When someone ends up replacing you on your own radio show while on holiday, it would be rather difficult to see yourself joining forces with them a few years later to collate as one of the hottest rising acts in the drum and bass world.
Hard to imagine? Yes. Impossible? Quite the opposite.
For Adelaide-based V O E, which combines the musical powers of the incredibly talented Tom and Caroline, this was the beginning of their story.
The likelihood of V O E cementing themselves as a drum and bass duo literally taking the globe by storm seemed even more unlikely when Caroline invited Tom as a guest back onto the show she had just displaced him from. However, it was her admiration for his productions, which was the reason he accepted the invite back onto airwaves, that gave birth to the project.
Having released their first pieces of music on local imprint Global League over the course of 2018, the pair have since gone on to house their music on Blackout, NCS, RAM, and Liquicity, win Koven’s Track and Build 2.0 competition, cleared over 1 million plays in 1 month on their single Giants, and have now joined the Viper Recordings family by signing to the label.
Hailing from the same country that brought us the one and only Pendulum, V O E’s Australian heritage isn’t the only connection they share with the county’s legendary drum and bass band either. Having carved out a sound defined by hard-hitting drums, beautifully cinematic soundscapes, intoxicating songwriting, mesmerising vocals, and unforgivingly heavy drops, Caroline and Tom’s music is surrounded by an aura of brilliance that makes comparisons between the two more than warranted.
For this reason, the only logical thing to do was call them up and find out all about V O E! Carry on reading to soak up a whole load of the duos story, music, and all-around great vibes.
Before we jump into the music side of things, I’d love to hear from both of you about the things that you’re passionate about outside of music?
Caroline: Tom’s is probably just music ha!. In all seriousness, I’m really passionate about animals, especially dogs. I keep trying to foster dogs and ended up adopting them. Something I want to do is be able to either rent or buy a piece of land where I can have a free run for dogs. I even eat pasta in bed with the dogs, they’re very spoilt!
Tom: Pretty much everything I do is connected to music in some way. Sample packs, sound design, and other stuff, but something recently that I’ve kind of been more passionate about as an alternative hobby is 3D modelling using Blender. Now I’m using it to make music videos for our music.
That’s awesome. To start delving into your guy’s music world as well then, how did you both first get into drum and bass?
Caroline: The closest thing I can remember is being twelve and listening to The Prodigy’s Breathe whilst speed skating and thinking I was really cool.
Tom: When I was eleven, two of my brothers were really into heavy electronic music and they always gave me really dodgy burnt CDs. The first was DJ Fresh’s Red Mix. That one I got really obsessed with and just constantly had it on repeat.
Tom, did you always know that you wanted to go into producing after first getting into music?
Tom: Yeah, definitely. The brother that gave me the CD was also doing a bit of production himself so he introduced me to the software. I started imagining how they made the sounds when I was listening to music.
What about you Caroline, how long have you been producing?
Caroline: I probably went on the more the acoustic route for a long time. I was doing a little bit of production on Ableton, but it was less producing and more making mashups of things that I wanted to play live when I was DJing. I got into DJing because I wanted to play my own music, so it was sort of like a hand in hand thing.
So how did you two actually first meet?
Tom: It was on the radio and there’s a funny backstory to it which we haven’t talked about much. I was doing the Fresh Air radio show and decided to go on a two-week break. When I got back they said sorry but we’re giving your show away. Then a couple of weeks later I got an email from Caroline who I didn’t know of at the time. She said that she heard my music in their Fresh Air catalogue and that she’d love for me to come in for an interview. I thought why is she asking me in for an interview on the show that she just stole from me!
Caroline: I was wondering why he was so quiet! I just kept talking and throwing questions at him.
Haha. What are the chances! When did you find out that you’d stolen his show?
Caroline: Not for a year! We were already doing V O E before I found out that I’d taken the show.
Tom: At first I was a bit salty, but I thought having someone take over my show that actually really liked my music could work.
