Interview: Veronica Falls – Getting to know the happiest band with the saddest songs

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When Veronica Falls got together in 2009, the London (by way of Glasgow) quartet didn’t have any plans past the singles they would release. By 2011, after their first two surf rock/pop/goth/punk/rock singles, “Found Love in a Graveyard” and “Beachy Head,” garnered critical acclaim and found their way onto the influential Rough Trade Shops Indiepop 09 compilation album (the album’s press date was postponed just so “Beachy Head” could be included), the band’s plans now included releasing an album through Slumberland Records (US) and Bella Union (EU).

Before their show at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles this past Saturday, their second-to-last stop on the North American leg of their tour to support their superb debut album (read the concert review here), the band – Roxanne Clifford (lead vocals/guitar), James Hoare (guitar/vocals), Patrick Doyle (drums/backing vocals) and Marion Herbain (bass) sat down with me and talked about what influences their songwriting, the superiority of vinyl, the importance of art over commerce, what they do to break up the monotony of driving, sleepwalking, and their favorite Friends characters.

So my first question…I have to ask about the songwriting process. The most prevalent thing with your songs is very uptempo music, harmonies, very reminiscent of the 60s, but with macabre lyrics that talk about dark subject matter. The juxtaposition of those two definitely yields itself to a very sort of dark sense of humor as well. Where does that come in the songwriting process as far as where do you come up with these songs?

RC: I think it’s just, you know, when we first started writing songs, we’d just do it and not take ourselves so seriously, like it’s not necessarily to be taken at face value. It’s just kind of overemotional, dramatic lyrics and kind of like, putting everything down to just simple factors like love and death.

When you formed, which came first? Did you have an idea of the voice or the vision of what you wanted Veronica Falls to be and then got together based on that or was it that you had the band already assembled?

RC: It was James, Patrick, and I who started playing music together first and it was quite natural really.

JH: Yeah, definitely wasn’t like, an idea to write songs with dark subject matter.

PD: I think we just wanted to write really simple songs that we would listen to ourselves. I think definitely keeping things minimal and simple was quite important.

RC: We didn’t have any grand plan or you know, I think it’s really dangerous when you do that because it’s really hard to be creative and natural and produce things that are sincere.

JH: I think as well because of the sound of the band, we didn’t want to be too like, sunshine pop in all elements because we’d already had a bit of a problem with the twee label and if you have songs about like, singing in fields and butterflies and stuff, wearing colorful shirts and you’ve got picky guitar lines it can be a bit too much.

Yeah, they’ll pigeonhole you for sure.

JH: Yeah, and then you’ll never be able to get out of it.

The track that Veronica Falls took initially…you were releasing singles and picking the label per single. Take me through how it started from there through signing with Slumberland and the album because originally, that was the way you liked it, the freedom of being able to write a song, record the song, and then put it out how you wanted to.

RC: Well yeah, I mean that’s kind of, because we didn’t have a grand plan we just thought that when we had songs we’d like to release them to the public as quickly as possible.

PD: We just did whatever came along, well, within reason.

RC: And we like bands that bring out singles and we all collect records and stuff and its nice to have different interesting releases like different labels and things like that.

JH: Yeah again it’s like if you don’t have a grand plan, like you just kind of, it would be like we got approached, ‘do you want to do this? Do a record?’ so, yes.

RC: But for the album you kind of need a little bit more support, I suppose, so yeah, we did it through Slumberland.

So essentially it was building up the singles and then eventually you have enough for an EP and then from there…

RC: Yeah.







You’ve kind of come through both the traditional way, as traditional as it can be, within the music industry as well through digital releases and things like that. Which do you prefer, as far as being able to put the singles out on vinyl and records versus putting things up on Myspace and things like that?

JH: I think because, like Roxanne was saying, because we collect records and we’ve all grown up with that kind of thing. I think it’s always more, if you just put a track online, it’s there, but it’s always where you’ve got the original, the artifact, you can press something up, it’s actually come out, then you’ve got the satisfaction of the physical…..

The tactile kind of, yeah…..

PD: It’s more of like a document of the band.

JH: Yeah, especially with the Internet these days anyone can put something online. It can be there as a release, but once something’s pressed up and put in record shops, it gives more to, it’s like five star tracks there, then you move on, you do something else.

RC: Yeah, I mean I don’t even really think of it as a release if it’s not out on vinyl.

JH: Yeah.

There’s nothing you can hold on to.

