Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Interview: The Veils


“We might be dead or dropped in a year; then these songs will make sense.” Finn Andrews reflects upon The Veils new album Sun Gangs with James McGalliard in Reading

“When [debut album] The Runaway Found came out, I felt like the success we had that early on, I really didn’t deserve. And I think that was part of the reason for dissolving that line-up. I didn’t feel ready to be playing to that many people, and in some parts of the world out of nowhere it was a thousand people showing up. And I didn’t feel up to it at all. I was just scared by the whole thing”

Finn Andrews, singer, songwriter and founder of The Veils is someone who lives by his feelings in the present moment, and knows that these diverse impulses will make some sense in the future. In his work and in his writing he trusts his inner voice; the world will catch up in time. So to talk about their third album, Sun Gangs, we end up talking about its predecessor. “It seemed odd with this album [Sun Gangs] coming out and people were talking about Nux, and ‘oooh Nux Vomica - a hard act to follow’. It just seems so bizarre because when it came out no one seemed to give a shit... I was so excited about that record and it came out and waiting for what’s everyone’s reaction gonna be. There was a kind of shrug until about a year later…”

“With this one I feel so proud of it, and when we finished it I was so overawed with just everything that had gone in to it. It just reminded me of this whole time - it’s just so personal. I don’t really care anymore or keep track of it anymore what people are making of it. It is really complimentary and humbling if people compliment you on it.”

There is a world of contrasts in both Andrews, and the music he and the band creates. Born in London, raised in New Zealand, his speaking voice is deep, and somehow both authoritative and uncertain at the same time. There’s ferocity in his onstage delivery, yet here in the real world there’s an indefinable vulnerability to him. But although seemingly conflicted, he’s honest and genuine throughout.

“It’s a huge gift to be able to do this, and a huge responsibility as well”. He continues, “It’s been the source of all the greatest joys of my life so far; you also have the burdens with that. I love writing and I will do anything to be able to carry that on. It’s an unsure time for everybody. Not just musicians. No one is quite sure what is around the corner. The last few years the whole time I have been writing I felt like there was kind of strange impending something…”

“There is just something about this [The Veils] that has never wanted to stay in one place. Whenever we’ve tried to tie anything to the ground, it just rips away the cord, and floats off. It’s a constant balancing act this band. I think that’s maybe a lot of the great things come out of. I think we are gonna be constantly pissing people off and making new fans and losing old ones.”

Both the weakness and the strength of Sun Gangs is its eclecticism. From its jauntier aspects to the vitriolic tirades, it’s a difficult album to categorise. Andrews explains, “I really enjoy albums where you feel you are just being led like a hound by a scent and you don’t really know where you’re gonna end up, but you’re just being carried through weird corridors and it’s a real little unexpected journey and I think that’s what I wanted to make and I don’t know if I completely succeeded in that, but that what I always want to make the experience.”

There are themes that unite these songs, but exactly how this works is elusive; it’s more like a feeling than an intellectual conceit. The album ends, ironically with Begin Again. “I like that song because it begins at the end and ends at the beginning. I love songs with incredibly pessimistic words sang in quite a merry way,” he tells me.

But centrepiece of Sun Gangs is the epic Larkspur. “It’s a song I enjoy playing more than any other song. Ever! I just get such a kick out of it. For me, it’s a song about everything I love about making music… It’s just about that urge to write things down, and to perform, pick up the guitar, bash the shit out of the piano; just all about that love and that need. It seemed right to describe it in few words as possible.” And how did you record such a beast? “We treated that like it was a real living entity that we had to really respect and not tie down when it wasn’t looking. We didn’t rehearse it... I knew the day we recorded it, it would just be me waiting for the right space… It was like being in a movie about The Veils… We just went in and played it in one take and there it was. That was my favourite part of recording the whole thing – it was so organic and so unforced.”

As Finn sings Larkspur later that night before a Reading scene there for the chat rather than the bands, his earlier words make sudden sense. His disdain, his anger, his aggression, his frustration, all expressed through the repeated three lines of the song. For live it becomes a living creature; the universe encapsulated. From the cheesy pick-up lines, to the background hubbub of the chattering classes, to the worries on the horizon, to the turning of the earth, it consumes it all.

There is change in the wind. For these recent shows, The Veils have added a new member – Louisa on backing vocals. And one day someone else will leave, and there’ll be another room to fill. So what does the future hold? “It’s all just about the songs for me. I don’t care about any other aspects of this; whatever allows me to keep writing. That still feels worthwhile to me because it personally helps me. If I couldn’t do that I don’t know what I’d do with myself…”

“Songwriting is so great like that – all of these things all at once. It’s such an unspecific part of your mind that you’re casting in stone. It’s not a journal and it’s not some dream description. It’s all these things, all at once, and none of them at all. So I don’t really know what this album means. We might be dead or dropped in a year; and suddenly these songs will make sense. Maybe I will be in the band of my dreams and everything will be fine.”

Sun Gangs is out now on Rough Trade through Remote Control

© James McGalliard 2009

This interview was published in Inpress # 1070 in Melbourne on 13 May 2009
I interviewed Finn pre-show in Reading on Saturday 18 April 2009