Deaf Havana: "We're not just a rock band."
Festivals, jealousy and Sunday roasts at The Station Sessions 2012...
Chris Eustace - 19 April 2012
“It’s more like the music I’m listening to at the moment, and it’s nice to pay the songs we’ve written acoustically, it’s how a lot of them were written anyway. I think it’s a test of whether a song’s any good if you can strip it back and it still works” says singer/guitarist James Veck-Gilodi, as the band decamp to the bar upstairs.
As they look down towards the stage below, drummer Tom Ogden enthuses: “We want to do a tour like this. Then we can play some lounge shows or church shows as well as sweaty rock shows! Doing things like this you feel more like real musicians as opposed to a bunch of idiots who just get drunk.”
“This” being the latest instalment of the Station Sessions, which the band will play as special surprise guests later that evening. With the band’s album ‘Fools And Worthless Liars’ cracking the Top 50 on release last year, the quartet are following the likes of You Me At Six, Young Guns, Kids In Glass Houses and Twin Atlantic in garnering some serious mainstream attention.
A wistful, nostalgic theme runs through the album – “I guess it was just what was on my mind at the time,” says James, with the band, and the singer in particular, forced to adapt following the departure of vocalist Ryan Mellor before work started on it: “At first it was hard playing live because I never really wanted to be a frontman,” he admits.
There’s a refreshing lyrical honesty to be found in the newer songs that emerged from it all - for example, ‘The Past Six Years’ begins: “These days my friends aren't who they used to be/We were all sinners and drunks but now they're too mature for me/Because Mike's on daytime radio, John played Reading & Leeds/And I'm still playing the Purple Turtle on New Year's Eve”
That's Mike Duce from Lower Than Atlantis and John Taylor from Young Guns, of course, and it’s clear that James had no problems admitting his envy at his friends’ progress: “I’m jealous of anyone who that does anything better than me! I think I’m always going to be. It helps me move forward. As long as I’m jealous of people I have a target to aim for, although, what am I going to say in that song now?!”
Deaf Havana have now made onto the daytime schedules themselves , and are set to play the Main Stage at Reading & Leeds this year, the band dissolving into laughter when one of the number claims that they’re “going to rock it” at the twin events.
They begin to count up the other festivals they’re playing this year – “Pukkelpop should be fun, we’ll get to see Bjork” – but ask them what the band’s favourite festival experience has been so far, and it’s a unanimous answer: Sonisphere 2010. Guitarist Chris expands: “Not just for our own performance, we were there the whole weekend and it was just amazing – all our mates’ bands, like Lower Than Atlantis and Young Guns were all playing too. There was a backstage Strongbow tent, and there wasn’t specific days on our passes, so we just went back there every single day and got really drunk.”
Flying in the face of the slew of “Rock Is Dead” articles of recent months, the British rock scene seems healthier than it has done in years. Not only that, there seem to be a a real community feel amongst its’ leading lights, which bass player Lee Wilson confirms: “We’re a big family really. A lot of the the other bands started around the same time as us, and then we began meeting people like You Me At Six a couple of years ago. They’re sort of the godfathers of this whole thing, and, yet, ironically, they’re also the youngest out of all of us!”
All that said, DH seem intent on setting themselves apart next time round: “I think we’re all branching out now,” says James, “Say you release an album every two years, over that time, you’re going to change dramatically. We always say ‘What’s the point in writing the same album twice?’ We want to explore new things.”
Ahead of festival season, the band are headed out on their biggest-ever UK tour this month. Like the album’s success and the Reading & Leeds Main Stage booking, it’s just reward for over six years of grafting.
“We feel weird now because we’re NOT on tour all the time,” says Chris. “The year before last, we probably played 250-300 shows, last year was slightly less, and this year we’ve done nothing! Now, we’re in a privileged position where we can wait for the stuff that we want. I guess normal people think we’re a new band, but ‘Fools And Worthless Liars’ was like our ninth release or something.”
As they look to blaze their own trail, they haven’t forgotten the community spirit that’s helped them get here: “We’ve got The Dangerous Summer and The Swellers touring with us which’ll be good, because they’re friends of ours. It’s the first tour we’ve done where pretty much everything is sold out.”
“We aimed moderately with the venues, we didn’t want to be arrogant. Maybe next time… O2 Arena?!” James laughs: “and the fifteen people that turn up to watch us.”
He may be joking now, but hang on, hasn’t someone else famed for relentless touring just made it to the arenas? “I love Frank Turner, good for him!” a jealousy-free James says, “he’s one of the few people I’m actually happy for to get to that level. I’ve been a fan of his since he was in Million Dead, I think it’s great that he can do that.”
Perhaps with that in mind, thoughts drift back to the next album: “I’ve realised we can do so much more, and I want to get it on record. We’re not just a rock band that jump around.”
They set about proving that at the gig itself, as devotees sitting cross-legged at the front while people put off running for their train to crane their necks at the back. ‘I’m A Bore, Mostly’ gets a huge cheer, before they finish with a Live Lounge-tastic cover of The Wanted’s ‘Glad You Came’, all without a Sunday roast in sight. The future looks bright.
Deaf Havana tour the UK this month, 'Fools And Worthless Liars' is out now.
The Station Sessions 2012 continue at London St. Pancras station every weekday until 4 May.