 RC: Because that’s not an artifact, is it? If it’s just online. It’s not going to like, be in someone’s record collection in 50 years.

JH: Yeah, you want something that, further down the line, someone’s going to treasure and, you know, it’ll be in their collection like ‘I really like this.’

It’s not like people have iPods lined up.

PD: Yeah.

JH: Yeah, they’re not going to be like ‘This is my iPod selection list in 1999.’

MH: We’ve actually found that most of our audience like to buy more records than online.

JH: Yeah, definitely having the physical artifact, the physical released copy is everything really. It’s like if you release something even on a CD, which in my mind is like, hardly a release.

It’s more disposable than having a record.

JH: Yeah, it’s more like, no one’s going to ever, you know, buy that CD on eBay and trade for it, it’s just for songs in the car.







Which do you prefer more, performing live to an audience or in-studio recording?

JH: Definitely for me, a hundred percent for the studio. It’s where everything comes together. You’re replicating what you did in the studio when you play live.

RC: It’s not really comparable to me. To me it’s just like two completely different things. It’s hard to have a lot of energy in the studio it’s like, it can be quite frustrating at times, but playing live, it’s connecting with your audience and it’s an amazing release.

JH: The satisfaction if you get the recording right. It’s like far more satisfying than I think any gig could ever be. If you spent a long time on it and you have the idea in your head how it’s going to sound and then it actually sounds, you know.  When you get a mix back and everything’s fine and you’re like ‘This sounds great!’ That’s like, that’s real. That’s real and then the gig is just an instant thing, isn’t it?

RC: In terms of like performing though, I mean it’s just like, you can sing in tune and sing really well when you’re recording but you just kind of have to go with the energy bit when you’re playing live.

It’s interesting to hear the two sides because the Veronica Falls album isn’t the initial recording. Why was that first recording scrapped?

JH: We basically recorded it and worked with a producer who was working in the old-fashioned control of telling us how we should do it. It came out not sounding exactly as we wanted, a bit sterile. So we recorded it again.

MH: The second time around we recorded it in three days, live, and then did the vocals separately, but we really wanted to try and capture our live sound and the emotion that we carry across and the first time around, it wasn’t a very good representation.

RC: The songs are really simple so you know, they work when its just played as they are live and getting them down like that so I think for the first album that’s just kind of how we needed to do it. We didn’t really want to mess around too much with the recording process.

Is the way that this first album was recorded, I know you’re in the process of getting ready to record the second album, is that something that you plan on doing with the second?

JH: It’s a learning curve. We like to do it that way. We just did a recent single, we just did it quickly and fairly effectively and just put in the vocals afterwards. It seems to work well.

RC: I think we’ve learned that the base music, we need to sort of play that together. We can’t really play to a click or a clap because it just doesn’t work for our sound. But I think in the future we’re going to try to experiment a little bit more with guitar sounds and things like that.

JH: Get some sitars on there. Tablas.

RC: We have to spice it up somehow.

I can help you out in any way I can with sitars and tablas.


JH: Yeah, yeah genuinely we’ve tried to get a more Indian sound on some of the newer songs.

Oh really?

JH: Yeah, but with guitars mimicking sitars. It would be too much to actually get a sitar. But you know, just like having that sort of atonal kind of drone sound that you can get on a guitar, in a similar way to what the Velvet Underground sometimes did. I used to own a sitar and I did think about maybe we could actually play a sitar.

RC: It sounds good sometimes if it’s just in the background.

JH: Yeah.

Getting into this tour, what is your favorite aspect of it?

MH: Discovering new places and traveling.

RC: For me, you know, seeing friends around the country you don’t get to see.

MH: We have friends everywhere in the States. It’s nice to see familiar faces and they take you out and show you the best places.

RC: It’s just really amazing to see the reaction of the record, like in such far away places, you know, people knowing the words, and responding to it really well. We had an amazing show last night in San Francisco.

Do you see a difference in the music landscape between touring in the UK and Europe as opposed to touring in North America?

JH: Yeah, there is quite a difference. I think that North America is a harder thing to get used to because it’s so big. It feels like you’re kind of in lots of different countries at the same time, like, the East Coast and West Coast are so different. It’s almost like if you were in Europe or something and you were going through different places. It’s kind of hard to get your head around. Normally, if we go on tour in the U.K. we know what to expect every time  but here it can be very different.

Being in the same country but it’s different states here, as opposed to being in different countries in Europe.

