“We are just normal people: we eat food, drink beer and play music” – An interview with James and Matt from Deaf Havana

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Deaf Havana made a return to the stage with their album All These Countless Nights. After some time away, they have been playing festivals around the world and marking their territory back in the alternative scene. I had a chat with James and Matt Veck-Gilodi from the band to discuss their tour highlights and views on the music scene.

How was recording the latest album?

James Veck-Gilodi: Yeah it was alright man, a bit different!

Matt Veck-Gilodi: It was more of a group effort this time!

J: Usually it’s just me and Tom [Ogden, Drummer] sat in a studio for hours on end, and it gets very tedious, but this was different. I don’t think I would ever do an album the way I did them before this one.

M: It makes you feel like, much more together as a band.

J: Yeah usually it’s a case of over-laying the bass and drums but I don’t know, this time round we just got the bulk of it all recorded live and we liked how it came out.

You have had the chance to play some new songs from the album live now, have you got any favourites to play?

J: I really like playing ‘Fever’ because it’s a laugh. ‘Seattle’ was cool to play last night so I’m looking forward to that again.

M: Yeah ‘Fever’ is a good one, I’m with you on that, it’s a good one to play live.

Is there an overriding influence on the album? Was there a certain theme?

J: Hangovers!

M (laughs): Yeah the hangovers!

J: But nah not really, we didn’t have a certain band or sound we wanted to sound like, we just went in with open minds and that’s how the album came out.

How long did it take for the album to be written?

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M: We had ‘Trigger’ in 2014 and then we really struggled to write anything for about a year. But then one week James had written enough songs for the rest of the record (laughs)… it was a collective effort for a few years though.

J: Yeah between writing the first song and finishing the record it was about three years! But actually how long it took to write the bulk, record and do the rest, it was about three months.

So you recently released a reworked version of All These Countless Nights, what was the desire to do this?

J: I just get bored really, really easily. And when I record a song, I have a million other ideas of how it should go and other ways it should sound, and I don’t know, it just kind of was a way for me to keep [myself]occupied? It allowed me to experiment and like Matt said yesterday, it allowed us to do things we wouldn’t necessarily be able to do.

M: Yeah, it gave us the ability to produce something that wouldn’t really be acceptable as a proper Deaf Havana record as it was.

J: We couldn’t release say, the reworked version of ‘Like A Ghost’ on a regular record, it’s got an electro-’90s feel and it’s not normal for us. We couldn’t put that on a normal record.

On a personal level, what do you prefer the most, the reworked or the original?

J: I think the finished product would be the actual record just because we spent so long on it and agonised on it and thought so much about it; to me the reworked version does sound like a reworked record. But I don’t know, if I didn’t ever listen to either of them and went straight in and listened to them together, maybe I would say the reworked?

When it comes to writing a new album, are there any particular things you like to do to influence your writing?

J: Not really. I go through this weird stage where I just can’t write anything…

M: … and then he writes five songs in a week!

J: I won’t write anything for a year but then I just come back to it and suddenly can’t stop writing. But I don’t know I don’t really have any rituals. I work off the idea that if I don’t have anything to write about then I’m not gonna write.

M: Yeah so many people are out there writing songs every single day and they’re like “Oh just gotta get up and do it man, gotta keep writing!”

J: I’m not like that, if I have something in my head worth writing about, I will. I don’t really work without a message and I don’t care how other bands write their material, but you should just enjoy writing about something.

So in 2014 you guys were close to calling it a day for Deaf Havana, what was the driving force for you to be sat here now just hours away from playing a gig together?

M: For me it was sometime in 2015, and James sent over a demo that eventually became ‘Cassiopeia’. I was sick of it [the band] by that point  and I think we all were, but then that song came through and it was like “oh shit this is fresh”, it punched me in the face. From then on it was a new beginning.

J: We approached things with a different attitude from there; we were very stale before and none of us could be arsed really but then this album sort of came about.

M: It got to a point where we were playing gigs to pay off debts that occurred through being a band. So when you do that for six months it gets very boring.

You guys had a busy summer playing festivals like 2000Trees, do you have any plans for 2018 that you can share?

J: Not touring, literally I just need to write and demo stuff and record a new album. But yeah just writing and recording, we wanna try and get a new record out by like September next year [2018].

You were away for a while, how did it feel coming back?

M: Actually it was really incredible. We had little gigs here and there but when we played in Manchester at the Ritz and was our first proper headline show back, it made it feel worthwhile having all that time out.

Was it more exciting or nerve-wracking?

M: I was definitely excited man!

J: I was kinda nervous I don’t know, ‘cos we waited so long we just didn’t know if anybody still gave a shit about us anymore. But it was exciting yeah!

Any pre-gig rituals?

J: Couple beers, a laugh and that’s it. We aren’t like some bands who like to have a prayer together.

M: Stick on a few songs, have a dance, have a drink, walk on stage.

J: Yeah we don’t do anything cool or weird. We aren’t very interesting, we are just normal people: we eat food, drink beer and play music.

M: No weird rituals here.

Best thing about being on tour?

J: For me, seeing new places. England is okay, but I’ve seen England now. It’s when we get to play in places you probably might never really think of going, for me that’s the best part.

M: It’s being able to do it with your best mates, it really is quite good.

J: Also meeting new people. Like when you share a bus with people for a period of time you make friends for life in that space you know.

M: Yeah definitely.

Favourite gig you’ve ever played?

M: Kentish Town Forum this year. It was mental.

J: Yep, I would have to second that.

M: James and I were ill literally the whole time leading up to it and somehow we got over it just in time for the gig. It was loud, people were saying it was one of the loudest crowds they had heard!

J: It was insane, awesome.

Summer 2017 was busy for you guys, any stand-out moments?

J: Umm we did a lot, but we did play this festival in Norway. The actual gig was pretty shit there weren’t many people, but the actual festival was good.

M: We got to see Craig David!!

J: The whole place was on the side of a hill, next to a lake in Norway. It was nice.

M: It was strange, our summer wasn’t that busy that we were constantly away, we played one gig one weekend, came home and wouldn’t have anything until next Thursday, so it was stopping and starting like that really.

The alternative scene is constantly changing, how does brit-rock stand now? Is it healthy?

M: There’s a lot of shit now. Like utterly dreadful music.

J: There are some bands out there that I just don’t know… way more terrible bands.

M: But saying that, there are some sick bands around now, but you really have to dig around to find them beneath some of the shit that’s out there.

Finally, favourite gig you’ve ever seen?

J: Bjork in Pukkelpop.

M: Woah! Now that’s a shout, James and I drank 2 bottles of gin before getting there. Her voice was so amazing I think it sobered us up?!

J: We got to the festival as she walked on, and we were getting our artist accreditation and we heard her and just flew round to see her it was amazing.

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2nd year Psychology student at UoS. I Hate my degree, love music.

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