Interview with The Veils at Muziekgieterij, Maastricht, Netherlands, April 20th 2017
Following the release of their album “Total Depravity” (Network) The Veils are touring. You can be sure to catch them at a place near you and please do as their already rounded and exciting latest album and of course the songs of the four predecessors sound on stage like…an even more grumbling, cathartic, very dark, heart-stopping and heart-touching affair!
At the Muziekgieterij The Veils delivered (just like everywhere else on this tour) a gig where the music swept over you like a dark tropical climate interspersed with pining songs, a little acoustic set and much love for the audience. I particularly loved the moment, when bass player Sofia was no longer hiding and came out with a happy smile and a little wave. But each and everyone in the band was giving it welly and it sounded very much complete. The appreciation of the audience was well-deserved!
Slightly worn out from the night before, Finn Andrews still very kindly gave an interview to Offbeat Music Blog and here it comes:
Offbeat Music Blog: I have Finn Andrews from The Veils here with me. Thank you so much for taking the time, Finn!
Finn Andrews (The Veils): Of course!
OMB: You are the head of the band. Would you introduce the other members of the band?
Finn: Sure! Well, there’s Sophia who I went to school with in New Zealand. So we have known each other the longest. She plays bass. Then there is Dan who plays guitar and Henning who plays drums and is German. Ubi is from Italy and plays keyboards. We are from all over the place. A German, an Italian, an Englishman and two New Zealanders.
OMB: But you were all located in London when you met?
Finn: Yes, we all ended up there for different reasons.
OMB: What are the band dynamics when you are in the studio or on tour? Have different roles developed or specific characteristics?
Finn: Yes, definitely. I think, particularly on tour, it feels like a very familial dynamic in that sort of weird way, you can all hang out and not say anything for hours but also have a really nice time. It is sort of what I miss most when we are not on the road, that feeling – that travelling weird family (laughs).
OMB: You writing the songs and then coming in with half-finished or even three-quarter finished products and then others contributing or even changing the songs in the studio, ending in a song totally gone and the listener making it their own: Is that hard for you to let a song go?
Finn: Yes, there are different stages of that feeling of letting go things. Although, I found more and more, it is strange how long they keep changing after they have been finished by virtue of touring.
The songs that stay with you the longest – what they ended up meaning two years on is often very different to what they meant either when you were writing them or when they came out. There is a song called “The tide that left and never came back” which I wrote when I was about seventeen and first moved back to London, a song effectively about missing home really. A sweet, simple little song. But I found that song really interesting how it has come to really represent my whole youth. Those years feel very much distilled into that one little song.
It did not feel like that big a song to me when I wrote it. It feels like a time capsule and has become increasingly precious.
There are a few songs that have been like that. I imagine they will change even more if I can manage to keep going until my old age. I am sure there will be songs that have all kind of other meanings that will be clear later on.
OMB: Are there songs that you kind of gave up on but you return to them? Would you be happy or better, would you find it easy to bin a song because you think it is not going to work?
Finn: Yeah, I don’t think I ever bin anything. I read a lot of interviews with other people who write songs and things. Obviously a lot of people who write songs lie a lot about what they are doing. Or they like to imagine other things. So it is quite hard, you have to read between the lines. Tom Waits – I always found him really interesting, his thoughts on things, and he said it using this mechanic analogy: You keep everything out there in the garage and you can use it for spares.
So I think, even the stuff that you write that you don’t use – there are little bits in there that are useful. The song “Iodine and iron” which is on the new record (“Total depravity”) I wrote about five or six years ago and played with the band but then it did not really work. But Ubi really thought for that song to be included so we kept playing it intermittently for a few years and then it came together at the last minute. But that was one that I thought was probably on the pile for spares and then ended up probably being my favourite on the record. The life of songs is a curious thing.
OBM: Someone asked on social networks whether lyrics should be made available or explained even and I thought: Privately? No, thank you. That would be like watching the film before reading the book and I would like to see the lyrics the way I want to. Professionally? Yes, please give me the deeper meaning of that lyric. What is your stance on the lyrics? Would you rather keep them abstract?
Finn: It is more that I don’t ever feel that I have anything more particular about them to say. Generally you write songs because you are not particularly good at articulating how you feel in the normal world, that you end up retreating to this weird other place where you get to spend weeks if not years working on articulating how you feel. So it seems odd to talk about that further. I dunno. But I am obsessed with lyrics and words and always have been. Works have always been a huge part of this for me and a huge part of my life in general. Sometimes it is nice to know things if the story is interesting but generally musicians waffling on about what they think about stuff. I don’t really know…I hate me doing it (laughs).
OBM: So your lyrics might be personal but they are also from a different perspective?
Finn: I will always feel like I am making up what I am saying about them because they come from a very subconscious place. I can sort of attribute meaning to bits of them. Some people are not like that. Some people are able to sit down and be like: Right, I am going to write a song about how I feel about this. And they do that. But that has never been the way it worked for me.
