Your Biggest Fan

On being young and old and loving Voxtrot 

By lily crandall 


It was on 8tracks, the radio/playlist platform that was soon overshadowed by Pandora, where I first heard Voxtrot. I loved 8tracks—you couldn’t see a playlist’s contents before playing it, and song titles revealed in real time. It was a haven of music discovery for me. I can’t remember the name of the exact playlist, but I’m sure it was something like “infinite memories” or “secrets and coffee” or some other random assortment of vague words, accompanied by an image of rain on a windowpane or an oil spill on concrete.

It was deep in my Tumblr phase some time around 2013 or 2014, an era characterized by light wash denim and black sweaters and black boots and black choker necklaces and black eyeliner. I had just seen (500) Days of Summer for the first time, was reading Perks of Being a Wallflower, and had recently heard a song called “Chocolate” by an up-and-coming British band with a weird name. I didn’t know it at the time, but unfortunately, this period would characterize my taste forever.

Surprisingly, 8tracks is still up and running. These are some of my liked playlists.

There’s a reason for this—age fourteen is when music taste starts to cement. “Fourteen is a sort of magic age for the development of musical tastes,” says Daniel J. Levitin, a professor of psychology and the director of the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University, to the New York Times. “Hormones make everything we’re experiencing, including music, seem very important. We’re just reaching a point in our cognitive development when we’re developing our own tastes. And musical tastes become a badge of identity.”

It was during this crucial period that I heard “The Start of Something” by Voxtrot. It’s a sweet, sappy-in-all the-right-ways song (“If I die clutching your photograph / Don't call me boring, it's just 'cause I like you”). I dove into their discography headfirst, which was made up of a few EPs and singles and one full-length album. I remember thinking the cover art was weird and cool—mostly black and white photos of obscured faces and bodies, with “VOXTROT” plastered in one of the corners in a bright color.

Voxtrot’s discography

Voxtrot’s music lands somewhere between indie rock and indie pop, and they’re often compared to The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian (the latter has a clear string between them; lead singer Ramesh Srivastava met Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch in Glasgow many years ago. I could write a whole other essay on my love for Belle and Sebastian and the links between them and Voxtrot, but that will have to wait. For now, check out this episode of Talkhouse that Srivastava and Murdoch did earlier this year, where they discuss how they met, and their respective bands). Voxtrot’s music is bouncy and playful sometimes, and deeply, unrelentingly sad other times. It explores themes of nostalgia in many forms—on growing up and looking back on years past, on fantasizing about the future, on love lost and found. The sound ranges from somber piano ballads (“Sway”) to danceable, Franz Ferdinand/Arctic Monkeys alt-rock (“Fast Asleep”), a staple sound of the late aughts and early 2010s. What really makes Voxtrot special, what makes them my favorite band, are the lyrics. Srivastava is a master of subtle metaphor, layered meanings, and catchy-as-hell hooks. Their songs, filled with wistful nostalgia, evoke that complicated feeling of sadness for what’s been lost, while looking forward to what’s next; like moving into your first college dorm and later, out of your first adult apartment, or recalling wistful memories of first kisses, followed by painful last goodbyes. In Soft & Warm, Srivastava sings: “Everyone has a secret, so bite your mother tongue / And let the truth bleed over you, you wolf in sheep skin / You can never describe the future, but you can paint the past / In shades of blue, old money hues with new money charm.” And, from “Wrecking Force”: “Come on to my side you will define me with a knife / Spare me all the miseries that tear apart your life.”

I remember listening to the 2006 EP, Mothers, Sisters, Daughters and Wives, on the way to winter field hockey practice in 2013. I had downloaded the tracks onto my iPod Touch, put in my janky purple earbuds from Five Below and listened to “Soft & Warm” over and over again until I had to leave my mom’s car and hit a ball around in a freezing cold gym for a few hours, an activity I absolutely resented. I made CDs in high school for my friends featuring songs I liked and songs I thought they would like. This worked out for me because I didn’t have my own car and relied upon friends for rides to school and around town, and I would get to hear the CDs in their cars. “Steven,” off Voxtrot’s self-titled debut album, found a home on a few of these CDs. In cleaning out my mom’s car a few years ago, I found one I’d made called “Winter 2014 #2”, which had “Steven” as the penultimate track. After it was “Ladies’ Choice” by Zac Efron, from the Hairspray original soundtrack.

Playlist of the CD

Photo of the tracklist of another CD I made for a friend in highschool,
that I then posted on Tumblr. Very 2014.

