The Voluntary Butler Scheme, Duke Special

Ryan Owen 02/06/2008

Stereo was created for you...

Watching The Voluntary Butler Scheme is an experience like no other. The name brings on all sorts of connotations, you certainly expect an extensive band, maybe even to rival the amount of band members in The Polyphonic Spree. This doesn't materialise and stepping out from the shadows behind the drums is an unassuming lanky fella, who to the untrained eye, would perhaps just be another dishevelled roadie, or at best an integral soundman. As this bedraggled disarming youngster steps up to the mic, the owner of that same untrained eye couldn't be blamed for questioning whether they were going to endure a patience testing spell of singer-songwriter fayre. Any notion of this is immediately dispelled as frontman, or rather, one-man band Rob Jones smashes all expectations and proceeds to take the audience through a journey of romance, musical brilliance and innovation, and even more romance.

Seemingly improvisationally, the Stourbridge resident records this little guitar riff, and then he loops it with an effect pedal, and whilst this is playing, he'll record a vocal going 'dum-di-ay', or a little random percussion "ratt-a-tatt-tatt". It feels like he's going through the 'Creating Music for Dummies' handbook with you, literally creating the music on stage, looping riffs and booming vocals. It feels so inclusive, like you're seeing something you wouldn't normally have the privilege of, and when his soothing vocals are layered over the top of the collective sounds, you can't help but break out in a smile and try to fight off a attack of the goosebumps.

He's not just a looping genius, he's got many a trick up his metaphorical sleeves, and the multi instrumentalist proceeds to take us through an array of instruments that would shame many a musician, dabbling with the kazoo, ukulele, guitar, snare drum, synthesizer and keyboard amongst others. For one so talented, his banter in between songs is neither arrogant nor contrived, but rather that of an old friend... even in front of this crowd of 200. This authenticity seeps through to his lyrics, and he will have many a female swooning for him with heart-renderingly romantic lyrics like "if you were broccoli/I'd turn vegetarian for you. If you bought running shoes, as breathless as I'd get, I'd buy running shoes too". Rob Jones, I'd turn vegetarian for you. The music itself has its roots 40 years ago but it's timeless pop that that would appeal to anyone. Any comparisons would do a disservice, but more importantly they would be irrelevant here, as The Voluntary Butler Scheme is completely original, which is mightily refreshing considering the amount of pap out there.

He finishes the gig to rapturous applause as if indeed it were him who were headlining, and leaves you tingling, wanting more. Is it right for a support band to do an encore? In this case, I believe every member of the audiences would agree. He does come back, briefly during the Duke Special set to guest on drums, and do a little jangly guitar. A teaser for next time if you will...

The Voluntary Butler Scheme are releasing 'Trading Things In', the new single out from July the 21st with an brilliant accompanying video on the myspace now at

After just completing a tour with Duke Special and a recent support slot with Darren Hayman at the Luminaire, you can also see him at Indietracks and Latitude festival, both in July.