Anna Müller of Austrian electronic outfit HVOB on carving a niche with minimal techno in Europe, obsession with words and their debut India gig.
For a three-year-old Austrian band that has performed all over the world, across festivals, there’s very little that the internet tells you about HVOB or Her Voice Over Boys. There are no long pieces on their melancholic techno tracks, no background stories of its two members, Anna Müller and Paul Wallner, and no Instagram posts with the who’s who of dance music. Yet, when their debut India tour was announced a few weeks ago, it garnered enough chatter among music aficionados. Tonight they perform at antiSOCIAL in Hauz Khas Village, followed by a gig in Bangalore on March 20. HVOB has been brought to the country by Delhi-based booking agency and gig curator Wild City in collaboration with Austrian Cultural Forum.
“We don’t do a lot of press interviews back home; for us it’s about the music we create. It should do the talking,” says Anna, over the phone from her hotel room in Delhi. With an eponymous album (2013) and a few EPs to their credit, and their second album called Trialogue releasing in April, the duo is known for its laidback techno sound, with Anna’s soulful and haunting voice in the background. While Paul and Anna, both music producers, have known each other for a decade, it was only in 2012 that they came together to create this project. “In Europe, it’s not so common to see a woman singing in a band in a club, which is why we call ourselves Her Voice Over Boys,” says Anna, 28.
What sets their sound apart from other dance acts in Europe is the way they have reinterpreted techno, by moving away from its usual overbearing and loud version. That Anna learnt to play the piano and the violin from her father as a child, and spent countless hours listening to his classical records reflects in their songs. “I think this is what worked for us, our take on techno, which is so hugely popular in Europe. We are trying to bring back real music. We have never done a DJ set, and we never will. Playing live is the only way we know, and we don’t want to just push a button,” she says. At their Delhi gig, the two will perform a mix of their most famous songs, from Dogs and Moon (both from their debut EP) to some unreleased tracks from Trialogue.
Anna was 15 when she first began writing, and says that she hasn’t stopped since. “I have always been a music fanatic, so while the writing is important, the sound comes first for us in the band. We create the music, and then the lyrics follow. I get obsessed with a word, and then weave a fantasy around it. For instance, our song Dogs. I was obsessed with the word ‘dogs’, and wrote the lyrics around it,” she says.
When Munbir Chawla of Wild City first approached HVOB’s manager, both Anna and Paul were taken aback, unaware of the indie music industry thriving here. “I have always wanted to come to India but never imagined it would happen. It’s my first time in Asia in fact! It’s so far away and it would have been impossible without being part of HVOB. This is the best bit about being a musician, I guess. It surprises you every day. For instance, two months ago we performed in South Africa, and 1,500 people turned up, and they
knew our songs. That was a revelation, a happy one,” says Anna.