A distorted guitar strum, distant fuzzy vocals. Is this real, you think to yourself. Where am I? What was that? Through a series of dissonant and consonant sounds, Violet Nox finds the perfect balance between chaos and order throughout their songs. You catch phrases here and there, just audible enough to pick up:
“There’s something going on….. In my head…..”.
Full reverb distorts the voice, swooping over what little period of clarity you have, and the lyrics themselves become a memory of the past. Band members of Violet Nox, Dez DeCarlo, Karen Zanes, Andrew Abrahamson, and Alexis Desjardins outdo themselves with their delivery of another masterpiece, their new EP “Twin Flames”.
A simple bass drum pattern starts the first song, bringing the heartbeat of “Twin Flames” to life. “Swan Song”, a 7 minute track, constantly builds intensity with entrances of eclectic sounds that push the boundaries of music genres. Wailing guitar strums, whispers of melody, and the steady rhythm of the hi-hats take the listener to a new galaxy. The addition of each instrument only make you crave more of the song, eagerly awaiting to see where it will take you next.
“Twin flames….. Twin flames…. Twin soul… Twin soul…”
With no context except these two phrases enveloped by rich intense instrumentals, “Swan Song” is truly is a work of art unrestricted by the boundaries of traditional elements or forms of any kind. Through the bongo-like drums and the chaos of the distorted guitars, you’re left with a sense of urgency to figure out what are the twin flames and who are the twin souls?
If “Swan Song” was a volcano eruption, “AxA” is a glacier in a storm. “AxA” starts off with ethereal chimes, the kind of chimes that make you see crystals in white and blue. A sweeping synth cuts through it, turning into beautiful dissonance and brings us back with an urgent guitar riff. As more and more distortion and instruments enter the track, we enter the storm and lose sight of the safe haven from the beginning.
“Time is lost, in this space”
You have just heard heart-dropping news, and you’re waiting for someone to pick up the phone. Time is unreal, and all you can hear is the dial tone beeping. You pray for someone to pick up and end this endless drone from your cell phone. Time slows down for you in this critical stage. That’s all you can think about and all you can hear during this line in the track, deeply unsettling and beautiful with all that goes on behind it.
It is a near-impossible feat to perfectly replicate the effects of their music in 300 words or less; the essence of Violet Nox’s music is to be felt and not read. There’s no way to capture that feeling of your heartbeat syncing up with the bass drums through words alone, you have to experience for yourself. Packaged in a concise two-track album, the Twin Flame EP is a three-dimensioned proclamation of raw human emotion. Lie down, be comfortable, and get ready to experience pure revelation in confusion. Read below to start unraveling the background of ‘Twin Flames’:
Q: When I listen to Swan Pond, I can really feel the intensity burning, like a huge blue fire. What was the initial inspiration for this song and how did you guys build it up to the full seven minutes?
KZ: The song originated with some beats from Andrew and a guitar loop from me. Dez added her guitar sounds and at a later point Alexis added bass lines. After the first night of jamming on it, we needed a working title – somehow it ended up being called ‘Swan Pond.’ I’m pretty good at writing lyrics based around a title prompt so I went home and researched swans and found that they mate for life. I wrote the lyrics based around that theme. But as a human you can obviously think about the one that you love, or loved and the fact that you are twin flames. Over time we each built up our respective musical parts and the result is the smoldering ambience I think you refer to.
DD: All songs are created in a very open format. Once the initial beat and vibe is down we all start to drop in our parts. My guitar carries the melody in Swan and I play a bass like tone during the verse. The haunting lead line happens during the chorus. Violet Nox has have been definitely heading in a more hypnotic trance direction. Swan Pond is a good example of this.Toward the end of the song when the ambient psychedelic sound picks up, i use a lot of analog/digital effects, sustain, reverse, repeats, and drop octaves up and down to help create a dream state wave of mind filled with wind and fire.
Q: Compared to Nebula, I feel like the songs have become a lot more rich and brighter in a way, like more focused on the stars rather than the entire entity of the Nebula. What was your vision for this new album?
KZ: As usual, there really was no pre-conception for an album. We simply met and jammed and songs developed out of those rehearsals. If anything, there’s a sense of coming into our own with these songs. There was simply more focus this time around. I feel the EP ‘Nebula’ was a bit more exploratory and ‘Twin Flame’ is more congealed. Newest member and synth player, Alexis Desjardins brings a grounding sensibility to the songs by focusing on bass lines. Perhaps that helps the other elements to “pop.”
DD: I agree with what Karen said. The songs are a bit more structured this time around but still allow space for the unexpected to happen. Twin Flame EP, on UK Sleep FUSE, like the “Nebula” album, were all recorded in just a couple takes. Some of the wild sounds you hear were played on the spot, invented in the moment, pure magic from Violet Nox.
Q: “Lamb On the Moon” from the Nebula album was such an interesting concept. Tell us how the remix further elaborated on expressing your vision of this song.