I don’t remember when exactly I learned that Voxtrot had broken up. I was probably fifteen or sixteen at the time, finally old enough to go to shows in the city without parental supervision. I had looked up if they were playing in New York any time soon, but what came up instead was a Pitchfork article sharply titled, “Voxtrot Calls It Quits.” It references a statement that lived on the band’s website for a while, in which Srivastava, in his classically gorgeous prose, explains:

The career path of Voxtrot was truly one of long, simmering build, explosion, and almost instantaneous decay. Slowly, I am learning to replace any feelings of regret with positive memories of how amazing the whole thing was, and how it has, in an unexpected way, fortified my character.

News of their dissolution devastated me, news I was half a decade late to. Apparently, the breakup happened back in 2010, years before I had even heard of them. In 2010, I was twelve years old. In 2010, I was sharing a first-generation iPod with my sisters, and my taste largely revolved around the Jonas Brothers and High School Musical soundtracks (Zac Efron’s lasting influence on my music taste is evident in that CD I found). Still, when I learned of Voxtrot’s breakup, I regretted not knowing about them and not going to their final show, an intimate goodbye from Bowery Ballroom. In moments of weakness I Googled “voxtrot last show 2010” and watched shaky, grainy footage recorded from the front row of that show, with god-awful audio picking up mostly the crowd and very little of Srivastava. I craved that experience. In the video, “The Start of Something” held new meaning, its lyrics more poignant (“Is this the end or just the start of something really, really beautiful?”). I commiserated with other fans in the comments section.


In another video from the same concert, Srivastava remarks, “There are a lot of bands, and you can’t get emotionally invested in every band, but I’m glad you got emotionally invested in my band.” And that I did. The more I listened to Voxtrot, the more it pained me that I would never see them live, and that the music they had released was all there ever would be. I lamented with my younger sister, who shared in my sadness, how fun it would be to scream along to the bridge of “Your Biggest Fan” (her favorite song) or to hear the sweeping build and explosion of “Introduction” live (one of my many favorite songs). For years, I hit shuffle on Voxtrot’s discography, cementing meanings and memories to each song. Every few months, a lyric that I knew by heart would sneak up and stab me in the stomach, my maturing brain finally latching onto what the song was actually trying to say. In this way, the songs were still able to feel new to me, even after five or six years of listening. Occasionally, I’d meet someone who was also a Voxtrot fan, or at least had heard “The Start of Something.” I still remember playing “Raised by Wolves” in a room full of people during my freshman year of college, and when I overheard someone say “wait, is this Voxtrot?” I beelined it over to him and we talked and talked and talked about this band we both loved—an instant connection, a stranger also in on the secret.

To my surprise, excitement, and wary optimism, Voxtrot began posting on their Instagram earlier this year. They quietly started sharing images of the original cover art of the EPs, outtakes from cover shoots, and pictures from recording sessions. Something was happening, but it was unclear what. I didn’t let myself get my hopes up for what I so desperately wanted. On May 5th, they posted, “Something to smile about…big news coming tomorrow at 10 AM CT.”

Sharing the good news with my sister

The “something” was better than I could have imagined. An Instagram post, written by Srivastava, announced the return of the band in the form of a reissue of their early two EPs as an album, a new compilation of b-sides and rarities to come out a few months later, and the real heavy hitter, what I had hoped for but didn’t say out loud for fear I’d jinx it, a tour:

Last year I had a dream that Voxtrot was onstage again. It’s a dream I’ve had many times before and normally it’s an anxiety dream, in which we can no longer remember how to play the songs or we are playing to a disaffected audience. This time, however, it was a very positive dream and as we were onstage I felt a deep, resonant love in my heart that stayed with me long after waking up.

I spent that morning perusing social media, watching videos of fans of all ages covering our songs and even seeing some Voxtrot tattoos. It occurred to me that the love I’d felt in the dream was the same force that was continuing to usher these songs into the hearts and minds of people years after we had split up, and was the same magical current that had brought the five of us together in the first place, taking us on a journey that spanned a decade and many parts of the globe.

For the first time since our dissolution it seemed obvious that we should give this music another chance to fly, and that it would be a joy—an act of love—to play these songs again at least one more time and let their celebratory and hopeful spirits run wild.

