Vostok Lake is an all-woman electronic music experience that defies genre and gender boundaries. Combining aspects of synth-pop, art-rock, and satirical cabaret, Vostok Lake's unpredictable performances have become legendary in the most discerning underground circles in Auckland, New Zealand.
Their new album, Comics and Stories, is due for release on September 1 2021, the band's first release since 2009's Small Group Psychosis. The band are planning a series of release gigs and "maybe a small North Island tour".
About The Band
Daphne Lawless studied music composition at Victoria University of Wellington and piano at "an old lady's house down the road". Discovering the dark arts of electronica and sequencing liberated her from the "unreliable male egos" of the indie band scene. She has been working under the name of Vostok Lake since 2007. Singer and percussionist Tricia Hall was added in the studio in 2015, and to the live act starting from 2018.
Daphne and Tricia are married and have two children together. "Our older child is already showing signs of interest in the performing arts," says Lawless. "We aim to be the queer electro Osmonds one day."
About the Music
Daphne Lawless has a label for what Vostok Lake does, although she admits it might not be helpful: "80's electro-pop meets 70s prog-rock with goth stylings, a satirical bent, all fuelled by estrogen." Alternatively: "queer Zolo Prograve with a transitional demand of lulz."
Vostok Lake creates music according to the "Weightless Music" ethos, using open-source software and consumer-standard or obsolete equipment. Daphne's vision for the band is "folk music for the 21st century - the songs of overeducated women who work unstimulating office jobs and waste too much time on the internet."
"We are 100% within the Kiwi do-it-yourself tradition", says Lawless. "Electronic, open-source music is democratic, and it's punk."
Vostok Lake displays 80's synth-pop influences such as Kate Bush, Gary Numan and Depeche Mode; a sneaking love of 70's progressive rock, in particular Genesis, King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator; and the Kiwi art-pop tradition, bands such as early Split Enz, the Chills or Look Blue Go Purple. The music also nods towards contemporary electro acts such as Ladytron or CHVRCHES.
The Live Show
When Vostok Lake performs live, Daphne and Tricia's vocals and instruments are backed up by live sequencing from a laptop, with nothing pre-recorded. A feature of a Vostok Lake set is the "interactive solo", where Daphne straps on a wireless keyboard and walks out into the audience - sometimes inviting audience members to play the keyboard themselves.
"We aim to destroy the contradiction between audience and performer," says Daphne.
About the Album
Comics and Stories takes its title from old-school Donald Duck magazines, and Daphne says "it's just what Vostok Lake music is all about - our songs tell stories, and quite often they're funny, though sometimes not intentionally."
Subject matter for songs ranges from the rise of the far-right ("Cut and Run"), to techno-sexuality ("Silicone") to sci-fi opera ("The Ballad of Ghost Point Five".) It also includes the live favourite "Office Work is Fucking Boring", which Daphne describes as "based on a true incident, called my life."
Produced by Auckland techno-glam seductress Jess Haugh (Scarlett Lashes), recording had to take extended breaks for Tricia to start a family and "various unpleasant incidents called Real Life", as Daphne puts it.
"This is the first VL record which is a truly a band effort", says Daphne, "and we're very proud that it's been put together high quality, on a shoestring budget, by an all-women team of the best Aotearoa weird creatives."
About the name
Lake Vostok lies under four miles of ice in Antarctica, heated by underground streams. No-one knows whether life exists in it or not. Daphne Lawless adopted this name to reflect the themes of her music - "the cold of the electronics meets the subterranean warmth of the songwriting, and the whole thing is very mysterious."
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