The Veils’ recently released third album Sun Gangs displayed astounding depth, warmth and honesty across its ten tracks. Ranging from emotive ballads (“It Hits Deep”, “Sit Down By the Fire”) to epic Velvet Underground/Nick Cave art-rock (“Three Sisters”) and something in-between (“The Letter”) it provides further proof of the compelling voice of main man Finn Andrews. Chris Berkley from Static talks to the rather talented Veiled one about the new album, the band’s love for The Wire and possible antipodean tours.
It must be a great relief to have Sun Gangs out and about?
Yes indeed. It’s very strange. It happened a lot quicker this time. It’s very exciting.
It has felt like a few years in the making though. I remember the last time you were in here at the station you mentioned you’d been demoing in Oklahoma. So you have actually been working on these songs for a while right?
Yes it’s been long process really. The album before (2006’s Nux Vomica) took about eight months to a year to come out from the time we finished it. We finished this one in September so it’s been a little faster. It feels quick to me.
So the turnaround is better but the songs have gestated just as long?
Yeah it takes a while to get things together, to get things right.
This is the first time you’ve kept the same line up in The Veils from one album to the next. Did that help you formulate how the songs for Sun Gangs were going to go?
Definitely. It was the first time an album was written with a band in mind. I had ideas on how the band would treat the songs but when they were actually brought in they ended up in pretty different places. It saves a lot of time having to trawl through people, by sticking to the same ones.
You don’t want to have to a new band every album around otherwise it would take you years to get things done.
It slows things down really and gets you a band rep.
Had you been playing some of the songs from Sun Gangs out as well to get them into shape?
Yeah we did about five months in America. We did about a year of touring, in Europe as well. As I was writing them we would constantly play them in encores and sessions and things to see what people thought and get some kind of bearing on what we up to. Hundreds of songs were thrown away. We spend most of the times chucking things in the bin. That seems to be the way it goes with us.
Is that because songs have to work live for you, they can’t be just a studio creation?
Yeah, it keeps it more about now if you’re playing them live. If you’re just recording you could spend thirty years very comfortably just making one record. I think you’d just keep going and going if you didn’t have to prove it to anyone instantly. It helps the songs stand up a little more if they’ve got something to stand up for, other than just for yourself.
For Sun Gangs you’ve worked with a producer named Graham Sutton who has done stuff with likes of Jarvis Cocker and British Sea Power but also himself is Bark Psychosis. What drew you guys to him? How did you find Graham Sutton?
I don’t know we kind of just fall into every decision; we don’t spend an awful lot of time mulling things over. We were touring and Graham was doing a few shows in London at the same time. We just got talking to him, we really just needed someone to come in and help finish it, it had been around for a while, and needed someone to put the end on things. He was just perfect for the moment really. You meet people and they seem right and say the things you feel like you’re lacking at that time. I think it changes, and I think it would be hard to work with the same producer all the time. Some records need something different to the one before. He just seemed to fit.
Are these producers one’s who would pat you on the back or do you need to be challenged in the studio to make a record?
We recorded it in about three weeks and we’ve never had as many fights in such a short time. It wasn’t an easy ride and I think that’s good. If someone isn’t challenging you there’s no point in having them in.
Is sounds like Graham has got the most extremes on a Veils record, “Three Sisters” is a howling rush but that is immediately followed by a song like “The House She Lived In” which is a sweeping do-wop thing. Did you feel like you were covering a lot more bases on this record?
I just really wanted to fully exploit what you can do with an album really. I’ve never been very interested in maintaining a constant length for songs. A lot of records sound like a repetition of the same songs, in ten different ways.
Some bands make a career out of that, not just one album!
It works for some people but there really is so much scope on a record to take people through something. How I write… everyday you go through a whole range of feelings and it feels right to have an album follow that. Have ups and downs and curves and make it an unexpected journey rather than have ten repetitions of the same song.
One of the first things you’ve done on an album is “Larkspur” where you crack the eight and a half minute mark. Well done. Was it always on your mind to have an epic on a Veils album at some point?
I’m not sure how often we’re congratulated on breaking eight minutes. (laughs)
Well it doesn’t seem like an eight minute song, it goes by in a flash.
That was really just a special thing. It just happened in the studio. We hadn’t played that song to anyone before, when we went in there. It was just one take and no overdubs. It wasn’t until we were mastering that we noticed it was as long as it was. It felt justified that length. Again that song was real little voyage in itself.
Well that’s what can happen at a Veils live shows as well after seeing you here a couple of times songs can sort of sprawl out of control in your live sets can’t they?
Yeah I think that’s going to be a real treat to be playing live.
That might be the one you’re playing in your forty-five minute encores?
Forty-five minutes? Yeah that’d be interesting. I don’t think I could withstand that. I think eight minutes is the longest I could take. It takes a lot out of you.
Out of all the stories and tones that always come lyrically with a Veils album I’m intrigued by “Killed By the Boom” which I’ve read is about the character Omar Little from the TV show The Wire. Is that right or is this a lie that’s been permeated already?
It was written before I decided who it was about. I think the point of it is that it kind of be anybody. Someone came up to me after a show and said it was awesome I’d written a song about Omar and I though “oh yeah” there’s an aspect of him in that. It was written for an unnamed figure though.
I was curious because I know a lot of bands who watch The Wire on their tour buses. Has it been on the DVD player on The Veils’ tour bus?
Yeah we has. We were all fiending for our next fix of The Wire when it came out so it was quite a big thing in Veils land.
I’m hoping you’ve got the DVD player stocked with other things to watch throughout the year. If you’re touring around Europe for the foreseeable future do you know when you’re going to get back to this part of the world?
I’m plan to come over and play some acoustic shows, just real stripped back, solo kind of thing, in June is the idea. Two or three shows in Australia and a couple in New Zealand. Just real spur of the moment and we’ll back again towards the end of the year for The Big Day Out and all that.
So is the solo stuff a bit of a The Veils credit crunch tour?
(laughs). Yes it does seem a little like that. I used to do it a lot in the early days of the band, stripping the songs back to how they were written. So it’ll be interesting to do that again. And it might be a healthy change from the rest of the touring, to do something special.
Well we might be seeing you sooner rather than later. Take care Finn.
Cheers man, bye.
First broadcast on Static on 16/04/09. Static can be heard on Sydney’s 2SER (107.3 FM) and via the internet (www.2ser.com) every Thursday evening (AEST).