Locals Only: : Clarifying The Connection

Voyageur's history and camaraderie have helped shape the band's musical mindset

Aug 16, 2006 at 2:06 pm

When I first ask drummer Joe Adkins about the significance of the name Voyageur, he replies, "We really like band names like Journey and Foreigner, so that's part of the reason we went with it. We just happen to prefer the Queen's English version."

The history and dynamic of Voyageur, however, is not as simply explainable as the conception of their name. Hailing from the decadent West Side of Cincinnati, the three friends have been in various bands for close to a decade. They began playing together in the short-lived 11th Symphony and then moved on to form Ahankara. As members came and went, though, and as the music morphed, the dedication and camaraderie between the three constant members only solidified.

"When our styles changed, so did the band names," explains vocalist/guitarist Rob Weil. "We've always been loyal to each other, but we didn't want to kid ourselves by keeping a name that we felt didn't honestly represent what we were writing at the time."

The final transformation of musical ideology came close to two years ago when Voyageur was formed. The music now exemplifies a more stripped-down version of their previous bands but is still able to maintain the instrumental intricacies that keep the listener both interested and intrigued.

The hooks and melodies, reminiscent of bands like Interpol, are definitely there, but the guitar and bass work have their own personalities and keep the music vibrant and colorful.

"The music really has a kind of treescape atmosphere," explains Adkins. "It's kept solid at the base with the rhythm section, while the guitar has a more loose feeling, which allows Rob the ability to experiment both musically and vocally."

Weil, the main contributor of the band's material, goes on to say, "I don't sit there, play with a kaleidoscope, get inspired and write a song. It's written from the ground up, piece by piece."

Regardless of whether the songs are inspired by kaleidoscopes or rainbows, Voyageur did recently finish work on their debut self-titled album that they hope to have released by the end of the year. Local recording engineer Mark Van Patten worked with the group for close to a year and was able to successfully nail the sometimes dissonant feel of the band's sound. The general ambiance of the album makes the listener feel as if he or she is floating in an almost euphoric, possibly drug-induced haze. The songs flow seamlessly as the bass and drums react with each other in a beautifully fluid fashion.

"There's a really good pulse about the whole album. It's perfect driving music," says Adkins who, along with the other members, displays a feeling of satisfaction about finally having a product that represents their long and sometimes arduous history together.

As the banter continues between the members, words like "celestial" and "angular" are repeatedly dropped when describing their record, and they all seem to be in general unison as they pick away at each thought and each note that goes into the composition of a song.

As Weil finishes a cigarette, bassist Russ Vance lights one. As Adkins drains a Busch Light, Weil cracks open another. The entire conversation is void of any awkward pauses or silences and has a smooth flow, which is what the group prides themselves on in their music.

Voyageur's live show is an extension of their album, as they seem just as much at ease with their chemistry together on stage. Vance and Adkins provide the consistency while Weil is allowed to take center stage. The cascading effect of the music and Weil's baritone vocals intermingle in both a precise and meticulous way. The overall feeling of unison between the members on stage is overwhelming, and it only helps add to the range and motion of the songs.

"It's a rarity you can have three people stay in tune with each other for so long and stay interested in the same styles of music," says Weil.

No doubt remains that as time passes and Voyageur continues to experiment with its music, each member of the trio will remain closely tied to one another and work together as a whole in order to manufacture its own special brand of sound.

VOYAGEUR (myspace.com/voyageur) plays The Mad Hatter on Aug. 25 for the first night of the two-day "American Indian College Fund Benefit" with The Light Wires and many others.