11 January 2013
Articles | Interviews

Interview: Veronica Falls

All-singing indie pop group return with cleaner sound, and filthier minds

Words Kier Wiater Carnihan
Photography Gary Manhine

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Towards the end of the opening track on Veronica Falls’ forthcoming second album, Waiting For Something To Happen, a rising guitar line emerges from the pounding rhythms and ascends the same myxolydian ladder Tom Verlaine scales during his solo on Television’s epic ‘Marquee Moon’. James Hoare, who plays the familiar-sounding motif, eschews the opportunity to describe it as a ‘tribute’. “Well, no, it’s a rip-off,” he says. “I’m a really big fan of Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine.”

“It’s a form of flattery,” insists fellow singer/strummer Roxanne Clifford cheerfully, and it’s a relief to find they’re not offended by the observation. The charged jangliness of their eponymous debut album led some to tar them with the three remaining bristles of the C86 brush, while songs like ‘Found Love In A Graveyard’ and ‘Beachy Head’ encouraged others to describe them as goths (the band claim they were referencing Roky Erickson and Daniel Johnston rather than, say, Sisters Of Mercy — even if Clifford does reveal a soft spot for the latter). Unsurprisingly, the C86 tag got annoying pretty quickly.

“It seems like a little bit of a flippant, throwaway genre,” expands Clifford, while singing drummer Patrick Doyle reckons the comparison stems from the fact they’re “influenced by the stuff that influenced the C86 stuff. That’s the only way I can see how people could pigeon-hole us like that.” Of course, much like people rarely describe themselves as chavs or hipsters, you imagine not many bands would be keen on describing themselves as C86.

“Well, they would,” says Clifford, “but they’d be rubbish.”

Doyle agrees. “They’d probably dress like children. It’s just a bit creepy… like Peter Pan or something.”

Their new album may not put such comparisons entirely to bed, but it does have a slightly cleaner finish and some poppier compositions. The sweetly sung male/female vocal harmonies remain intact, and have been a trademark of the band’s since the beginning.

“We all wanted to sing,” says Clifford. “When we first started writing together the songs were really primal and simple, so we kind of added the interesting bits with the vocals. The sort of music we like tends to have lots of harmonies in it.”

It reminds you how rare it is to hear people employing vocal harmonies these days.

“Yeah, definitely in the past people seemed to utilise it to better effect,” says Hoare. “It was more common in the sixties. You’d have really good backing vocals and it would be a feature of the band.”

“Sometimes if you listen to songs that don’t [have harmonies] you kind of hear them anyway, so it’s nice to put them in.”

Thematically the subject matter still revolves around romance, even if Clifford confirms that the lyrics aren’t as dramatic and fantastical this time around — not a sexy cemetery in sight.

“It’s not as jokey and cultivated,” she explains, “it’s just more honest.”

Are they all just a bunch of romantics at heart? There’s a chorus of assent. “Too much so,” murmurs bassist Marion Herbain. It follows that they’re not too bothered about the business side of things.

“We’ve got used to never having any money,” says Doyle when asked about the profitability, or lack thereof, of digital music consumption. “So it doesn’t really make a difference if someone’s gonna stream it on Spotify.”

The band are based in London, though Clifford retains a fondness for Glasgow, where she first met Doyle at art school: “They’re really good at partying! People just drink!” However, a discussion about worst gig locations suggests they don’t find themselves so comfortable everywhere.

Doyle: “York.”

Clifford: “Or Sheffield?”

Hoare: “York.”

Herbain: “It was a terrible venue, no one came, horrible sound. Wrexham was probably second.”

Doyle: “It’s just not a very nice place…”

Clifford: “Italy hasn’t been that great for us. It’s got a bit of a strange live music scene. They have huge nightclubs, and then people play and it just feels really disparate. It’s just not what we’re used to. I’m sure we’ll play a good show there soon…”

Herbain: “I think generally we’d rather play smaller venues and have them packed. It’s more intimate than just playing big, soulless venues.”

While some bands are ready to shove each other’s heads through their amps after the third tour, Veronica Falls appear cosily close-knit. An in-joke concerning a sound technician who used to utter, “There’s the badger!” after finding a missing track produces peals of laughter, which multiply when Doyle reveals he recently discovered a less innocent interpretation…

“I call my boyfriend ‘badger’ sometimes, because he looks like one, and the other day I was trying to find a picture of a badger to send to him. The Urban Dictionary says a badger is an old fat man with white pubes, on top of a young girl with dark pubes. It’s called ‘doing the badger’.”

All of a sudden, they’re considering musteline alternatives to the artwork for a forthcoming single (a recent Twitter plea seeking young gay couples for a photoshoot drew a blank).

“Someone ‘doing the badger’?” offers Clifford.

“Someone having sex with a badger!” says Doyle.

Herbain resigns herself: “We’ll have to send out a tweet and see if anyone has a badger…”

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