tried really hard to find someone, somewhere who would say something negative about Voxtrot’s lead singer, Ramesh Srivastava. I scoured through 20-plus pages of Google hits, most praising Srivastava’s vocals and describing the band’s sound with some variation on the words “infectious” or “addictive.” I read through blog comments and froze my computer three times on overloaded MySpace pages that mentioned the band and was disappointed on all fronts. Where were all the angry bloggers labelling Voxtrot poseurs or the local Austin kids calling Ramesh a sellout?
When I ask Srivastava about where the disses live, he laughs it off, saying it’s definitely out there. “It’s there if you really look for it,” he claims, “I think somewhere someone compared us to Nickelback, even.” Nickelback is definitely not the first comparison that comes to mind when listening to either of the band’s EPs—there’s a lot more press comparing them to indie standards like the Strokes, Belle and Sebastian, and even the Smiths—not bad company for a band that hasn’t even released a full-length album. I suppose I’ll have to believe Srivastava’s word that Voxtrot’s detractors exist, invisible though they may be.
Where were all the angry bloggers labelling Voxtrot poseurs or the local Austin kids calling Ramesh a sellout?
Srivastava is half Indian, in case you were wondering (he tells me a lot of people do). His father is from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, his mother is a Jersey girl and he grew up in Texas—not exactly your “typical” desi experience. But then, Srivastava doesn’t invest much time in analyzing his ethnicity. I ask him if he encountered the sometimes dreaded “What are you?” question a lot: “I guess I have, but it [doesn’t] really bother me,” he said. “It’s not a theme that’s come up in my life…maybe I just haven’t thought about it a lot. I’m not really sure.”
Find the Music
Voxtrot’s first EP, Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives, was re-released outside of the United States by Beggars Group/Playlouder on September 25, 2006. Their new single, “Your Biggest Fan,” will be available on 7-inch and CD on November 7, 2006 (also from Beggars/Playlouder).
He has thought about it enough to credit his childhood friendships for the easy-going relationship he has with his culture now. “I think I just had really great friends in high school… most of the people were complete assholes, but I had a really bizarre group of friends who were really wonderful, really accepting,” he says. He laughs and continues, “I guess when you’re a misfit in a group of misfits, your differences don’t matter too much.”
His “differences” did, however, take him to India with his father last Christmas, a trip Srivastava says he “wasn’t prepared for.” While the harshness of poverty and class disparities may have unnerved Srivastava, he returned from the trip with a renewed sense of appreciation for India.
“I really love Indian music. The whole aesthetic is really appealing to me, Indian music and art,” he says. “Specifically, the classical music in India has a really rich and deep history that other genres could never touch on.” Srivastava also avers an affinity for a slightly less highbrow South Asian music genre—bhangra. That’s actually not too surprising, considering his own music’s high-energy, make-you-wanna-dance feel.
And that points to another quality of Voxtrot’s music: very little navel-gazing and not too much brooding—it’s a lot less melodramatic than the tunes of their indie rock contemporaries. The guitar is jangly and up-tempo, while Srivastava’s vocals are smooth and smile-inducing.
“Well, one of the reasons I really like dance music is the energy you build in the room,” says Srivastava, explaining why his music remains upbeat without resorting to cheesiness. “I wanted to create a similar sound with the music that we make. I wanted that interaction with the audience.”
“You know, talking about yourself is not that interesting. It gets to be so the music starts to resemble something like a MySpace blog, talking about mundane stuff that I don’t think people care about,” he explains says when I compare Voxtrot’s songs to other more brooding artists out there. “Indie guitar music falls into that a lot. You have to have a feeling or a theme that other people can relate to.”
Srivastava discovered his love of upbeat and dance music in Glasgow, Scotland, where he lived for three years. He went to Scotland with ideas of recording the songs that had been percolating in his head but instead discovered the club scene—and electronic music—along the way. Thus influenced, he’d come home to Austin, Texas, to record with his hometown friends.
“Talking about yourself is not that interesting. It gets to be so the music starts to resemble something like a MySpace blog, talking about mundane stuff that I don’t think people care about.”
On Tour 2006
26: Houston, TX , Walters on Washington
27: Denton, TX, Hailey’s
28: Austin, TX, Emo’s
1: Los Angeles, CA, Troubadour
2: San Francisco, CA, Popscene
4: San Francisco, CA, Great American Music Hall
5: Chicago, IL, Empty Bottle
6: New York, NY, Bowery Ballroom
7: New York, NY, Bowery Ballroom
“It was almost a kind of mistake,” Srivastava says of the band’s beginnings. “I had these songs, and we just started playing together.”
“Just playing together” led to gigs, mostly in basements or at friends’ parties. Suddenly, the band starting booking paying jobs and was forced to find a name. (Voxtrot is a play on words, combing Vox, a brand of amplifiers, and the dance the foxtrot. A fitting combination, considering their music’s dance-inducing feel.)
Despite his crack about MySpace blogs, Srivastava actually maintains his own at thevoxtrotkid.blogspot.com. It’s actually rather insightful without being too mopey. Perusing readers might learn that he studied in Glasgow after leaving the music program at Berklee because he didn’t like “deconstructing his passion,” or that he was a pre-school teacher before joining the band full-time and entertained becoming a English teacher before that whole international musician thing came up. One thing is for certain—Srivastava is full of surprises, and there are has more to come: Voxtrot is finally recording a full length album and will embark on a multi-city tour this month.