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Exploring the darker side of VOIID with ‘Watering Dead Flowers’

The worst part of looking into the void isn’t that the void looks back – it’s that it will be disappointed in what it sees. And the reality that mankind has built a world that the abyss can’t stomach isn’t such a distant abstract.

With their latest album Watering Dead Flowers, out now, Meanjin punks VOIID have distilled all they’ve witnessed of late, and it’s all too clear they aren’t terribly pleased.

Fans have come to know VOIID well since 2017’s Pussy Orientated, and with Watering Dead Flowers, they’ve further shored up their rep as world-builders, affording us the chance to not just listen to their art, but get lost in it. This isn’t escapism, though – far from it. Many of the hard conversations of the Real World are amplified in the VOIID world, cleanly translated through the jagged dialect of punk rock.

With the release still hot off the press, we looked back on the album with guitarist Kate McGuire

I’m glad to finally get to speak with you about Watering Dead Flowers. My favourite moment is the turning point, about half way through, when this goes from a fun, venue thumper to proper solitary, gloomy night-time drive music…

Kate McGuire: That’s perfect, the way you’ve described it. The back half is all these darker, more mysterious songs…I think it is very like, “Oh, we have this album. Here’s all these fun songs.” Just to be like, “Hell yeah, it’s a VOIID album.” Then towards the end, really get in deep.

There was a point in the writing process where we wanted to have a bit more of a darker situation going on in there, and just heavier stuff as well. A lot of those songs came out of that, just wanting to write some heavier stuff now that we’ve got the fun songs out of the way. We definitely want to move in that direction a little bit more. Not a whole lot, but definitely tapping into heavier stuff and more a soundscape.

They say that the most important things to say are often the hardest, but you guys really do have this knack to make these scary and important messages sound good. How does VOIID handle that task?

Kate: Obviously, everyone should go to therapy. But, I don’t know. I’ve written stuff in songs that I would never say to anyone else, which is funny because everyone can hear it. The happiest song on Watering Dead Flowers is probably ‘And So Too’, which is about us all meeting. But then again, it’s still depressing…

We’re going back a bit, but before our EP Socioanomaly, it was the first few years of being in a band, and we were writing all these fun songs ’cause we were 18. It switched before the Socio EP. We were like, “Hold on a minute, why aren’t we writing some more serious stuff?”. When we first tapped into that, it just never stopped and we found our writing style, and who we are as lyricists. At this point that’s just how we write. It’s impossible for us to write about anything that’s not heavy and happening to us.

Obviously, we’ll write about some nice stuff every now and then. But I think that’s just the way we get out the shit stuff, is by writing about it. I feel like my favourite type of writing is hectic or serious. I feel like anyone can just be like, “La la la. I’m so stoked with life,” which is great. Do that. That’s epic. But, we like to really tap into the shit that we need to get out.

VOIID has really become synonymous with a movement of equality powered by punk music. You use the band as a billboard for important causes. Are you seeing improvement? Is there hope?

Kate: I definitely think there’s hope. It’s also hard to really explain what’s going on, or have an accurate explanation for how things are travelling because I’ve become much more aware recently that we’re in a bit of an echo chamber. It’s crazy to me when me, my family, friends, pretty much my entire bubble, really great people, really aware of the stuff that’s going on and what needs to change, then do you ever hear people talking at a cafe or something, and you’re like, “Wow, people think like that?” It’s crazy.

I think things are good and there’s good things that are happening but, at the same time, there’s stuff that I just don’t see, that I have no idea. I think we just need to keep on rolling. What else can you do other than that?

We also can’t put the entire burden on VOIID to fix the world …

Kate: I think that’s a super important part of it. Me and my friends, the people in the VOIID family, we talk about it a lot, even though we’re in this space where, as you said, we’re becoming synonymous with a movement. But, taking care of our own mental health as well…

We say these things in our songs, and we have these beliefs, but I think people really need to be cautious of how much that takes a toll on someone’s personal health. Obviously, we’ll fight for what we believe in, but sometimes we can’t handle it. It’s not one person’s job to fix everything. It’s the snowball effect. For example, pretty much every one of our headline tours, we try and curate a really diverse lineup. Through that, we try and lead an example. One band can’t take it on, and we all need to work together.

Also, if people that are trying to do good make a mistake, they shouldn’t be shunned for that. People make mistakes. Also, sometimes people can’t handle it, and they shouldn’t be shunned for not being able to handle it because they’re trying to conserve their own mental health. I think we all need to be a little bit more aware of how it can be taxing. It can be really taxing.

It’s really important to tend to your backyard.

Kate: Totally. Totally. We can’t all be a hundred percent activists all the time, because we’ve all dealt with our own shit, and sometimes we can’t handle being told all this information that we can’t process because we’ve got our own past that brings up shit.

It’s everyone’s job.