Since the release of Victoria Victoria’s 2016 debut album Coastal Beast, it’s been difficult to imagine what the band’s follow-up record might sound like. With such palpably fresh talent, there is a notion that a second effort wouldn’t compare to the debut, that, as with many groups with stellar first records, this might be a band that had dried up its creative well. And yet, as subtly beautiful as Coastal Beast first appeared on the music scene, Victoria Victoria has come back even stronger after releasing a new single, “Free Labor.”
The brainchild and creative workings of singer and songwriter Tori Elliott, Victoria Victoria began in Winston-Salem after Elliott relocated to the Camel City from Ohio in 2012 with Hannah Riggin, her friend and fellow band member. In the beginning it was just Elliott plucking out melodies on her keyboard, but she quickly gathered a band around her.
“I was Victoria Victoria when I first started working on this,” Elliott said. “I needed a band to play with me live and it just so happened that my band ended up being my three best friends.” Despite the group’s humble beginnings, it was Elliott’s beautiful, powerfully emotional voice and layered melodies that garnered her immediate praise, something she credits to the Triad’s community of artists. Though her bandmates provide some creative input, the majority of songwriting has always belonged to Elliott.
“In those first few years, my songwriting was heavily influenced by a few local bands, one of the most influential being Daniel Padgett of the Westward Movement,” Elliott said. “The community in Winston set a table for pressure-free songwriting for me. I feel the freedom to explore in my writing, and part of that is due to the support of the creative community here.”
With new singles being released every few months, Victoria Victoria is set to release its sophomore album in 2018.
“It’s a six-song record with interludes,” Elliott said. “The new project has more pop and R&B influences, but it’s not as formulaic as modern pop. The songs are super groovy but take a lot of risk.”
“Free Labor” launches from the platform the band created with its debut LP, but pushes the envelope further. With rhythm sections holding down a classic gospel backbeat and dreamy synths and keyboards floating just above it, Elliott’s voice finds room to explore the dynamic subtleties of her vast range. The pop nature of the single is present, but separates itself from what could be considered “selling out,” while keeping production to a minimum, allowing for an organic, natural breath to pulse through each measure.
The challenge of many musicians and bands to create something new and exciting remains a difficult and ambitious undertaking, and yet Elliott managed to throw the challenge off with a shrug, releasing her powerfully gorgeous debut album Coastal Beast in 2016.
The 10 songs belong in the camp of indie pop, and yet almost effortlessly incorporate elements of gospel, R&B and folk. Elliott’s voice is controlled enough that it’s easy to forget that the album is her first effort at recorded music. Flowing naturally and with the grace of Eva Cassidy and the raw power of Roberta Flack, Elliott’s voice is able to glide in the melodies with a tight synchronicity that seems reserved only for music’s top professionals. Though there is clear homage to older artists, Victoria Victoria blends the vintage with a fresh new look at what popular music can be, and it is done so with a perfectionist’s touch.
“I use songwriting to process emotion,” Elliott said, “so most of the time a song starts just by spontaneously singing how I feel, without crafting the melody or lyrics. When I find something that resonates with me, I’ll sit down with it at my keyboard and trim away at the excess. Unless I have a deadline, I tend to take my time in finishing a song. I’ll sit down with it multiple times, just playing through it to process emotion, until I feel it’s finished.”
Victoria Victoria played its first show at the Garage in 2016 after booking the night with owner Tucker Tharpe. And now, with scores of shows under its belt and critical praise at its back, the band has come full circle with a spot on the bill for the Garage’s final show on New Year’s Eve, along with the Genuine, Tyler Nail and others.
For concert dates and to buy music, visit victoriavictoriamusic.org.
“I was so bummed to hear of the Garage closing,” Elliott said. “The Garage really feels like home to me. Tucker [Tharpe] did such an amazing job at making space for the bands that came through there. Winston will definitely be missing an important piece with the Garage closing.”
With an initial footing at the venue that thrust them into the music scene, it is only fitting for Victoria Victoria to accept the invitation to perform one last time on the Garage’s stage.
A talent so pure and raw that it’s worthy of comparisons to Lana Del Rey or Regina Spektor, Victoria Victoria is among the finest acts in the Triad.