JH: Yeah, yeah. It’s a sort of massive difference.

What’s your favorite city that you’ve gone to in this most recent tour?

MH: I really liked San Francisco.

PD: We’d never been there before. We’d never played there until last night ’cause we missed it on our last tour so it was really fun. I thought it was amazing.

MH: It was amazing, yeah.

RC: That was brilliant.

PD: That or Portland, I really liked.

MH: Portland’s good. Toronto.

PD: I think after last night San Francisco has kind of taken over for me.

JH: Yeah. For me it was always New York or Toronto and now San Francisco’s maybe…..

MH: San Francisco’s gone higher.

RC: We all want to move there.

JH: I think New York and San Francisco are probably the best places I’ve ever been to.

RC: No offense to L.A.

JH: No, I like L.A. too, but San Francisco is just, it’s, geographically it’s a beautiful place and it’s got such a relaxed atmosphere. It feels like a small town that’s become huge, you know what I mean?

RC: It’s got everything.

How was the weather there?

JH: Oh, it was beautiful.

MH: It was actually really warm. Everyone was surprised. It was amazing.

JH: Yeah, it was amazing.

MH: It was perfect.

Yeah, I guess February, it’s a good time there. It’s weird that in San Francisco the summer is the coldest.

PD: Yeah, that’s what people said.

MH: July.

PD: I thought that was really confusing. It doesn’t make any sense.

What place is still on the list? The dream city, dream venue that you haven’t played yet?

JH: Japan is always an interesting aspect because you hear so much about it.

PD: It seems like a proper culture shock when people go there.

JH: Yeah, it’s not going to be like America and Europe, they still have some kind of common base together. Even like, Australia and New Zealand, we’d like to go there, but Japan is where everything switches over and you don’t really know what’s going on.

There’s no frame of reference for anything.

JH: Yeah exactly, and they love music and they’re obsessive and you know, interesting personalities.

RC: We like to meet people that are obsessed with us. (Laughs)

JH: Yeah, yeah, we need that otherwise-

PD: Otherwise we get sad.

So what’s the craziest moment you’ve had on this tour?

RC: It was probably when James lost his shoes this morning.

JH: Yeah, we had the van outside, ready to go, but we couldn’t leave because I couldn’t find my shoes.

MH: Your jacket or your shoes.

JH: Or my jacket. I couldn’t find any of my clothes, basically.

RC: And he had sleepwalked into the person whose house we were staying in’s rooms and taken his shoes off.

MH: One of the roommate’s rooms, yeah.

RC: He had his trousers on.

JH: Yeah, I had my trousers on. It could’ve been worse. I could’ve just been there naked and been like, ‘Im going to have to leave.’ and then gotten in the van.

MH: I thought we were going to have to leave with you not wearing any shoes.

PD: We’ve been pulled over by the police quite a lot of times this tour for some reason. They just love pulling us over. We must look suspicious.

JH: Yeah, I think they look through the windows and they’re like ‘That guy doesn’t look right. We need to pull that guy over quickly. He’s got drugs down his pants. Something’s not right.’

Does the van have windows? Because if it doesn’t then they’re probably thinking its a rape van.

PD: Yeah, yeah, it’s got windows. It’s more like an SUV.

RC: Our driver’s just very, very reckless.

JH: He’s reckless and a sexual deviant as well.


It is at this point that the band’s tour manager and the driver of the SUV in question pops his head into the green room.

Tour Manager: I’m not supposed to be mentioned in this interview.

JH: In fact, the wildest moments are from him, and what comes out of his mouth from the front seat on the motorway. Some loco shit.

PD: We’re babysitting him a lot of the time.

(More laughter)

Bands in the new millennium. They’re babysitting the manager. It’s supposed to be the other way around!

JH: Exactly, yeah! The Internet’s here. The band looks after their manager.

PD: It’s all turned around.

On previous tours you guys have opened for bands like Belle and Sebastian. What are your likes/dislikes, thoughts on the differences between opening for a band and headlining your own tour?

RC: It’s way better doing our own shows.

PD: Yeah. It was scary in the beginning, like the first time we went out I was like, what if no one comes, that would be the worst thing ever. But then, when people do come it’s all the more flattering because you know that they’re there to see you.

RC: Yeah, and the bills, like, we toured with Brilliant Colors from San Francisco. They were really cool and we get on really well with Bleached, who we’re on tour with at the moment so it’s really nice to have like, kind of like-minded bands with you.

