VOX EAGLE – Interview & Album Review: “TriumAvium”

Vox Eagle2

Electro-psych pop music project Vox Eagle burst onto the music scene in 2017 with their infectious dance-pop EP Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1. Previously comprised of Australian-born Andy Crosby and American Luke Hamel, Vox Eagle is now essentially Andy’s solo project (along with occasional collaborations with other musicians). Wanting an escape from the distractions and noise of Manhattan, in 2017 Andy made another life-changing move along with his new wife, this time to the Colorado Rockies. They purchased a piece of land with a cabin at 9,000 feet above sea level, and Andy quickly got to work building his own recording studio, which he dubbed “The Eagles Nest.” The pristine surroundings and new found freedom greatly expanded his creative energy, inspiring him to experiment with fresh sounds and take his music into exciting new directions. The result of all this is his brilliant genre-bending new album TriumAvium, which officially drops October 9th.

Vox Eagle album art

I’m chomping at the bit to talk about the album, but before getting into my review, I’ll share the recent insightful conversation I had with Andy about his career, life changes and the album. And now’s a good time to make special mention of the brilliant album art, which pays homage to Andy’s move from Manhattan to the mountains. The Manhattan skyline is shown upside down along the top edge of the cover, and a forest scene covers the bottom half, with a mountain-shaped outline intersecting its mirror image in the center.

EML:  Hi Andy, thanks for wanting to talk with me about your new album TriumAvium, which I absolutely love! First off, what’s the meaning behind the album title? I googled the words and found that trium is Latin for three, and avium is a solitary or lonely place. Am I close?

AC:  Hey Jeff, firstly thanks for checking out the album and doing the interview. Greatly appreciated as I know you’re getting drowned in submissions and new music these days with the writings of Eclectic Music Lover. Yes you were close with the title. Trium Avium is about a remote wilderness, perhaps with reference to my own new found remote wilderness in the Arapahoe Forest of Colorado. The Trium grew from my obsessions over the number three when writing and mixing the record and meditating on various frequencies and it just came out of that. It is Latin in origin.

EML:  You are Australian, and relocated to the U.S. in, when, the late-2000s? You settled in New York, and Luke lived in Los Angeles, but you guys would meet in various locations around the country to record songs for what would become your terrific debut EP Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1. Eventually, you settled in the Colorado Rockies, where you built your own recording studio. What made you decide to settle in a such a beautiful but remote location?

AC:  I moved out here from Australia in mid 2012 after finishing a record with The Cracks and having a label deal gone wrong with the death of our A&R guy at the time. I was kinda in musical purgatory at the time so set my sites on the musical mecca of the United States.

I moved to Brooklyn, had a studio in Greenpoint, then lived in Manhattan for 6 years hunting down new sounds and production/mixing techniques. Luke always lived out in California. We had toured the East and West coast together in another band in 2014 (The Canyon Rays) so I got him in to do the Flamingo EP. I think Luke is a great writer/producer in his own right, however, in terms of work ethic and chemistry it was just never really there between us so we parted ways halfway through Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1. The whole idea of VoxEagle in the beginning was to collaborate with various artists whilst settling into my new home in the USA. When I’m focusing on a project I need to immerse myself in 100% and that was impossible for us to do on separate coasts.

I decided to move out to the Colorado Rockies with my wife Paige, as we had just got some rescue puppies Prince and Charlie, and they needed space to run around bigger than our Manhattan studio apartment that was being torn up by Prince. So we ditched the concrete grind and decided to head for the Rockies, as we both had spent significant time there during college. We left NYC and got married in 2017 in Colorado, and settled in the little town of Evergreen on the top of Black Mountain where we border the Arapahoe state forest that’s just magical. We bought a piece of land at 9,000 feet above sea level so its real high up, with a cabin and a shed. I spent 3 months building the recording studio called ‘The Eagles Nest’. It has a 48-Channel Oram Analogue Console at the command and then I have a chain of guitars, drums, samplers, synthesizers, effects and outboard gear running through a sea of madness. We moved out for the space and it just magic out here, and less distractions than Manhattan. My studio in Manhattan was on 57th St. above the Late Show where Dave Letterman was in Times Square, so it’s a totally different vibe now. 9,000 feet above the clouds. It’s a totally different trip, which leads into the next question.

