Iddo Arad (synth/vox) and Jorge Elbrecht (vox/guitar)
When I met up with Jorge and Iddo of Violens at Ninth Street Espresso, it was the middle of the afternoon on a 93 degree day. This meant that I was sweating profusely and probably smelling as pretty as I looked. The weather seemed to have no effect on cool and collected keyboardist Iddo Arad, who was already there when I arrived and greeted me with the promise of great coffee at this joint (he seemed like quite the connoisseur). Singer Jorge Elbrecht walked in just a few minutes later, panting from the heat. The first time I had met Jorge, however, things were a lot colder —not only was it a freezing February night, but we had just seen the local coldwave duo Xeno & Oaklander perform at Wierd, a weekly goth night neither of us frequent any longer. Although Violens hits mostly the poppy notes, it made sense that they were also attracted to music of the darker persuasion.
Their latest record, True, dropped a little over a month ago, and it continues with their motif of combining violent and beautiful elements, creating one sonic trip of an album; you can tell it's the result of excellent songwriting and meticulous production. You should pick it up right here.
And if I wasn't already impressed, the Violens boys have been juggling some serious day jobs between finishing up the new record and promoting it on tour. For Iddo, work means practicing law as an entertainment lawyer by day (super serious!), though the "playing music by night" part gives him a bit of an edge as the cool guy at the office. When on tour, however, he has to put up with Jorge's unnecessary hoarding of pillows, which is one of their strange tour habits. During our chat, we also discussed which bands Violens would like to open for, as well as the one key missing ingredient in Justin Bieber's new perfume line. Random, I know, but can you guess?
Hey guys! Your new album, True, dropped not too long ago and it's rad! Tell me a little bit about it.
Jorge: Yeah it came out in May and we wrote it partially on tour together and partially here. I think it was a fun process this time around. It was less laborious for us.
How is it different from your previous record?
The mixing is less steroid-packed or something. It's less aggressive.
Iddo: It's a little bit more collaborative, even though it's driven by Jorge's songwriting.
Jorge: Yeah, I don't think we ever wrote lyrics together on the first record, whereas on this one there was a lot we did as a group.
You mentioned you were holed up in the studio a lot these days. Are you already working on new material?
I'm mixing other people's records.
Oh I see. Is that your day job?
Well, I failed to mention this earlier but my column is actually called "Day Jobs."
Oh yeah? Iddo's a big-time lawyer.
Iddo: Yeah, I'm an entertainment lawyer. I work mostly in film and television, but I do a little bit of music too.
Oh wow. So you went to law school then?
Yeah, it's a period that I don't really care to remember that much. [Laughs] But I like what I'm doing now.
How do you balance music and work?
It's tough sometimes, but I go in cycles. RIght now, I'm focusing more on work.
Jorge: He's a partner at his firm, so he has a little bit more flexibility.
Iddo: And I can work while I'm away.
I'm impressed! You must be the coolest guy at your firm.
Jorge: Definitely, definitely.
Iddo: There's a lot of cool people where I work, but yeah, I'll accept that.
Jorge: Isn't there someone at your office who has a green mullet?
Iddo: [Laughs] Yeah.
Jorge: That's probably the cool guy.
Yeah sounds like it. Are you more sensitive about people torrenting music because of your occupation?
Iddo: No, I'm kind of liberal about that. I think it's kind of the fault of the system that'll gradually change over time. I think those kinds of things cycle a lot.
Jorge: I have a feeling it will even itself out.
What are some of the worst jobs you've had?
Iddo: My first job was doing telemarketing for security systems and that was horrible.
Jorge: I've gotten pretty lucky with jobs. I've worked for an amazing painter, I've worked at a gallery, and I delivered art to collectors. Besides being 16 and delivering pizzas, I've been pretty lucky with jobs.
Lots of free pizzas though, I assume?
That's a good life.
Stole some too.
Whenever I get a paycheck or whatever, I materialize it by calculating how many slices of pizza I can buy with it.
Really? What's your favorite pizza place?
Hmm, I usually go to Carmine's.
Myles and Jorge when I saw Violens play Santos Party House, December 2010.
