Voodoo Blue Biography
Roger Jacobsen Bass/Vocals
Justin Posner Drums/Vocals
"We'd worked so hard for so long trying to be this or trying to be that," explains singer/guitarist Dan Book of Voodoo Blue, "it was like we'd forgotten who we were and it wasn't working. Then we trimmed down to a three-piece and I took over vocals, and all of a sudden, we could just write whatever songs we felt like writing and perform however we wanted to," he continues. "In 4 years we wrote 23 songs as a 4-piece, and as a trio we've written 23 songs in 6 months - that should tell you how psyched we are about this new incarnation of Voodoo Blue," he finishes.
Other members have come and gone over the last 8 years, "but it's always been me, Dan, and Clunky, best friends since we were 13," states Justin Posner (drums). For all their years together, the band members are still only 21 and 22 years old. Their local achievements include opening the HFStival main stage, twice being added to regular rotation at Baltimore's commercial radio station 98Rock (WIYY), and sharing the stage with everyone from Jay-Z to The Cure to New Found Glory. This got the band a lot of attention, and not just from the 500+ person packed houses that regularly turn out to see the band perform in their hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.
"We got private showcases for people like Sylvia Rhone, Jason Flom, L.A. Reid… but even though we were churning out the right kind of pop songs and had a big local following, it was like the clothes wore us instead of us wearing the clothes. We didn't have a true identity," says Dan. "And if you want to be a career band," he continues, "it starts with having something to say and you better deliver the message."
For a debut record, Voodoo Blue's Smile and Nod appears to have skipped high school altogether and packed straight to college. Honest personal and social commentary run throughout the lyrics, power-driven home by blistering rock, and the fearlessness with which the band effortlessly slams pop stylings in the listener's face makes for an undeniable sing-along experience firmly rooted in an authentic smart-punk aesthetic.
The occasional well-crafted guitar solo (think Rivers Cuomo meets Stevie Ray Vaughan) is the result of the band's evolution from their earliest days when they had to draw out their sets with extended jamming as well as learn to master their instruments. Justin cites Steve Gadd as his biggest influence on drums, "especially on syncopated and off-beat accent stuff," but the frenetic fills and energy with which he turbo-charges the record remind the lay listener of Travis Barker or Tre Cool. Roger (Clunky) Jacobsen's detailed melody lines in the bass invoke Paul McCartney with heavier weight, and everyone in the band sings. "There's only 3 of us, so we've each got a lot of noise to make," smiles Dan.
"We've experimented with a lot of styles over the years, which makes us that much more confident about where we've settled musically," states Justin. "There's only 12 notes and we've played them all a million different ways, so we know we're not gonna find some new secret combination," he continues. "Those great Bob Marley or Johnny Cash songs aren't complicated, so we're not afraid to use straightforward melody lines and chord changes that come with the natural inspiration to write a song in the first place. When we start working out the accents and the rhythmic figures, that's where we focus on building a distinctive platform, and our lyrics are very personal."
"Writing lyrics was actually kind of therapeutic, because I wrote 'Cherry Hill' about the most terrifying thing I ever experienced which was when my Mom and I were mugged at gunpoint when I was 10," explains Roger. "I had never told anyone about that - not even Dan or Justin," he continues, "but that was the deal, we challenged ourselves to write about what we knew as opposed to what we thought we should write."
"Whatever Happened to Spencer Shipley" is about the efforts to cope with the shock and sadness of a close friend's suicide, and "Drown" is about feeling buried under the weight of expectations. While those subjects dig into real life issues and experiences, the band's development through the writing of the record dug even deeper.
"'Beach Blanket for Boredom' is about all sheep in the suburbs where we grew up," explains Dan. "They're paralyzed indoors by a couple of inches of snow because they cow at any little obstacle, and it's embarrassing, but even if those people left the house their only destination would be a shopping mall."
"Thrift Store Dropout" attacks the life-crippling decisions some make in their quest for an identity, and specifically how a young person's efforts to appear "cool" in the form of clothes and lifestyle can lead to a wasted life. Says Justin, "The song is about a girl who's like a poster child for the kids we know from high school who don't have a real passion in their lives, so they buy into extreme lifestyles like with facial tattoos and really heavy drugs. It's just incredibly sad, 'cause we're all searching for an image, but some people take it way too far and then there's no turning back. Then what happens to their life?"
"'Non-Popular' and 'Good 4 No 1' are like our theme songs because they're about trying to come to grips with who we are, dealing with who's real and who's posing, and that includes ourselves," says Dan. "Non-Popular" addresses feelings of total loneliness in a crowded room while playing the role of popular entertainer. "Everyone is my friend and I don't know them," Dan paraphrases, "and I know everyone has felt the stress of putting on a smile and socializing with people like they're so happy to see them when all they really want to do is strangle them for posing. But you know," Dan smiles, "I'm just as guilty for being there, right?"
In "Good 4 No 1," the line "We all pretend to be, what it is we think they see," sums it up. "I guess we all eventually learn to stop caring what everyone else thinks and stop trying to be what the rest of the world wants," Dan says plainly. "We know who we are now and we're comfortable with that, and it's no coincidence that we're making the best music of our lives."