VoxEagle Studio 2

EML:  Flamingo Paradiso featured songs that were primarily electro-psych dance-pop, but many of the songs on TriumAvium have a more edgy, urban vibe, with quite a bit of hip-hop. I find that interesting, given the rural mountain-forest environment you now reside in. Where did the inspiration for the new songs come from?

AC:  I just wanted to do something completely new for this record. I could have easily spat out Flamingo 2; it’s sitting in a folder on the hard drive, however I just wanted to open the sound up a little more and give it a bit more breathing space. I wanted to make something completely new but also something people could go nuts to at a club gig or festival. Everyone out here is doing Americana, Jam band, folk or indie rock so I wanted to do something that was different to what everyone else was doing. I also wanted to learn a new talent and teach myself how to freestyle. I wanted to be able to battle anyone of any caliber.

So I spent several months (hard to say how many) testing various psychedelics in my garage basement learning to sing in freestyle by surrounding myself with white boards and vision boards hanging from the ceiling, with classic Nicolas Cage films rolling in the background and learning to rhyme from walking round the room with words and pictures everywhere and then getting ideas on whiteboards and reworking them. I also recorded most of those days/nights/session, so have loads of tape reels and hard drives I need to sift through some day… I was kind of all-out madness, but I think it worked.

If steve jobs was peering down the rabbit whole, this was more like burrowing out the warren, hanging some picture frames & getting a nice comfy sofa to call place home for a while.

I worked on TriumAvium when I was building the studio as well, so there are some recordings from all over the place that have made their way onto the record, or will be coming out soon in other material I am going to be releasing over the coming months. Some of it’s a bit more on the electro-psych/dance side. I’ve also been playing with some local Colorado musicians like guitarist Aaron Dixon to get the live show ready, so it’s all systems go at the moment. Firing up the engines. I have another 20 songs ready to go that were off cuts from this record, so am just compiling them into EPs at the moment and deciding what to release next.

EML:  One of my favorite tracks is the mesmerizing instrumental “Let’s Go Back – The Ballad of Randy Eagle in F#minor.” Given the song has no lyrics other than some chanting, what’s the significance of its title? 

AC:   “Lets Go Back – The Ballad of Randy Eagle in F# Minor” is a song about reminiscing and moving forward. Its about a race car driver recovering from a crash and getting back behind the wheel to race. My friends always called me Randy when I’d get out of control so that’s how it got to Randy Eagle. It’s kind of an alter ego I created. He’s a race car driver that’s a total dick and everyone hates, but he never gives up. As you may notice there’s a heavy racing theme that carries out through the album.

EML:  I also like the re-interpretation of “No Sleep” from the EP that’s now “No Sleep No Sleep” on the new album. Any story behind that one, or just having fun with a remix?

AC:  I wanted to have something from the original EP on this record as a nod, but was finding it really hard to get one of the old tracks to sit in with all the flow of this record. So I did a more upbeat version of “No Sleep” and played it to Aaron Dixon, and he was really vibing on it so we got his guitars down on the chorus and it was done. We kept it super simple. One vocal take, one bass line, so it was a very different approach to the original which was really a lot larger in production, like 6 Harmony per chorus, etc. So on this whole record I was really more jammin out with loop pedals, 808s, pianos synths. Everything on this record we can do 100% live with every part, so super pumped to get out and play it. I think our first show is in Arizona for MesaFestival on Saturday November 10th, so we’re super pumped to try the new stuff live and jam out the old stuff.

EML: I read on the website PopDust that you’ve landed deals with VW, Jim Beam, Toyota, Smirnoff, and Coca Cola, along with music production for Sony, Disney, and Universal. How did you manage to score those deals? Did those companies use your songs in their ads, or did you write new music for them?

