How Duo VOILÀ Went from Making Music in a Dorm to Being Featured in Netflix Film Tall Girl
VOILÀ! Like the duo’s name, Gus Ross and Luke Eisner’s music came about like a magic trick.
PEOPLE chatted with the group about morphing their song “Stand Tall” for the Netflix movie Tall Girl — which stars Eisner — and how they started making music together.
The two attended the University of Southern California together and have since been inseparable, making music they describe as “exotic pop.”
“I walk into my first class ever and there was an empty spot next to a guy who also had long hair,” says Eisner, 23. “We both loved Avicii and a conversation started right away. I think right after that class, we went and wrote a song in a dorm room and we’ve pretty much been doing the exact same thing just in different locations.”
Along with dropping covers to tracks like Camila Cabello’s “Havana” and Bruno Mars’ “Marry You,” the two have released song after song this fall including Latin-influenced “Mamacita” and electronic-tinged “Take a Number.”
“Every time you listen to a VOILÀ song, I’d like to think that your emotional passport gets stamped from a new region — to different places and different stories,” Eisner says.
“It’s very unlimited in what we put in a song,” adds Ross, 24. “But also, we’re very romantic. And we both got bitten by the hopeless romantic love-song-writing-bug.”
Though the two have been making music for five years now, the duo’s career catapulted when Eisner auditioned to play Stig Mohlin on Netflix’s Tall Girl — VOILÀ had released a track called “Stand Tall” a year before, and the movie’s producers took notice.
“I got the script and I saw that the last line, the last words were ‘stand tall,’” Eisner recalls about the coincidence. “It felt a little too ethereal to pass up.”
Clearly, “Stand Tall” wasn’t originally for the film — Eisner was inspired to write the track after his father was diagnosed with stage four cancer.
“I wanted to write one song that kind of summed up that entire journey with my family,” he says. “It was something that felt complete at the time.”
After reworking the song’s lyrics and asking the film’s star Ava Michelle to feature on the track, VOILÀ presented the track to director Nzingha Stewart — and she loved it.
“They are both so incredibly talented,” Michelle, 17, told PEOPLE Saturday at T.J. Martell Foundation’s L.A. Family Day. “They make it such a positive space for me to go and record and be open and write. I honestly love them both.”
The Tall Girl actress added that the duo has also been working with her to make some of her own personal music.
“I’m really honored to work with them,” she said. “It’s been really exciting.”
“There’s a lot of inspiration, strength in Jodi’s character,” Eisner says of Michelle’s role. “I saw that getting over and staying strong through cancer is not that much different from loving yourself and standing up against bullying. We were able to rewrite it and almost flip the song. Now we have two different meanings for what ‘Stand Tall’ can be.”
“You realize that once music and film team up together, it’s quite incredible. It gives people a different avenue to discover sound,” Ross adds. “Suddenly, we’re getting messages from hundreds and hundreds of people chiming in and saying, your song really helped me.”
During Eisner’s stint on set, VOILÀ spent a lot of time “writing over the internet.” Eisner and Ross would FaceTime and Skype to write and the tracks featured on their forthcoming EP.
“A lot of our songs just start with four chords and the truth,” Eisner explains. “We’ve been sitting on this EP for a bit of time and every time I listen to it, it still feels just as honest to our experience in life and love.”
As for the track’s lyrics, Ross explains that a lot of it comes from real-life experiences.
“It’s funny how you can only connect the dots backward,” he says. “We were like, ‘Let’s write songs about this emotion we were both dealing with and so many other people deal with.’ If you write music about it, you can be empowered about the very thing that put you down in the first place.”
For Eisner and Ross, the experience post-Tall Girl has been absolutely surreal.
“When I met Gus, five years ago, we were making dance music in a dorm,” Eisner says. “We would’ve never thought that this would have been a route to get the people. It just goes to show that sometimes if you plan out how things are supposed to go, they’ll never end up going that way.”
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