PD: It’s good that we’ve got two bands that we’ve got on with really well.

RC: Plus we’re also fans.

JH: I think also like the, playing to a hundred and fifty people who have come to see you, as opposed to a thousand people who are just there to see another band.

PD: It’s weird.

JH: You’re, whatever, the fluffer.

RC: Yeah, we played to like, two thousand people when we played with Belle and Sebastian and we didn’t sell one bit of merch.

Oh really?

PD: Yeah.

JH: Yeah, yeah and it’s not very satisfying.

PD: I saw a girl pick up a T-shirt and then she just went like this (makes a motion of dropping it).

JH: She thought it was a Belle and Sebastian T-shirt, and then just went ‘Fuck that.’ and I hated that shit.

RC: I didn’t enjoy the Belle and Sebastian show.

JH: I really hated it. I left as soon, I went home straight away. I went home and had a spliff.

So headlining is much more rewarding.

JH: Yeah, it’s not even comparable. Unless you’re playing with your favorite band ever AND the audience wants to see you as well.

What is the dream bill? That one where you’d be playing with your favorite band ever and the audience is also there to see you?

JH: Existing band or?

Any, yeah.

RC: Most of the bands that we like we’ve probably already played with.

JH: Maybe like, if The Velvet Underground re-formed.

PD: It was good when we played with Teenage Fanclub. That was all right. Those shows were a bit more fun.

JH: Yeah, and we’ve subsequently had people coming up to us saying ‘Oh, we saw you on the Teenage Fanclub tour and now we’ve come to see you,’ so it does work sometimes. But if it’s good matching, then it’s, you know.

Velvet Underground’s definitely a good one.

JH: That would be that one. If they re-formed.

RC: Yeah, that would be great.

PD: I think I’d be too scared to play with the Velvet Underground.

RC: I don’t really like meeting my idols or anything like that. It just makes me feel shit about myself. I just, I don’t know. I don’t really like playing with bands that I like.

PD: Yeah, let us play with someone that we hate. That would be better.

I remember reading one of your very first interviews. Right after the release of “Found Love In A Graveyard,” but before you released “Beachy Head,” where you said that you didn’t consider yourselves a “career band” and you were just looking forward to getting to the point where you could be working doing what you love. What would you now, after the album release and the tours, say to yourselves back then?

PD: I think it’s still the same.

RC: It’s the same really. Everything that comes along is just a bonus.

PD: I don’t think we tend to pander towards people or things. We’re kind of selective about what we do. We only do it if we think it’s going to be fun.

RC: Yeah, I mean we kind of like, let it work for us.

MH: It’s hard work too.

RC: Yeah, every band functions differently. We’re not going to take like, every show we get offered. I mean, it just needs to still be fun.

PD: I think most of the support tours we did do up until now we did because we wanted to, not because we thought it would be a good thing to do.

MH: No, we just really liked the bands.

PD: We liked going on tour with the Dum Dum Girls because we get on with them really well.

JH: Yeah, it’s always if you have the personal contact. We’ve been offered support tours that would be good maybe, we might sell some records, but we turned them down because we don’t really think we’re necessarily going to have that much in common with the bands we’d be playing with.

RC: And we don’t want to do a support tour that much that we would…..

JH: We’re not, you know, desperate to like, play.

From a music fan’s standpoint, it’s amazing to see a band that’s out there who are still only doing it because it’s fun.

JH: Well that’s how we were when we started the band. We didn’t have any game or plan. We did it because we’d all been playing music for a long time and we just got together and wanted to do it.

RC: Yeah, if it’s not a creative outlet. It’s not good.

JH: Yeah, you want it to be like an honest kind of thing. Something to do creatively and keep you interested. As soon as you’re thinking about how many records you’d sell if you went on tour with that band or what you could do if you did that, it’s like…..

It becomes more commercial than creative.

JH: Yeah.

PD: It becomes more businesslike.

JH: Yeah, you don’t want it to be like a business. The reason you start playing music is because you don’t like the idea of working for business, basically. So if it becomes a nine to five sort of thing and you’ve got to go and do things you don’t want to do then what’s the point in doing it?








When I listen to your songs, the biggest influences I detect are from the 60’s – surf rock like Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, and then of course The Velvet Underground, and then also from that golden period of 90’s indie rock with The Breeders and The Pixies.

RC: Yeah, the Pixies. We love all that, yeah.

