David Dennis is yelling into his cell phone, trying to tell the interviewer that the band is headed into the Holland Tunnel and he will call right back when they reach the other side of the Hudson River but the connection is already dead. Dropped calls are one of the many challenges of a modern interview.
"You have to be a businessperson to be in a band these days," he says, and points out that it is hard to imagine Led Zeppelin worrying about updating its Twitter feed.
Dennis is the front man for Voxhaul Broadcast, a Los Angeles-based quartet that fuses psychedelic undertones with traditional rock and soul. The band's recently released album Timing Is Everything was featured on iTunes and the subsequent back-to-back supporting tours have taken the childhood friends to SXSW and will soon deliver them across the pond for a UK tour. Success has landed the band several interviews -- some good, others quite bad -- Dennis was kind enough to open up about the questions he hears again and again, the future of band interviews, and the worst interview he's ever been a part of.
Mark Collins: What surprises you about the interview process?
Voxhaul Broadcast: I end up talking about the way we want to be portrayed a lot. I never thought I would have much involvement with that. I thought I would just do my thing, and people would portray me however they wanted. But as a band we have so much control over our image. When I picked up the guitar and realized I liked writing songs I never thought about who the music was talking to. I don't know who our fans are. I think they are somebody who has the same thoughts and feelings as I do. Who experiences life in similar ways that I do. It's really weird for me thinking about all that stuff. So I don't think about it for the most part.
MC: You are typically the one who gives the interviews, why is that?
VB: Maybe its because I write a lot of the lyrics. So any questions about writing I'm more suited to answer. I'm not really sure why it's always me, I guess I'm most comfortable with it.
MC: Do you enjoy being interviewed?
VB: I don't get nervous about it. It does get frustrating when you hear the same questions over and over.
MC: What are some of the questions you hear a lot?
VB: The main one that I don't like answering is: "Where did you get your band name?" because it is such a stupid story. When people ask they expect something meaningful or a funny story, but it is really stupid. Basically a friend with a Scottish accent kind of muttered something and we thought he said something different, but we liked the sound of it. It's not that interesting, just a miscommunication. I think people are curious about the band name because it is kind of weird name, Voxhaul Broadcast. That's the only question I am bothered by answering. It's like telling a bad joke. Every time I interview I know I have to tell that lame story again.
MC: What other questions do you hear a lot?
VB: You know the normal stuff. Where are you from? What are your influences? I don't mind answering but it's the same thing over and over again. But these are the things people want to know so I'm not upset about answering at all.
MC: Do you have stock responses for questions you keep getting asked?
VB: I've started to actually. It's not intentional, it just naturally happens over time. You get asked the same question over and over again and you are bound to come up with a staple answer.
MC: Are there similarities between performing on stage and being interviewed?
VB: I approach them all pretty similar. Try to be myself. It's very different, being interviewed compared playing live. I've never thought about it before. Am I the same in interviews as I am on stage? I guess. When I'm playing on stage the music is the only thing that matters. That is one of the only times that I feel free. I feel like people can judge me easier during interviews. There is more room for people to not feel what I'm saying and judge me on it because the music is not there. I feel more free on stage than I do when I'm doing an interview.
MC: What makes for a good interview?
VB: When I can get really comfortable with it and it's just talking with somebody. I always like interviews where I feel like I'm having a conversation. When it feels like it is really natural, like I was able to just talk with the person. Sometimes an interview can feel like I'm taking a test.
MC: There are no right or wrong answers.
VB: This is totally fine. As I'm talking to you I'm realizing I didn't even think about this stuff before. Now I'm thinking back on what I do and don't like, it's all on the fly. I'm a realizing things about myself in this interview.
MC: What is an example of a bad interview?
VB: Somebody that doesn't like the band at all. Or somebody, you can tell that they're just doing their job. They just show up and they're asking questions because they have to. One time we were playing in our hometown and we weren't on tour at the time, we didn't have a new album, there was nothing going on, we were just playing a random show. And this guy was interviewing us and asked how long we were on tour and how we were touring with the new album. All these questions that were irrelevant. Half the interview was us correcting him on his questions.
The most annoying thing to me is when people obviously don't like the music or don't care about the band. And they're just doing their job. And that's fine, everybody has a job to do. But how do you know what the fans want to know if you don't understand the music or anything about it. Does that make sense?
MC: Have you experienced the opposite, where the person interviewing you is overexcited?
VB: I guess I don't think we have that star quality about us. I don't think anybody has been that excited to talk to us yet.
MC: How do you see band interviews changing over time?
VB: I have had to answer a lot more questions about business than I ever thought I would. Media is changing. You have to be a businessperson to be in a band these days. When you think back on Led Zeppelin and the Doors, those are rock bands that are kind of mythical. You don't think of them sitting in the van together asking each other "Did you send out a tweet about that?" or "Did you check the band's Facebook?" I don't know if that is gone, that mythical rock and roll thing, but we're trying the best we can to not be too business and still just be a band and go at it. But at the same time still survive and make the right choices.
Free MP3 download of Voxhaul Broadcast's single "Leaving On the 5th."
Photo taken by Adarsha Benjamin
Follow Mark R. Collins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Markswords