AC:  Yes, I have been really fortunate to have a bunch of my songs licensed in TV, commercials and movies along the way. It definitely keeps the ship sailing, and helped me invest in some really awesome recording gear along the way. A lot of the projects have been solo specifically working with music supervisors, producers or directors to do a custom score or song. Sometimes a director/producer hears a tune previously recorded or in the works, and just has to have it in the film. So the dice can roll any way really, as long as you’re constantly working and connecting with people in the industry.

I’ve also been in a few other bands and projects – Soundcasino and The Cracks – and I write with a bunch of artists and still connect with those projects from time to time. My main focus now though is VoxEagle and smashing out a big live show this year. Am really stoked on those projects and happy to have been part of them and still create music with most of them, just have been taking a hiatus from everything else over the past year to focus on developing the new sound with VoxEagle, and trying to do something new and unique as an artist.

EML:  Since you and Luke have parted ways, is Vox Eagle basically you going forward, along with some collaborations like you did with Pierre Fontaine on the marvelous track “Wander”?

AC:  VoxEagle has always been my connection and collaborations with various artists across the US since I moved over here and now call it home. I’ve always enjoyed collaborating with new artists to get a new energy and vibe, and create something that’s unique and different. I bring some styles and flavors from my musical upbringings in Australia and can share that energy with a rapper from Brooklyn and create something totally unique.

For touring and playing live I use a bunch of loop pedals connected to my synths, drums and vocals so I can do the whole live show solo if I have to. I like sharing the stage with others though, so have got Aaron Dixon doing a bunch of live shows with me and have done a bunch of collaborations this year, my favorite of which has been “Wander” with Pierre Fontaine.

I heard Pierre Fontaine’s material through another artist I work with, Eman, and was blown away. We hung out and have since worked on a few tunes and beats together. He’s a really impressive writer, and his lyrics are always on point. He’s just one of those guys who has put the time in and knows every corner of the industry. He writes, sings, raps, plays killer drums, and he inspires an army of youngsters under him. He has a label FreshMind with a tonne of incredible artists on it so definitely check ’em out. Anyways, he’s a super impressive guy and I wanted him on a track, and then he heard me making the “Wander” beat on an Instagram story I put up and was like yoooo I want in on that! So I had kinda freestyled a melody and a rough first verse, sent it to him and then the whole thing was done super fast.

The whole record is kinda built around that track. I was so hyped on that song I was like its gotta be on the record, its gotta be on the record!! So it became the song that the whole record is built around. I must have scrapped 20-odd other tunes that were pumping coz “Wander” had to be on the record. That’s maybe why its such an eclectic record which I know scares a lot of people.

It goes from Electro to Dub, to Hip Hop to Indie psych to Rock, its like WTF. But at the end of the day it works for me and that was all I gave a shit about. Making a record I was happy with that was unique. It was the first record I have mixed, produced, engineered, and done everything solo for. It was a lot to take on for a first record doing all those things.. Maybe too much.. But fuck it, I like it, I learnt a tonne and have a swag of tunes ready to go with the studio now fully built and recording new material everyday and night. It’s all growing and building as an artist and I feel I now have a level of control over my material I have never had before through mixing and producing everything in-house.

The responsibility is all on me now, but better than having too many cooks and all that, which is what I felt on Flamingo. Must have had six different dudes mixing it, files everywhere… just an expensive nightmare coz Luke was never happy with the mixes.

The first incarnation of VoxEagle, before I’d even met Luke, had my friend Terence Conor on the drums. One night, October 1st 2012, after a rehearsal jam/recording session in Green Point we went to the Lucky Dog in Brooklyn for a few drinks to wind down. I tried to convince Terence to come back to our place as he usually did to chill and play some tunes, however he decided to ride his bike back to Bushwick, as he had an exam the next day. That was the last time I saw him, as he was tragically killed in a hit and run whilst cycling home down Metropolitan Avenue that night. I found out the next morning when my buddy Harald rang and was crushed to pieces. I am always thinking of him on this journey as he was such a talent on drums and in energy, and that needs to be carried forward. So VoxEagle is a musical energy; I hate to call it a band or whatnot. Its vibe I suppose is with me at the helm. Its just gotta have big melodies and be real energetic and vibey. Its ups and downs, highs and lows but a consistent, persistent energy that is going to get the crowd going at any gig. For 2018 its me Andy Crosby, and Aaron Dixon on guitars, heading out on the road. We got some vintage racing suits on ebay, so its gonna be wild. So hope to catch you somewhere for a show Jeff!

