The Volitains formed in the summer of 2009 after a chance encounter and near-death experience which saw guitarist Nick D’Amico rescue a drunken girl on Camden tube station, to discover they shared common musical interests, namely Patti Smith, Kurt Cobain, Karen O and The Stooges. That girl was the charismatic and powerful vocalist Candice Ayrey, who joined Nick and his band-in progress.
Since then, The Volitains have been thrilling audiences on the London circuit and have released a brace of belting singles - the self-released 'Underground', and, most recently, the double A-side 'Lovely Bones' / 'Joy' on The Playground Records, a label which is developing a name for itself for its exciting roster. They’ve already been picked up on by 6Music, and are without doubt a band on the up.
I took the opportunity to pitch a few questions to their guitarist and songwriter, Nick, regarding the music industry, performing live and being a 'London' band.
W&H: It's fair to say that right now everything's retro, but you're clearly referencing something from a whole other place from the current crop of 80s electro rehashers. Do you think that originality is dead, and where do you see The Volitains in the rock canon?
ND: The way I think the music industry works is that somewhere along the line something original cuts through and then people start to be influenced by that and create similar music. Somebody has to take a risk for this to happen, though. After this happens, it's not so much of a hard sell for record labels if you are doing something that already has a place in the public comfort zone. I come across bands all the time in London that are great, hard working and don't mind spending the time to perfect their craft and create something original. It just takes time to do that. You get more discerning the longer you work together and you get patient. In terms of where we see ourselves in the 'rock canon' I think we'd be pretty happy to get fired out of it as many times as possible in as many different directions. We're always ready to go.
W&H: There's a strong sense of The Volitains being somewhat antagonistic and having a very definite 'fuck you' sort of attitude. What do you think of the current music scene, and what's your relationship to it?
ND: Obviously you want people to like your stuff, but invariably there will be people that won't. I'm pretty sure they'd fuck off without any instruction from us if they hate it. I guess we are just fine with that. It's all part and parcel of being in a band. The music scene is fine. You get the odd cunt here and there but mainly people are really supportive and want to help. We've got great friends around London who've helped us no end.
W&H: A lot of current bands are all about appearance, haircuts and posing. You actually did a promo photoshoot in your bassist's bathroom. How important is image to The Volitains?
ND: To be honest we are the worst when it comes to doing a shoot. I guess everyone in the band has their own individual style and trying to make us uniform seems to work against us. To this day the shots that look good are the ones when we are on stage playing because that's us.
W&H: You've managed, in a fairly short space of time, to gain a reputation for being an exciting live band. Given that the music industry as we know it is dying, how important is it for bands to be able to build their reputations on being able to cut it live, and to promote themselves at a grass-roots level, instead of relying on a label to promote them through other channels?
ND: Unless you are super famous and have the budget to lip sync your entire show and distract people with dancers and fireworks there is no money in digital sales so you'd better be able to pull off your sound live. It's really the only way to get noticed and you've got to keep doing it over and over until someone pays attention. Music is a business after all, so I think that labels want to make sure the people they employ are hard working.
W&H: You've played almost exclusively in and around London up to now. What role has your locality played in your outlook and the band's development to date?
ND: We're really looking to gig more outside of London, but we needed to build it up from somewhere. Where better than London? It's the greatest city in the world and in my opinion the most musically important. It's constantly inspiring and a privilege to play in this city even though it can be an uphill battle at times. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
W&H: Aside from the Manchester date you played in October, what plans are there to take the band further afield? Are you likely to be touring the UK - and beyond - any time soon?
ND: As we are still an unsigned band it's hard to get away from London. It’s definitely something that we'll be doing next year on occasion but touring for weeks on end is something that we'll need label support to be able to do. We just applied for SXSW, as well, so we're crossing our fingers at the moment. That would be an incredible experience.
W&H: For you, how important is the live show in terms of what the band's about, and what differences do you feel there are between the studio and live work?
ND: It's us. We love playing live. Studio work is fun, but our band's definitely more at home on the stage.
W&H: On the subject of studio work, your single releases to date have displayed comparative diversity, while remaining stylistically cohesive and distinctive. How soon can we expect to see an album, and what can we expect to hear on it?
ND: Depending on how busy the start of the year is it could happen just after April. We've got about a quarter of the material for it and more on the way. We want to take our time with it, though. So far it's all looking quite dirty, fast and loud.
W&H: What are the band’s long-term objectives?
ND: We'd really love to be a touring band on a label playing day in day out. It’s definitely the goal but hopefully not too far off.
The Volitains are playing around London over the coming months, and venture to Cambridge in February. Catch them if you can. Otherwise, 'Lovely Bones' / 'Joy' is out now on The Playground Records. Listen to The Volitains on Myspace.