Appearances and music notwithstanding, Veronica Falls are not goths. Reached via phone at his London flat on a recent Friday morning, drummer Patrick Doyle is quick to set the record straight. When asked about the dark lyrical themes that recur in their self-titled debut, in songs such as “Found Love in the Graveyard,” “Misery” and “Bad Feeling” (the former their first single and the latter the third single), Doyle indicates that the band members have a “dark sense of humor, so it can come across one of two ways, really.”
“That was only ever supposed to be taken lightly anyway, we were never goths; it was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek,” he says. Doyle, and his bandmates Roxanne Clifford (both of whom were previously in Sexy Kids), James Hoare (of Your Twenties, whom they met at a show by British indie popsters Comet Gain) on guitar and lead vocals and their friend, bassist Marion Herbain, have a similar kind of humor as many bands that like “ghosts and stuff,” so despite the upbeat pace of the 12 tracks, he agrees that some of the jokes may have gotten lost in translation.
“We were thinking about this the other day; we’re thinking maybe the second record won’t be as gloomy, hopefully a bit more positive, but still as upbeat as the first record, just maybe not so many ghosts,” he laughs.
In terms of their sophomore full-length, Doyle elaborates that, “I’m just listening to some mixes right now actually, as we’ve been recording for the last two weeks, just before Christmas and then we did some more recording last week.” The band hopes to “ideally try and have the record recorded in the summer if not before.” They are “kind of getting our heads down and writing quite a lot in the interim,” between their upcoming tours of North American and UK/Europe and before festival season starts this summer, hopefully aiming for a fall or winter release date.
Aside from the “gloomy” themes of lost love and sadness expressed on the aforementioned songs and album tracks such as “The Fountain,” “Wedding Day” and the strident paean to “Stephen,” Veronica Falls invite questions about their moniker by including the track “Veronica Falls” toward the end of the running order on their eponymously titled release.
Doyle elaborates that “it has kind of a double meaning, when I think of it, I think of a place, … all of it is open to interpretation, like most things, but I think of it more of as a place that doesn’t actually exist to my knowledge.” When asked about why they recorded the song, he says, “We just really like it when bands have theme songs, although we never play that song live. We were in the studio and we thought it was kind of a nice excuse to try out something that we’d never normally play, with a slower tempo, and … more space. It came out nice; it was kind of an experiment I guess, but yeah, it ended up being on the record.” While it might seem to be a red herring that would throw a lot of similarly titular-oriented writers off, Doyle says that he’s never spoken to any other journalists about it.
On their debut, Veronica Falls worked with one of the 16 engineers credited on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and a member of the band Laika, whose résumé reads like a Who’s Who of 1990s Britpop and shoegazer rock, Guy Fixsen. When Doyle is asked if they’ll be working with him again, there’s a momentary pause and a diplomatic response: “I don’t think so, we didn’t end up using a lot of what we had, we only used two or three songs that he recorded in the end [on the album]. … I don’t think his production styles really worked with what we were trying to do, so I think we’re probably going to do the next one ourselves unless we find someone that we really like.” In fact, from reports published in Britain’s NME, it sounds as if the band rerecorded the majority of the record themselves in three days, as the original mixes sounded “flat” to them, and Doyle’s bandmate Clifford described the original recording setting as “like boarding school.”
Despite what may have seemed at the time like a setback, the record was released in the fall of 2011 to glowing critical reviews (including a rare five out of five mustaches from Pop ’stache), and Doyle says he’s been pleased with the positive reception:
PD: [The debut album] seems to have come out well, I think, especially in the UK, it’s harder to tell in the U.S. since we haven’t been there since it came out, but in the UK and Europe, [the reception] has been really good, we’ve toured a lot in the UK and Europe, and the people seem to have responded well to it, which is nice. We spent a lot of time on the album, so it’s good to finally hear what other people think of it. It’s been such a long time since we finished it that you kind of lose track of things when it happened that long ago, so for people to just be hearing it very recently, it’s really nice to hear what they think of it.
While it may have seemed to listeners and critics that the band came out of nowhere when they released their debut record, and the quartet has become an “overnight success,” Doyle says it doesn’t feel that way to him. “Before we’d begun recording or playing live we spent quite a long time in the studio just writing for a few months, so for us I guess it feels like we’ve been around a lot longer than we have actually have been in the public eye. … So I like to think that we’ve put a lot of work into it anyway, at least, … it feels like we’ve been going for a long time.”
When asked about the “sophomore jinx,” Doyle at first professes ignorance of the term, but when asked if he feels pressure to follow up their debut, he’s a little more forthcoming.
PD: Not really. I know what people mean when they say that, but I guess it’s different when you’re actually in the band because it’s hard to know what people are expecting, really, because it’s hard to know what they took from the first record, like, I don’t know, do they want a really poppy record? … It’s hard to tell because we’re in the middle of writing for the second record, so, to me it sounds a bit more poppy, the stuff we’re working on now, whereas maybe someone else might not think so—it’s hard to say at the moment, but I feel pretty confident that at least the songs are there. I’m happy with how they’re sounding at the moment, so hopefully people won’t be disappointed, [and have some more] songs to sing along to.
Perhaps a legitimate criticism of the first record was how visibly the songs wore their influences on their sleeves, so Doyle is asked how the band makes their music more than just an assemblage of their influences.
PD: I think it’s best not to think too much about it when you’re writing. Because there [are] four people in the band, there’s a lot of different influences coming in at the same time. I think the key is not to think about it too much, and then what comes out comes out, and I think a lot of influences come out subconsciously, anyway. We never really sit down and say, “Let’s write a song that sounds like this band, or let’s write a song that sounds like this song.” We all have our individual parts and then hopefully what comes out doesn’t sound like a copy of one thing but it’s really a mix of different influences—that’s the plan anyway.
He says the biggest misconception in terms of the band’s influences is that “a lot of people seem to think that we’re influenced by the UK C86 bands [that were featured on an NME compilation from 1986], but I think we’re probably more influenced by American bands than we are by British bands like Beat Happening and things like that [and] a lot more Flying Nun stuff from New Zealand rather than the UK bands.”
Although the band did some shows on the East Coast the first year they were together, and have played SXSW in Austin, Texas, and in Los Angeles and New York, the rest of the time was with The Drums, on their upcoming tour of North America, “We’ll be playing a lot of places that we’ve never done our own shows, which is exciting.” In addition, “We’ll be playing four or five new songs as well as old ones from the first record, too. We’re going to try to mix it up to keep it interesting for people as well as keep it interesting to us, since we’ve been playing everything so long, it’s nice to fit some new things in there to try out.”
At the conclusion of the interview, Doyle apologizes if he seems distracted: “I’m just trying to sew a button onto my shirt as I talk,” he laughs. No, this certainly doesn’t sound like the behavior of a goth, but readers can judge for themselves on their upcoming tour, and on their next record. Judging by their impressive debut, it would be a shame to pass up the chance to revisit Veronica Falls.