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NewTracks New Artist: Vera Ellen

NewTracks New Artist: Vera Ellen

Lower Hutt-born musician Vera Ellen Williams is about to get her own first album release with Flying Nun, and it seems she has getting stuck in Wellington due to Covid, while promoting her Los Angeles-based feminist collective Girl Friday‘s album, to thank. Gaol Bait and Maple Syrup are among her previous Kiwi bands, and the multi-instrumentalist has become a prolific songwriter since. NZ On Air Music took a shine to her album’s first single YOU!, a vivaciously simple yet hooky tale of unrequited love, including it on their NewTracks compilation this July.

What’s your full name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

I go by Vera Ellen. I grew up in Naenae, Lower Hutt. Primarily guitar and bass, and my vocal cords I suppose.

Was any high school or other music training important to you?

My “musical training” could be attributed to playing a bunch of shows to 2-4 people. I am always in training. Life is training!

Any other previous (or current) projects might we know you from?

Maple Syrup, Girl Friday, Sweater, Gaol Bait

What’s the background to how Vera Ellen as solo project came to be? 

Vera Ellen is just me. So in that sense, it would date back to my first song which I wrote for my mum on mothers, using the only two chords I knew. I was about 8/9 years old? Or perhaps when I played around with Garageband for the first time around 15.

I have some wonderful people who played on the album and in my live set, like my brother Albert River, the wonderful Ben Lemi and Samuel Austin whose dad, Mark Austin, produced the record.

How has your music evolved far from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

My own delve into music and what I admire about the craft of songwriting has evolved. What I constitute as a good song, what I am drawn to lyric and sonically. In my mind, I am nowhere near the point as an artist I know I can be, and that point will only get further away as I get older. The impossible unreachable self-imposed standard.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date? 

My album ‘Beat Yr Name’ which I self-released in 2018. I pushed my own boundaries sonically for that record and trusted myself to produce it. I also had a lot of fun doing it.

What makes You! stand out for you as a single?

It’s a fun tune.

What is the story behind You!?

It’s about the frustration of wanting something complicated to be simple.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

I love playing the bass in that song. The bridge in particular has a fun bass line.

Who did you record and produce the single with? 

Mark Austin produced the single. We recorded it between Pyramid Club and Mark’s home studio. I wrote it a year or so before recording it and demoed the whole thing out myself. I might release the demo one day.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

You can’t always get what you want.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

Length.

Who else is in your team?

Mark Austin, Flying Nun.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

Girl Friday – we just put out an A/B – watch this space.

Who did you make the video with?

Myself and my friend Samuel made the video. Starring my friend from high school. We had a blast making it.

Any last words?

May the best dream win.