And especially with the juxtaposition of these uplifting harmonies and uptempo songs with these sort of dark lyrics, sort of like “Leader of the Pack,” “Mello Yellow,” “California Dreamin’.” 


JH: No one’s ever done a Donovan comparison before. I love Donovan. We like that, like the “Sunshine Superman” kind of like, he’s kind of like psychedelic and weird but he’s also got this kind of dark undercurrent.


JH: There’s some craziness bubbling underneath the surface. It’s not just sunshine and flowers everything’s going to be all right.

Yeah, like in horror movies, what’s scarier, a big monster guy who’s a serial killer or a little girl who’s singing a lullaby while she’s killing people?

JH: Yeah, exactly. We really like that kind of thing, like weird, childlike references and things like that. Spooky stuff.

How would you define what direction that you guys are heading toward in terms of the sound for your next album?

RC: I don’t think we think about it in terms of like, ‘on the next album we’re going to be influenced by this,’ I think it’s more kind of natural than that.

PD: I think it’s a bit more subconscious. We just all like listening to a bunch of different things.

RC: We listen to quite a lot of different types of music.

JH: If you have a plan like that it’s a bit detrimental to be like, ‘Okay guys, we’ve done this record-‘

PD: Let’s try and make this sound like that.

RC: The only thing that I’d really like to do for the new songs is sort of just push it more and really try and be a little bit more loud maybe, like don’t be so estranged.

JH: I’ve got the idea of maybe the guitars being heavier.

RC: And be more interested in having like, lots of layers, not so in-your-face pop songs. We always have catchy melodies and good harmonies and things but maybe not so straightforward.

PD: And the sitars.

JH: Yeah, I was going to say that so you could write about it.

PD: Some twelve strings hopefully.

Oh yeah, sitars, that’s going to be boldly underlined in the article. So, since you guys have been very, very kind in answering my questions, any question, and I will answer and write it, you have for me?

JH: So some kind of sick, twisted question?

Anything you want.

JH: Should we ask about-

RC: (Laughs) I knew you were going to do that one! No don’t!

JH: When we’re in the van we’re very bored so we talk about-

PD: We talk about a lot of shit.

JH: We talk about a lot of shit.

PD: It’s probably not as funny to the people out of it.

RC: No, probably not.

MH: We look at a lot of strange things.

JH: We’re just bored. We did a 14 hour drive one day. You’ve got to break it up.

PD: Or you’re going to lose it.

RC: Who is your ideal mate?

My ideal mate.

RC: Man or woman.

PD: Man or woman or beast.

JH: (Laughs) You can say a dog.


My girlfriend is outside.

PD: So you’ve got to say her.

I’d say my girlfriend is my ideal mate, but if she had like, wings.

RC: (Laughs) She’s going to read that.

I know.

PD: And you’re going to be like, ‘Shit, I wish I hadn’t said wings.’


So what do you do when you guys are driving across the country to break up the monotony of the drive?

RC: Talk absolute shit.

PD: Watch a lot of TV. We watched the same TV series twice in a row, just because we had nothing else to do, so we watched the entire series, from start to finish, twice.

What series?

PD: The Comeback.

RC: Do you know it?

Yeah, yeah, with…..

RC: Lisa Kudrow.

PD: Today I suggested we could watch the whole thing again with the commentary on it, but we didn’t do it. There’s still time.

My ideal mate.

PD: Lisa Kudrow!


PD: Who’s your favorite member of Friends?

RC: No! Who’s your favorite member of Veronica Falls!

MH: Me, of course!

Both! It’s a tie!

RC: No seriously, that’s the question! Who’s your favorite member of Veronica Falls?

MH: You don’t have to answer now. We can just read it online. You can say it’s me because I saved you.

Absolutely, yeah. It’s all four of you! And all four of you combined would be my ideal mate.

MH: If we had wings! But your girlfriend’s outside. So, Patrick.

Yeah, exactly. So, Patrick.

PD: Safe bet.

“Friends,” I guess I started out Ross and then ended up Chandler.

RC: Boys always like Ross.

PD: I don’t. I hate Ross.

RC: I hate Ross.

PD: Rachel’s my favorite.

RC: My favorite’s Rachel.

PD: She’s the most solidly funny Friend. And true to character.

MH: I don’t like “Friends.”

No one goes Monica.

PD: She’s too neurotic.

RC: Monica’s probably my second favorite.

Thanks to Veronica Falls for the interview. Go buy their album on vinyl. Go see them on tour the next time they come Stateside.








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