Turin is growing ever closer, and the line-up for Eurovision 2022 is quickly being confirmed. Australia is next to choose their act, with Eurovision – Australia Decides just around the corner! This Saturday February 26th at 8.30pm AEDT (10.30am CET), 11 acts will take to the stage, and artists are busily preparing themselves for their live performances.
In the lead-up to the show, we caught up with drummer Ashley from the self-proclaimed “Duran Duran of metal music”, Voyager, and learnt about how they fuse pop and metal, what it’s like playing “live” over a backing track, and the constant competition of being a band.
Thank you for joining us today, Ashley! What inspired Voyager to participate in Australia Decides? Were you a Eurovision fan before the opportunity for Australia Decides popped up?
Oh, massive, yeah. I’ve been having Eurovision parties with my friends since I was probably in year 9 in high school, so I’ve always [thought] yeah, this would be incredible. You can see it ramping up in the years leading up to 2015, like “[Australia] might actually get in this, this would be cool”. Now Australia’s in, now we’ve gotta try!
Do you have a favourite Eurovision song?
Mine’s a bit of a weird one. I always really loved “So Lucky” by Zdob și Zdub, the Moldovan garden gnomes.
So you’ve heard that they’re back this year? You might get to perform alongside them!
No way! Oh, that’ll be so cool. They remind me of the Presidents of the USA but even more fun. Things get better and better.
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard you before?
I’ve been saying to people that we’re a metal band pretending to be a pop band and we’re a pop band pretending to be a metal band. It’s got something for everyone in there, it’s metal you can show your mum.
Do you think Perth’s relative isolation as a metal hub has informed your sound?
People talk about that a lot with Perth music in general. We’re often skipped when it comes to an “Australian tour”, an Australian tour is Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and that’s about it – Adelaide if you’re lucky. I used to think we had to make our own talent, because no one was gonna come. It’s definitely much better, or at least it was much better before COVID-19, people would always come to Perth, but before that we had to entertain ourselves. And because there’s only so many places to play in Perth as well, it’s pretty competitive to get those gigs. You’ve got to really stand out and you’ve got to be doing something that’s really interesting just to get that space, so maybe that’s a part of it too.
Prog metal has a reputation for bands that produce “riff salads” instead of songs. Do you think more metal bands should lean into pop the way that you do to learn about proper songcraft?
I don’t know if it’s necessarily about leaning into pop, it’s more about listening to the song. We’re very conscious of disappearing into ourselves too much. It’s very easy for us to go and appease the musicians in ourselves, you know “we could do this really good thing” or “we could do this really complicated section” but we find more often than not we listen back to the song and go “that song doesn’t need it”. Whenever you’re writing, you can hear the song trying to come out, and oftentimes if you’re over-embellishing it, you’re masking or smothering the song. And I think that’s probably what pop is good at. Pop is really good at knowing what makes people move and knowing what sounds really good and what keeps the song moving. When you’re not tethered to trying to show off your musicianship as much, and you’re just thinking about the song, it comes naturally.
Some of our fans would know that you were shortlisted for Australia Decides in 2020 – what made you decide to try again? What do you think was the difference that got “Dreamer” over the line?
We had to try again because we were so close! (laughs) We couldn’t leave it alone after that. We’re this close, we have to try again. I think this time, we wrote more with Eurovision in mind. With “Runaway” we kind of had the song already, and then the opportunity came up for Eurovision so it was kind of, “let’s take that song and make it work for Eurovision.” This time, when we were writing our album that we’re currently still working on, we knew that there was gonna be a song on that that we would be submitting to Eurovision, so we were thinking really hard about how we could make that song the best it could possibly be for the competition. And it took a lot of work. Like that process that I was talking about before of just trying to keep the song moving and not over-embellishing it but not making it boring as well. We went back and forth on this song for ages, so yeah, this is much more of a crafted package than it was in 2020.
You mentioned the competition – how do you feel about the competition aspect of Australia Decides? Have you experienced a competition on this level before?
Being in a band is constantly a competition for attention! (laughs) There’s so many bands and you’ve always got to be so active and so on-the-ball with everything, but this is probably one of the first times apart from when we were starting out doing Battle of the Bands and stuff like that where we’ve been in some sort of semi-official, semi-structured competition. The vibe so far with everyone is really close and really collegial, I don’t feel like I’m in competition, I feel like we’re all just putting on an awesome gig!
How do you feel about ESC being a playback show with no live instruments allowed? Do you still feel motivated to play as a band?
The best thing from my perspective is I’m still hitting everything as hard as I would. (laughs) Everything on the drum kit’s been structured in a way that it’s not going to make too much sound, but in terms of how I’m actually playing, it’s exactly the same as it would be at a live show, so I’m not holding back! We’ve just made it so that the kit doesn’t react to me. It is a little bit freeing in the sense that it’ll still sound good no matter what I do!
Can you give us a quick insight into your staging concept?
It’s everything you’d want in a rock performance, and more. We have all our instruments, we’ve got our amps, we’ve got our drum kit, we’re working that stage as hard as we can.
What is your favourite lyric in the song?
Oh geez, that’s a really good question! The big moment for me is in the big build up at the end when Danny (lead vocals) and Alex (bass and backing vocals) both belt out “I’ve got nowhere to sleep tonight.” For me, that moment always gives me goosebumps, because it’s the whole song coming together at that one point, in that one moment that you have to have for a Eurovision song. It totally works for me. (laughs) I’m trying to be all esoteric and rock-and-roll and stuff, but I’ll be smiling like an idiot at that point.
Have you listened to the other artists’ songs? Which are your favourites, and who do you think is your biggest competition?
As soon as they come out, we’ve all been getting together and listening to all the songs, and we’ve been doing covers of them for the last week. It’s been really fun. I really love the groove of G-Nat!on’s song, “Bite Me”. It wouldn’t take much to bust that out at a metal show and have a drummer just going nuts over that. It’s got such a cool metal beat. Sheldon’s song is really cool as well, it’s got a lot of heart and a lot of emotion. It gets you, it gets you in the chest.
Thank you so much for your time, and best of luck for the national final!
Voyager will perform tenth at Saturday’s show with their entry, “Dreamer”. You can watch them tear up the stage live here!