EML:  I would love to see you perform live! Anything else you’d like to add that I neglected to ask about?

AC:  I think we covered it all. Thanks for your time Jeff, love the blog and writings of the EclecticMusicLover. Look forward to chatting again soon.

EML: Thanks again Andy!

VoxEagle_Studio 1

Okay, let’s get to the music! The album kicks off with the sultry dance track “Stay A While,” instantly hooking us in with a throbbing deep-bass driven beat and dangerously sexy synths. Andy croons “Won’t you stay a while. Play those games a while. Imaginate a while. Fall over here,” and who could possibly resist? The track is a mere 2:11 minutes long, but man is it scorching hot!

As the next track “Wander” unfolds, it’s immediately clear Andy has somehow captured the magic of the forest surrounding his studio and transferred it into this enthralling song. The sparkling piano, xylophone and string synths are gorgeous, and paired with the dope hip hop beat, it all makes for a captivating soundscape. Andy freestyles about how communication has broken down in his relationship, his vocals going from sultry to falsetto as he sings: “We don’t talk no more, baby girl, we just wander.” Pierre Fontaine’s smooth rap vocals take over for the last third of the track, adding another element of texture to this marvelous number. It’s my favorite track on TriumAvium, and I can fully understand why Andy wanted to build the rest of the album around it.

Race Fever” is a great example of how Vox Eagle melds genres and styles to create incredibly dynamic and interesting songs that surprise and dazzle our senses. The track starts off with a trip hop beat and altered vocals, then alternates with an irresistible melodic hip hop dance beat, with sounds of speeding cars and screeching brakes thrown in. He freestyle raps about the thrill of driving fast and winning races: “Wheels keep spinning faster, they won’t catch us now.” “Salvation” is a trippy song, opening with a brief vintage piano riff, then settling into a slow hip hop dance beat with almost carnival-like psychedelic synths and gunshots from what sound like duck or pheasant hunting.

Another favorite of mine is “Let’s Go Back – The Ballad of Randy Eagle in F#minor,” a mesmerizing instrumental track with fantastic exotic-sounding synths and chanted electronically-altered vocals. As Andy explained in our interview, it’s about his out of control alter ago ‘Randy Eagle.’ “The Change” delivers spacey industrial synths set to a hypnotic EDM beat as he sings about living a hedonistic life: “Run away to Paris, we’re living life lavish. Popping champagne we can’t afford but we got to have it / I feel it coming, the change.”

No Sleep No Sleep” is a stripped-down reimagining of “No Sleep,” and a nod to the first single released by Vox Eagle that Andy wanted to include on TriumAvium. I love the original, but really like this cool and stylish version too. The guitar and bass are terrific. “Too Damned Awesome” is another trippy and unusual track, with trip hop beats and otherworldly, industrial-sounding synths. Sampled spoken words of a man’s voice saying “Hell, you don’t know where I’m at. You couldn’t possibly know where I’m at. It’s too damned awesome.” are repeated throughout the track, as Andy croons “Just trying to touch the sky.” I love his vocals, which have an earnest vulnerability that’s really striking. He keeps with the racing theme on closing track “Fast Car Fast Bitch,” a one and a half minute-long trip and a half! Andy pulls out all the stops on this short track, throwing in funky riffs, thumping bass notes, pulsating techno synths, and copious amounts of revving engines and screeching brakes that make for a fun and exuberant listen.

One of the things that most stands out for me about TriumAvium is its incredible flow, how each track so beautifully and seamlessly follows the next, leaving me almost breathless in the process. It’s a relatively short album, running only around 22 minutes in length, but it packs a major punch. It’s really a remarkable work of music brilliance, and I love Vox Eagle even more than I did after Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1. I cannot wait to hear more of his music.

Connect with Vox Eagle:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase: iTunes

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