'Interview with Emma Volard' / Joshua Martin
In 2011 an act from little ol’ Melbourne, Hiatus Kaiyote, formed to ply a future-soul groove so different it gave new meaning to its prefix. The sound melded boom-bap neo-soul drums with improvisational jazz vocal in a modern production frame - its influence was so profound in the local scene, it’s arguably sparked a new kind of Melbourne sound. Emma Volard is one of Hiatus Kaiyote’s acolytes and over the last six months has carved out her own inventive productions in the future-soul vein. Growing up in Melbourne as a drummer, she moved to Phillip Island at age 14 when her parents wanted a sea change. Soon, she turned to singing instead.
“I was in a soul band and I really really liked that. I started listening to bands like Hiatus [Kaiyote] and 30/70 when I was hitting the end of year 12. Different hip/hop bands as well. I really dug it and thought it was so cool, so I started to write like that,” Volard explains.
Volard has only been recording and releasing music under her own name for six months concurrent to her studies, but her three singles released so far are knotty, intricate grooves that skip between RnB’s dynamic vocals, and stop-start hip-hop rhythms. The complexity of the material is something that even intimidates Volard sometimes.
“Yeah, it’s pretty scary stuff,” she laughs.
Volard works with a seven-piece - currently Jake Amy on keys, Harry Leggatt on guitar, Matt Hayes on electric bass, Lucky Pereira on percussion, Andre Lew on tenor saxophone, Felix Merideth on trumpet and Jordan Pereira on drums. The composition process is surprisingly linear for such a large group.
“It’s fairly collaborative. Usually I’ll just sit at home with guitar, and noodle around until I find something that I like. I bring it to the boys and they turn it into something completely different,” Volard explains.
“I’m not the best bandleader (laughs). Sometimes I get a bit distracted, but I feel like we all get each other into line and sort it out. As long as we’re having fun and making good music together.”
Volard’s latest single ‘Arachne (feat. Pascal)’ has brought her panoramic vision of future-soul into view, garnering glowing reviews from none other than triple j’s most respected content curators. Zan Rowe called it “lush af” while Roots 'N' All presenter Nkechi Anele complimented a “cheeky reference to Erykah Badu's ‘Rimshot’ motif” and called the harmonies “sonic bliss”.
“It’s been pretty crazy, hearing from different people via email about the song, we’re going to be played on the episode of this new TV series. Lots of new opportunities, I’m really blessed,” Volard says.
The tune’s lyrics are inspired by the Greek myth of Arachne, the weaver who challenges Athena, goddess of wisdom and crafts, to a weaving contest; after Arachne weaves a tapestry showing the immoral acts of the Gods, Athena turns her into a spider for her insolence.
“Arachne was pretty badass. She is like the original rebel. Going against the norm is something that I really admire in people and I can’t try to be not like anybody else. I guess in that way it’s pretty important song to me,” Volard says.
‘Arachne’ also features a star turn from local MC Pascal, whose verse interestingly contrasts against a saxophone solo. The flow of the tune pivots, and keeps the rhythm shifting under Volard’s rising vocals. A video for the tune arrived yesterday.
“It’s set in the Phillip Island area where I had my final years at high school. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, it’s a bit satirical. It’s me going on a bunch of different dates with a toy spider,” Volard explains.
‘Arachne’ has noticeably upped the momentum for a crowdfunding campaign Volard is running to fund the recording of her debut album Girl in Thought. At time of publishing, the fund is sitting at $2,557 of its $4,000 target.
“We’ve already started doing bits and pieces of it, just getting the most fundamental tracks down. It’s going to be a really lengthy process, and lots of different people are involved. I’m hoping for it to be out around April/May, but I haven’t confirmed a date yet. I was hoping for it to come out on my birthday,” Volard says.
Girl in Thought is set to be a concept album, one that Volard says is a “vulnerable insight into the intricacies of [her] brain”.
“I really like the idea of it being a music box.”
The album will undoubtedly launch Volard’s music high into Melbourne’s music consciousness, though those who see her and her band live in the meantime will get a sneak-preview of the unique democratic dynamic they share.
“Obviously we’ve got the charts that we base it off but we improvise lots to allow different people in the group to play. There’s lots of people in the group, and it’s so important they get their own voice out there in the group. I try to make it energetic and get the crowd involved,” Volard says.
See Volard play at BeerFest, alongside Sneaky Soundsystem and a swathe of local comics on Saturday March 2. Stay tuned to her official Facebook page for more information regarding the release of Girl in Thought and upcoming gigs.
Image Credit: Harry Leggatt