Caroline: That’s why I brought him in. He had a track called Icy Love, and I was obsessed with it. At the time, Tom said that it was hard to find vocalists in Adelaide. I was like BAM! I went to his shed where he was recording at the time, thinking this is either going to be amazing or I’m going to be murdered, but I took the risk and it flowed super well. I loved how Tom worked with my vocals. He built a special effects chain just for my vocals which sounded so clean and highlighted the right frequencies. So then we’re like, let’s do another track because that was amazing. We did another one. We blinked, and we’d done eight tracks.
What genre were these tracks?
Tom: Future Bass. So before V O E, I was under the alias Tevlo and although I was making all sorts of genres, I’d always wanted to make drum and bass but I struggled like everyone does at the start because it’s a very hard genre to tackle. As V O E, I slowly pushed the sound harder until I was asking Caroline, how about some Neurofunk?
Caroline: Tom was showing me loads of reference tracks as well to highlight the sound he wanted to move towards. Whatever he was showing me in the studio sessions, I was instantly like, all right, let’s write for it. Let’s just put some vocals to it. That’s how we got Witching Hour, Shadows, Spotlight, and Asking For It, which ended up being some of the first V O E tracks.
So at what point did it go from working together to becoming V O E collectively?
Caroline: At the point where we’d made eight tracks, I said to Tom that we were a band. We wanted the exact same things moving forward and I was obsessed with what he was writing.
Tom: I no longer had to stress about awkwardly messaging singers in Adelaide and being like, hey, can you sing on my track? It just made sense. That’s when Asking For It was signed to a label local to us, Global League.
A lot of those early releases were with Global League, right?
Tom: Yeah, they were really supportive and they kind of helped us work out what V O E was as well. We were still Tevlo and CARZi at this point and we needed to figure out a name that worked for us both.
What’s the story behind the name? I always thought it was an acronym.
Caroline: Haha, this is our famous story. So we were going through the thesaurus and band name generators. Some of the names coming up were Flesh Pond and Night Theory. Then before our release was sent off to distribution, we were in Tom’s studio recording and his roommate at the time Nick was playing League of Legends. He kicked the door down and shouted “VISION OF EMPIRE, VISION OF EMPIRE!”. Basically, on the game you do the combo, there’s a flash of light, and then the competition is erased and you’re the only one left standing.
Tom: Just to clarify, we’re not trying to kill people. We thought about the name for a fair bit, excluding the part about killing everybody in a hundred-kilometre radius, and we liked the idea of making an empire out of our music and growing a fan base that could become part of our empire.
Caroline: The only thing was it felt like quite a heavy metal name. So I spoke to my manager at Fresh at the time, and I just asked what sounds clean? He said what about V O E? Just say the letters like KFC. It worked so well because it fits into all of the shapes we’d been drawing as our design was very shape orientated. I wanted people to be at the back of the festival and still be able to see a big, bold image and know who they were watching.
I’m loving all of these backstories. Any more you guys have please just let me. I’m all ears.
Caroline: We haven’t gone into Tom’s juggling career yet…
Tom: I’m really not that coordinated haha.
In all seriousness, from seeing you two perform in videos, you both seem to be really passionate and energetic performers. Was it important to do something like drum and bass, which is really high energy?
Tom: It just fit with the sound. As the producer, it was the genre that I’d always wanted to make and I thought Caroline’s voice sounded awesome over it.
Caroline: If I’d felt something really deeply and then written about that, Tom has been great at interpreting and developing the emotion within my writing into the production. He can completely capture everything I was feeling at the time. We didn’t start out planning to make drum and bass, but it’s what felt right
Tom: We both connect with that darker and emotive music. A lot of the drum and bass I’ve liked the most has a lot of emotion behind it and the genre has allowed me to show anger through certain sounds and sadness through others. There’s so much you can do within it.
Since Global League, you’ve released on some huge labels and accomplished a lot. What’s one of your highlights so far?
Tom: Not to sound lame, but UKF was one of my biggest goals from the start. A lot of my inspiration was from tracks I’d discovered on UKF. Getting a track on there was one of my biggest goals, so cool. I’m gonna drop the mic, drink some whiskey and now I’m done haha.
