The Neo Kalashnikovs: Poised to take the world by storm
By Randy Kamradt
How can I describe The Neo Kalashnikovs? Imagine an automobile crash between Nirvana and The Breeders, but that only takes me half way there. It does not express the genuinely original, modern sound of the mix of these three fiercely independent New Zealand siblings. Fronted by Volita (rhymes with Lolita) Bioletti’s satiny smooth, sultry voice contrasted by her crunchier than peanut brittle guitar, driven by Moss’ drumming: brutal and savage one moment, jazzy triplets on the ride the next, and anchored by Gabriel’s solid bass line and synths, the trio sings songs full of hooks and catchy word play. Volita plays the Rock ‘n’ Roll Salome, flaunting her sensuality with glee, singing songs of feminine machismo with breathless fresh air. Needless to say, I was a little intimidated to interview her (that’s coming from a guy that was good friends with one of the members of The Castration Squad), But I was quickly put at ease, finding her a well-spoken and intelligent advocate of rock music. We quickly got down to what makes The Neo Kalashnikovs tick, what makes them tock, and mostly what makes them rock!
Randy: So tell me about your band
Volita: we’ve been going for about five years now, it was me and Moss at the start, we were a duo and we played as a duo for about three and a half years. Then our younger brother, Gabriel, came and joined us so now we’re a three piece.
Randy: Can you clear up your location? Some sources describe you as split between NZ and LA.
Volita: when I was 21, I’m 26 now, I started traveling to the U.S., just because I wanted to be part of the American music scene, so I just basically got a few one way tickets; actually you have to get an out ticket to be able to go there, but it was pretty much just a one way ticket, in the sense that I didn’t have any money (laughs) So I’ve just been going backwards and forwards since then, since I was 21, trying to spend six months a year there, on visa waiver, which is our New Zealand visa waiver.
Randy: Do you stay mostly in LA when you’re here?
Volita: Yeah, I stay in Highland Park in L.A., and also Mt. Washington. I’ve made some amazing friends there so I tend to try to visit as much as I can, but recently we’ve been pretty locked in New Zealand with recording and stuff like that. It can be quite expensive flying backwards and forwards so yeah.
Since I was very young, I’ve been extremely into rock music and the preservation and the continuum of rock music, the art form, so going to Los Angeles and America to me, was the obvious bit, because of American rock, and I’ve always been into American rock, and I’ve been obsessed with your music for so long that going to Los Angeles was a dream, you know? So once I got there, and it was so much fun, and I made great friends, it just was kind of a natural thing. There’s not much reason to us other to want to be a rock star (laughs)
Randy: Have you always performed together as a family?
Volita: Yeah, Pretty much. We’ve had a couple bassists, and I’ve had one previous band.
Randy: Do you think it works well to have all family in the band? Or is there tension behind the scenes?
Volita: Oh, there’s huge tension. Me and Moss we fight non-stop. But it’s great for progression, progression is really good. With other bands you always have trouble with power struggles, but not with us, it’s uncomplicated because we want it to work. We’ve all got the same direction.
Randy: What recordings have you released so far, do you work with any producers?
Volita: That’s a hard one to answer, to be honest, we’ve done a lot of recording, and because we’re independent, we kind of chop and change as to how we release it or package it. We’ve done the She’s on Heat album, which was independent and we’re quite proud of that one, and it got us quite a bit of attention, which was good. Because we did free downloads with it, it kind of got around virally, we were quite pleased with that. So that’s one release we’ve done, and we’ve done the Gorgeous Baby EP and the Take it or Leave it EP.
Randy: What recordings do you have in the works?
Volita: Well, we love albums a lot, so we were going to do a lot of albums and that’s basically what was planned, but we’ve done EPs now because it’s just more cost effective. We had plans for an album called Urban Warfare which we still want to do, but at the moment we just get so much more attention for singles, singles released with videos, released on platforms are just worth so much more to us in terms of promotion and media PR, so we’re kind of just focusing on singles. If we get signed, then we will be able to financially and time-wise put out a proper album, a really good album. It’s just not cost effective for us now, I feel like we can put so much more into one single, which costs a lot of money to independent people, instead of putting so much money into one album.
Randy: Do you have a particular studio you work at?
Volita: Yes we do, in Auckland, it’s called Lab Studios, and it’s with our engineer, Olly Harmer, and we also have another: a studio called tonewheel with Justin James, our other engineer. We haven’t worked with any producers yet, we’ve just been self-produced.
Randy: So you like working in the studio? You have no plans on self-recording as many independent artists are doing?
Volita: well we just released a single called Blue Lithium which we recorded in our lounge, and we do record at home with an Akai 16 track 90’s kind of thing that we like to use. To be honest, because we’re ambitious, we like to get as hi fi as we can get, to get to that next level, you really have to be serious about studios. As much as I love rock and I love lo-fi, the studio we’re working in is one of the best in Auckland so we’re getting commercial radio airplay, and that a career goal for me. I could keep doing lo-fi for the purists, which I would love to do, but at the same time I want progression so I’m going to keep pushing that independent hi-fi bus (laughs)
Randy: One thing I haven’t seen is a live album or recordings, and I’m really curious to hear what you guys sound like live.
