Debut albums are notoriously difficult to put together. Since musical time began, many a yarn has been spun recounting difficulties during this one period that could either help to define the sound, or assist in the implosion of a young band.
A desire to project, in no uncertain terms, the exact sound and image of the group is always a key consideration as, after all, this collection of songs is what the world will come to associate with the band’s chosen name. This pressure, and the unrelenting desire to make a record that above all, they’re happy with could be what led London based four piece Veronica Falls to record their eponymous debut twice.
“We recorded it for the first time last year in November.” explains guitarist James Hoare. “We tracked instruments individually, like a big pop band might do… it was the wrong approach.” “We just did it by the book and separated everything up,” adds singer/guitarist Roxanne Clifford, “and it ended up not sounding like us. We got all the tempos wrong and stuff like that, and it just didn’t have that much energy.”
“We tried something that we hadn’t done before in this band as we’d only ever recorded live in one room” expands drummer Patrick Doyle. “We tried it and learnt that that wasn’t the way for us to do it”
Having spent two full weeks in the deepest depths of the north of England, Veronica Falls finished the recording session to find themselves with an album that didn’t match up to their hopes or expectations for their debut release. The decision was taken to re-record the album, so what was changed the second time around? “We just recorded it in one room, live, together over about 3 days” replies Roxanne. “And then we recorded all of the vocals separately but really quickly. I think that worked really well, because it sounds like where we were at that point.”
“The second time, we did it with Ash Workman who does Metronomy and stuff, and he was really good, he’s super efficient… He’s super technical too and I think if we’d have given him a choice, he’d have probably done it the same way because I think if you’re doing things ‘properly’ then that’s how you’re supposed to do it, but we said ‘this is how we want to do it’, and he was cool.”
“When we described to him what had gone wrong the first time, and we said what we wanted to do, he was really receptive and quick, really easy to work with” adds Patrick of the group’s second attempt at recording. “And he was really enthusiastic about trying out new things and I think that’s what we needed. We also did it in a really old recording studio so we had access to lots of old amplifiers and stuff that sounded really nice. It was just way more creative and inspired us more than when we went up north and did it the first time.”
In contrast to the recording of the album, the writing of the record was a much more peaceful, straight forward procedure. “We just basically got together, had to get some songs ready for an album, so we did it!” says Roxanne. “It wasn’t too much of a struggle, we had a few that we’d been working on that we just had to kind of finish. We didn’t really have a plan, and think ‘right we need to write an album so that we can get everything out quickly and do things the way you’re supposed to’. It just evolved, naturally.”
“The first single came out probably a few months after we recorded it, a while ago” adds Patrick. “Since then, we’ve always been writing and we got to the point where we had enough for a record so it made sense to do that, and since then we’ve been writing more. We were just enjoying playing, we played quite a lot in the first year, a lot of gigs and were just writing whenever we could.”
Now with a debut album under their collective belt that they’re happy with and believe provides a true reflection of what the band have to offer, are they excited about the release? “Yeah, it’s really exciting” responds Patrick. “It’s really exciting just to get it out there and play it to people who have never heard it, whereas we’ve heard it a million times!”
Veronica Falls was released on Monday and while copies of the album are being sought out and downloaded throughout the UK, the band are over in the States playing a number of shows supporting The Drums, a band with whom Veronica Falls are already very familiar. “They supported us once!” says Roxanne. “They were already massive but they asked if they could support us.”
“We did SXSW and then we did some shows on the east coast, so this’ll be our first time on the west coast.” says Patrick of the band’s experience of touring in the States. “We always have a good time, so it should be really good fun.”
“The first tour we did was super DIY,” adds Roxanne, “we just organised it all ourselves and played with friends’ bands and things like that, so we’ve not properly explored yet but it seems more laid back . People don’t obsess about sound-checks and things.”
“I think it’s good in a way” responds James. “You just turn up and play which is better in a way, ‘cause if you have too long, you can….. So it’s a bit more turn up, use the amps, go…”
“That said though, we’re not really the sort of band that functions that well like that!” adds Roxanne. “You just have to forget about how crazy the monitors sound… or that you don’t have a monitor! And go for it… This time though, we’ll be playing some quite big venues with The Drums.”
A hard working and now very experienced live band, Veronica Falls quickly made a name for themselves throughout the UK. “We just started playing when we had enough songs to play a set, which was 5 songs!” explains Roxanne. “We just wanted to start playing live.”
Although Roxanne and Patrick had already performed together as part of Glasgow’s Sexy Kids, and James with London’s Your Twenties, bassist Marion Herbain had never even played the instrument before joining the band. “I had my first gig two weeks after I joined or something,” she explains. “Luckily it was in Manchester and I didn’t know anyone, but I was terrified, yeah!” Her second performance with the band was at London’s Garage in a support slot for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (“We threw her in at the deep end!” jokes Patrick). Quite intense beginnings, some might say, so how does Marion feel more confident about playing live now? “Maybe a little bit, I’m not sure! I think I’m still learning every day but I think I’m getting better!”
Veronica Falls is available now through Bella Union.