Shock and excitement abound, I called my sister and texted my friend Taylor, the two people I know who also love this band. I immediately bought tickets to their show at Webster Hall, the first night of their tour. A few weeks later, they dropped “Kindergarten,” the first of two singles from the B-Sides record. Perhaps over-sentimentalizing the moment, I reflected on how I never thought I’d see “new” (to me) music from Voxtrot. Maybe I cried a little, who’s to say. “Kindergarten” was not a new song written after their breakup and subsequent reunion. This was a song, to borrow a phrase, from the vault. It had everything I love about their music; it fit right in with the discography I cherished so much. A catchy guitar riff, themes of love and loss—it could easily be at home on their debut album. In fact, a tangible parallel in this song and others from that era I noticed was the line “And so we cry, we try, get sick and deny” in “Kindergarten” is delivered with the same rhythm (and rhymes with) a line in “Ghost” off their debut album: “But we could work, we try, to live and get by.” Cool.

I listened to Cut from the Stone: B-Sides and Rarities on the Friday morning it came out on the A train on my way to a funeral. It was a cool 94 degrees at 8:30 am, and as the train trudged through Brooklyn into Queens, I listened to old songs that were new to me. “Whiskey and Water,” which shows the Belle-and-Sebastian influence, an early demo of “The Start of Something,” and re-releases of singles that never made it on a full album. I couldn’t help but think about how Voxtrot has always been my personal soundtrack to activities I was not looking forward to, first field hockey practice at fourteen, and now a funeral at twenty-four. In that way, I’ve used their music to carve out moments of joy for myself to combat the lack of control I felt. I hit play on “Loan Shark,” one that sounded vaguely familiar, and all of a sudden I am mouthing the words to a song plucked from deep in my brain. 

Take a long walk, cobble stone and city
Did you used to run here, did you used to shout
I had a long day trying to remember
Breathing in silence and breathing it out

After some digging, I learned it was an iTunes exclusive, which I stopped using back in 2015. For seven years, this song was lodged in my subconscious, and now, I’m connected back to my high-school self, who loved this song so much.

On September 17th, I headed to Webster Hall, where I’d seen dozens of shows before. For the first time in years, I made a point to get there before doors opened. In line when we got there were people of all ages, groups of friends, couples, and a few solo travelers. When I was planning out this piece, I wanted to include a big, real concert review, with poignant observations and important details. It’s clear to me now, as I try to fill in this blank section of the Google Doc, that’s not going to happen. To be honest, I’m still processing the fact that I did, in fact, go to a Voxtrot show. What I can say though, is that I did get to hear “Introduction,” (it was the opening song, how fitting), and my sister and I did get to scream along to the bridge of “Your Biggest Fan.” They played every song I wanted to hear.

My view from the front row
I felt giddy in a way I hadn’t since high school; I felt that rush of adrenaline in the five minutes before the band goes on, after the opening act was out of mind, when there’s nothing left to distract me from the fact that my favorite band is about to walk on stage. After the show, we marched east on 12th Street to debrief over margaritas, squealing when we saw the band had reposted us on their Instagram Story. In the days since, I’ve watched my own shaky footage from the show, recorded from the front row. Someone posted a video on YouTube of the entire night and in some songs I see myself, my sister, Taylor, and three friends who came along for the ride, dancing and singing and squeezing each other’s arms when they played the first note of a favorite song.

The Instagram Story repost

Of course, I’d love it if Voxtrot came back to New York one day, so I could again sing along to all of my favorite songs in a room full of strangers. I’d love for them to write and release more music, new music. But I think I’d be okay if this was it. I’ve gotten used to their place in my life as a constant comfort I return to time and time again. A static library of songs to accompany me. A reliable resource for me to lean on when I need it, a conversation starter, a crutch to delay time.

I used to feel so sad and angry about how young I was, that I didn’t get to see Voxtrot at Bowery Ballroom in 2010, that I was blissfully unaware while probably playing mermaids at the town pool with friends, that a band I would later discover and fall in love with was saying goodbye to a room of dedicated fans at that very moment. I’m grateful now, for how young I still am. I have a whole lifetime of falling in love again and again with their music, introducing more new friends and lovers and anyone who will listen to the good word of Voxtrot, and attaching new meanings to songs that have carried me through adolescence and young adulthood. I often think about fourteen-year-old me in the backseat of my mom’s car, on my way to indoor field hockey practice in the dead of winter, queuing up “Soft & Warm,” hoping for a few more minutes of calm and serenity. I think about how I listened, over and over again, to that song and its rousing, pleading outro:

You are so young, so feel alive.

My sister AJ and I <3