The Veils: A strong sense of place

By Lydia Jenkin

The new record by the Veils is infiltrated by the influence of many different landscapes, frontman Finn Andrews tells Lydia Jenkin

The Veils. Photo/supplied
The Veils. Photo/supplied

London-based five-piece the Veils are one of those New Zealand acts suffering from "Kimbra syndrome" - that is, they're so in demand on the international touring circuit that the time to come home and perform for local fans is seldom found.

But there is good news. They've managed to make space in their schedule for a few dates Downunder in among their lengthy tours of North America and Europe. They'll be celebrating the release of Time Stays, We Go - their fourth LP, and their first independent album release on their own label, Pitch Beast Recordings, since parting ways, on good terms, with Rough Trade in 2010.

When TimeOut speaks to compelling frontman and songwriter Finn Andrews, he's in their London rehearsal studio, working up a new set for the tour.

"We're in a kind of strange estate," he describes of the view out the window.

"There's lots of pigeons and foxes and a homeless guy. Very London. That's a little vignette for you. We are looking forward to coming home though. I think it's been two and a half years since we last appeared in New Zealand, and I haven't been home since, so we can't wait."

Fans here will likely be just as happy - the Veils have a dedicated following, having built a reputation for soulful, aching pop-rock, and beautifully honest live performances which range from tornado-like chaos to completely self-possessed stillness.

Their latest is a record that manages to be simultaneously exactly what you'd expect from the Veils, but also widens their sonic scope with forthright layers of horns (sometimes mariachi style), and expansive strings. The songs bring to mind a desert-type landscape, reminiscent of the surrounds of Laurel Canyon - the famous Hollywood Hills neighbourhood where they recorded the album at Seedy Underbelly Studios.

"We made Nux Vomica there as well, but we weren't in town for that long this time, only about three weeks. We made a few little trips up to Mulholland Drive, to have a snoop around and see if we could find Marilyn Manson's house - I think we found it.

"The studio is amazing though. It's got all this kind of ancient equipment, and it just sounds great in that room."

Andrews, who co-produced the album, wasn't necessarily thinking of the Los Angeles desert when they were putting the album together.

"I think, because we're quite a geographically confused bunch - [bass player] Sophia Burns and I are from New Zealand, and we've got an Italian and two English people in the band - I think there are all sorts of landscapes that seem to infiltrate the songs. And I guess a lot of the songs that might remind people of Californian or American landscapes actually remind me of New Zealand. There's one called The Pearl that really just reminds me of driving at night in the North Island. I guess it depends who's listening to them, I suppose - everyone will have different locations in mind."

The album press release says Andrews had written hundreds of songs in the three years since Sun Gangs, and editing them down was the first part of the process.

"I think that gives a slightly false impression that I'm this fabulously prolific writer," Andrews laughs. "It used to really annoy me when I'd see other bands or writers say that, you know, 'we had thousands of songs and it was hard to choose, they were all so brilliant', that really wasn't the case here. They were all these mangled, half-finished ideas, and some of it was hideously embarrassing, and not really worth speaking about further.

"But I suppose I had gathered a bit after a couple of years of writing every day, and forcing myself to write, and sometimes you can make something interesting out of all that detritus, and other times it's good just to get it out and throw it away, and move on."

There were 20 songs that had to be whittled down to 10 in the end, created the varied and dramatic aural experience the band were aiming for.

"I like records to be quite unpredictable to listen to, in that you don't necessarily end up where you think you will, where you feel like you're being led down some strange path and you don't know what lies around the corner. And I still really enjoy the journey of listening to a record in that way, rather than just hearing 10 separate songs."

The album is a balance of the two sides of Andrews' musical personality, which he likes to call the pop and the snarl.

It's that contrast that makes their music both deeply engaging but also difficult to quickly categorise - something they've come to enjoy.

"I love pop music, and there's so much that attracts me to that side of things, but I also like the more unpredictable and cathartic end of things that we present live. I really enjoy this sort of violence - I guess there's a sort of violence even in some of the sweetest pop music, and I don't see why these things should all be separated. It's too neat. I think when you're making music that is fundamentally based on an emotional reaction, it seems to me that it should be a complicated thing, and I never want to simplify things too much.

"We're all such chaotic creatures. I think it's good to express that.

"There's a great quote I read the other day: 'I've embraced chaos, I'm just not sure that chaos has embraced me.' I think that's a good way to put it."

Where the lyrical or musical ideas themselves come from is all a bit of a mystery for Andrews - and he prefers to keep it that way, to keep it surprising, and to continue discovering different techniques.

"I sort of hate my conscious mind. I want nothing to do with it. My conscious mind is a bit of a dick, and I just try to keep the music as far away from that guy as possible.

"A large part of it is getting yourself out of the way of it. I still find it fantastically mysterious. I think that's what makes me want to keep making music."

Who: The Veils
What: New album Time Stays, We Go
Where and when: Sammy's, Dunedin, July 19; Dux de Luxe, Christchurch, July 20; Bodega, Wellington, July 26; The Studio, Auckland, Jul 27

- TimeOut

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