Voyager – No Limit SoldiersSunday, 22nd June 2014
When you can willingly brandish a keytar and get away with it, you’re doing something right. Australia’s Voyager do a lot of things right, actually. Since their 1999 formation, the band has endured gradual, sometimes painstaking growth, whether because of the inconvenience of their chosen locale, or the fact it takes several years to build a melodic, trend-free progressive metal band in this climate. Regardless of the way one looks at things, Voyager are poised to have their much-deserved breakout moment courtesy of this year’s brilliant V, which possesses a batch of songs that could not be more hummable, yet intricate…keytar included.
Down the line, the choruses dropped on “Breaking Down,” “The Domination Game,” and “Embrace the Limitless” are easily some of the year’s best, benefitting greatly from vocalist (and keytarist) Daniel Estrin’s comfortable delivery, of which has occasionally be compared to Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon (!). But, part and parcel with the keytar is the band’s sense of humor, which is on immediate display via their Facebook page and live presentation. Such tomfoolery can sometimes work against a band, but with Voyager, it’s part of the grander picture.
“Humor, I don’t think has ever backfired for us,” begins guitarist Scott Kay. “I can’t think of a time when it has, anyway. However, trying to get the audience revved up can be quite a challenge sometimes. The Children of Bodom tour was a good example of that. We had to work really hard to win over the crowd on some of those shows, just because Bodom are revered and everyone at those shows were there to see them rather than us, which is understandable.”
Last mention of the keytar…promise.
“People do seem to like the keytar!” enthuses Kay. “I think it’s because we’re not a very serious live band, and you definitely can’t be serious when wielding a red plastic portable piano like that. [laughs] But really, I think it’s the fact that we all collectively LOVE being on stage, and that translates to the crowd. If we’re having fun, then you can have fun!Live music is entertainment, and we want to be exactly that! I think the harshest things to hear from someone watching is ‘…Well that was boring.’ If you’re in the entertainment business, and someone is bored, you haven’t done your job properly.” [laughs]
V’s predecessor, 2011’s The Meaning of I warranted similar critical acclaim, enabling the band to take on a much heavier touring load, including a prime opening slot on Rhapsody of Fire’s North American tour in the spring of 2012. Kay said the band learned quite a bit from the experience. “It was the longest run of shows I think the band’s ever done, and we learned how to get along with one another in such a tight space for so long,” he says. “I think we left a good mark on USA! We seemed to go down really well at every single show. We even had some say to us they’d prefer to see us at our own show headlining! It was quite a surprise for us actually! I think some of it has to do with us being Australian too. [laughs] There’s definitely some camaraderie going on there that’s doing us favors! I’d love to get back over there soon, it was the time of my life!”
Upon returning home from North America and completing the show cycle for The Meaning of I, the band were not exactly startled, but rudely reminded of little income they were earning via album sales. Granted, virtually no one makes money from album sales circa 2014, but for Voyager, it was time to take matters into their own hands. Thus, a Kickstarter campaign for V was born.
“We were receiving something like $0.50 per digital download of an entire album,” says Kay. “We thought to ourselves: ‘Where is this money going? What are we getting in terms of benefits to receive such a pittance?!’ The reality was, there were very few benefits, and it was just us receiving a percentage after everyone else in line got their cut. We were essentially left with the loose change, and for what?
“So we cut out as many middle-men as possible, and it left us with the idea of pursuing a Kickstarter campaign to fund our album instead,” he continues. “I feel it’s important these days to be transparent with our fans, so here’s the honest truth: We made more money in three days running a Kickstarter campaign than we made selling albums all over the world from our previous album on a label. This has easily been our most financially successful release to date, and we have you, the fans, to thank for that!”
Detractors of Kickstarter or crowd-funding campaigns in general will cry foul over band’s taking shortcuts and/or receiving money from the same people who will be buying the product. For Voyager, however, the pros far outweighed cons. By a mile.
“Honestly, I’m still left wondering what the cons are,” admits Kay. “Yes, while we are left to do all the work ourselves, in terms of getting the products out to the fans, it also means we get nearly the entire cut of the pie. I’d rather work harder and reap more of the reward than palm off jobs to other people. We are absolutely stoked with how it all came out. It’s really inspired and empowered us, because it’s shown just how strong our band/fan relationship is. We have very dedicated fans, and that goes much further than having a lot of people kind of like us; like someone who would only buy a digital for example. We’ve never felt more confident than now as a result of it.”
On another positive front, Voyager’s lineup has remained intact for six years, which of course, enables a band write such daunting and interesting albums like V. But aside from that, the benefits and stress-reduction that comes from having a tight-knit unit is one Kay is quick to relay his enthusiasm for. “The current lineup feels great,” he says. “We all understand each other, and we bounce off each other really well. We spend a lot of time in jam stuffing around. One thing we do is deliberately play our songs badly, just for laugh. [laughs] We’re not the most productive band around when it comes to rehearsal! I think having this element of fun is crucial to being able to create good music, though.”
Immediate plans for Voyager include an Australian tour, but if the touring load for The Meaning of I was any indication, the next two or three years should be mightily busy for a band ready to climb the progressive metal ladder.
“We just want to play everywhere, man! Europe is very high on our agenda this time, seeing as we didn’t get over there for our Meaning of I album cycle. So we have ProgPower Europe to look forward to in October! A USA return would be nice too, and even getting over to parts of Asia as well. Europe is definitely high on the list for us, for the reasons above. I think we’d go down really well over there, seeing as we have quite a bit of that European flavour to our sound already. This new album has more of that new-wave progressive metal sound too, similar to Periphery, Tesseract, Monuments. Those bands really inspired a lot of the guitar work on this album. Really, we’re happy to play anywhere and everywhere! I still want to play a house show at some point with Voyager; I think it’d be a riot!”