When Voluntary Butler Scheme recently declared that the intention behind his latest album was "to blend all the different types of music I've been making together," it seemed like a fairly insurmountable task - this is an act known for producing everything from Motown soul to J-Pop via Mark Mothersbaugh-style poptronica. But The Grandad Galaxy is truly a musical cabinet of curiosities, bursting at the seams with strange sounds, melodies, effects and songs. Part instrumental, it follows the direction that the 'Scheme, aka Dudley-based bedroom-pop architect Rob Jones, has been headed in from debut LP At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea via the recent cut-and-paste Chevreul EP.
"I like a lot of music and I always have," says Jones, 26. "For ages I didn't know how to make a lot of the music I like, so my first album focussed on soul-y pop with '70s Nick Lowe inspiration. But I've been nerding out every day for the last 11 years about how to do things, and it's coming together now."
The Grandad Galaxy began life with a plan to make a full LP in six weeks. Full of big ideas and armed with a book of lyrics penned in his hometown of Dudley, Rob travelled to a rented basement in London's Old Street, filled it with gear and recorded 11 songs filled with saxophones, guitars and organs galore. "I got them home and really disliked them so it turned in to a year long process of tinkering with and remixing the tunes I'd done, mashing 'em up and writing new bits," says Rob. It's why the album sounds like it's been too close to DJ Shadow and a pair of scissors - this is the sound of an artist hacking his own work to create something new and inspired. "Instrumentals made from chopped up stuff feel like they have a bit of a narrative to them to me," says Rob. "It always turns out more interesting than something I could write about."
Joining Rob on the album are Welsh singer-songwriter Sweet Baboo on saxophone plus Rob's girlfriend on sampled vocals for Do The Hand Jive. "I asked her to make up a tune on the spot, a cappella, recorded it on my iPhone and used that as a sample on the chorus," says Rob, who also enlisted his mum to say random words on the same tune.
The album's name comes from the influences behind the album. "Some of the influences are grandad heavy, real old things like '50s pop music - Buddy Holly and that - with really simple tunes, uncynical lyrics, nice clean guitar, but at that same time I'm really in to stuff that I think would offend Buddy Holly's ears," says Rob. "The Grandad Galaxy sounded like a meeting of them things in a title."
Since releasing the first album, The Voluntary Butler Scheme have toured the UK with Adam Green, received personal plaudits from Madness singer Suggs and signed a US deal with influential indie Park The Van. Jones has seen his tracks pop up in such varied places as Grey's Anatomy, a Dell ad, Eastenders and, er, Countryfile. "Living in Dudley, you defo don't imagine your life will ever come in to contact with the telly," says Jones. "In a small way it has, and I just find it hilarious."
As well as being an in-demand remixer for Go! Team, Kid Carpet, Colourmusic and more, Jones is making his name as a producer for other artists, producing albums for ex-David Devant man Mr Solo and Sweet Baboo, who is in also in Rob's side-project, Wickes. 2011 will also see Voluntary Butler Scheme hitting the road with a new live line-up, which will be touring extensively this year. Meanwhile, Rob's exhausting musical whirl continues: "I've already got a bulk of 60 odd tracks for the next album," he says.