When I arrive at Albion in London’s Shoreditch, singer-songwriter and musician Victor Marichal is waiting patiently with a pot of tea, perhaps the most quintessentially English thing you can do in an East End café. It’s his accent though, richly Parisian and largely undiluted by seven years of London living, that gives the game away and reveals his Gallic heritage.
It’s not the first time we’ve met; the last time in 2015 when I was on interview assignment for RockShot and he fronted the band Victor & The Rain Dog [VTRD]. We catch up before I let loose a wave of questions about his latest project, Victor Vox, and what’s on the cards for the talented musician in 2018.
Victor is a gifted autodidact who plays flamenco guitar and percussion. Influenced by traditional Latin, Spanish and African music as well as artists like Tom Waits, David Bowie and Jack White, his former band VTRD extensively played the live gig circuit between 2013 and 2016. They released two notable EPs, Victor & The Rain Dog and Den of The Dog, the band’s name a tribute to Waits’ Rain Dogs.
So, how did the band Victor Vox originate? “After the disbandment of VTRD for personal reasons, I wanted to take a break; I was a bit lost and confused as to what I wanted to do musically” Victor shares. He realised it was time to “turn the page” but needed the stimulus. Invited to gig in Berlin with former VTRD drummer, Adam Hayes, it was an outright success. With great feedback and heaps of CDs sold they realised it would be a shame to relinquish such a good thing. Did Victor have a vision of what the band would resemble? He answers certainly, “Yes. I wanted a band that was easy to tour with. I didn’t want a 10-piece band; I wanted an efficient trio”. He adds thoughtfully, “I wanted to go back to my roots musically — from acoustic and flamenco, and switch off from electric guitar, effect and pedals. I wanted to strip everything away. That was the intention for starting a new project – something very simple; acoustic guitar and singing. Bass and drums. Something quite neat to look at, but a lot happening on stage. So all we had to find was a good bass player.”
Step in Yaron Stavi. The renowned double bass player and a seasoned musician with David Gilmour, Richard Galliano and the biggest names on the jazz scene formed the final piece of the triumvirate. The band’s first rehearsal was a success and there was no looking back. Not wanting to waste any time, soon after the band assembled ten songs and Victor booked a studio session to keep the momentum going. They recorded their debut live EP Live at Eastcote Studios in one day.
I’m curious to know, why make a completely live record? “I’ve been to multiple gigs where I loved the music and wanted to buy the CD. But what I’d get on the CD would be completely different to what I heard on stage” he explains. “I wanted something faithful to what people would hear on stage; a trio of double bass, drums, guitar, vocals – just that. Basically what you see at a gig is what you get on our vinyl”.
A relatively simple production process, perhaps, but there’s nothing basic about the EP, or Victor Vox’s sound in general. Described as ‘a midnight coffee-house collision between jazz, blues and storytelling’ the singer is delighted with this description; after all, who doesn’t want to be in a French coffee house at midnight, listening to music? We chat about Paris, I reminisce about a trip a few years back and ending a night in a coffee house in the early hours. Victor grins. ’Hopefully it was my music playing at the time”.
Live at Eastcote Studios is captivating. With startling twists and turns, blues, rock and flamenco influences and evocative lyrics it makes for a sophisticated 22 minutes. The band’s music has been described as ‘what Jack Kerouac’s books should sound like if they were music’, so you get the picture. Whether Cloud Shepherd, with Yaron’s rich bass lead-in and Victor’s mellifluous vocals or the rousing Jockey Full of Bourbon, it’s a stylish debut. Track 4, L’indomptable, translated into English as ‘the untameable’, is sang entirely in French. Was it satisfying to sing in his own dialect, I wonder? “Definitely” says Victor animatedly. “I want to come back to it a bit more; it’s who I am. I haven’t been speaking French on a daily basis for a while now, so it’s great. I’m starting to see the language as exotic now like the way I see English!’
Although stylistically different, Victor didn’t want to lose the storytelling vibe associated with VTRD. “I wanted the new album to be more about musicianship and pure music, but storytelling is still very much part of my songs – every song tells a story”. Devotees of VTRD’s material will be delighted that The Snatcher and bluesy Sidewalk Empire have come across on the journey and feature on the EP.
As it stands, Victor Vox remain unsigned. I ask Victor what qualities it takes to make it as a musician and survive the constant gigging, interviews and promotion? “You need to be passionate, really passionate” he says. “Unless you have a label or agent’s support, you do everything yourself. The possibilities are endless but you need perseverance. Never giving up. I don’t have a plan B, it’s music or nothing for me! I don’t have a choice”.
We chat about the music we’re listening to right now. He admits, “Every time I want to listen to music, I pick up the guitar instead” but we wade through his Spotify playlists all the same and it’s as cool as I expected. I ask what artists would make the lineup for a perfect playlist; Tom Waits, David Bowie and Jack White still remain key influences, but Victor also recommends Cat Power, D.D. Dumbo, Asaf Avidan, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Lisa Hannigan’s album At Swim.
A few days later I catch Victor Vox at their first Sofar Sounds gig at Bianca Road Brewery in South Bermondsey, the taproom illuminated with exposed bulbs and completely full – standing room only or perched on a rug with a beer. 100 Words from VTRD’s ‘Den of the Dog’ EP is raw and transfixing and the hypnotic cadence of Sidewalk Empire has everyone nodding along. The band are cohesive on stage, with just a subtle head nod from Victor needed before each track for the trio to come to life. The pared back, acoustic sound charms the audience and the band interacts brilliantly with the crowd. It’s 20 minutes of pure class.
2018 is set to be Victor Vox’s year. As we finish up our tea, I ask Victor what’s on the horizon over the coming months. “We were in the studio yesterday recording a new single which I’m very excited about. I want it to sound like an old jazz record you’d play on a gramophone but it’s quite psychedelic” he says, smiling. “I have some exciting meetings coming up, so within the next year I’m hoping we’ll reach the next step of the ladder. Even if we don’t, I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep going”.
It’s a fascinating, warm and humorous interview with Victor covering a multitude of topics, including how to deal with inebriated audience members and Brexit (we’ll need a whole new interview for that, we concur), and I come away with a head full of words, a playlist of recommendations and an urge to listen to Live at Eastcote Studios on repeat.
Victor is on a creative journey, his a talent that can’t be tamed. Will he succeed? Naturellement.
Interview by Nicola Greenbrook & Portrait Photography by Paul Lyme.
Live at Eastcote Studios is available now.
Victor Vox play the following gigs: