[INTERVIEW] The Veils
I had the privilege of sitting down with Finn Andrews, frontman of The Veils, one warm and rather windy afternoon, on a vintage mustard couch by the Cardrona River. I have to admit this band was really what drew me to the Rhythm & Alps festival this year, and I couldn't help but feel a little flustered sitting down opposite Andrews' trademark hat and piercing blue eyes.
It's been a busy year for you guys - you've released a new album, toured around the US and Europe, and now you're back home in NZ. What have been your highlights?
Well touring the States again was great, we had some great shows there, going back to LA and New York - those shows were great. I think to come back here again in July was really special as well. We had about two years of not touring at all and just writing the last record in London, so we really missed having that in our lives. We were on tour for about eight years solidly before that, so suddenly to be without it felt really strange, so to be able to go back in to it this year has felt really great to be back on the horse, I suppose.
So do you come back to New Zealand very often? Are your family over here?
Yeah my mum and brother and sister are all here, but I hadn't been back in about three years.
Did you get to spend Christmas with them?
I did yeah, it was very nice. It's nice to be back for a while.
You recorded Time Stays, We Go at the end of last year in Laurel Canyon, which is where you recorded your second album Nux Vomica back in 2006. Sorry - what does 'Nux Vomica' actually mean?
I think it literally translates to 'Nut Vomit'. It's the latin name of a tree that they make a bunch of weird potions out of. It kind of came from that - It's a good, fun pair of words.
What was it like going back to Laurel Canyon?
It was great. We're geographically all over the place as a band, our nationalities are all confused - I don't know where I'm meant to be from. So as a result we have lots of homes, and also kind of no homes. Los Angeles has become a bit of one for recording certainly, and we had such a great time making Nux so it was great to be able to go back. And perversely it ends up cheaper recording in America than it does in England. So it was initially just a financial decision but it's worked out really nicely, it's a very special place. There's some very rich musical history in Laurel Canyon as well so it's a nice place to work.
So where is everyone from - Sophia and you went to school together?
Yeah she's born and bred in New Zealand, Raife and Dan are from London and Ubi, our keyboard player, is from Italy. We're from all over.
And you're all now based in London?
Yeah, we've lived there for years now.
So, Uberto's the latest member of the band, on the organ and piano. Would you say he's brought his own style to the band and influenced you guys?
Very much so, yeah. It's such a transparent thing, music, I think all these relationships seem to be audible and even just having an extra band member... well, we had an organist when we made our second record but then he left so we were a four-piece for a while, so it's nice to be a five-piece again, and have that big, full sound. We've been touring with a horn section too so it's actually been a seven-piece band we've been touring with for the last year or so.
How did you meet Uberto?
He invited me to his party in Florence when we were there. We were hanging out and he was playing some piano and it all just happened very quickly. Yeah, he's become a very integral part of it very quickly.
You left Rough Trade Records and started your own label - Pitch Beast Records. Why was that?
Yeah we had three albums with them, that was the contract, and that came up a year and a half ago or two years or something. It seemed like either we would go and look for another label or set one up ourselves. So we thought we'd try going out on our own for a while and see how that works.
And has that been good so far?
It has, yeah. It's good in that you can only blame yourself when things fuck up, but the only downside is you seem to fuck up more because you're in control rather than people that actually know what they're doing. But it seems to be the only option really for bands like ourselves. We don't really belong on major labels, and indie labels often struggle to have enough money to do anything with you that you couldn't just do yourself anyway. That's how I felt with us anyway, as good to us as Rough Trade were. So it's an experiment, we'll see. We'll probably have to run to some label at some point, but it's been good so far.
You coaxed Bill Price out of retirement to work on your latest record, is that right?
That's right. Yes, he turned up in his slippers.
Nice! How did you manage that, how did that all come about?
