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Anita Robinson of Viva Voce

Rose City to Fog City

Portlandís husband-and-wife duo Viva Voce are back on the road for the first time in more than a year for a quick loop around the west that will culminate with a handful of gigs at Austinís South by Southwest music conference. The band, with two additional members in tow, starts the tour March 12th at the Rickshaw Stop. Its fourth LP Rose City (likely one of the best of í09) is due out May 26th. Anita Robinson (guitar/vocals) spoke during a phone interview about the new record, Portlandís magnetic pull for great bands, and Blue Giant, a country-influenced band she also shares with her husband Kevin.

SF Station (SFS): You have doubled the size of your band. How has that changed how you operate?

Anita Robinson (AR): We are going to be performing as a four-piece to support this record. We have performed as a four-piece before, but itís been a long time. Occasionally, we like to ask one or two friends to join us. Since we have had a year to rehearse and see what our friends' schedules are going to be like in 2009, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

SFS: How does that change the live experience?

AR: I guess we will find out. I love the extra energy. Kevin is going to be playing bass, so he wonít be behind the drums. Itís always great to have him up front with me. I think itís going to be a different kind of energy, but Iím really excited about it.

SFS: After your San Francisco gig, you are doing double duty at South by Southwest with Blue Giant. Isnít that a bit torturous?

AR: I donít know. I guess it might be kind of overwhelming for some people. Both bands are so different and the dynamics of what I do with each band feels really different. It totally still works for me, and I donít feel tapped out. One kind of makes me feel invigorated to play with the other. Itís really working for me right now. Weíll see after a year of this; I think I have what it takes.

SFS: Is Blue Giant equally as important for you?

AR: I think it is equally important and I see us recording a full-length really soon. We actually already have enough songs to do that and new songs keep coming. Itís one of those things, where you just go with it.

SFS: How did that band come about?

AR: I think it was only a matter of time before Kevin and I started leaning in that direction musically. Country music played a huge role in my childhood and it was what was playing in my house when I first started loving music and playing music. I still have a really strong affection for classic country and bluegrass. I think it was inevitable. Even though I am not living in the South, it is still part of me and it feels good to play it.

SFS: How did recording in your new home studio change the experience with your new record?

AR: It was great. Weíve always recorded our music ourselves because we enjoy doing it so much. The two of us really enjoy all aspects of the process.

The main difference was the fact that the studio was just a short distance away from where we live our day-to-day lives. The songwriting just came easier, and 2008 was a really prolific year of writing. Itís so satisfying; it kind of makes me sad that it took this long to create a separate space. When youíre used to having rehearsals in a small, gritty basement, it feels pretty luxurious.

SFS: What is it about Portland that draws so many bands?

AR: There are a lot of venues and promoters that are really open and supportive of bands that live here. I donít think that is always the case in other cities. Often, when you are a local band, you are not treated with the same respect by the people who put on concerts. I donít know why that is, and I think itís a total drag. You should be judged on how you play and you attitude. There is a supportive attitude in Portland, as long as the quality is there and you are putting your heart into it.

Viva Voce perform at Rickshaw Stop on March 12th. Doors open at 8pm. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.