At 17 Finn Andrews left New Zealand to peruse any melancholy teenagers’ dream of living as creative as all hell, hand to mouth, in a dusty London flat, sick with consumption. It was a turbulent time for the young lamb and influenced a stunningly moody and contemplative first album. The Runaway Found was a collection of songs that had previously been reserved for a loyal and artistic clan, huddled in humid Devonport WWII bunkers and Folk festivals, where people wore impressive beards and played cellos.
Despite instant attention and by all accounts a hugely successful unveiling, Andrews speaks awkwardly of this time, mentioning his feeling “like a complete kind of fraud in this thing, going straight from the folk club to these shows in London, and not having an idea what I was doing.” This instant attention was made doubly awkward in his being “a moody little shit.”
As Rough Trade Records has a reputation of doing, they signed The Veils, hearing in them a quality, that whilst not screaming commercial potential, certainly had a charm that appealed to selected ears. A three-record-deal was signed, and over the next six years The Veils refined a confident, resonant and modulated sting that characterizes their latest album Time Stays We Go.
Though it was not long ago The Veils released The Runaway Found, the music industry was comparatively buoyant and allowed for The Veils’ relationship and sound to mature with Rough Trade over time. Lacking from Rough Trade Records’ agenda in the early 2000s was a tenacious preoccupation with records being sold.
A discography as varied would have been difficult with a later career start perhaps, as labels have become increasingly focused on marketable, and in turn profitable, albums, “creating a climate where people want to be 100% sure they will get a return on their investment.” The discussion of the effect of free downloading are hackneyed, but real, and have in part encouraged The Veils to release Time Stays We Go on their own label, allowing them increased creative freedom, not necessarily in what they record, but in how they go about it.
“It makes things very difficult I think when you are outside of what is kind of fashionable that month, or that week.”
In releasing on their label Pitch Beast Records; “there’s less people in the way of the things you want to do, the timings of things, which songs you want to release when and the look of things.”
The business of selling records is a business “that’s crumbing and no one knows what to do other than play things very safe. People don’t buy records like they used to.” In this way labels are perhaps more motivated by that fear of crumbling, than they are about capturing a unique sound. Lucky for The Veils they are at a place in their career where it is safe to step away from established labels and do things autonomously.
Writing music has forever been a pursuit, both revealing and personal to Andrews and Rough Trade’s genuine support has allowed an expression relatively free of reform. “I’m still making it up as I go along. As I think everyone should really. I think that’s why you keep going, because you want to learn more about it.” There are stories in Andrews’ language, jumbled metaphors and beautiful, confused girls, violence and pain, and discovery. Despite obvious narrative in The Veils’ songs, Andrews discusses a writing process organic and without direction.
“The things I’ve learnt a lot with song writing is to try and get away from it and try and have your conscious mind as far away from the thing as possible. Almost everything on this record I made [with] no conscious decision. [The song is] the end result of just thinking about something and quite often, things won’t come in to focus until a few years later. That’s the continuing fascination – what it can tell you about yourself.”
On the flip side of this occasionally the process can be, “oddly predictive as well. Writing things before your heads caught up with them, you can stumble onto things. You can sneak up on yourself.”
Years of refining this semi-conscious process has ironically, resulted in albums that generate thought and feeling in the listener. Regardless of whether that thought be light and in time with a steady time signature and very organised composition and Andrews’ ‘oddly predictable’ lyrics, or whether that thought is deep and unrestrained, The Veils can be intoxicating and uplifting. And Andrews can be an equally intoxicating and uplifting character, recognised for his frenzied live performances. A recorded performance that is not so wild however, was their somber recent recording at Abby Road Studios, available through their website.
“It was amazing actually, and I’m not because I’m a super-massive Beatles fan or anything, though I guess we all accept they were pretty damn good. It’s just this bizarre time capsule of a place that smells like your granddad’s cupboards. You can see fingerprints on the piano keys from the countless musicians that have passed through there, and I suppose whilst every other studio in the world has been relentlessly modernising itself trying to stay current, Abbey Road has been fighting to stay exactly the same, and there’s something very special about that. It was an amazing space to play in and the little movie they made of us in there, which was all shot on 16mm film, really captured something quite special I think.”
Time Stays We Go, has, as Andrews puts it, “the confidence to speak softly, as well as howl at the moon about crucifixes and blackbirds and brains. We’re very confident in how we move now.” That confidence is clear in the seamless transition from one song to the next. It’s this cohesion that separates Time Stays We Go from their other albums. The band is in a good place; its members committed and their sound complete, for now.
There have been changes to the band, but rather than disrupt The Veils’ reign, it’s allowed the band to settle and re-settle with members, who have solidified a character of amity in the band.
Speaking of Liam Gerrard, The Veils’ pianist in their previous album Nux Vomica, Andrews mentions, “I miss him. I miss him so much.” Having members wash in and out of bands can create an inconsistency and upset a bands’ identity. In The Veils, this flux has created a narrative of kinship and variety. In Time Stays We Go Gerrard’s influence is felt with measured and deliberate piano chords, always with the inclusion of an ear-piercing note from the upper quarter of the keyboard. It may have been two albums since he was in London, but his contribution is residual and it is clear that something integral to the identity to the band is the quality and depth of their friendships.
We can look forward to their quality developing further, in their confident sound, their story telling and in Andrews’ unmistakable raw and haunting call.