INTERVIEW: Chantal Brown (Oya) – Vodun

Coming across a variety of genres and reaching into new realms of spiritual expression, VODUN front woman Chantal Brown, also known as Oya, spoke to us about the bands venture into song writing, the history of Vodun and the intention of the album, Possession.

Congratulations on such a well put together album. The inspiration here is obvious, but what specifically did you set out to achieve with this album?

We wanted to put together a cohesive body of work that highlighted a mix of heavy rock, afro rhythms and bluesy soul. The message of the album has heavy tones of the history of vodun, feminism and totemism.

The name of your band, and some of the songs, refer to specific historical movements and events surrounding voodoo. How much research had to be done for this album to be fully realised?

Considering that, initially, we knew very little about the real culture and belief system (not the culture the media have historically propagated), we spent a great deal of time peering into the world of Voodoo. Slowly learning about the different loas, immersing ourselves in a plethora of literature and videos trying to understand the complex history Vodun has.

Why is this subject matter so important to you? What does it mean musically?

Knowing your history is an important part of anyone’s life, as a sense of identity is either formed or strengthened. Vodun is a religion that has positive roots at its core. It celebrates life and strongly recognises the strength of the woman, and was a religion that my ancestors created and managed to hold on to (in various guises) in spite of slavery. Musically it means we can bring together messages of female empowerment, and tie a heavy rock sound with Afro & psychedelic tones. It also means we have the freedom to look at different aspects of Vodun and share some of the more spiritual values that seem to have been lost in favour of the culture of consumerism.

The sound of this record is very much spread across many genres. With an overall hard rock core, with elements of blues, doom, prog and more traditional African music, what were you trying to put forward to the listeners?

In essence, musical freedom. The freedom to pull from the music that you enjoy, and to not fear a different approach.
Do you think there is a particular kind of person this record is going to resonate with?

I think an eclectic person with penchant for the heavy would appreciate our album. We have such a mixed energy with genres that there might be certain songs that polarise some. However, I think we’ve managed to keep the album tied together with a cohesive under current.

This is a very powerful album, lyrically, as well being musically diverse, how did you tailor your writing to suit each song?

Each song is developed by feeling. The lyrics and melodies are all reactionary to the feeling I get listening to the intensity and percussive nature of any one part of a song. Trying to either match or compliment the chord progressions or a strong rhythm from the drums.

Coming from DO ME BAD THINGS, do you think that mashup of different genres in the past has helped with this band?

I think my musical tastes are the sum of the members of all of the bands I’ve been lucky enough to have been with. DO ME BAD THINGS (DMBT), INVASION, CHROME HOOF, etc. Making music with so many different people has undoubtedly influenced the desire I have for listening to and creating music that swells a little outside of a single box. Unconsciously, you start to make music that uses different devises from different styles of music – and you just see it as music – a oneness.

How does having a smaller set up feel? It must be quite different!

After DMBT came INVASION, which was a similar set up as VODUN, with even less equipment and less strings on the guitar – so I’m quite used to our three piece now. Plus, with Chrome Hoof there were sometimes up to 13 people on stage once the dancers performed, which made for a very busy stage. Sonically however, as a 3 piece, there’s nowhere to hide, so it pushes us to marry our performance with our musical delivery to the best of our ability.

You refer to yourselves as Oya, Ogoun and Marassa – three forces. Does this mind set help with stage presence and creative output?

As our live shows are very much the performance, it does help with the energy getting ourselves into character. Embodying what we perceive the power of these spirits represent, and giving over to the audience, definitely does go towards our creative output.

Possession is out now via RIFF ROCK RECORDS.