ideas and trying things. We all listen to such a vast variety of musical styles, that it’s inevitable that those influences can seep in to our tunes. We write music that we enjoy playing and listening to and if other people enjoy it too, well then that’s just awesome! Some people say we are too poppy and not heavy enough, and that’s fine, we don’t expect everyone to love us. I’m of the opinion “different strokes for different folks”. I don’t like a lot of bands that some of my friends like too. That’s the beauty of art. It’s completely subjective!

Thinking a little about last year, how was touring with DEFTONES and KARNIVOOL? Are there any band you’d like to tour with in the future, or any big festivals or tours you’d like to take up?

Simone: Last year we did some absolutely killer tours. The DEFTONES/KARNIVOOL tour was unreal. Not just to be playing with two massive bands who have had an impact on all of us in different ways throughout our musical journeys, but the vibe on tour was so awesome. Usually when you’re the opening band, you don’t expect much love at all from crew etc, but everyone worked hard together as one big team to make every show kick arse from start to finish and we all hung out and talked heaps. There was a real comradery between us all. The DEFTONES & KARNIVOOL guys/crew were so humble and real and it made me so happy to see that. Destroy All Lines (promoter who made the tour happen) really looked after us as well and we always look forward to playing any of their shows.
We also got to do a couple of tours with LEPROUS (who are one of my favourite bands), and we ended up really hitting it off and becoming very good friends with them all. So much so, that we just can’t wait until another opportunity arises where we might get a long tour together. It’s hard for me to say who I’m looking forward to playing with next, because we’ve just been so fortunate to play support so many of our favourite artists, I have to pinch myself sometimes. I guess doing a massive Europe/UK run with Devin Townsend or OPETH would be amazing. Doing Wacken, Download and all the other massive Euro/UK festivals is a dream of mine. And we can’t wait to head back to USA/Canada as well!

Would you say that your influences have changed over the years?

Simone: I’d say grown and evolved more than changed (much like our line up!). Myself, Scott [Kay, guitars] and Alex [Canion, bass/vocals] have listened to heaps of the newer “djent” bands for quite some time now, so it was inevitable when that style of riffing started to creep into our tunes. I think with the line up we have now, we are all on the same page with the music we want to write and so what’s happened is the synthy-pop vibe that we’ve always had is still our main foundation, but we’ve just added more styles to our palate. I personally thing it’s enhanced our sound in a very positive way.

Thinking in terms of your new material again, Ghost Mile has felt like another step up in the game for you, would you agree?

Simone: Oh definitely. I know it’s really cliché to say “this is the best music we’ve ever written” when a new album is being released, but this record truly does feel like that. I think direction wise, it makes sense after V, but the songs are way more cohesive and I feel that the whole record should be absorbed as a whole piece, rather than there just being a few banger tracks to listen to. There are lots of little thematic nods to other songs throughout the whole album, I hope people notice and enjoy it as much as we do.

You balance the calm and the intensity of your tracks superbly. Do you approach your musician writing as storytelling to or more as a fluid musical effort?

Simone: I can’t speak on behalf of Danny with his lyrics, but musically we are very much aware of what sections need to build anticipation and when a song needs more dynamics etc. When we write songs, we pull them apart and change things in the rehearsal room, but we also track pre-production demos as well. This allows us to listen to it and really see if transitions work well or not. We’ve been doing this for years and it really helps you to listen to sections better to ensure it all makes sense, than just playing through at the rehearsal studio. And these demos go through as many changes as the songs do on the rehearsal studio.

Are there any songs on this album that were particularly important to you?

Simone: There are a couple of tracks that just gave me goosebumps when we got the first mixes back. Those tracks are Ghost Mile and Disconnected. Both are super heavy tracks for us, but are two of my favourite songs we’ve ever written. Disconnected also has one of the more ridiculous solos I’ve written [laughs]. They’re both pretty different and epic so I can’t wait to see what our fans think.

In terms of Ghost Mile in particular, it feels like a very emotional record from a listeners point of view. Does that ring true, or is the process more technical than emotionally driven?

Simone: I’d say we all write way more from an emotional standpoint than technical. We don’t wheel in a blackboard and chart out time signatures or sections [laughs]. When we are jamming out parts of a song we are writing, it has to feel right. There are plenty of times when we’ve tried a section and all looked at each other and went “Nah, this isn’t doing it for me” [laughs]. On the other hand there have also been plenty of times where we’ve written a part, jammed the song and we all give each other stank face because we are loving it so much so it’s all swings and roundabouts!

The progressive scene has also developed on its attitude to more experimental areas of the genre. Do you feel that you’ve kept in line with that movement or do you work from a more internal perspective?

Simone: It’s funny, because we’ve always been taken under the ‘prog’ wings by fans, but we know we aren’t as prog as a lot of our fellow peers are. Like I mentioned above, we don’t go into our writing sessions planning out what style we want to play, or what time signatures we want to use or whether a song needs to be 12 mins long. It’s just five people in a room starting with one theme or idea and just trying things from there until it grows into a song we all love. I think our guilty pleasure of catchy, well written 80’s/90’s dance and pop tunes is probably why we don’t pull out saxophones and xylophones and write 20 minute epics [laughs].

There are some bands within the progressive movement that have developed a similar sound to yours. While this might be coincidental, VOYAGER have been doing this as a pioneering effort for a long while. Would you take that as a compliment?

Simone: To say we have been pioneers of this sound and to influence other artists is truly humbling. Yes, we’d definitely take that as a compliment, because as a musician, that’s what your intentions are, to take your influences and whilst wearing them on your sleeve, still managing to come up with something that has your own unique sound and flavour.

What would you say to younger bands trying to find their way in the metal world, with so many technical and complex bands out there now? Or to people in general looking for new music?

Simone: Go out to shows, meet new people, talk to them and if they are musicians jam with as many people as you can. For me, that was what shaped me. You can learn something new from everyone, no matter what level they are at or whether they play something completely different to you. Never be afraid to ask bands that may be gigging heaps and at a ‘higher’ level that you for tips or advice. And on top of going out, we’ve got social media now!! It’s never been easier for musicians to get their music out there and network with fans and other musicians. Some of my greatest memories before I started playing live we’re going to shows and meeting new people and finding new music. There’s so much awesome music out there!

And finally, what, aside from the release of the album, are you most looking forward to in 2017?

Simone: Touring. Hands down [laughs] I love getting up on stage and feeling the energy between you and the fans in the crowd. Seeing them mosh and sing all your lyrics, and then just getting to hang with them at the merch desk after the show, chat to them and sign some stuff for them. It makes all the blood, sweat and tears that you put in to writing, recording and releasing the album all worth it. We’re bringing French Electro-Djent lords THE ALGORITHM over for our Aussie tour and then we are over to NL and Germany to play Euroblast and Progpower Europe! Hoping to squeeze in a few more EU/UK shows around them too!

Thank you very much for your time, and all the best from Distorted Sound for the coming release and the year ahead!

Simone: Thank you very much for having me!

Ghost Mile is set for release on May 12th. 

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Distorted Sound Issue 24 COVER