OBM: So it is more like a stream of consciousness thing?
Finn: Yeah, for me that is almost exclusively how it is.
OBM: With a father like that (Barry Andrews – XTC, League of Gentlemen, Shriekback, playing on Iggy Pop and David Bowie albums), was it really hard to rebel in your teenage years via music?
Finn: Right, that is a complicated question. I had a really good relationship with my Dad but I was raised almost exclusively by my mother, quite often on the other side of the planet, in New Zealand and Dad was in London.
I think, he created a kind of interest, a kind of longing for that sort of life, his life, I suppose, when I was young. But it was only when I left and went to New Zealand that I started playing music, so I was a long way away from him and I suppose that is no accident.
But certainly my parents were impossible to rebel against in any kind of way. My mother is incredible…yeah..she is very open and understanding and honest with her life. It was just something that I didn’t feel I needed to do. My Dad was very extreme. He rebelled against his parents in a very large way.
There are different kinds of rebellion. I suppose there is always an element when your father is in the same profession as you. So, when you are starting out, you want to be better than them. That is a kind of rebellion as well, I suppose. I think, Dad found it weird that I ended up doing this – I was always more into drawing and making films. It just happened. He didn’t hear me sing for about for years. That was pretty odd for him. So, back then there was kind of an element of “Fuck you, Dad, I can do this too”. But if I had been an accountant that would probably have been more of a rebellion.
OBM: You spent most of your, you could say, character forming years in New Zealand. Most people would regard The Veils as a British band. To me, none of your records sound particularly British. In a way, they have more of an American feel to them. Would you think, that your environment, that New Zealand had played a great part in your music?
Finn: I think, you can definitely hear that Kiwi thing. There is a lot of influence from America and England in the culture there, especially in the pop music that was around when I was growing up. There was some great music that was made there but the stuff that I liked from New Zealand had all kind of finished by the time I was growing up there. It was more my Dad’s time. The Dunedin sound and Flying Nun.
So I didn’t feel there was much for me there musically. It felt very much like as soon as you can leave and go overseas. That’s different now if you are young there – there are a lot of bands coming out of there now and there are more bands touring around.
I had a pretty weird time where I haven’t really been hooked anywhere long. My whole life has been, moving around. So, I think, you just end up with a kind of influence of all the different places I spent any time. I am very envious actually of people that have that sort of identity of where they come from. People have an accent.
OBM: You definitely don’t have a New Zealand accent.
Finn: Yeah, in England they think I sound a New Zealander and in New Zealand they think I sound English. So I have this weird mongrel accent. Growing up, I always wanted to be from somewhere. But I just don’t get that, so I have to work out some other way to be.
OBM: But you still enjoy touring? Most people find it so tedious.
Finn: I do enjoy it, yeah.
OBM: Well, from a practical point of view, it is probably the way to make money in the music business, not selling records anymore.
Finn: Phew, not for us really. The band has been going for fourteen years and I’d say for the first thirteen years of that, no-one got paid to tour. We would tour for free. Any money made would go back into it so you could tour other places. And it is only some parts of the world where we make money now.
Most of the time you are doing it as a way to just get people to hear what you are doing really. In some countries it is going well – here, we get good crowds. In parts of Europe, in the States and in New Zealand we get good crowds. But quite often you are putting the money back into to keep going. We are certainly not doing it in any way to make money. It tends to cost more than you make. That’s the sad truth of it. It is a labour of love, completely. If we didn’t love it, we’d just stop.
OBM: Do you ever find time to see place when you are on tour?
Finn: It is sort of a cumulative experience really. We have been to a lot of these towns seven or eight times but only for a day each time, so after a few years, it’s like as if you spent a week there but it is spread out. But so you get to know some places. In Los Angeles we have made three records now so we know that well. The bigger cities, like Paris, Amsterdam and so on.
I am terrible tourist as a result of it. I don’t really go anywhere unless we are playing. Whenever you have tried going anywhere as a tourist, you realise how special this is that you go to towns and people really want to show you what’s great about their town and take you out after the show or during the day. Compared to travelling around by yourself, this is infinitely more fun. You feel like you are doing something as well – you are giving at least some sort of a thing to the town. It is an exchange of currency.
OBM: So no beach holiday for you then?
Finn: Naw (laughs).
OBM: Another part of the touring is: You are really putting a lot of energy into the shows, you really give. Is that at some stage exhausting?
Finn: I am definitely going to get too old for it at some point. What sucks is, if you have got a lot of money and a lot of time, then it is fine. I could tour forever if we were in a tour bus and if we had a day off every now and then but a couple of years ago we did a tour that was 30 shows in 32 days. By the end of that I was considering if I could do this anymore. It just destroyed my voice and my body.
OBM: Maybe also mentally if you put so much into the shows?
