Bethlehem's VoirVoir reminds us what local music is really about - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
VoirVoir | photo by Jess Cuttic | via

Bethlehem, PA was once a towering empire, thanks to Bethlehem Steel, America’s second largest steel producer during much of the 20th century. Now, as the buildings and machinery of a bygone era rust away, a new empire is taking the reins in Bethlehem: the music scene.

With the help of annual events like Musikfest, as well as the addition of the SteelStacks and Sands Bethlehem Casino venues, Bethlehem’s music scene is growing at an astounding rate. Behind the scenes, local and underground venues are popping up all over the city. This is good news for bands that are working their way through the music world. One of these bands is indie rock outfit VoirVoir.

I had a chance to talk with one of the band’s masterminds, Matt Molchany. We chatted about the recording of VoirVoir’s debut album, their upcoming shows, and what’s happening in the Bethlehem music scene.

VoirVoir started when bandmates April Smith and Matt Molchany left their current band to write songs on their own. “We both kind of branched off from a branch-off band,” Molchany says. “We just discovered that we were really good at being fair to each other with writing and giving each other space.”

Smith and Molchany quickly realized that VoirVoir was taking up most of their creative time, so they decided to turn it into a full-time band. Molchany recruited bassist Matt Juknevic from a previous band, guitarist Emily Meixell, who he recorded before, and drummer Josh Maskornick, who he had also recorded before. “It was this network of friends and musicians who just got sucked in!” he says.

This past February, the VoirVoir collective released their debut album, There Are No Good Goodbyes,and Molchany is extremely proud of the effort:“I really feel like it has legs, compared to other stuff that we’ve done in other bands.” A good deal of the album explores the interactions between people, how they behave, and the hope that we can all better ourselves. These themes come from both Smith and Molchany’s experiences as social workers, assisting the sick and mentally ill.

One of the most magical parts of being in a band is the creative chemistry that flows between members. The chemistry that flows between VoirVoir comes across quite clearly in their music, and in Molchany. Ask him about how he sees his bandmates as creative individuals, and he’ll have nothing but compliments. “Everyone who’s in this band, I trust so much,” he says. He can count on the others to lift him up when he needs it, and he does the same for them. “And we have the music so down, we kind of have the room to get lost in it. The expressive part is our forte.” The band recorded the whole album live, and the takes were surprisingly seamless.

The recording process wasn’t complete without some challenges, however – Molchany found the post-production to be the most taxing. The editing monster within him loomed on the horizon, as well as the need to set deadlines. “We made a piece of art that you keep chopping away at until it’s exactly what you want, but some pieces still remain a work in progress,” Molchany says. If there was even one thing that felt off, he and April would keep editing until it felt just right, which became tiresome over time.

“But as twisted as it sounds,” he laughs, “all of the intense modifications we did after we got it tracked rendered a result that sounded just like us playing it live.”

The band has a significant amount of live experience under their belt, thanks to the many opportunities that are popping up around Bethlehem. The music scene there has taken off, and VoirVoir is at the center of it all.  “When I look at my phone and see how many events I have, I’m like ‘Where do I live? Do I live in Philly?'” Molchany jokes. His favorite venue is the Alternative Gallery in Allentown, which has been around for just over a year. After Bethlehem’s underground-famous, yet hush-hush Secret Art Space closed its doors in 2013, the area didn’t necessarily have a safe-space venue where everyone treated each other respectfully. According to Molchany, the Alternative Gallery is now the place to go for respectable, safe shows.

The band hasn’t left the Bethlehem area for any full-blown tours yet – they’ve only made small runs to Penn State, Philly, and New York – but they’re gearing up to see some new places. They have a short tour with fellow locals Slingshot Dakota later this month, as well a spot in Bethlehem’s treasured Musikfest in August. They’re also scheduled to play some shows in the fall with Rough Francis, a punk band formed by the sons of the members of Death, an influential 70s proto-punk band. Playing live is the easiest part for VoirVoir, Molchany says: “We really fight to be as honest as possible and as real about what we’re doing,” he says. “We give each other lots of space to be vulnerable, and somehow that takes a life of its own when it gets played for people.”

Their upcoming Philly show on July 23rd won’t be the first with Slingshot Dakota – the bands have been on the same bill many times in the past. “They [Slingshot] are so awesome, they’re really positive and it rubs off on you. Just like my band lifts me up, they want me to do my best and I want the best for them. When you hang out with people like that, they just energize you,” Molchany says.

While the mainstream music industry may seem coldhearted and distant at times, it’s bands like VoirVoir and areas like Bethlehem that bring us back down to earth. It’s the excitement of going to a local show or listening to a debut record that your friends down the street made. It’s the raw passion of people like Molchany who remind us that music is still about putting your heart and soul into something tangible that others can enjoy for a lifetime. And like the budding Bethlehem music scene, it’s just going to get better.

Don’t miss VoirVoir with Slingshot Dakota at PhilaMOCA on July 23. Click here to go to the Facebook event page. You can also catch them at Musikfest in August. Check out the lineup here.

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