Twenty Questions From Down Under with EVOLETAH

Formed in 2005, the Australian band, EVOLETAH released their debut mini album, ‘Fool’s Errand’ in early 2008. Their follow-up release in 2009, ‘Evaporating’, garnered exceptional critical acclaim and managed to further the profile of the project. The band’s 3rd release, ‘Sleepwalker’, an artful effort that took a year to write  and record, had again taken the group to unexpected terrain, although as one reviewer put it, “It comes as no surprise, that Sleepwalker, is a stunning achievement.” Their fourth album, ‘We ache for the Moon’ saw members Matt Cahill, Andrew Boyce, Jason Eyers-White and Michael Shanahan collaborate with the award-winning artist Katie Underwood.

EVOLETAH played a ‘Sold Out’ performance at the Adelaide Fringe of 2014, where they showcased a String Quartet and Horn Section alongside their soulful vocals, intricate guitars and tight rhythm section to further enhance the experience and full scope of their cinematic sound. In fact EVOLETAH will once again be back to wow their fans on Saturday March 14th at The Osmond Tce Function Centre in Adelaide.

In the meantime we caught up with band members, Matt Cahill and Andrew Boyce in an exclusive interview. Check it out after the video show…

‘Lucky Star’ Live EVOLETAH & Katie Underwood from EVOLETAH on Vimeo.

  1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?

Matt Cahill: Well….in some respects I’ve been singing since I was very small, maybe 4 or 5 years old. My Grandmother used to play piano & sing along to it, so there was always music in the house as far back as I can remember, but I guess I didn’t become a serious vocalist until I was in my late teens. The Violets were my first real musical group & I was a full time member for just over 13 years.

  1. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?

Andrew Boyce: My parents listened to a lot of folk when they were younger. Peter, Paul and Mary, and that kind of stuff.  Growing up Paul Simon ‘Graceland’, Dire Straits ‘Brothers in Arms’ and Cold Chisel ‘East’ were records I remember getting played a lot. For myself, I got into a lot of jazz-funk when I was younger but everything changed once I heard ‘The Bends’ for the first time.

Matt Cahill: Same for me, that record had the same effect on me. The only other stand out moment for me was when I was around 15 years old; I accidentally heard the influences of Jazz via the David Sylvian album, ‘Brilliant Trees’. I think it burned inside me forever; I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that record.

  1. Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anybody you’d like to collaborate with?

Andrew Boyce: I am really enjoying the new Elbow record ‘The Take Off and Landing of Everything’. A real return to form. They are not in a hurry to get anywhere so it requires patience but if you can stay with it’s a really rewarding listen. I’ve also been enjoying stuff from Nicolas Jaar, an electronic artist but he uses quite organic elements in his music. Also, new records from Spoon, Augie March, Timber Timbre, War on Drugs, Sharon Van Ettten, Warpaint’s last record and I’ve enjoyed Asgier’s record.

Matt Cahill: I am currently listening to ‘The Opiates’ by Thomas Feiner, it’s an album that I constantly keep circling back to on a regular basis. In fact, I did speak to him recently & there was discussion of working together, but between his graphic design business & his own music, coupled with the fact that he lives in Sweden & we are in Australia, it was decided that it might be a ‘No go’, unfortunately.

  1. Describe the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased. And which is the one piece of hardware or software you’re still looking to add to your collection now?

Andrew Boyce: Some crappy 80s metal looking guitar and a Samick practice amp that I spray painted gold for some reason. The guitar was stolen. I found it in the local pawn shop and reported it to the police but they didn’t want to know about it. It forced me to buy another guitar so I bought a Fender Jazzmaster which I still have to this day.

Evoletah - photo (c) www.russellgrinhamphotography.com
Evoletah – photo (c) www.russellgrinhamphotography.com
  1. Tell us something about your current hardware/software and instrument setup?

Andrew Boyce: I have a whole array of pedals. We Ache For The Moon is largely played without any effects at all which is something I am quite proud of as the guitar work speaks for itself rather than rely on tricky effects. There is hardly any distortion/overdrive on any of the guitar. It is mostly played clean yet the songs still have their own power. Most bands rely on distortion to get their ‘power’ but I’ve tried to create this through my own playing not the pedals. Most of ‘Moon’ is played on a Gretsch White Falcon and we did use a few different amps to get some different textures. Overdubs were mainly played on a Fender Jazzmaster or Fender Telecaster.

My standard live set up is  a Fender Jazzmaster and an Epiphone Sheraton run through a Fender Twin . The standard pedals in my set up are a Fulltone Fulldrive 2, a Boss Digital Delay, an Electroharmonix Memory Man, a MXR Phase 90 and an old Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1 which I picked up at a garage sale years ago. Most of these don’t make an appearance on the ‘Moon’ as it’s mostly just clean guitar through various amps.

