The new single ‘Become Undone’ is their best work to date.
I spoke with singer Tam, and bassist Calum to better understand what was going on beneath the surface that led to this release. As a disclaimer, I am a long-time fan of this band, but we’ll try to keep superlatives to a minimum.
The first thing that struck me about ‘Become Undone’ is the more direct nature of the sound. The soundscape of two guitars, bass and drums is far more focussed than on previous records. Tam was eager to agree with the notion that they had “trimmed the fat” on this track. Sounding big and baggy is a pitfall that 5-piece heavy rock bands often fall into, mistaking more noise for a bigger sound.
The production on this track does sound tighter and more compact, courtesy in part of producer Bruce Rintoul, who the band have worked with on previous releases. I was interested to learn from Calum and Tam that they had worked on their own pre-production for ‘Become Undone,’ and upon hearing it, Bruce was already perfectly happy with the song itself. The relationship that Volka have built with Bruce is important, because it lends itself to the feeling that ‘Become Undone’ is the sum of long-term relationships, harmony between artists and producer, and the general sense of the band coming into their own to create increasingly better music over time. Calum shared with me that when the two guitarists, Calum More and Steven Dunsmore write their own parts, there is no discussion of who is lead and who is rhythm, they seem to telepathically work it out themselves. This creative partnership was reportedly commented on by Bruce in the studio who said, “I don’t understand how this works, but this works.”
Complimentary partnerships are essential in any good band, and it doesn’t get closer than the bass and drums rhythm section of the Sked brothers Calum and Euan. Calum was eager to assure me that Euan is an excellent technical player, which I would absolutely agree with having seen the band play several times in recent years, while Calum sees himself as more of a feel-style bass player, honing in on sound and tone. The pair communicate openly with each other as they formulate the beats and basslines of the songs. The combination of Euan’s chops and Calum’s reserved style works well, and comes across on ‘Become Undone.’ It’s worth mentioning that Calum spent a brief period down in London last year, and without doubt these kind of moves can often unsettle a band. However upon his return to Scotland, Volka have been able to push on, stronger as a result.
Another prominent talking point on the call was the idea that this song was more about vibes and structure. On ‘Become Undone,’ the boys waste no time getting straight into a short punchy verse before firing into a ripping and hooky chorus. This pattern repeats throughout the track, with measured crescendo leading back into the main feature – “Get into my space then, you’re under my skin.” I was delighted to discover that the formulation of the song and lyrics was a collaborative process among the band members. This translates into a more mature and collective effort that older fans will appreciate, and has already attracted new listeners, the band have enjoyed a notable spike in streaming figures since the release.
The final, and key, ingredient to Volka’s progression in their sound is the singer Tam, his gritty vibrato adds a sense of pain and urgency about the song. The delivery of the lyrics combines melody and rhythm in just the right way. I was keen to tell him on the call that his vocal performance sounded like his best to date to which he and Calum both agreed. As I looked to explore the lyrics, I was told that, “Become Undone is a narrative about what goes on inside your head as you try to process complicated experiences. A study in how those thoughts and situations can make you feel. Things that stick with you. Get under your skin. Regrouping and releasing this track has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for the band, bringing light and purpose after a year to forget.”
‘Become Undone’ has definitely found its way under my skin, and into my spotify algorithms. As for things that stick with you, Volka will thankfully be with us for the foreseeable future, and with more releases coming soon, I can’t wait to hear more.
Listen to Become Undone.
Keep up with Volka.