INTERVIEW: Rocky Votolato

Hi Rocky, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thanks for getting in touch! I’ve been very well and just keeping busy touring and writing new music. I’m in the middle of a 6 week tour of Europe and it’s been a blast so far! A lot of shows on continental Europe, now really looking forward finally coming back to the UK as well.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Sawdust and Shaving”?

This was one of the first songs I wrote after a long period of writers block so it has a special place in my memory for that reason. I feel like the last album “Hospital Handshakes” was really pushing the boundaries of where I’ve been musically, especially considering the more hard hitting production choices, so I wanted to bring the focus back to this song now. I think it’s a more consistent thread in the kind of lyrics focused dark folk songs I’m best known for and am excited about writing again. I really wanted to try and capture a Palace Brothers “Viva Las Blues” feeling with the production. I love the atmosphere Chris Walla (ex-Death Cab For Cutie) created, and my I think my brother Cody Votolato’s bass playing is especially important to the overall feel of the track.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

Yes – I had been studying the lives of many different saints and have always found them very interesting and instructive. It is always fascinating to me how when someone gets closer and closer to enlightenment the more they can appear insane to the rest of the world. That lead me to write the line “why do this love and madness look so much alike”, as well as “Let love be you’re only teacher.” In our increasingly hostile, dark, and unstable world I think this is pretty much the best thing to focus on with our lives and our art.

How was the film experience?

I had such a great time making the video with Luca Lucchesi and Sönke Hansen and think they did a perfect job of capturing the mood and spirit of the song with this video. The setting of an old bunker in Berlin, their use of lighting, and slow motion camera techniques were the perfect medium to communicate the feeling I was going for with the song. I couldn’t be happier with how this one turned out!

Why naming the album after this track in particular?

It’s actually an EP but somehow feels like a little album… to me it feels like the closing of a very dark period in my life and I feel like this collection of songs is very important to finishing the story I was telling with “Hospital Handshakes”. When my manager Christoph suggested “Sawdust and Shavings” as a title I thought it was perfectly fitting as these songs are what was left on the floor after the whirlwind experience of writing recording and touring on my last album. I’m personally happier with these versions of the songs than the ones on the album and feel like they best communicate the soul of the songs. It also includes “Kids As Kids” which was the final song I wrote for these sessions and is all about healing, overcoming and casting out demons and moving on with life.

How was the recording and writing process?

After a long period of not writing anything (the better part of 2 years), I wrote all the songs for this record in about 2 months. It was very cathartic and felt so good to get back to letting things flow. I recorded the 2 of the songs on the new EP with Chris Walla at the Hall of Justice in Seattle and the rest of the tracks with my brother Cody Votolato at a very cool studio in Issaqua, WA called Sunken Forest Studios. It was my first time working with my brother in the engineering / mixing role and I’m really happy with the results. Was a very good time working with him and I really trust his creative judgment.

What was it like to work with Emily of War Paint and how did that relationship develop?

She is very good friends with my sister Brandi who also lives nearby her in Los Angeles.   We have quite a few mutual friends in LA and of course I’m a huge fan of Warpaint, so when Brandi mentioned the idea I was very excited to see if we could work it out. I’m so honored and humbled that she liked my song enough to want to sing on it!

What did she bring to the table?

Here incredible voice and harmonies… We became friends through the process of working on the song together and I hope to collaborate more with her in the future. She is an amazing songwriter and has just released some really great solo tracks here: “Dark Flowers” is my favorite.

Why this song in particular?

It was my sister’s favorite and she just played it for Emily before she even mentioned it to me. When Emily liked the song she had the idea to ask her to sing on it and I’m so glad she did:)

Any plans to hit the road?

I’ve been on this tour in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and France and will actually be in the UK very soon (3-8 March). It has been a while after the Revival Tour with Chuck Ragan and Emily Barker, besides a very nice show at the Islington last year and another show some year ago.
After this run, I will be all over the US and Canada this spring as well. Chances are good that I’m coming to a city near you soon. If you want, to check a full list of tour dates here:

What else is happening next in Rocky Votolato’s world?

Probably will play around 250 shows this year and am excited to be out sharing music with people and connecting with audiences. Writing songs for a new album that I hope to record this summer and release early 2017. Thanks for listening!

Watch here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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