It’s really good to make use of your time and to put all emphasis and I guess that’s passion, all your focus, on right now.”
Based in London, THE VEILS have been around since 2001. Time Stays, We Go, their fourth full length, is about to get released these days. The son of XTC keyboardist and BRIAN ENO collaborator Barry Andrews, front man Finn Andrews brings a musical legacy to his songwriting. Song themes are about regret, wistfulness, and nostalgia, and his style has been compared to a young NICK CAVE. The remainder of THE VEILS is Sophia Burn, Daniel Raishbrook, Raife Burchell and Uberto Rapisardi. This is sonically confrontational folk rock that holds your attention. ANDREWS has a voice that can go from zero to accusatory in seconds, and the band’s sound is quiet to thrashing before you know what hit you. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION sat down with the heartbreakingly good-looking and intense front man to talk about the misery of London, being from nowhere and everywhere, and seeing your face tattooed on someone else.
Tell me about being based in London but being from New Zealand.
I think we need to sort this out a bit. It’s a bit confusing… where I am from, where the band is meant to be from. I was born in London and grew up in London and went to high school in New Zealand. I came back when I was seventeen and made my first record then. Two of the band members are English, and our bass player is from New Zealand and the keyboard player is from Italy. We all live in London, I think we are from London, really. That’s probably simpler.
In your songs there is a lot of nostalgia and longing. Does that tie into being from different places?
Yeah, I think it probably does come from that, I was always saying goodbye to someone growing up, either with my mom or my dad, friends over there and friends here. My life since then, except for the last year of half, I’ve been on tour since I was seventeen, with no more than a week in each place. You are always saying hello or goodbye.
Tell me about living in London during the Olympics.
It was all right. You kind of just have to embrace the misery there, I think.
Wait, the misery of London? Go on.
It’s just a dirty… a dirty city. I remember my dad saying that to me, “The Thames is a dirty river, you just have to get use to it.” I think when you go over there from more polite, wholesome countries then the city can be disgusting, it’s freezing, everyone hates each other. I think there’s a lot to love about it too. It makes you work. It’s just a difficult place, but I’ve had some of the best times of my life in London, I think it’s worth the struggle. The fucking Olympics though… [laughs]
[At this point, I tell him the standard NBHAP hope and passion final question, to give him some time to prepare. Read on for the consequence]
With several songs about love and loss, what are the most heartfelt reactions you have gotten from fans?
You get all the kind of funny stuff, like tattooed faces and names and things.
I write every day, whenever I can, as much as I can. – THE VEILS
Wait, people get your face tattooed?
Yeah, I’ve seen a couple of those. I don’t know if that was more weird than touching. Maybe don’t put that in your article. [laughs] I was just thinking about this before. I write every day, whenever I can, as much as I can. I was thinking about that, what I did before I did this, and I can’t really remember. I do remember the first few weeks before I was writing songs I was completely lost, I think. I ran to doing this and think since I’ve started going I’ve thought of nothing else. It’s an extension of that, really, it’s an incredible surprise when you write songs to ease your own loneliness or awkwardness or anxieties or whatever. Then other people hear them and you have this lovely kind of extension of that. When people really understand what you do. We’ve made so many friends through this. Sorry that was a long-winded answer.
I go for long-winded answers; it’s one-word answers that challenge me. Tell me about working with producer Bill Price [who worked with THE CLASH, MOTT THE HOOPLE, THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, among others] He worked with you on “Nux Vomica” and this album.
He’s technically retired now, which is really annoying because we decided he would be the one to do it, before realizing he was out in the countryside with his slippers on. But he agreed to do it, and he had his 50th year working in the business when he was doing this album with us. He was reminiscing about his first sessions with the Beatles and things like that. My favorite thing was we had this Apple Mac at the studio (which he didn’t know how to use at all) and it had that real cheesy Seychelles beach scene screen saver, and he was really staring it at, like, “That’s beautiful…that’s beautiful, isn’t it?” He’d never seen it before. I hope we can lure him out of retirement again.
Speaking of people in the business, your dad was the keyboardist for XTC. What was that like growing up?
