Pop band duo Luke Eisner and Gus Ross have a meet-cute. Six years ago, the two young musicians, now known as Voilà, were freshmen at the USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles. As is often the case in college, they initially bonded over a seemingly superficial commonality.
The way Eisner tells it, he arrived late to class on the first day, and there were two seats available: one next to a girl who had already grilled him during orientation about life in Wisconsin, and the other next to someone new.
“So I decided to take the other open seat, which was this guy who had his long blonde hair up in a bun. And I was like, ‘oh, I’ve got long hair — he’s probably a cool dude,'” Eisner says. The pair started chatting about their mutual love for Avicii, which led to grabbing lunch together after class; they then headed back to Ross’ dorm room, where he had a producer setup. “And we’ve been making songs ever since,” Eisner says.
While sharing many similarities, the pair complement each other by bringing different strengths to the room. Ross, who’s from London and started out in jazz, revels in melody, beat creation and production and contributes vocals. Eisner, drawing from his notebooks of poetry and writing, sets lyrics to the tunes and contributes acoustic guitar. Ross is an early riser, and Eisner is a night owl.
While the pair started in the electronic realm — making remixes of songs — they found their way to pop, incorporating Ross’ singing and Eisner playing guitar. Now they use acoustic elements to underpin electronic song production. “I’m completely in love with infectious melodies,” Ross says. “I love trying to find something that you can’t get out of your head for a couple of days.”
The lyrics on their new album, “Long Story Short,” out May 22, all stem from the same notebook and are linked by a common headspace, rooted in stories from their past relationships, good and bad. Eisner was mulling the idea of all those relationships as separate stories that were cut short, for one reason or another.
“Here we are writing record after record about these same experiences — it’s like, that really was a long story, that really only took up a small percentage of life,” Eisner says. “I don’t think when we were getting our hearts broken that we ever thought that we’d be making our career out of it.”
The idea of pop music and listeners relating to their stories is where they found their name, after cycling through other options. (Goldilocks was one.) Voilà — “there you are” — is the reaction Eisner and Ross hope listeners have.
The duo has benefited from the exposure of Eisner’s side pursuits — signed by IMG, the Wisconsin native has walked for and appeared in campaigns for Ralph Lauren, Stuart Weitzman, Calvin Klein and American Eagle. He also acts, starring in Netflix’s “Tall Girl” film last year, which featured one of Voilà’s songs (and padded Eisner’s Instagram follower count up toward the 1 million mark).
“I like to do a bunch of different things — how else are you going to come up with stories?” Eisner says. “Modeling and acting allow me to be different people for the day and be an alien in my own environment. I find myself way more inspired when I’m doing those things, and I can take it back to music land.”
Although not quarantined together in Los Angeles, they’ve already had experience making music together from a distance — they produced their previous album, “Deja Vu,” remotely while Eisner was in New Orleans filming “Tall Girl.”
The duo has a lot to say. Before releasing “Long Story Short,” they’d already completed their follow-up album while in quarantine, and continue to write new music. For the time being, they’re also producing and mixing all their music themselves; the lack of label oversight and extra collaborators means that they’re able to have a high turnover and put out new songs.
“We view songs as stories, and we have stories to tell every single day,” Eisner says. “We’re obsessed and we like it, and Gus is my best friend. When we make music, that’s our form of hanging out. It’s not like we’re out at the golf course ever. So when you’re hanging out with your buddy every day and making music, you can get a lot of songs done.”