Voyager on representing Australia at Eurovision 2023: “It’s about taking what we do and making it bigger than ourselves”

After eight years of campaigning, the Perth alt-metal outfit will finally take on the world at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. NME speaks to guitarist Scott Kay and bassist Alex Canion about what it means for the band – and Australia’s heavy music scene at large

It’s been a long road to Eurovision for Perth alt-metal outfit Voyager, who will represent Australia at this year’s edition of the global song contest. For 24 years, the quintet have been devoted to celebrating their whimsical, colourful and theatrical sides. Even when performing their heaviest and most brooding numbers, they embrace the flashiness of classic glam-rock, frontman Danny Estrin embracing an entrancing showiness while guitarists Scott Kay and Simone Dow jump and flex Dance Dance Revolution moves as they shred to their hearts’ content.

It was around the early 2010s that concertgoers started suggesting the band try for Eurovision. “We were playing these shows all around the world,” bassist Alex Canion tells NME, “and pretty much anywhere we went, people would go, ‘‘Why aren’t Voyager doing Eurovision? You guys would be great!’ It was this groundswell from the fans that really put the idea in our minds. And when we sat down and really thought about it, we were just like ‘…Yeah, we should do Eurovision!’”

Canion continues: “The most common feedback we get is that we look like we’re having fun onstage – which we’ve found, over the years, translates into the crowd themselves having fun. And that’s exactly what Eurovision is about, you know?”

“We built a lot of relationships in the spirit of music – it was like our shared dreams just prevailed in the face of competition”

Voyager first made their push to compete at Eurovision in 2015, with a social campaign launched on the back of the proggy and experimental ‘Hyperventilating’. Their mainstream support was limited then, but that only fuelled the band’s determination, working harder and refining their artistry with each subsequent attempt. They came close last year, coming in second place to Sheldon Riley – winning the public vote with the prog metal bop ‘Dreamer’, but losing at the judging panel by just three points – in SBS’ televised Australia Decides contest (a mini-Eurovision of its own where artists compete for the chance to represent Australia at the main event; it was not held this year and Voyager clinched the spot without a public vote).


Most would assume Voyager would walk away feeling crushed: seven years spent slogging it out for this incredible opportunity, just to have it snatched away at the last second. But Canion stresses that Voyager’s optimism simply could not be frayed.

“We just felt energised,” he says. “Maybe from the outside, it’s understandable that we would be quite bitter about it. But we were like, ‘Wow, we’ve just played this amazing gig for tens of thousands of people across the nation…’ We were so happy just to be there.”

That positivity was palpable across all of the contestants, Canion adds: “I guess people would expect there to be some ill will between us all, but hand on heart, truthfully, everyone was so lovely. Knowing what we know about Sheldon, we were really happy for him, and we were really happy to have gotten to know him – and Jaguar Jonze, and Andrew Lambrou [who is representing Cyprus this year], and Evie Irie… We built a lot of relationships in the spirit of music – it was like our shared dreams just prevailed in the face of competition.”

Ultimately, the experience galvanised Voyager’s optimism about heavy music in Australia. “We went into it thinking the public would be so hard to win over,” Kay says, “but the fact that everyone was so onboard, I think it speaks to just how strong this scene is. Metal is very much overlooked by the mainstream media, but you know, here we are playing ‘Dreamer’ – not the heaviest metal song on the planet, but certainly still a metal song – and it’s being lapped right up! I think it speaks volumes about the kind of heavy music culture we have here in Australia.”

By competing in Eurovision itself this year, the band hope to propel Australia’s heavy music culture into the global zeitgeist. “It’s not just about the identity of Voyager as a band,” Kay declares, “it’s about taking what we do and making it bigger than ourselves. Because a lot of bands coming out of Australia – especially heavy bands – have to pave their own path and really slog it out on the touring circuit just to get noticed.

“But Eurovision is the kind of thing you can do and come out of with a completely new fanbase – and the people that tune in, if they’re into more obscure types of music, hopefully they’ll see us and then check out all the other amazing talent we have in Australia.”

Eurovision 2023 Australia representatives Voyager
Voyager, Australia’s representative at Eurovision 2023. Credit: Press


For this year’s big event – taking place May 9-13 in Liverpool – Voyager will compete with ‘Promise’, a kaleidoscopic synth-pop belter tinged with the band’s classic prog flavours. It bursts to life in the chorus, the whole band delivering their “oh-oh”s with zest atop the soaring keys and crunchy riff – but after the second go around, the mood flips and we’re suddenly pummelled by a fierce, endorphin-surging breakdown. Throw in a guitar solo and climactic vocal harmony and you’ve got the ultimate Voyager song: a Floydian trip of ultra-saturated primary colours and heart-stopping energy.

According to Kay, the song went through “a lot of iterating”, the band “crafting it meticulously” specifically for Eurovision. “Danny came in with that synth backing and the opening line, ‘Have you ever done anything like this before?’ And I think we all heard it and thought to ourselves, ‘No, we haven’t done anything like this before!’ I think that really enticed us to experiment with it. So we started with that intro and kept adding all these different concepts to it – just throwing every wild idea we had into the pot – and then spent months just refining it all and narrowing it down into this three-minute epic.”

“If there are Eurovision viewers into more obscure types of music, hopefully they’ll see us and then check out all the other amazing talent we have in Australia”

Perfecting a song “custom-built” for the biggest stage in the world, Canion says, was “such a great songwriting exercise”. “It was like, ‘We’ve got a brief, and we need to stick to it. We can’t fall in love with parts like we normally would – we need to trim all the fat, and we need to really consider what’s essential to this song.’ And that happened right up until we were done with it, even in the studio – even my bass parts changed the day after I filmed the playthrough for them.”

‘Promise’ won’t feature on Voyager’s upcoming eighth album (which they recently finished recording, and plan to announce immediately after Eurovision), but it did greatly influence the record. “In terms of the craftsmanship, we’ve paid more attention to detail than we ever had before,” Kay explains. “People can expect a much more focused record, where all that fat has been trimmed and you’re really just getting all the big payoffs, hitting you with the strongest force possible.”

“Also,” Canion interjects slyly, “for everyone saying we’re not heavy enough anymore – yeah, don’t worry, the album will address that…”

Eurovision begins May 9, with the grand final on May 14. Catch Voyager in the semi-final which broadcasts live on SBS and SBS On Demand on Friday May 12 at 5am AEST (with a primetime broadcast at 7.30pm). Vote for Voyager here


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