Well he mixed Nux as well, so that was the last time we saw him, and he'd retired since, just after mixing that. So yeah we rang his manager and she said "No sorry, he's retired" and we begged and pleaded her to get in touch with him and play him the songs. So it was really cool he could come and do that, he's amazing. While he was there it was, well he'd started making records 50 years ago to the day. That was the day that he finished mixing this one, so it was amazing. He was talking about how he'd worked with The Beatles and those kind of people back in the 60s, and even earlier, he was doing stuff in the late 50s in London with these early kind of early rock 'n' roll bands. It was amazing, he's an amazing guy. So yeah it was really cool, he put a really great sound to it.
Yeah he mixed it to tape didn't he?
Yeah he did. He, well this is a story we've told a few times, but he just has no knowledge of computers. There was a Mac in the corner that he wasn't using but it had just gone to the screensaver, you know the kind of cheesy beach landscape, and he was just staring at it going "Wow that's beautiful" as if he'd never seen a screensaver before. That's how analogue this guy is. But he's good, a great man.
I was wondering if you could tell us about your song-writing process? I read somewhere that you keep a bit of a music journal that you write in all the time - notes and observations and that sort of thing...
This is always something that I struggle to make sound in any way interesting. It tends be just writing stuff down, I mean I write a lot, I started songwriting when I was 12, that was when I started writing terrible things all the time. But it was basically the point at which I became in any way an adult, remotely an adult, I started writing as a way to kind of make sense of stuff and I think it's just carried on in that vein ever since really. It's just a way to process things and feel a bit better about stuff, it's a cathartic thing and I'd be doing it whether I could do it professionally or not. It's become a part of my life sort of, I don't ever remember being without it except when I was a little child. And the great thing is we get to put the records out and I get to focus on that all the time, which is always such a great pleasure.
This year you released the song "A Falling Star" to raise money for Mercy Corps in aid of Syrian refugees. Was that sort of a B-side from your record?
Oh yeah, it was a song that we had left over that we hadn't done anything with, and we were struggling with all of that going on at the time, it was really just, I guess you feel like as a musician that's the only little thing you can do.
What do you think of New Zealand's music scene? From an artist's point of view -- you started out here and moved over to London.
Yeah I think it seems like a great place to be making music, it certainly seems a lot more active than when I was at high school in the late 90s, certainly a lot more bands that are from here that I enjoy than from around that time. Growing up here when I was, you'd listen to either the old Flying Nun and 80's bands, but the 90s felt very… I think it was probably because I was living on the North Shore as well so I probably wasn't hearing a lot of the good stuff that was going on at that time. I certainly could never connect to Shihad or The Feelers or these kind of things, and that seemed to be what was around at that time. They were never really my kind of thing. I was glad to get out of here are that time, but I think if you were growing up here now there'd probably be a lot more... Certainly there's a lot of bands doing really well internationally now, like Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Connan Mockasin, those guys are great. But yeah I really wouldn't know any more, I just dip in and out of it here so I'm never really sure what's going on. It seems like a fun place to be making music though.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Well my little brother is learning guitar at the moment, I've been teaching him a bit of that, so we've been actually listening to a lot of the songs that I was first listening to when I was learning to play. Just a mixture of kind of old blues stuff like Lead Belly and a lot of Dylan and Nirvana, and all the fun ones to play on guitar when you're starting out. We've been listening to a lot of that again which is music I haven't really sat down and listened to in a good few years so it's nice. A Roy Orbison song came on the other night as well which was nice to hear, that always lifts the heart.
No, I've seen absolutely no-one. Oh, I caught a bit of Empire of the Sun, but yeah we left quite quickly.
Do you guys have any big plans for 2014?
Yeah we do. Well I want to make another record very soon, we've got a lot of songs left over so I want to try and do that pretty soon. Yeah we're going to plough in to next year with our heads held high. Lots of shit to get on with!
And, this is kind of a corny question, but do you have any new years resolutions?
Well I'm struggling to give up smoking at the moment, I've been trying to for the last little while so I'm going to give that a good go. I'd like to try and be an overall better human, that'd be good. That's usually my resolution, to do that.
After that, he was whisked away (much as his hat almost was in the wind) for photo opportunities and I couldn't really help it but stand and watch his slim, black-clad figure go wandering off in to the shade.