Band of the Day

2012.01.03

The Voluntary Butler Scheme

A whimsical collage of chopped-up indie pop songs
And if you were broccoli, I'd turn vegetarian for you (vegetarian for you)!
lyrics from Trading Things In

The Voluntary Butler Scheme is the stage name of one man band Rob Jones (b. May 28, 1985). A native of Stourbridge, England, just outside of Birmingham, Jones began making music in his bedroom during his teenage years. An accomplished singer and multi-instrumentalist, Jones plays guitar, bass, percussion, drums, keyboard, synthesizer, ukulele, and kazoo. After spending a few years playing as a working musician with other bands, he started performing as The Voluntary Butler Scheme in 2008. Thanks to his Myspace page, he was asked to play his first solo gig in Birmingham. Shortly after, he recorded his debut album At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea with R.E.M producer Charlie Francis. It was released on September 7, 2009 on Split Records. With its quirky lyrics and indie pop style, similar to fellow Brit/multi-instrumentalist Badly Drawn Boy, the album was praised by music critics across the UK. Jones' latest LP, The Grandad Galaxy, was released on Split Records in the summer of 2011.

There was a time period in life when cutting out pictures and pasting them together into a collage counted as “work.” Your safety scissors and glue stick days might be long gone, but The Voluntary Butler Scheme's music manages to recreate some of those same feelings. The Voluntary Butler Scheme is not, as you might expect, a band—it's actually the stage name for singer and multi-instrumentalist Rob Jones. A native of Stourbridge, England, Jones has been performing as a one-man band since being discovered through Myspace in 2008. In July 2011, he released his sophomore album, The Grandad Galaxy. While his 2009 debut At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea was a playfully quirky collection of indie pop songs—similar to fellow Brit/multi-instrumentalist Badly Drawn Boy—The Grandad Galaxy takes a more experimental approach. Like the process of creating a paper collage, Jones cuts up a jumble of sounds and pastes them together until they become completely new creations. Opening track “Hiring a Car” was made by recording loops of a music box, pitching them down a few octaves, and chopping them up. This may seem off-putting, but the result is an instrumental song that somehow sounds nostalgic and familiar—like a mishmash of noises from old arcade games and pinball machines from at least twenty years ago. “To the Height of a Frisbee” is the first track that Jones wrote for this album, and it's one of the most delightful. It starts with an instantly catchy guitar riff, before incorporating multi-track vocals and Sweet Baboo (Jones' friend and Welsh musician) on saxophone. Named after a term that describes when a TV screen gets messed up, “Phosphor Burn-In” is dreamy and pretty, but with a slightly woeful feel. When Jones starts singing “be so cool” over deep, mournful strings, it sounds as if you're underwater and his voice is being piped in from a speaker far above the surface. Other times his vocals are chopped up and manipulated to sound like video game bleeps. Still, there are plenty of classic pop elements, like sweet harmonies and keyboard riffs, that make this the type of song you'd want to slow dance to—in a candlelit dance hall, or under millions of stars in Jones' imaginary Grandad Galaxy.