Jul 23, 2013 Music
Time Stays, We Go is some dark stuff. Like the three that preceded it, the latest album from The Veils is rich with tales of heartbreak and lost love, obscure and vain journeys, omens and portents, helplessness, madness, yearning. “Love, gather your rosebuds while you may,” singer-songwriter Finn Andrews cribs from poet Robert Herrick on one track, “cause when the night arrives it’s here to stay.”
It sounds as if the sun didn’t come out once in the entire year Andrews was cooped up writing the album, which, given that it was in London, may be possible.
Sniffing on the phone in the freezing cold outside a rehearsal bunker, Andrews is in high spirits about getting back in the touring saddle. “It feels good,” he says. “It’s a large life change from the last year, which has been kind of isolated and quiet, to the chaos of promo trips and rehearsals and all that stuff. But it’s nice to feel useful in the world again.”
Formed on the sunny shores of Devonport, The Veils found that their folk-rooted, rock-oriented sound didn’t fit into the Auckland scene and, in 2002, left for London, where they were promptly signed by Rough Trade’s Geoff Travis. They’ve gone from the Shaky Isles to the Isles of Blighty, yet the band makes music that seems to echo out of biggest, darkest America.
With driving drums, bluesy melodies, a heavy foot on the sustain pedal and Andrews’ gravelly voice stretching over arrangements that go from sparse to chaotic, it’s a bruised and bruising Southern Gothic sound for badlands and backstreets. Andrews himself, tall, slim, and usually dressed in white shirt and black preacher’s hat, looks like he has walked straight out of a Cormac McCarthy novel.
“I think the place we fit in most is America, and they’ve certainly taken to us the best,” says Andrews. “The record cover in a way sums it up — it looks a bit like America, with the burning house, but also looks a bit like someone left the gas on in their bach.”
The album was recorded at Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon, and mixed by British producer Bill Price (The Clash, Jesus and Mary Chain), whom they coaxed out of retirement — and had cake and whisky to celebrate his 50th year in the business during the process.
“He’s a real analogue junkie and he still works in the same way as he did in the 60s,” says Andrews. “I’ve always liked people like that, who stick to these wonderful old machines. There’s something endlessly romantic about them. There was an Apple Mac sitting in the studio the whole time, and nobody used it. It was constantly on the screensaver of, you know, that cheesy beach scene. [Bill] just kept looking at it, like, ‘That’s beautiful, isn’t it? Have you seen this? It’s beautiful!’”
Setting off for the States in late April with a seven-piece band including a horn section, Andrews hopes to make it home to New Zealand after the European leg of the tour. He could do with a good dose of sun, he says, slightly at odds with the shadowy, anguished image he projects as frontman.
Still, his lighter side glints through in the way his fatalistic lyrics contain a cheerily wry note. “Love, gather your rosebuds while you may,” that track continues, “cause the end is coming, but it’s okay.
First published Metro, April 2013.