Q&A with Volta Bureau

photo by Jonathan Luna

Volta Bureau is an electronic trio based in DC. The group is made up of DJs/producers/instrumentalists/vocalists Will Eastman, Miguel Lacsamana (Micah Vellian) and Bernard Farley (Outputmessage). Almost exactly a year ago I had the pleasure of asking Miguel a few questions as the group was just starting to play out. It’s been a busy year for Volta Bureau, with live performances, high-profile DJ sets, and worldwide acclaim for their tracks. They’re in full-force and ready to kick off the next year with more live shows, new recordings and remixes. Tonight you can experience their magic live as they take over the mainstage of Black Cat.
Alexia: Just a year ago you were playing your first show as a live act- so much has happened in the past year for you- what have been some personal high points?
Miguel:Hearing Pete Tong, Annie Mac and Toddla T talk about Alley Cat was pretty ace, but the fact that we are getting to do this at all is probably the biggest high point for me.
Will: Aw man, the year has passed really quickly. As Miguel mentioned, Pete Tong playing our track and shouting it out on BBC Radio 1 was really amazing and surreal after following his show for so long. Playing live at U Street Music Hall‘s second anniversary was a really special moment for me. It was a culmination of a lot of things I’d be working very hard on for awhile. Going to Miami and playing WMC with the guys and just having lots of good times being creative and laughing and playing music with my buds has been the best part.
Alexia: Volta Bureau has done a lot of appearances doing DJ sets- is there a plan to do more live shows in the future? Which do you prefer?
Miguel: We are definitely planning to do more live shows. 
Will: We originally conceived of Volta Bureau as a live band. We’re all three DJs and doing DJ sets is important to us, but the live performance is something we’ve put a lot of thought and planning into. We’ve wanted to refine it and practice a lot before rolling it out. I think we’re now at a stage where we’re ready to do more live shows outside of DC and we’re looking forward to making that a priority for 2013.
Alexia: If you could collaborate with any artist or band who would it be?
Miguel: Nile Rodgers
Will: Blur or Kraftwerk, but if I had to choose only one it would have to be Daft Punk. They’ve been a huge influence on me.
Alexia: Will- you’ve been really instrumental in reviving/resurrecting the electronic music scene in DC, and providing a nurturing environment for that scene- what are your thoughts on the scene in DC now? Are there any electronic artists coming out of DC that you think are exciting/ones to watch?
Will:Well I certainly wouldn’t claim credit for reviving or resurrecting the local dance scene as there have been a lot of very vibrant things going on here in DC for some time going back to the days of Buzz, but I do take a lot of pride in having done a monthly party for 12 years and making connections with local DJs and musicians. DC is a great place and, honestly, I don’t give a shit what anyone says about it being second tier to NYC or LA. I’m really more excited about the DC music scene now more than ever. I’m very proud of the work Nacey and Steve Starks are doing. It’s a real pleasure to see those guys coming into their own and reaching fans outside of DC. We’re playing with two of our favorite local groups on Friday, Protect-U and Redline Graffiti. The Future Times label with Protect-U, Beautiful Swimmers and Max D is a crew that’s carved out their own sound and vibe and I’m a big fan and supporter of what they do. Some of my favorite local DJs are Lxsx Frxnk, Chris Nitti, Ozker, and there are a so many great DJs in DC right now doing work.
Alexia: You’ve been in the recording studio lately- how’s that going and what is in the works?
Miguel:Good. We actually just got a great studio space so our productivity has increased a bit. We’ve been swamped with remixes, lately, but we’ll be settling down to work on original stuff. 
Will:We’ve all dreamed of having our own studio for a long time and it’s a privilege to have a space now where we can dream up new stuff together. We have several remixes coming out shortly including one for Jonas Rathsman and a lot of original material that we’re refining. 

Alexia: You all have done a lot of remixes- both as Volta Bureau, and separately as DJs- how do you approach remixing? What is that process like for you vs. songwriting?

Miguel: We have a round robin style of working when it comes to remixing and songwriting. We all take turns starting the tune/remix first and then we start working on it as a group. 
Will: Each remix is different for me. Sometimes it comes really easily, other times it’s work. There have been remixes that I’ve spent way more time on than original tracks. I try to make each remix stand on its own and sometimes there’s very little of the original track that gets used; it’s essentially a new track. Original tracks usually come in a spurt of inspiration, and sometimes I’ll get up in the middle of the night and start something. The primary difference between doing a remix and an original track to me is that the remix typically has a deadline whereas for the original track it’s done when you think it’s done, and sometimes you just keep working on it. I tend to work best the way Duke Ellington said it, “I don’t need time, I need a deadline.”
Alexia: What is on the horizon for Volta Bureau?
Will:We have a new ep out this fall featuring a track called “Hot”. We’ll be playing it live Friday at the Black Cat show. Here’s a video preview of it. We’ve been refining and practicing a lot on the live show and we’re looking forward to rolling it out outside of DC in 2013. Other than that, fun times laughing and dreaming up new tracks together!
See Volta Bureau live tonight (Friday, September 7th) at Black Cat!
$12 Mainstage/doors at 9pm

Alexia Kauffman

Alexia was born and raised in Arlington, VA. She has been a cellist since age four, and a lover of rock & roll soon after. The first tape she owned was “Make It Big” by Wham, and the first tape she bought was Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and she still loves both. She was a member of local synth-rock outfit Soft Complex for several years, and has recorded with bands including Engine Down and Two if By Sea. By day she works for a non-profit distributing royalties to musicians and labels. She currently plays cello, lap-steel guitar and tambourine in the DC post-folk/Americana band The Torches.

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