Veronica Falls have fallen victim to some rather lackadaisical criticism of recent months. A fair few appraisals of their eponymous debut are, at best, sub-Morley namedropping and smug hipster one-upmanship, with more effort plundered in references to obscure American shoegaze than assessing a finely realised debut from a young band. Luckily, I gave them more than 30 seconds’ listen, and spoke to drummer Patrick Doyle ahead of their headline set at The Duchess this Sunday.
Formed from the disbanded members of Sexy Kids and Your Twenties in 2009, the band’s swift development is charted in their string of well received singles, including ‘Found Love in a Graveyard’ and ‘Beachy Head’. With a debut LP built around such early songs, their sound found favour with the likes of Rough Trade, the record making it to #6 in their best of 2011 list.
‘It definitely seems like we’re busier than when we started. So I guess that’s good’, Doyle says of their success. ‘[I used to read the reviews] when we started, the first couple of days, and then it got a bit overwhelming so I don’t read them anymore. I know my mum does. Only the nice ones though.’
The group have spoken previously of their distaste for the slack-handed labelling that occurs, eschewing the usual deference to the C86 sound, and the journos that fall on the comparison. ‘I think it can just tend to be a bit lazy. I think once the word’s been thrown around long enough it’s hard to shake it off. But then again it’s good to vaguely categorise people…I can see why it’s useful but it just gets a bit tiring when you’re reading it.’
Fans of established acts often find a way into the group’s music through such ‘useful’ alignments. Of their recent support slot for Belle & Sebastian, Doyle thinks ‘it was probably a good crowd for us to play to. They seemed to like it. It’s always kind of hard to tell when you’re stood in front of people. But afterwards I guess we got a lot of people talking to us which was nice.’
Their live shows echo the precision of their recorded output. In particular, Roxanne Clifford’s northern chimes, flanked by the harmonies of drummer Patrick and guitarist James Hoare, put across a united front, like two brooding older brothers backing up their young sister – an image that Doyle finds amusing.
‘Yeah it’s very much like a little family, I think you can’t help but get to that point when you spend so much time with people. Me and Roxanne live together, we’re just at home now writing some bits and pieces for the second record, James is coming round in a bit.’
The close-knit family dynamic transfers to the creative process as well. ‘We all kind of bring ideas to the table separately, and then we add a bit to it as a group. We look at the whole picture and then we finish it off together. It’s kind of a nice, organic process really; we all have a share, and hopefully what comes out at the end sort of sounds like our band. I think maybe that’s how we’ve managed to remain quite consistent in our song-writing.’
With regard to the next Veronica Falls LP, the drummer is cagey. ‘I think it’ll still sound like us hopefully. Maybe a bit more in your face. Hopefully as poppy as the first one. We’ve got a few weeks off in April to hopefully finish writing the album and we’d like to hopefully get it recorded by the summer. All depends on how hard we work, so fingers crossed. If we get on with it, it’d be good to get it out by the end of the year.’
Their tour-bus listening would suggest we can expect a bit more of the same, with a renewed sense of urgency, the ‘in-your-face-ness’ that Patrick speaks of. ‘[I’m listening to] early REM, a lot of their IRS stuff. A lot of The Feelies. A lot of the Beastie Boys as well. A new band called Bleached, who we went on tour with in America, we’re really into them.’
The band are self-confessed vinyl fetishists, fans of the tangible ‘artefacts’ of pop music. Hoare is particularly taken, his prized collection of mono 7”s by The Byrds being his current conversation topic of choice. Doyle prefers their music released in plastic form, and is interested in contributing something to Record Store Day. ‘Yeah we’re collectors. We like records. We plan everything towards a record, like the way we track-list everything is like Side A/Side B. I don’t know, we just find the CD thing a bit beyond us. We tend to focus on the record.’
Herein lies a tricky dichotomy of the Veronica Falls ethos: they’re twee iconoclasts and vinyl revivalists. As with any band, they owe a certain debt of gratitude to their influences, pioneers of certain sounds. To assert a distance from what could be deemed a lack of originality is fair, they’re not plagiarists.
But then there’s also the importance of a critical framework within which to place yourself, being, as Patrick puts it, ‘vaguely categorised’. So at once we see the band shaking off comparison, keeping the past at arms’ length with regard to their own output, whilst at the same time weaving such imagery into their own mythology, be it the strategically placed Galaxie 500 and Thurston Moore LPs in the background of their video interviews, or their interview of Johnny Marr for loudandquiet (an experience that Doyle thought ‘a bit weird, just like having an email conversation with someone you’ve never met’).
Yet for now it’s fair to reserve judgement, and surmise that they’re a capable group engaged in a healthy discourse with their heritage, producing well referenced, polished post-punk pop records with a focus on quality and authenticity of sound and iconography, both artefacts and ideas that their fans can touch.
Veronica Falls play The Duchess on Sunday 11th March. Tickets are £7 online, £9 on the door.
By Dan Cere