One fateful glance at a partner’s cell phone can shatter a relationship, but as VOILÀ – a pop duo featuring ‘Tall Girl’s Luke Eisner and Gus Ross – tell us, this breakdown is a ‘truly necessary’ part of being alive.
Eleven words. Eleven words in “If You Were Me,” the new song from pop duo VOILÀ, capture the heart-shattering pain at the center of this new ballad: ” ‘Cause I saw your phone last night / a name I recognize.” From there, Gus Ross and Luke Eisner tell a story that is far too familiar to many. It’s a tale of coming to grips with a new reality (“you’re with another man / I don’t know who I am”) and making the hard decisions (“I want to stay but / what would you do if you were me?”). Lyrics that carry the emotional impact of a head-on collision are paired with a minimalist production that allows these words to flourish. Gus and Luke’s vocals breathe while revealing a scene that would leave many short of breath.
“Gus and I have been working together for a long time now,” Luke tells HollywoodLife, with both he and his VOILÀ partner speaking in this EXCLUSIVE interview over email. “[We] have been through a lot of life together outside of music! It would be a shame to write a song that wasn’t true at this point.” As to how “true” the story in, Gus, perhaps wisely, pleads the fifth when asked if the song is based on a true story (or, more importantly, what was the name of the “mate” that he saw.)
Though he remains tight-lipped about the song’s inspiration, both he and Luke share details about the song’s creation. They also talk about when fans might expect them to pay tribute to the late EDM icon who brought them together, and if Hayley Williams ever got back to Luke about that prom date proposal.
If You Were Me” depicts a heartbreak caused after a chance glimpse at a partner’s cell phone. Was this based on a true story? (Feel free to plead the fifth if you need to.)
Gus: Definitely pleading the fifth here [laughs]. But the most interesting aspect of despair is that – with retrospect – it can be seen as a hugely beneficial and pivotal moment. To be broken down is truly necessary in understanding oneself.
Luke: Gus and I have been working together for a long time now and have been through a lot of life together outside of music! It would be a shame to write a song that wasn’t true at this point.
“If You Were Me” sounds like it could be performed on stage with a full backing band or on the porch with just an acoustic guitar (with someone tapping their foot along with the beat) – and still sound great. Did this song feel like it needed that stripped-down feeling to match the intimate, almost raw emotional nature of the lyrics?
Luke: That’s a good question. I feel at the end of the day a song is a story, right? Well, this is the kind of story that you wouldn’t shout from the rooftops or scream over a megaphone. It is more of a 2am front porch hint-of-whisper in the reflection kind of story. So, I think we just went with instrumentation that felt like hint-of-whisper and not a megaphone.
You’ve said that you’ve bonded over a love of Avicii. Have you thought about doing a tribute/cover song?
Luke: We did a version of “Hey Brother” on our tour with Kesha, but we haven’t done that in a while. Maybe we will bring it back! We refer to him a lot when we work, though. Gus is melodically driven and Avicii had arguably one of the best melodic instincts in music. I admire Avicii’s ability to cross-pollinate genres. His country-meets-EDM project was so pioneering and explorative. I feel crossing genre borders is what musicians should do more.
Have you yet to hear back about Hayley Williams being your freshman homecoming dance date? (And, if you were both to ask someone out to prom, who would it be?)
Gus: I thought proms were just constructions that existed in the American Pie movies until I came to America for the first time and realized they were, in fact, real. Aside from this revelation, I think I would have to take the whole UK women’s football team to have another go at beating the US [laughs].
Luke: Ah, that’s hilarious. I forgot about that! Unfortunately to my pubescent dismay, she never replied. I kept telling my 14-year-old self that it just got lost in the mail, and maybe I’ll just stick to that story.
It was really great, though. I made a big folded up sign that said “HC?” where the letters were made up of cut out pictures of her and Paramore. I included photos of me playing guitar with the most Pete Wentz hairstyle I had at the time and like a 4-page paper on why I thought it was a good idea. I remember holding off until the very last second on asking someone else to the dance because I was in some delusion that I thought for sure she’d reply. I actually ended up DJing my high school prom, so that’s a good second part of the question.
I would take my girlfriend, but she was a professional dancer for years, so I think that would just end up outing me as chronically having two left feet. Alternatively, maybe I would ask JK Rowling to come because I have tons of unanswered Harry Potter questions. OR I would ask Helen of Troy just to see what all the fuss was about.
Finally, what’s been a “rock”/”saving grace” for you during quarantine, something that’s been keeping you sane and grounded?
Luke: Quite honestly, not much has changed for us, aside from not being able to go on the road. We are still writing songs every single day! The release of our upcoming record, “Long Story Short,” is keeping us very sane and excited!
“If You Were Me” is out now.