Interview: Malcura II - Josh Voce from Malcura
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Upon release of Malcura's sophomore album, we were joined by guitarist Josh Voce to discuss a range of topics including cultural appropriation, busking days with Tash Sultana and an impromptu gig alongside the band's heroes.
“Music's come so far now that the borders between genres and countries is evaporating”
10,000 miles away from the home of Flamenco music and with little exposure to the genre growing up Melbourne-outfit, Malcura, release their sophomore album Malcura II as they once again endure their perennial struggle to categorise their music. Despite clear influences from the prog-rock and metal scene, Malcura’s music comes with a twist as they play within the rather niche genre pioneered by Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. Flamenco traditionalists might be riled by the Australian’s attempt to label themselves as a ‘Heavy Flamenco’ band, but guitarist Josh Voce sees his music as a celebration of the Spanish guitar rather than an attempt to appropriate Andalusian culture.
“It definitely skims the mind, the cultural appropriation thing. I think Steve [fellow guitarist, Steve Angell] and I are less worried about it, just because we don't care in general. We just love that sound and style of music and the people we play it to all enjoy it, so we're just not too fussed about that side of things. Our drummer does worry about that sort of thing sometimes. You can see where he's coming from because flamenco music is a very special niche genre that does have a specific demographic and group of people that follow it closely and know the ins and outs of that genre. Sometimes if they see a band like us playing that kind of music, they might think that we're not playing that music in the right kind of mentality or it is not coming from the right place as we weren't brought up in the right environment to be able to play that music,” said Voce.
He continued: “I've never even been to Spain, but with the Internet and with music being a live thing that can be spread all across the world I think it's a good thing. With music being spread to so many different corners of the world it's just so interesting finding different genres out there that you've probably never heard of, because some person in Iceland is listening to American delta blues and coming up with his own unique spin on that genre from his own background.”
Although Voce has acknowledged that he would love to go to Spain in order to sink his teeth into the local culture and learn from some of the greats, he remains adamant this is not necessary to develop their unique musical sound. Having plied their trade busking five times a week in the legendary Bourke Street Mall, alongside acts such as Tash Sultana, who Voce reminisces about grabbing early morning coffees with, the band have refined their style from being a stripped back acoustic group to reaching the stage in which they are able to produce an album with wide-ranging instrumentation. Their latest album features a flute, organ, electric guitar, synths and the regular inclusion of trumpeter Fabian Acuna. Nevertheless, the band certainly have not forgotten about their rite of passage busking in the shopping centre which brought them international fame after a video of their cover of a song from videogame Legend of Zelda reached over 8 million views on YouTube. The band have recorded their cover of this track, Gerudo Valley, as well as their version of 60s surf-rockers The Shadows’ Man of Mystery on the new album.
Music has always been in the blood for Voce. As opportunities to perform are limited during the pandemic he is focusing more time teaching guitar online from the same room in which he learnt the instrument as a child - in his father’s legendary guitar store, Guitars Plus. Voce had the chance to travel to his Dad’s birthplace, London, and visit the shop on Demark Street where he used to work before moving to Australia. Voce joked that whilst his dad is a good blues-rock guitarist, playing “typical dad music”, he didn’t have the teaching bones in him, unlike his mother who works as a music teacher. Despite his parents' music credentials the Malcura guitarists were instead brought together by teacher Yossi Admon, who was instrumental in introducing the pair to their idols Rodrigo y Gabriela.
Despite being a self-proclaimed metal-head who was obsessed with bands such as Pantera and Lamb of God, it was the Mexican duo who had the biggest impact on Voce and Angell, even leading the former to quit playing his beloved Aussie Rules at the tender age of 18 after dislocating his finger in order to focus on his musical aspirations. Years after first learning the song Tamacun, the band members found themselves in a unique situation at Melbourne’s Palais Theatre whilst at a Rodrigo y Gabriela concert. Malcura percussionist Simon Wood was working as an usher at the venue when the Mexican stars invited young musicians from the audience on the stage when something extraordinary happened.
“Rodrigo sat down right in front of us and he just asked all the young musicians in the crowd to come up on stage and enjoy the show from their perspective and just like kind of dance with them,” recounts Voce. “Gabriela went up to the mic to talk to the crowd and I just told Steve a few minutes earlier I was working up the courage to ask Rodrigo if we could borrow their guitars and play one of our songs. When Rodrigo came and started tuning his guitar next to me, I just, like, tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘hey, man, can I borrow your guitar and do one of our songs’ and he just looked at me and said, ‘yeah, sure’, so we played in front of all of the people at this gig.”
As the pair played an impromptu set in front of the 4,000 seater audience, drummer Wood was left red-faced as he then had to clean up the aisles whilst bemoaning his lack of good fortune. The band then made a tongue-in-cheek music video to commemorate the night’s events. Whilst, the Spanish guitar experts certainly remain major influences on the band, Swedish prog-metallers Opeth also have left their mark on Malcura that can certainly be heard on this album. This prog influence is particularly apparent on tracks such as City On The Moon, The Ballad of the Humble Space Jockey and Queen of Spades. Meanwhile, the story of Malcura II follows an astronaut called Captain Snus, who the epic second track is named after. The band claim that their music is about Snus’ travels to outer space after being sent on a mission from Earth, but is sucked into a black hole on his journey which leaves him stranded on a mysterious planet. After listening to the album some might speculate that the planet he has ended up on is not too dissimilar from Andalucía, albeit far more rocky (if you pardon the pun) than the Spanish terrain here on planet Earth.