The intense sadness of Vulva Culture is a breath of fresh air.
Matt Carter | @m_j_c73
Love, loss and heartbreak have always been fuel for creativity. Finding inspiration in life’s troubles has kept countless musicians afloat for centuries although very few choose to convey as literal an expression of melancholy as Vulva Culture. Over the past year the Halifax group has been unlocking the “beauty in their tears and wickedness in their blood”, captivating audiences on festival stages and in dimly lit bars from Halifax to Toronto.
“I grew up surrounded by a lot of classical music, a lot of opera and doo-wop music and I was always drawn to the tragic qualities of it all,” said vocalist and guitarist Amy V. “One of Tchaikovsky’s most beautiful pieces that I love was inspired by his love for another man and how he couldn’t express his love for this person because it was too taboo for his time. And The Ink Spots were always singing really tragic lyrics about unrequited love. Those are the things I hear in everything I listen to. Even when it’s a happy sounding song, I always look for the sad part of it.”
Vulva Culture is one of the few bands where praise and positive reviews include such adjectives as sad, depressing and mournful.
“They’re definitely very accurate,” said V. “All of the music thus-far has come from personal experiences. I always write songs when I’m feeling very intensely and for the most part, the songs have come from feeling intensely sad. It’s all very true.”
But there’s a definite challenge in delivering a full set of down tempo tunes, especially when playing to an audience born and bred on steady beats and something to nod their heads to. If part of Vulva Culture’s mission is to teach us all to embrace the sadness that we all too often try to sweep under the rug, the other part would have to be their intent on teaching us all a thing or two about what live music can be. Or at the very least, what live music doesn’t have to always be.
“It is really fun and sometimes it’s really strange when you can tell the audience is thinking ‘Whoa. What is happening here?’ It’s a completely different vibe, but I’ve seen people with their eyes closed, swaying and sometimes people sit down during our set. I love all that kind of stuff. We’re tapping into a different sort of energy in people. Live music doesn’t always have to be super-bouncy feel-good. It can be emotive in a different way and we do it with the ‘slow and sludge’.
“People are really used to going out and hearing music that is faster and happier, and faster is always easier to connect with people,” said V. “I guess our challenge is trying to sing really expressively. That’s one thing I learned when I was really young, because when you’re singing opera, it’s all about expression. Being really emotional and expressive is how I trying to connect with people when we’re performing.”
The band kicks off a week of touring this week in support of their latest EP, In Vain, with a stop in Fredericton on February 12. Looking ahead, V says the band has material ready for two new EPs and a new single expected to drop any day.
“I’ve been writing happier sort of things but the slow and dreary is what I do best so when you figure out what you do best, you stick to it.”