Nashville’s The Voodoo Fix have an unusual provenance, having begun life a decade ago as the de facto house band for the former college of a failed U.S. President. “We were all at Whittier College in California — a school whose claim to fame is that it’s the alma mater of Richard Nixon,” VF bassist Will Halsey says with a laugh. “We got school credit for starting a blues band; we were the Whittier College Blues Band, and that’s how we first got together.”
Ten years and three full-length albums later, it’s hard to think of the Fix as “just a blues band.” Now based out of Nashville, the band members have the look of old-school So-Cal rockers, all greasy locks and strange piercings, gaudy costume jewelry and profligate tattoos. And their music is rooted in a solid foundation of bluesy, sleazy, straight-with-no-chaser Rawk, of the kind that used to rattle the rafters at various clubs along L.A.’s Sunset Strip. But there’s more to the story of the band’s sound — elements of funk and world beat and even jazz that seem to set the Fix’s mix just out of reach of ordinary powers of description.
“We like to have a question mark there,” says Halsey. “Is it blues? Is it rock? Or is it something else entirely? We like to think we’re all of those things, and none of those things all at once.”
The Fix’s curious musical melange owes in part to influence of their Whittier College mentor, teacher and Afro-Cuban flautist Danilo Lozano. What’s more, The Voodoo Fix hit the touring and festival circuits pretty early in their career, and Halsey says the road has been the single biggest influence on the band’s sonic evolution.
“Those first couple years on the road are a huge part of what we are today,” Halsey says. “We learned to tread on water, follow what we love and do what we wanted.
“We used to do a lot of these jam-band festivals. We were sort of the rock and roll fixtures at all of these big jam-fests. A lot of those bands have an appreciation for blues and soul, which is a big part of our sound, so they welcomed us. It was a lifestyle as well as a way of approaching the music. We’d tour around the country in an old school bus. Then we’d get on stage and start songs without knowing where they were going. Many of our songs were born and shaped that way, on the road.”
On record, though, the Fix are an entirely different beast — focused, pop-savvy, fierce and flamboyant in the way that any truly top-notch band of tattooed rock ‘n’ roll extroverts should be. Halsey says years of alternately touring and recording have taught the band the important differences between a good record and a successful live show.
“We’ve learned to be structured about being unstructured,” Halsey says. “We have an ending point in mind when we do something, as opposed to starting without knowing what’s going to happen. Our current producer really showed us the difference between studio and live performance. You have to acknowledge that those are two different things. On our latest record (2017’s “Back for More”), we really explored our studio side a lot more.
“We still like to jam a lot. There’s something to be said about being out on a limb, the excitement of improvisation. It’s exciting in a different way from the way well-produced music is. Live, you’re bringing your heartache, your breakfast, your shitty week, everything you feel, you’re bringing into the performance. But you can’t bring all of that stuff into the studio. We’ve learned to bring out our songwriting more, while alluding to the live show.”
The Voodoo Fix will play Preservation Pub Saturday, May 13 at 10 p.m.