Volita: Right, well the Blue Lithium single is pretty much live. Also, when we record, we record together, live, but I don’t do the vocals live, because women’s vocals are so hard to get right. There’s just no way I’m going pay all that money and then try to do my vocals live. And I’m not into click tracks, we’ve never played to a click track, what you’re hearing when we play is pretty much live band. The thing about click tracks, is it puts more pressure on you as an artist to get it right, the timing, but at the same time it’s not natural, if you want to speed up, just speed up. The dynamics are really important, you’re not necessarily going to get live dynamics from click-tracking.
Randy: Some sources I’ve read said you were called The Neos first, and others say you were called The Kalashnikovs first, so which was it?
Volita: Kalashnikov first (laughs).
Randy: Where did the name come from?
Volita: We had a previous bassist who was into Nick Cave songs, and he was obsessed with Nick Cave. We had to let him go, actually, because he was so obsessed with Nick Cave, it was kind of starting to infringe on our originality, we didn’t want to be a Nick Cave band. He liked the name The Kalashnikovs, so we were saying OK, let’s do that. Then we kicked him out because he loved Nick Cave too much, so we decided to stick Neo in front of it and just keep going.
Randy: Are you the person that writes most of the songs, or is it more of a collaborative effort?
Volita: Pretty much me, Moss has a lot of input in it, in terms of the production, if he doesn’t like it, he’ll want it changed, but I write the music and the lyrics at the same time on the guitar.
Randy: What can you tell me about the NZ (Auckland) music scene?
Volita: Of course, I’ve been in a lot of international music scenes as well, I’ve been in the British scene, and the American one, and also the German/Berlin scene as well. It’s not much different from any other scene. It’s very small, so I tend to see the music scene as an international one. There’s not that many (well, some would say there’s a lot of musicians) but I don’t believe there are anymore. New Zealand, because we’re so far away, we get a bit ambitious, we have to get off the island to get anywhere. It’s very small, you’re basically playing to your friends, highly competitive. There’s not the same population down here, so you’re not necessarily getting the same crowds as you would in America, so it’s a lot tougher. People used to say to me down here “the British scene is so hard to get into, you might as well not try, you’ll never get anywhere” But I eventually got over to the British scene and it was really easy and really nice, and I’m thinking to myself: man, the New Zealand music scene is so much tougher. I had underestimated how tough the New Zealand scene is. But only because of those factors: that we’re so far away, and the population and everybody knows everybody, otherwise it’s no different from any scene.
Randy: The Gorgeous Baby video has made a big Splash, how did you get Helen Flanagan to do the video for you, and who did the video?
Volita: Moss rang up her management, her manager, and pitched it to her and she did it. Because she’s awesome (laughs). She really liked the song and she fitted what we wanted, she’s the best person for the job, we really think she’s pretty hot so we were really happy that she said yes.
Randy: There seems to be confusion about if Helen Flanagan is actually singing, did you leave that purposely ambiguous?
Volita: We completely did, yeah. Absolutely. We loved it, it was so funny, we really got them. The British media are really mean to Helen quite often, and we just wanted to put one over on them. And a lot of the British media actually really liked it which is funny.
Randy: you have a Bandmix page saying you’re looking for bagpipes, and trombones, among other things, I suppose that’s a joke?
Volita: (laughs) That’s so old, maybe, I don’t know, that would have been fun. Maybe someone’s replied, I haven’t looked at that account in ages. I started that when I first started going over to Los Angeles. That’s so awesome (that it’s still there).
Randy: I have to ask, what shade is your lipstick? Do you have it trademarked?
Volita: I’m a huge fan of Isabella Rossellini and Sofia Loren, so the classic red, I’m always loving. I’m actually wearing Gwen Stefani’s red one, I have to look it up…oh actually one of them is Drop Dead Gorgeous by Chi Chi.
Randy: Any plans for a U.S. Tour, you’ve played in L.A., but any plans to go around to other regions?
Volita: Definitely, we’ve got a booking agent, It’s just a matter of finished up all the projects and all the videos and singles we need to release, then I’m moving to Britain, but we’ll stop off in America and we’ll do some shows. We’ve toured the states, we’ve had a good look around, we’ve been to Ohio, Pennsylvania. Frickin’ everywhere, dude, we’ve been to Utica! Utica, dude! We’ve been everywhere.
Randy: Well you’ll have to stop up here in the PNW and remind us what rock and roll sounds like, I think we’ve forgotten up here.
Volita: That’s the thing with rock, people have forgotten. We really have started to forget, and I don’t like that. I’m on a mission to remind them (laughs).