American rock critics, after their oft-coldblooded fashion, took note of the battered heart of frontman Finn Andrews—son of XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews—since The Runaway Found first blipped the indie radar back in 2004. The Veils have undergone significant line-up shifts, but the band’s impressive energy and Finn’s ever-maturing lyrics and magniloquent vocals pay off superbly on Sun Gang, their third album now out on Rough Trade. In this interview by Ron Garmon, Finn gives up a glimpse of characteristic romanticism while putting discreet end to some rumors.
You stayed for a spell in the Flaming Lips’ hometown of Norman, OK. Tell us about that.
Finn Andrews (singer/songwriter): We slept in a classic car garage most of the time. That town is strange. We were all pretty curious about the Bible Belt and that stuff and we met a lot of really interesting people. The police followed us and raided the place a couple of times. I think we stuck out a little. That was in an interesting period. We were literally swamped and didn’t know where we were at any point. We would return there in between touring and that was our first encounter with America, really. We literally did not know where we were after a while. We didn’t know if it was east or west or in the middle or down the bottom or near the top. I found it really interesting, for we knew we’d stick out a bit and people in England talk about the Bible Belt and all that. I didn’t know what to expect, but we had a lot of fun. It was about three months on and off and we’d leave and drive either to L.A. or New York to do a show and do more shows on the way back.
The crits are talking up Sun Gang as a difficult listen, but the melodies are certainly spare and sweet enough for popular consumption, with just the right amount of heart revealed in each one. This is rocket science?
Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? Everyone has a different palate.
‘Scarecrow’ implies an emotional transformation. Tell us about ‘not being made for these times.’
The record is still kind of coming into focus for me a little bit. There’s a lag time and I’ve begun to think on it and I still think I’m going through it. I just hate having spent the majority of my young life in a decade known as ‘the noughties.’ That makes me want to puke. That might be a kind of pretentious answer.
One gets an impression of a kind of record kept or a scrapbook of an interior state.
I love writing and it feels like everything all at once. I was never very good at keeping a diary and I’ve tried getting up at night to write my dreams down and you feel like a wanker. It’s kind of all those things all at once.
Since critics are scrabbling to get a handle on Sun Gang’s place in the Veils’ evolution, why not tell us its place yourself?
I think we’re probably in the ‘land invertebrates’ stage’—awaiting ‘social insects’ and mass extinction. It’s hard to predict what will happen next.
What was it like working with Graham Sutton as a producer?
It was good. That record kind of came at the end of a pretty relentless period. We’d been on the road for a very long time and finally fell off the road and into this weird little wooden chamber of a studio in West London. All my memories of that period are red. We kind of needed someone to pull us together and he was very encouraging.
I imagine at that point most of the band activity was comprised of staring off into space.
There was a lot of that, yeah. We always thought it was a real privilege to make records and that kind of slapped us around a bit. I was kind of hesitating going back into the studio until we could do it right and that time felt just perfect.
The album comes to a kind of ringing emotional climax with ‘Larkspur,’ the penultimate track. Did Sun Gang have a kind of formal structure going in or did the shape come later?
I always thought that song should be where it was on the track listing. That’s a strange song. We’d never played it before we recorded it and we did it in one take. That’s very precious to us. I’d only written one line lyrically before we went in. I kind of told everyone I’d had this song and wanted to play and record it once and that’s what happens. It is as it was.
Drummer Henning Dietz has left for good?
Yes, he just left after the show in Berlin two weeks ago and a new friend is filling that out.
Have you ever played Spaceland before?
Yeah. We played there on our first tour. I think that was the last show for our keyboard player as well.
One Veil comes off after another.
Yeah. It’s like revolving Doors.
Address the rumors you were being courted as a solo act.
I dunno what people are thinking. It’s nice to be talked about.
It’s not surprising, being the kind of offer that was dangled before, say, Jim Morrison.
No, I wouldn’t want to give this up at this point. We’re a band and I wouldn’t want to run away from that now.
How do you like the title ‘21st Century Romantic?’
As a title. Try it on for a while.
Whatever makes them smile.
THE VEILS WITH FOREIGN BORN AND OTHER GIRLS ON TUE., JULY 14, AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA. 9 PM / $12 / 21+. DETROITBAR.COM. AND WITH LUKE TOP AND OTHER GIRLS ON WED., JULY 15, AT SPACELAND, 1717 SILVERLAKE BLVD., SILVERLAKE. 8:30 PM / $12-$14 / 21+. CLUBSPACELAND.COM. THE VEILS’ SUN GANG IS OUT NOW ON ROUGH TRADE. VISIT THE VEILS AT THEVEILS.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/THEVEILS.