Finn: That side is fine, it is only the physical side of it. There is only so much you can do with your body. The will is always there. If you have a dog and a frisbee: You keep throwing the frisbee and the dog keeps bringing it back even until their legs degrade. I feel a little like this. I feel like I just would keep going until I fall apart. But I am trying to get more conscious to not to get to the point where I am having a full breakdown. This tour has been leisurely. The Netherlands are small, not very long drives, the venues are nice, the hotels are nice. It is up and down.
OBM: For your new record you worked with El-P. You met by coincidence really. Would you have ever thought it possible, a collaboration with someone from a completely different genre, if you had sat down and planned it?
Finn: No, I think, if it had been planned, it would not have worked. It had to be sort of an accident if that makes any sense. It was really just that he was such a sincere fan of what we did what was interesting about it in the beginning and us of him of course. So it is a rare thing, I suppose. Usually one of you knows the other person’s stuff and the other one doesn’t really. So one of you ends up taking a bit of a risk whereas this time it is based on a friendship and a mutual appreciation.
OBM: So on your new record you had new sounds and tools to choose from and also more time. Is that a good thing or can it be a bad thing as well as in it makes it harder to focus?
Finn: We had a lot of time but we certainly did not have more time in the studio. We basically had time in between being in the studio. In the past we would into the studio for a month. By the end of that you would have to have the record finished and all the money be gone and that would be it. Whereas this time we opted to do it in little chunks spread out over a period of a year or so. The time in-between was the most precious really, time to think about things and change things. Which took me a long time to learn that I needed to do that.
OBM: The record…I remember going to record stores, going through the records, talking to other people, looking at record sleeves.This has changed to the other extreme and often many just use music as a kind of background noise. So touring is probably the only opportunity to get close to a listener?
Finn: Sure, I dunno. It seems like it is changing all the time. People are buying vinyl, again. People still like the object and they want the physical thing and they want the pull-out thing.
OBM: Wouldn’t that be the music nerds only really?
Finn: I dunno. Didn’t they say that this year there were more vinyl sales than downloads? I might be making that up. I think that there are still as many people labouring over music and enjoying it as there used to, just in different ways. That’s how it seems to me. Depends on who you talk to you. And I am sure in the past there were people who weren’t…
OBM: Weren’t too bothered?
Finn: Weren’t too bothered.
OBM: Your records always sound as if you had that classic vinyl record in mind. A cover fitting the music, a selection of songs fitting together.
Finn: I think it is very hard to get out of the habit of things that you have initially fell in love with really. That’s how I was introduced to music and that is how I think of it. Obviously does not take so much care to do mp3s and they are all disconnected. I enjoy track-listing and I enjoy that format. But I wouldn’t insist that people listen to it that way, either. It’s just nice that it is there for people who want it.
OBM: The cover art on “Total depravity” makes me a bit squeamish…not to mention the combination of the song “Young mothers to be” with the album title “Nux Vomica” because I got prescribed Nux Vomica against pregnancy sickness and it made me feel much worse if possible…
Finn: Oh, we really must stop doing this to you! But as for the cover art on “Total depravity” – it depends on the perception. I see her as devouring something as opposed to expelling it. You can read into it whatever you wish. But there does seem to be a lot of vomiting involved in our albums over the years and in our videos (“Axolotl”) where Charles Darwin vomits black bile.
OBM: Maybe getting things out of your system?
Finn: Maybe, yeah.
OBM: But you love storytelling?
Finn: Yes, stories are the best.
OBM: Did you ever consider writing books?
Finn: I do write, poetry and stuff, without intention of ever doing anything with it, just for enjoyment of it. And when I get sick of myself as a songwriter, just to write something completely different. I could foresee doing something in that area at some point but as for now…
OBM: Musically, what kind of stuff would you listen to?
Finn: A whole bunch of stuff. I have been trying to DJ recently, also something that I never thought I would like but I have actually really been enjoying it. The odd sort of thing, getting up and playing something for a couple of hours.
OBM: You initially came from a folksier background?
Finn: Yeah, more of a singer-songwriter thing, Dylan, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Johnny Cash. But that’s expanded over the years. It is still the core of it though. They were and are all great lyrical storytellers.
OBM: Straight after the making of the new album, you were wondering how you would bring the songs with their new sounds and new approaches to the stage. How did that pan out so far?
Finn: It has been great. There is a lot to figure out but I am really happy with the balance. I have no interest in going to shows and seeing stuff not been played in front of me. We are trying to keep it like you are seeing a live band. If we are using samples, they are still being hit and triggered on stage. There is still someone hitting something. It is what we have always done. I think we put on a really muscular live show but it has a wider palette of sound. I really enjoy these harsh high ends and these low scary sub-sounds. We just expanded a bit more. You are still be seeing a bunch of people on stage making a fucking racket. This is what I like to see when I go to a gig.
OBM: You have as support Anthonie Tonnon from New Zealand with you?
Finn: Yes, he is great. We did some shows in the States together last year. Great voice, great songs!
OBM: Thank you so much and looking forward to a great show!
Finn: Thank you!