Voluntary Butler Scheme

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"Infectious and charming, one-man-band Rob Jones is like a mix of
Badly Drawn Boy and Brian Wilson's more acid-fried work."
 - Q


Releases | Trading Things In | Breakfast, Dinner, Tea | Tabasco Sole | Multiplayer

A Million Ways to Make Gold (pack shot), design by MJ Jackson Honey in the Gravel Mixture (pack shot), design by MJ Jackson Quinzhee (pack shot), design by MJ Jackson

Voluntary Butler Scheme

Granddad Galaxy

Album released on Split

Multiplayer by Voluntary Bulter Scheme When Voluntary Butler Scheme recently declared that the intention behind his latest album was "to blend all the different types of music I've been making together," it seemed like a fairly insurmountable task this is an act known for producing everything from Motown soul to J-Pop via Mark Mothersbaugh-style poptronica. But Granddad Galaxy is truly a musical cabinet of curiosities, bursting at the seams with strange sounds, melodies, effects and songs. Part instrumental, it follows the direction that the 'Scheme, aka Dudley-based bedroom-pop architect Rob Jones, has been headed in from debut LP At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea via the recent cut-and-paste Chevreul EP.

"I like a lot of music and I always have," says Jones, 26. "For ages I didn't know how to make a lot of the music I like, so my first album focussed on soul-y pop with '70s Nick Lowe inspiration. But I've been nerding out every day for the last 11 years about how to do things, and it's coming together now."

Granddad Galaxy began life with a plan to make a full LP in six weeks. Full of big ideas and armed with a book of lyrics penned on a trip to San Francisco, Rob travelled to a rented basement in London's Old Street, filled it with gear and recorded 11 songs filled with saxophones, guitars and organs galore. "I got them home and really disliked them so it turned in to a year long process of tinkering with and remixing the tunes I'd done, mashing 'em up and writing new bits," says Rob. It's why the album sounds like it's been too close to DJ Shadow and a pair of scissors this is the sound of an artist hacking his own work to create something new and inspired. "Instrumentals made from chopped up stuff feel like they have a bit of a narrative to them to me," says Rob. "It always turns out more interesting than something I could write about."

Joining Rob on the album are Welsh singer-songwriter Sweet Baboo on saxophone plus Rob's girlfriend on sampled vocals for Do The Hand Jive. "I asked her to make up a tune on the spot, a cappella, recorded it on my iPhone and used that as a sample on the chorus," says Rob, who also enlisted his mum to say random words on the same tune.

The album's name comes from the influences behind the album. "Some of the influences are grandad heavy, real old things like '50s pop music Buddy Holly and that with really simple tunes, uncynical lyrics, nice clean guitar, but at that same time I'm really in to stuff that I think would offend Buddy Holly's ears," says Rob. "Granddad Galaxy sounded like a meeting of them things in a title."

Since releasing the first album, The Voluntary Butler Scheme have toured the UK with Adam Green, received personal plaudits from Madness singer Suggs and signed a US deal with influential indie Park The Van. Jones has seen his tracks pop up in such varied places as Grey's Anatomy, a Dell ad, Eastenders and, er, Countryfile. "Living in Dudley, you defo don't imagine your life will ever come in to contact with the telly," says Jones. "In a small way it has, and I just find it hilarious."

As well as being an in-demand remixer for Go! Team, Kid Carpet, Colourmusic and more, Jones is making his name as a producer for other artists, producing albums for ex-David Devant man Mr Solo and Sweet Baboo, who is in also in Rob's side-project, Wickes. 2011 will also see Voluntary Butler Scheme hitting the road with a new live line-up, which will be touring extensively this year. Meanwhile, Rob's exhausting musical whirl continues: "I've already got a bulk of 60 odd tracks for the next album," he says.

Further information from In House Press.

Chop Up The Voluntary Butler Scheme!!!

