By Kieran Webber
The Isle Of Man band popped onto our radars with the catchy ‘Yesterday’s Jam’. The track boasts their infectious, upbeat indie-surf rock sound and had us absolutely hooked. Being based in Cornwall we feel there is a kinship in getting our voices heard. We’re both based in areas often forgotten by the rest of the country. Only known as holiday destinations or sleepy fishing villages. Like any where though there is always a group of renegades trying to create a movement.
With this is in mind we caught up with Ben Donaldson (rhythm guitar & vocals) to find out how Voodoo Bandits operate, their influences and life on the Isle Of Man.
Kieran: How has lockdown been for you guys, I saw you guys played a gig the other day, have things gone relatively back to normal now in the Isle of Man?
Ben: Being on the Isle of Man we’ve had a much different experience with Corona than most. We have now been corona free for about 90 days, and the Island has truly returned to normal for that same length of time! We have been gigging almost twice a week for nearly 2 months! We are so grateful for this, as this is a privilege other artists don’t have right now. However, the island was already so isolated from the thriving UK scene, even more so now. There is very little music industry, facilities, venues and other artists/bands to work with. We also lost some big support slots such as the Lightning Seeds in May, and had all our UK shows and festivals cancelled or pushed back. The Island had to cancel the TT festival which impacted everyone massively. It’s a 2 week festival where upwards of 80,000 people come. It is a motorsport festival, but it also greatly improves the live music scene over here as beer gardens and stages are built, and the atmosphere is so much better than the rest of the year; and we would’ve been gigging nearly everyday!
Kieran: Did you learn anything new during all the extra time?
Ben: We couldn’t get together or go to a studio but we really wanted to get another record out. So, me and Charlotte built a home studio! I found myself learning a lot about studio equipment, recording processes, soundproof foam and ‘Sticks like sh*t’! We recorded our latest single ‘Backyard Wrestling’ all from home and couldn’t be happier with the results. This is how we will be recording going forward. Another thing we had to learn was live stream gigging, it is very different from normal and I won’t miss it! But they were great for helping me build confidence.
Listen to ‘Backyard Wrestling’ here:
Kieran: How did it feel playing to a full room again?
Ben: It felt really great, our turn outs have been better than ever before. But I think it’s because our 2020 releases really helped, rather than people’s itch to see local live music. As mentioned there isn’t much of an original music scene. We are actually the odd ones out being the Isle of Man’s ‘Modern young indie band’. Pre-Corona we were very new and had barely played live! With loads of musicians playing every weekend we are mega grateful so many have decided to come spend many of these weekends with us post-corona, and it’s amazing to see the same faces and new ones keep checking us out.
Kieran: How did you all meet and at what point did you decide to start making music?
Ben: I met the twins Corey and Nathan at an after exams party for their school as a group of boozed up 16 year olds in a field. Charlotte the bass player is my girlfriend of 5 years who I taught bass not very long before she joined the band. Me and the twins often jammed together and played pubs and bars with other members coming and going. Eventually after writing some songs we wanted to try to do it for real! Or at least put stuff out there anyway.
Kieran: How did you guys come up with the band name?
Ben: The band name was actually something a past member came up with many years ago, we kinda liked it and just rolled with it. We considered changing it in the past, but locally we had been doing the rounds at the pubs and a good amount of people had heard of us by that name, it just kind of stuck! Then into 2019 we sort of ‘officially’ became Voodoo Bandits. I feel we have really grown into the name now, it suits our music now better than ever.
Kieran: Do you share similar influences or does it vary per band member?
Ben: Each band member tends to enjoy the same music and bands, sometimes we show new discoveries to each other. As the songwriter I have a large pool of artists which influence my writing, I think some of the biggest ones are Hockey Dad, Wavves, and early Circa Waves.
Kieran: Has being located on the Isle of Man made it harder for you guys to operate as a band?
Ben: I’ve probably ranted on about that plenty enough in the interview but 100%! The sea barrier has isolated the Isle of Man’s music scene massively from the UK, normal and modern music industry approaches aren’t used here nearly enough, and there is a lack of facility for artists. We weren’t able to find a producer who had worked with a more modern sounding indie band for example, and it is the cover bands people take most interest in sadly! Hopefully, as more artists here put in the hard work, release music and play together the scene will improve, and that seems to be happening!
“The sea barrier has isolated the Isle of Man’s music scene massively from the UK, normal and modern music industry approaches aren’t used here nearly enough, and there is a lack of facility for artists.”Ben Donaldson – Voodoo Bandits
Kieran: What’s one thing you want to go back to normal post-lockdown and one thing you want to change?
Ben: More than anything we want the UK’s scene to go back to normal. We had not long edged ourselves in, and during lockdown more UK promoters, bands and industry folk have been giving us love and made plans with us. We are so eager to beat the Isle of Man’s setbacks. It feels obtainable with more hard work and lockdown to end. The thing we would love to change is the Isle of Man’s music scene. We teamed up with a couple bars and venues and started to do DIY original music gigs, investing in graphic posters, marketing and giving support slots. These have started to get a name for themselves, and provide everybody involved including us a great platform to showcase their own music to a crowd there to hear it! Growing up there were no bands or artists I knew of from the Isle of Man, and none which took it further afield, I knew of no IOM music and none to this day connected with me and my generation. As I became 18 and could start gigging the last of the venues which had been ever shrinking over the decades were closing down, and we came into a scene truly dominated by cover bands twice our age and niche heavy bands. Our focus is truly in the UK, and we have taken many support slots, headlines, and try to make ourselves relevant there. But it would be fantastic to get the Island behind us even more and have a home with more connection to the music!
Kieran: Lastly, what can we expect from you guys in the future?
Ben: We truly can’t know for sure, but definitely expect to see us up down England and Scotland. We are recording and planning to release even more music this year too, maybe an EP down the line! The band is certainly in its infancy still, we want to get this show in the UK as much as possible.