  1. Studio work and music creation, or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

Andrew Boyce: Studio work would be my preference as I love the creative process. Going into the studio with nothing but a handful of basic ideas and walking out with something amazing is a great thrill to me. That said, all artists create for an audience so presenting songs live for an audience reaction is also something I really enjoy. I am really looking forward to playing at The Fringe this year.

Matt Cahill: Did someone say ‘studio’…..?? I could, & have slept, in the studio.

  1. Which one of your original songs gets your adrenalin pumping the most, when performing in front of an audience?

Andrew Boyce: Probably ‘On A Clear Day’ which is from our previous record ‘Sleepwalker’. It’s taken on a new life live and Katie Underwood has added some parts to it. I’d like to maybe re-record this at some stage.

Matt Cahill: For me it’s ‘Halfway’, which is also in my opinion, totally enhanced by Katie’s additional vocals. It’s one of those songs that seems to be like flying on ‘Auto pilot’ & then it just its second gear about the midway point, I love it live!

  1. On which one of your songs do you feel you delivered your personal best performance so far, from purely from a technical point of view?

Andrew Boyce: Probably ‘Halfway’ as it showcases the intertwining guitars and a power that can be created without having to step on a distortion pedal. I like guitar parts which are like a spider web and they play in and around each other. This song probably sums this up best.

Matt Cahill: For myself vocally, I’d have to say it is ‘The eleventh hour’ from ‘Moon’. Andrew encouraged me to attempt the vocal in baritone, which I’d never done before & I was very surprised at the outcome had to in fact stop myself from attempting everything from then on in ‘baritone’ (Laughs loudly)

  1. How essential do you think video is in relation to your songs? Do you consider it more of a marketing tool or an added creative dimension of your music?

Andrew Boyce: Well both really. It’s another way to get our music ‘out there’ but it’s also a chance to collaborate with artists in other mediums. Most of our recent film clips are approached as a short film rather than a film clip. We’ve been lucky to be able to work with some fantastic producers, writers and actors who are incredibly talented in their own right and have been very generous in their contributions to Evoletah.

Matt Cahill: Well…it’s probably safe to say, that we don’t really want to be in them anymore. Well at least that’s true for me personally. But, as Andrew said, it’s definitely the contemporary medium for getting your music heard & if there is a good visual accompaniment to it, it can always help to cement the song in people’s minds I guess.

evoletah-profile
The 4th Album Release

  1. If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?

Andrew Boyce: Without a doubt, passion. We’ve all been playing in various bands since we were teenagers. We are definitely not in our 20s now so you don’t play original music this long unless it is accompanied by a passion for music and a desire to create something amazing.

Matt Cahill: Definitely, music is the love of my life…..

  1. Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?

Andrew Boyce: Well the fact that we can do our own thing without any eyes prying in on what we are doing. I don’t think an album like ‘Moon’ would spill out if it were under record company direction. Of course, the flipside is that budgets and promotional avenues are always limited. Trying to create a masterpiece with a shoestring budget is always a challenge but it hasn’t stopped us yet!

Matt Cahill: There is definitely a lovely freedom in not having to answer to the industry, but as Andrew said, it makes money an issue for sure. When I look at the fact that children are the purest abstract artist’s, in the way that they have no pressure, or self-expectation, I think that by having no industry expectation, that helps us to approach our songs in that same way.

  1. Tell us something about your songwriting, recording and production processes. Who does what, when and where?

Andrew Boyce: Generally the process is that I will lay down a whole heap of ideas. Some are simply just skeletons of ideas and some are already more fleshed out. From there, Matt will take them away to work out which ones he is getting a vibe from. He will often name the song even before there are lyrics and melodies as this will help guide the direction of the song. I don’t write ‘easy’ pieces of music. Sometimes there are time changes and chord progressions which seem a bit odd so it can take a while for it to ‘make sense’ although it always makes sense to me at the time I am writing it. Matt will often have an idea for a bridge or a bass line or a string part which may take the song in a new direction. So it’s very much a collaborative process. We generally don’t rehearse before we come together in the studio so the songs really ‘come to life’ in the studio. Often Matt won’t have any lyrics at all but he will know which songs have something in them for him. He will often just scat something in the studio to get us started but the songs really evolve over time. It does sometimes take a bit of time but it’s quite a natural process.

  1. What can you tell us about the next EVOLETAH album and when can fans expect to hear it?

Andrew Boyce: Well who knows really as it’s never really quite clear until we are in the studio creating it. I’ve written a whole bunch of new material. Generally 60-70% of it ends up morphing into something. Mainly guitar parts but also a few piano based songs. I have a feeling that drums and grooves are going to play an important part on the next record. Don’t worry, we are not about to put out a funk record but I’d like to get the rhythm section really locked in but still getting the push and pull that creates a groove. I guess you can probably count on some interesting guitar parts. Half the time, I don’t even know what chord I am playing as I like to play around with interesting chord structures. Every one of our records has been very different. It’s one of our philosophies to ‘never serve the same dish twice’ but it will still sound like Evoletah.