Multiplayer by Voluntary Bulter Scheme Mr Jones, of Voluntary Butler Scheme fame, has put all the parts to his smash hits Multiplayer (out 2/3 guys!) and Tabasco Sole (coming out in May time) up online for any of you remix types to grab hold, chuck in a bag, shake around and then spill out.

So what do u reckon?

We will put the best one's on www.myspace.com/theVBSchopshop for comments from the general public etc. Mr Jones will then pick his winner which will go onto a special CD with the original version plus b-sides etc which the winner will receive in a jiffy or equivalent. Wowsa indeed!

Get the bits and pieces using the links below. When you're done email a usendit (or equivalent) link to VBSchopped@Splitrecords.co.uk and then leave it up to us.


Download the remix parts here.

Multiplayer by Voluntary Bulter Scheme Tobasco Sole Remix parts (.zip) (202MB)
Multiplayer Remix (.zip) (259MB)

The Voluntary Butler Scheme

New single - Multiplayer
Released 02.03.09
Label: Split Records

"Love is a game, a game for two/Love is a game I wanna play with you" - 'Multiplayer'

The Voluntary Butler Scheme is, to all intents and purposes, Rob Jones - a young man holed up in Stourbridge just outside Birmingham, writing pop songs of classic sound, vivid imagination and homemade ingenuity. A couple of years ago, Rob filled the days surfing drum stools, playing for a string of bands and relishing the low-expectations life of a jobbing musician. But then, the offer of a solo gig came up. "So I wrote four or five songs, and played the show," he explains. And? "And it wasn't all that," he laughs. "But straight away, I knew I didn't want to play stuff with bands anymore. So I thought I'd try a little bit harder and write some proper songs - and I wrote a dozen songs in a couple of weeks." And the songs were good. Great, in fact. Take 'Trading Things In'. A lush '60s pop frolic rich with overlapping harmonies, dewy-eyed romance, and references to - amongst other things - broccoli, running shoes, and popular hits of the '50s, it's an excellent advert for the merits of singing what you know. "It's got a lyric that goes "yes we can listen to La Bamba on your mp3 player'" says Rob. "Cos 'La Bamba', that's one of my favourite songs of all time. I don't even know what the guy's singing about, but you know, it really doesn't matter. The way he sings it - it just breaks your heart. And I remember thinking, oh, I can probably just talk about whatever I've been up to that day and it'll work."

So, with such casual ambitions - plus a treasure chest of guitars, keyboards, kick drum and loop pedals - the first incarnation of the Voluntary Butler Scheme was born. Tours with the likes of The Duke Special and Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong saw Rob hone his craft as a one-man band - a line-up that suits him just fine, thank you very much. But as of late 2008, the Voluntary Butler Scheme is touring filled out to a three-piece - hello, Damo on drums; hi John, on keys - to cater for a new clutch of songs that need more than one pair of hands. Take 'Multiplayer'. Cantering out the traps with its 'Ticket To Ride' stomp, effervescently perky Northern soul riff, and opening gambit of "I'm gonna get my hair cut even if I have to cut it myself.", it throws up numerous comparisons, from witty British songwriting staples like Supergrass to more contemporary bedsit raconteurs like The Wave Pictures. But comparisons be damned: there's an lyrical ingenuity here that's all Rob's own. "A lot of my lyrics kind of come close to novelty, but I don't think they come across that way," ponders Rob. "Like, the line 'Don't go treating my heart like bagpipes any more' - they're kind of funny lyrics, but you'd never want to laugh at them, I think they're a bit sadder than that." Sad, maybe, most importantly, something we can all relate to. Because the Voluntary Butler Scheme knows life's most beautiful moments aren't carefully scripted - they jump at you right off the woodwork. So what's the secret? "I think it's about not trying too hard," says Rob. "You know, I read something Phil Spector said in some sound magazine, about the recording of 'Be My Baby', and asking, 'Is it dumb enough? Are people gonna get it?' I'm not trying to make it dumb, but there's something in that - stuff feels more so much more honest when it's simple."

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