DD: I love electronic music and have been wanting to do a remix. When discussing the idea with my good friend Pacaline Mary of Miss Geo, we decided to do it. Pascaline Mary and Miss Geo are the creators of this amazing remix of “Lamb on the Moon.” The original version is from our album “Nebula” that came out in Nov 2017 on UK Reverb Worship. We are very excited about this remix!
Q: Your songs are so rich full of so many contrasting rhythms and colorful sounds. Tell me about your writing process! Do you start with a certain drum loop that you like or a catchy phrase to do vocals on? How do you achieve the effect of organized chaos so well?
DD: Violet Nox is built on beautiful chemistry. All songs are created through jamming. I like to always remain open and let the process naturally unravel in a John Coltrane manner. Everything created in Violet Nox is a collaborative effort. We usually start with a drum beat, guitar or synth melody and let it explode! A lot of my sound effects i get through the use of my pedals, amp, pick or strumming techniques. They are achieved through pure experimenting. Anything we ever recorded was done with raw energy, in the moment, 1 to 2 takes. The chaos is our cosmic, sonic energy together, letting go to any and all possibilities.
Q: What is your favorite venue to play at and why? What sort of venue helps magnify your music the best?
DD: I’m an events producer so many of our shows are created by me! I usually get an idea of a group of artists, eclectic lineup, for the show then i dream of a perfect alternative venue to have the event at. My shows are produced with a lot of love and passion and often have a party vibe to them! Some of our favorite spaces are DAP, Pink Noise Studio, Industry Lab, Lily Pad and more! I encourage everyone to believe you can do your own thing. Don’t get locked in waiting for a venue to give you a gig. Go out and do it yourself!
Q: Your music pushes the boundaries of music in all sorts of ways. Tell me a little bit about the band’s general music background.
DD:- I played in various music projects in Boston then met Karen Zanes and Erik Jackson-original drummer of Violet Nox and started jamming. I knew i wanted to play experimental music mixed with electronica and study the art of sound. I got a really cool fender tube amp that has a natural distorted growl to it and bought a bunch of guitar pedals and a telecaster guitar. I spent lots of time messing around with effect sounds. Everyone in Violet Nox has full creative input and each member writes their own parts. Our fire engine is fueled with our energy and experimenting. It gives each person in the project freedom to break limits and to fly as high as the sound will take us!
KZ: Before Violet Nox I had been playing in a psychedelic pop outfit called ‘The Freeways.’ I’ve also been playing and recording psych-folk/dream-folk as a solo artist for a number of years. I’ve been with the Violet Nox collective from the earliest days of its formation (about three years). I think the original premise was to focus on experimental sounds.
AA: I’ve been into experimenting with rhythmic electronics for longer than I’ve been interested in making things that might be called music. My first drum machine was a PAiA Programmable Drum Set thing that my dad built from a kit – it’s worth Googling just to get a look at. It makes a TR808 look like an iPhone. Towards the end of its life I had to open it up and shock it on the circuit board with a 9 volt to get it to start running. It wouldn’t play patterns any more – it just spit out half random streams drum hits. This and delay pedal pretty much captures where I came from aesthetically. I’ve played guitar, bass and drums with other bands as well (I’m currently doing beats/synth and guitar with the electro-punk noise trio Spectramotiv). Generally I’ve mixed electronics into whatever I’ve been involved with but VN is the first project I’ve played in where synths and effects are the only thing I’m doing. It’s been a great opportunity to give my full attention to the electronic side of thing. I’ve really been enjoying it.
Alexis Desjardins plays synth bass and tape machine in Violet Nox. He blends rhythms with sound manipulation and places emphasis on performance based modulation. Alexis is a multi-instrumentalist who has been performing and producing music for various acts in the Boston area over the last 10 years in genres ranging from Electronic Pop, Psychedelic, Ambient and Noise.
Q: Do you prefer to perform with acoustic instruments and put them through a bunch of filters or invent sounds purely from electronic digital instruments?
AA: The sounds can originate almost anywhere but wherever they come from our sound production choices are pretty individual. Each of us has our current box of favorite tricks and freedom to try new things is one of the cornerstones of the band. VN is wonderfully open that way. I think the freedom for individual experimentation is responsible for the variety of sounds more than anything else. There is electronic shaping of pretty much everything. Guitars, vocals, drum machines, samples, tapes, synths all go through some box or other more often than not. I don’t think any of us could say will full confidence what anyone else is doing. What’s exciting to me is that it’s not a studio thing. Creating the sounds, the effects, the filtering – even down to much of the panning – it’s part of our songwriting process. The creative production elements live in the writing not in studio manipulations. Once we’re in the studio to record we’re solely focused on capturing a live performance. With the exception of the remix on the new Twin Flame EP the tracks on both records are all pretty much live takes – effects and everything.
Listen to Violet Nox’s new release on their bandcamp: http://violetnox.bandcamp.com/album/twin-flame