He played with lots of people. He kind-of co-founded XTC but he left that by the time I was born.
As far as growing up, where you encouraged to do music or did you ever had that shadow over you of someone in your family who is a famous musician?
I mean, my parents split up when I was two. Later my mum moved us out to New Zealand and Dad stayed in London. That was when I was eleven and then I started playing guitar when I was twelve. It was weird because I was so far away from him, learning to play, I didn’t really see him for a few years. By the time I finally saw him, I had already been playing and writing songs for four years. It just seemed like it came out of nowhere, for him. So, I don’t know maybe I needed to get away to be able to do it. Then, researching all these bands, as you do. All these people who were hanging around at the house were I was growing up, I had no idea who these people were. Dad did a record with IGGY POP and BOWIE as well and I remember just being so gutted, as I was kind of old enough to realize who they were.
As far as being a musician who creates stuff that’s very honest and sincere, what are the biggest obstacles? What frustrates you the most?
I think it’s healthy to have to struggle to make things – THE VEILS
I think I focus less on less on that stuff, the stuff that frustrates you. Really what frustrates me is myself, I think. I think you’re always kind of battling with yourself, with these things. I love it so much and I want to learn so much about it, that’s why I keep doing it. The reasons I love doing this now are so different from the reasons I loved doing it when I was twelve. I mean, the basic reasons are the same, loving singing and the simple act of it. I’m obsessed with it now, I’m learning now, about every aspect of performing. It’s consuming. It’s good; I think it’s healthy to have to struggle to make things. I hope we can keep going. What frustrates me is the constant…I mean with every record we’ve made there’s been that “Are we going to have the energy to go through this again?” I appreciate that as well, rather than think we are just churning these things out. To prove to ourselves that it’s worth the ordeal, it’s never been easy, with us.
Not just logistics, just the actual creative demand of making an album?
No, it’s logistics really; it’s become a feature now. Getting it funded and things. I mean, you can make records in your bedroom and people do, but we need a studio to do in.
Before the hope and passion question, who are some of your favorite songwriters?
TOM WAITS. I’ve always loved stories. That is what I wanted to learn about most, going to these folk clubs in New Zealand. Folk music was the first thing that was so interesting, you know, you can tell stories, you’ve got words and then the melody and rhythm has a story all it’s own. You can conjure entire landscapes and people and feelings. That was my real early attraction to it. Narrative songwriters like DYLAN, LEONARD COHEN, and JOHNNY CASH.
What do the words hope and passion mean to you?
It was quite hard to be thinking of that. What…so this is what everyone does, their definitions of it?
Yeah, just these words. We can do this like a psychologist would; I say “hope” and you say….
Hm, well…I was talking about this the other day. It would be really good to just start psychoanalyzing bands and artists and things and just publish the findings. It would be so much more revealing.
What, like publishing therapist’s notes? Like dream analysis or what?
Yeah, like really, really, what is going on with this guy. It would be so much funnier. [We’re interrupted and told to wrap up the interview]
If they don’t resonate with you at all, you can say that too.
I’ve got three minutes, is this the end, is that it?
[Long slightly awkward silence]
What does that generally…. That’s quite layered. I’m hitting a dead-end. Hope is… good. I’m amazed people can answer that. Wait the blog is called-
“Nothing but hope and passion.”
[We get interrupted again, he admits he is the one holding things up, apologizes and we beg for three more minutes from the poor intern who has the job of rushing people through interviews]
I really think I can get a witty an insightful answer in like three seconds…
[Staring, obviously intently dissecting this question]
It’s really good to make use of your time and to put all emphasis and I guess that’s passion, all your focus, on right now. As long as hope isn’t being reserved for things at a distance, it can be useful, but it can get in the way of doing things right now.
We have a sweaty palmed goodbye handshake. Once again NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION is reminded that interviewing confessional lyricists is a little bit like trying to talk to the Wizard of Oz, behind the smoke and mirrors there is a person; you have to work to find him or her. Check out THE VEILS latest release, out now in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand. Time Stays, We Go will be released in France, UK and rest of the world April 29th.