That set ended with everyone falling into the drum set.
Anyway, Iddo I don't know if you know this, but I initially met Jorge at a weekly goth night that happens every Wednesday.
Jorge: Was it at a Xeno & Oaklander show?
Yeah, or Martial Canterel—one of those. Do you listen to that kind of music a lot?
Yeah, I was actually just listening to Skinny Puppy on the way over here. I've always loved industrial music. We've actually been talking about doing a project in which Iddo sings that kind of stuff.
Oh, really? You listen to Skinny Puppy too?
Iddo: I used to.
I actually have a hard time listening to their stuff outside of a dance floor scenario.
Jorge: Really? I love Skinny Puppy. I love listening to all the things that are going on in the production.
Would you say you take most of your musical inspiration from bands like that?
No, not with Violens. There's not too much of that element. There's a sadness to a lot of our songs, but it's not, like, vampiric. It's poppy, guitar stuff. Maybe it's more like Cocteau Twins, but we like a lot of different stuff, like probably everyone you've talked to.
If you could open for any band, who would it be?
Does that mean we get to hang out with them or do we just open for them so we can tell our friends?
Hanging out I guess?
We were hoping to get on the Dead Can Dance tour, but it didn't work out. Oh, Spiritualized would be cool.
Iddo: It would be nice to tour with OMD too.
Jorge: Oh yeah, OMD would be awesome.
I love OMD.
We actually played in the same venue as them in Amsterdam. They were in the big room and we were in the small room next to them. It was awesome.
Do you guys have weird tour habits?
Iddo carries this Pelican briefcase that has all these different components to make fresh coffee.
Whoa, really? You're really into coffee!
No, I'm kidding.
Iddo: He's covering up for his own craziness on tour.
Jorge: I bring all my pillows with me.
Iddo. All of them.
Jorge: I have five pillows. I prop up different parts of my body with them in bed.
Iddo: He uses them to protect gear too, though.
Do you have to sacrifice the number of outfits you bring on tour for your pillows?
Naw, I have a whole other suitcase dedicated to clothes. But when we have to share a bed, Iddo always throws the pillows and gets annoyed because they end up all over him.
[Laughs] Oh man. You guys are going on tour soon, right?
Iddo: Yeah, in August.
Jorge: We're doing a few days in the UK and one in France. Hopefully more.
The way I initially discovered the band was by watching the "Violent Sensation Descends" video from 2010. I loved the music, obviously, but I was really attracted to the aesthetic of it. Is there a similar concept to True?
Oh, cool. I think the underlying idea of the band is this duality of violent, aggressive themes and sadder, softer themes and having them temper one another and balance each other out. I think what was happening in that video was a flip back and forth. The Pixies had that on-off quality to their music too.
The loud-quiet-loud thing, yeah.
Yeah, that's what we grew up with.
Iddo: Swirlies is the perfect example of that.
Jorge: Yeah and the new video for "When To Let Go" is like that too. It starts out on the beach and then it gets violent.
Iddo: It was by the same director, too.
Jorge: I think we're continually interested in that aesthetic.
Oh yeah, even your band name has that duality, with the combination of "violence" and "violins."
Is there any music you listen to that you're a little bit embarrassed about?
I don't think there's anything to be ashamed of. I can't think of one thing that I wouldn't want to tell anyone. I'm not into Justin Bieber, but if I was really—like, really—into his stuff, maybe I wouldn't want to say it.
But you don't.
No, I just saw his performance on Letterman and it made me embarrassed for him.
I saw a Justin Bieber perfume ad the other day that cracked me up. The scent is called Justin Bieber's "Girlfriend."
Oh, nice. That is a huge money maker.
Iddo: Have you smelled it?
Yeah! I found a sample in one of those magazine flaps.
Jorge: Is it good? Does it smell like bubblegum?
I don't really remember what it smelled like, but it wasn't too bad, I don't think.
It would be awesome if it was a prank and it had a tinge of garlic in it or something. All these girls would be walking around with a garlic smell saying, "I'm gonna be his girlfriend!"
[Laughs] That would be hilarious.