  1. How did the collaboration with award-winning Jazz vocalist Katie Underwood come about and do you have any more future collabs in the pipeline?

Matt Cahill: Well…..back in early 2013, when we had recorded the demo for the song ‘Time’, I had this really strong ‘gut feeling’ that we should ask a female vocalist to sing it. So, as an idea for a ‘point of reference’ I thought I’d show Andrew a track that I really liked the vocal on called ‘Beautiful’ by an artist called ‘Katie Underwood’. We realized that she was in fact Australian & lived in Melbourne. So, to cut a long story short, our people got a hold of hers & about six weeks later, she was onboard to sing the track. Next thing, it’s a year later & we’ve recorded almost an entire album together. Then, we sold out our Fringe show & we are now going for a second, so it’s been a great collaboration to say the least.

Evoletah
Evoletah
  1. You had a Sold Out performance at the 2014 Adelaide Fringe Festival and you’ll be back there again on the 14th March. What have you got in store for the fans this time around?

Andrew Boyce: This is a chance for fans to enjoy the full scope of our music in a live setting. There are 4 of us in the band as such but there are 12 of us when we do this expanded line up. A bit of a nightmare to co-ordinate but it’s amazing when it all comes together. Hearing the string quartet in rehearsals gives me Goosebumps as it just takes the songs to another level. We’ve changed the set up a bit this time so a few songs from our previous records that we haven’t played live before as well as some new stuff. It’s a great venue with a killer sound system there so the songs will really sound full and powerful. I can’t wait!

  1. Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?

Andrew Boyce: Well it’s that classic paradox really isn’t it? The internet and social media really are great for independent music as it allows bands to promote themselves on a world wide platform. Of course, the flipside is that there is so much noise to compete with. What we’ve found is that fans and reviewers of independent music, like yourself, have found it refreshing to have an independent band staying true to themselves. We don’t really know what genre of music we are creating or don’t really fit into a ‘scene’ as such. We just do what we do. This creates its own problems for us but I think people enjoy the fact that we are different.

  1. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?

Matt Cahill:When we were younger we were introduced to ‘Neil Finn’ form ‘Crowded House’ by our A&R team. I was most awed by his presence & like a child I was able to give him a copy of my then band ‘The Violets’ first album, to which he very graciously spoke highly of the Artwork. He then said to me’, ‘Grab this opportunity with both hands & make all you can out of it. I think you’ll find in the end, that it’s harder to deny, than it is to just get on with doing it’. “Thanks Neil, I’ve never forgotten that advice mate”!!

  1. How would you personally describe or categorize the music of EVOLETAH to someone who has never heard of the band?

Andrew Boyce: Geez. This is always a tough one. There are elements of indie guitars, post-rock, jazz, folk, prog but still with pop sensibilities in most of the songs. The diversity in our music is a strength as it’s what people like about us but it’s also a weakness because we’ve always had difficulties marketing ourselves because we don’t fit into a box. I haven’t really answered your question, have I?!

Matt Cahill:(Laughs loudly) sure…The main ethos we have had since ‘Fool’s Errand’ our first record, is to never serve the same dish twice, which I think we have upheld, even to the point whereby we may have even divided our fans.

  1. Let’s imagine for one moment that EVOLETAH does not exist and you were given the opportunity to be in any current word-famous band of your choice, who would that band be, and why?

Andrew Boyce: There are so many great artists and bands out there but it’s a pretty obvious choice for me; Radiohead. I know it sounds clichéd but they are the band that kind of changed my life. The way they use guitars is amazing. They are always trying to push themselves and you never quite know what they are going to come up with next. On their more recent records I am finding that I don’t love every single song but I guess that’s the price you pay for pushing into ground and trying some new things. They are also a band that seems to need each other. I’ve always created the best music collaborating with others as you can use the push and pull creative process to bring out something unique and amazing.

Evoletah LIVE!
Evoletah LIVE!

Matt Cahill: I think I would probably sit in the corner of David Sylvian’s studio & happily play Tibetan finger cymbals….I’ve worked all my life & twice as hard to be half as good as him, but I’m still striving to be anywhere near that man!

  1. What is the ONE thing you are NOT ever willing or prepared to do, in your continuing quest to sustain a successful musical career?

Andrew Boyce: I won’t ever be writing a single for a record company. That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing a song that could be a single. If a record company ever says ‘we need a single’ they can go and get stuffed. You can’t write amazing music that way as it forces you to use logic as to what a song needs. Great art transcends logic and I am only interested in creating music that transcends the elements.

Matt Cahill: Sure, Maintaining your artistic integrity is the one thing that probably creates the most accessible pathway to your greatest sense of achievement. “Appreciate your muse, or she may desert you”……..

 

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Rick Jamm

Journalist, publicist and indie music producer with a fervent passion for electric guitars and mixing desks !

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