Caroline: Even friends and family are messaging us shocked that we’re on UKF! The other big milestone was when we entered the Koven: Track and Build 2.0. We saw that there were no restrictions for the number of track entries you could send in, so we sent in five. Then James, who manages Koven, messaged us like, what the hell guys?! He asked us for some more demos so we sent another five and then we ended up sending another 25. Having the chance to win that was crazy.
Tom: Now, we’ve found our place on Viper and we’re just part of the family.
How’s it been working so closely with Viper?
Caroline: Amazing. We saw how much work they were putting in behind the scenes to really get an idea of what our sound was. It really created a fire within us because we want to make them proud and excited to have us on board. We’re putting in the hours because we want everything to be as perfect as it can be.
Tom: Seeing how hard they’re working for us just drives us to meet their standards and to keep pushing. One of the coolest things that came out of the competition and talking to James and Asad was having Futurebound listen to our demos and consider us for his label. The response we got from him blew us away and the Viper team was genuinely stoked to have us signed to Viper as were we!
Caroline: We had a lot of banter back and forth about making his job harder every time we added another demo to the playlist! It goes without saying but we have so much respect for the whole Viper team.
You two have seriously smashed it in a short amount of time! Giants even tallied up 1 million streams in a month. It must feel great knowing how many people your music is reaching?
Tom: Definitely. I think being in Australia always felt like a bit of an obstacle, but with the internet now you can work with anyone. COVID lockdowns strangely helped us because suddenly, you couldn’t meet with people in person, all communication was done via the internet. We were on the same level and in the same place as everyone else.
Caroline: I was trying to go through all the comments on the YouTube channel and going into Google Translate to respond to people because they were from all corners of the world. I actually got barred from YouTube as a robot because I was going through so many messages that they thought I was a spam bot. Those people have never met you, but you’ve had an impact on them. I just want people to feel that we really do appreciate them.
100%. I think that’s the best mindset to be in as an artist because fans love to know that their support is appreciated. Now, I have to ask you this next question. How much inspiration do you take from Pendulum?
Tom: Oh we definitely do. A lot of people have told us that they think Giants sounds a bit like them. As a kid, I listened to a lot of Pendulum, along with a lot of metal. Pendulum was the perfect balance because it was the closest I could get my metal friends to drum and bass. They had the guitars in there with the vocals and I have definitely taken a lot of influence from that.
Caroline: I used to listen to a lot of Paramore so you can hear the combination of what we were listening to during our formative years and how it has made its way into the foundations of V O E.
What’s next for you?
Tom: The next big thing is with you guys! It’s our single Chemical, which will be a part of an EP under the same name on Viper.
Caroline: The premiere is up on UKF and there’s going to be a music video as well which we’ve been working on for a few months!
Have you incorporated your Blender skills into the video?
Tom: It’s a mix. So it features a lot of 3D stuff we’ve done in Blender combined with the footage we’ve recorded and green-screened and incorporated into the Blender stuff.
Caroline: There’s a backstory for the track as well. I was looking after my Grandpa when he was really sick with cancer and the song was written about that. It was at that point that he was taking so much medication that he couldn’t live properly or couldn’t pass away. My mum said that he was chemically restrained. It hit this note in my head and I can remember writing the track. I wrote Chemical to deal with my emotions because I needed everything I was feeling to come out. We’ve put so much time and effort into this track because it’s literally bits and pieces of our heart and soul.
It must have given you that outlet to really communicate everything you were feeling inside.
Caroline: I had to listen to that track over and over. Literally, 20-50 times a day to deal with the loss of my Grandpa . I hope that it helps people get through hard times in the way it helped me. We wanted to stick to his Scottish ancestry as well, so Tom even designed big cinematic drums. The goal is to perform it with a full Scottish marching band live, like The Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
That’s amazing. It really would make him so proud.
Caroline: That’s why the track is so important to us. The fact that you guys at UKF have picked up this song is just extra special to us.