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NewTracks New Artist: Voodoo Bloo

NewTracks New Artist: Voodoo Bloo

Voodoo Bloo deserves to be characterised as bigger than Rory McDonald, but it’s with the versatile UK-Wellington musician that the concept and purpose of the act have taken hold. Music with a message, which makes Ha Ha Ok Ok possibly an oddball song title, at least until you read between the lines, or hear the vocal ferocity with which those superficially meaningless words are delivered. NZ On Air Music featured the song on their NewTracks compilation this December.

What’s your given name, where are you from and what instruments do you play ?

Rory McDonald, originally from the UK but I now reside in Wellington. I play the bass, guitar, banjo, theremin, and I sing.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

No. I find it very important to learn music by exploring it yourself, not by following in others’ footsteps.

Any other previous projects we might know you from?

Lucifer Gunne was my previous band of about four years.

What’s the background story of how Voodoo Bloo came to be? Who else is directly involved?

Voodoo Bloo spawned out of a personal dark time when one of my best friends took his own life, I knew I needed his and my story to be shared, as many other New Zealanders deal with depression or the loss of someone close daily, and due to our high rate of suicide and depression, I hope that Voodoo Bloo can be the voice that a lot of young Kiwis don’t seem to have. I am the main recording artist, however, there are three other members in the live act (Don Mackenzie, Daniel Maslen, Jackson Kidd) and Tony McDonald is the manager and recording technician.

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

I’ve just learned how to write differently. I still sit in my room with an acoustic guitar and make something out of nothing, exactly the same as I did when I first started, the only thing that has changed is my influence and my eagerness to explore new or unearthed territories, but I’ve personally enjoyed doing so in a way that can still be appealing to larger audiences in recent times.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date? 

Definitely our Wellington show in support of Lifeline Aotearoa. Tony and I put in a lot of work for the past six months getting everything organised, and to finally walk up on stage to a crowded house who helped raise thousands for such a good cause, it really made me appreciate everything we’ve done in Voodoo Bloo so far. I hope that I can continue to support our local mental health organisations and charities with our music as we go forward.

What makes Ha Ha Ok Ok stand out for you as a single?

It’s just such a fun tune that always gets the crowd going. That breakdown section is just so fun to mosh around to and the high-tempo and punk rock energy throughout makes this so much fun to play for people and it never ever gets old!

What is the story behind Ha Ha Ok Ok?

Ha Ha Ok Ok was a note that was just written on my phone. In fact, if I remember it correctly, the whole message was “Dun Dun, Ha Ha, Dun Dun, Ok Ok,” so I guess I stayed pretty true to my own words when I actually wrote the thing! It was always a phrase I saw as being quite sarcastic, almost brushing off what you’ve just heard without giving it much thought, which I feel the song really is in nature, a look into people who take themselves too seriously, and how to not take them as such.

It’s really to do with social climbers and those people who will do anything in the name of local fame. I think it’s important to look at yourself and what you’ve achieved and not compare it to those around you if you want to succeed, so I guess this is just a little reminder to myself to always stay in my own lane but to drive as fast as I can.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

I’d have to give my favourite moment to the lyrics as a whole. I try to be funny where I can in music (though I’m far from a comedian) and the rap-rock pace or flow makes it really interesting and different from other tunes in our discography. (Though I’m very very far from a rapper, too!)

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where? 

This song was written by me, in my bedroom with an acoustic (as it always goes), but I recorded this song over lockdown with Tony and got Greg Haver, Scott Seabright and Ryan Smith to produce, mix, and master respectively. Nothing too eventful happened during the making, though the person who this song was written specifically about listens to Ha Ha all the time and they love it, which always brings a smile to my face.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Be yourself. Love yourself. Don’t be like the dickhead I portray in the tune.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

It all comes down to this made-up system I have of ‘danceability’, where I literally just see if my head is banging the whole way through, or if I’m moving to the beat while I’m listening to it. That’s literally all the thought is into it – if I’m moving along without even meaning to it’s got potential!

Who else is in your team (ie. producer, management, label, publicity etc.?)

Greg, Scott, Ryan, Tony and the band members have already been mentioned, though Tony also looks after the label we’re on (PlasticGroove Records), and we have a wonderful team in Aus and NZ for our publicity, shoutout to Nicole [Thomas] from NicNak and Sammie from Beehive!

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

I’ve been working on a concept that’s really interesting me, with another great musician and friend, which documents a side of mental health that isn’t really spoken about in a way I’ve found appropriate. It may be an EP, probably an album, but these are just early days for my next big thing. VB do have a couple of extra summer tunes planned to come soon, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for that!

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

  • SerotoninEgoValve (Just a straight up Kiwi classic that not enough of you know about, run this up on spotify immediately!) 
  • Can’t Forget About It Pale Lady (Another classic, so much is going on with this one, I’ve loved it since the day it came out! Some of the most talented musos from the Wellington area) 
  • Black DaylightDream State Empire (I should probably stop plugging my friends acts, but it’s just too good, you can’t not mosh to this one, no matter the time or place.)

Have any previous NZOA applications not been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there? 

Yeah, it’s happened for the last six years, and in fact, this is the only time we got through! Honestly, my only piece of advice is the same advice I give to people who want to do music: don’t give up. It’s really that simple, if you keep trying, and keep putting your name out there, the right person will come along and bring you opportunity. How big that opportunity is is irrelevant, just be a yes man and keep pushing what you’re doing if you really believe in it.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? 

I struggle with the process as a whole. It seems to have a focus on acts that have already drawn large crowds or have gotten a high quantity of streams already, which is pretty counter-intuitive considering the people who are asking for assistance from NZOA are usually unknown and without a big-time following. What’s the point of funding people who are already finding success when they realistically have that funding themselves? There’s probably a logical explanation here, I just haven’t found it myself.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

Theneedledrop (aka Anthony Fantano) is a big one for people my age. I don’t usually take his opinions super seriously as they differ quite a lot from mine, but it’s something I check out constantly for new projects that could be exciting for me. Outside of that, reddit and my friends are the go-to for new music news and things I should check out! Oh and before I forget, Kaos FM and the Garage Rock podcast are two sets of excellent human beings who are here to help the local acts and they play music that really resides with me and keep the bangers coming for hours on end! I believe the podcast is about to end (or has ended), which bums me out a bit, but I wish them all the best for their next venture!

Who did you make the video with?

This music vid was made with Alex Hargreaves, as well as Julia and Piotr Kwasnik.

Any last words?

There are more planes in the ocean than boats in the sky.

 

New Tracks is a compilation of new music from New Zealand artists which is distributed to broadcast and online platforms on the first of each month. Previously the Kiwi Hit Disc, New Tracks is one of the ways that New Zealand on Air promotes kiwi music to the industry, radio, streaming services, and media. To apply for New Tracks you must have a completed, airplay-ready song and a promotional plan.

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