It's a scorching summer day in the city. Sweaty, hot and so full of glare that if it wasn't for his sartorial trademark, a black wide-brimmed hat, I would have barely spotted Finn Andrews sitting al fresco at a local cafe.

It's silly, of course, but because the music Finn makes with his band The Veils is the sound of unsettling nights and strange nightmares it's a little discombobulating seeing him out and about in broad daylight. Like, he should only rise after the dark.

But no, here he is, soaking in the sunlight in a white, unbuttoned, casually ruffled shirt and singlet. It's clammy and humid so my first question is an easy one; "Beer?".

He politely declines.

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"I've mostly quit the fags but I still can't help it when I drink, so it's not a total victory," he smiles. "But it's tempting."

Instead a round of piping hot coffee is ordered on this sweltering hot afternoon and we start to discuss the events leading up to, and after, his new solo record One Piece at a Time.

Yes, solo. The Veils frontman unveiled himself of his band and left the group and London, his adopted hometown, to return to his childhood home of Auckland over a year ago.

"It's the longest I've been here since I was 16," he says with a slight air of wistfulness.

I ask why he left London.

"At first it was the record. I wanted to make the record here. And knowing I couldn't be in London any more."

We'll get to why he had to leave London shortly but first, how was the culture shock of returning to sleepy ol' Auckland?

"Well, I'm certainly the happiest I've ever been," he grins. "I got to a place in London... it's odd really, for a place with so much going on I barely would ever go out. I was always at home. It was about working, being there. I was born there and have been back and forth my whole life, but for the past 15 years I've been pretty solidly there and most of that time I've spent locked up in a room writing things. Or worrying about not writing things."

He sighs, then smiles and says, "I feel this has been the first year of life I've had in a while."

That's because for the first time in a long time he's been free to live. With a notebook bursting with songs, he quickly assembled a band and went straight into the studio to lay down the album shortly after landing. Three weeks later it was done. He'd intended for it to come out last October, spend a couple of months touring and then regroup in the UK with The Veils to begin work on the follow-up to 2016's brilliantly macabre album, Total Depravity. But life has a habit of getting in the way.

"It's all been delayed," he says, explaining that his label decided to hold the record until now. "I would have totally put it out straight away. But it's alright. I took that opportunity to open the blinds and be in the world a bit."

An enforced holiday, then?

"Just being here has been different for me," he says. "Being away from London has been good for me, I think. I got to a point where it was making me quite ill."

How so?

"A dissolution of a relationship," he says. "And I'd written a lot of records in that room. I needed to be somewhere else, be in a different space for a while. It's been good to be here."

Finn Andrews – Love, What Can I Do?

An air of pensive thought surrounds Andrews, highlighted or perhaps exaggerated by his gentlemanly English accent. His frequent qualifiers almost feel like he's reassuring himself.

As he talks he keeps fiddling with his sunglasses. Putting them on, taking them off moments later, then putting them back on again. I look to see whether a reflective glare is hitting his eye, see it's not and begin to wonder what the heck he's doing. Later, I remember his earlier admission about quitting smoking.

"It's certainly been a big watershed in my life," he continues, absentmindedly twirling his shades. "Making these songs and coming back here. It's taught me a lot. It's been good for me, I think."

Sounds like there's been some pretty big lifestyle changes.

"Yeah, though I don't really know what my lifestyle is," he says, hesitating. "It's mostly the same, really. I fell in love. That's been good for me. That always is. She's great. It's changed a lot of things for me, I think. It was just after making the record."

This turns the conversation to One Piece at a Time and I ask him why go solo?

"I'd written a bunch of songs in this book for the last few years and it was getting to a ludicrous point where I felt I had to do something with these songs or I couldn't take myself seriously as someone who wrote songs anymore," he says. "I played a few of them with the Veils and they didn't make any sense.

"They're pretty different. Everything with The Veils is so loud. I'm so loud, my guitar's really loud, everybody plays really loudly... This is a very soft record. A break from that world was needed."

The obvious difference is that Andrews is sitting at the piano for these songs. "It was weird being chained to a piano," he admits. "It's also hard to do anything that cool while you're playing the piano."

"But it comes with a lot of familial weight. I'm nowhere near as good as my dad [Barry Andrews, keyboardist and founding member of UK art-pop band XTC]. It's an uphill thing for me. There's less room for hitting it, which is generally how I play guitar. The piano demands a refined approach. It was a challenge stepping up to the piano. To be worthy of that instrument."

His dad, his dad's mum, her parents, all played piano and Andrews keenly felt that history. "I felt conscious of not letting my family down," he laughs.

He needn't worry. He has a deft touch and the songs, all recorded live in the studio, are intimate and personal; Andrews sings them with his heart on his sleeve. He is, however, keen to stress that, "there are a few different topics on the record. Some chart the end of my time there and the end of my relationship but its not a break up album.".

Then he muses for a second and says, "They were all written prior to leaving. Songs are funny like that. They often know more about what you're gonna do next than you do. They knew where I was going. It just took me a while to figure out."


LOWDOWN
Who: Finn Andrews
What: First solo record One Piece at a Time and a NZ tour
When: Album's out tomorrow and his tour starts at WOMAD this weekend and continues around the country throughout March and April. See banishedmusic.com for details.