by Amanda Mills

The Veils: Finding A Way Forward

by Amanda Mills

The Veils: Finding A Way Forward

Light from dark, beauty from flux, creativity from disorder – highs and lows have marked the path to The Veils’ new long-playing album ‘…And Out of the Void Came Love’, released in early March. Amanda Mills delved into the double album with songwriter and lead vocalist Finn Andrews. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.

With five albums released over the course of two decades, Finn Andrews admits he was seriously considering the future of his indie rock band The Veils while recovering from breaking the scaphoid bone in his wrist, the injury happening while ‘intensely’ playing the piano during a show in Europe to support his 2019 solo album ‘One Piece at a Time’.

“It’s got a weird injury where I’ve broken this bone that died, and the blood supply got cut off from it, so… it kind of means you can’t use your wrist for quite a long time. I’m sort of on borrowed time with it… but for the moment it’s been alright.”

Back in Auckland at the start of the pandemic, multi-instrumentalist Andrews was at a crossroads. His wrist was injured, The Veils had no record label, and he felt sure the band was done and that he wouldn’t make another album. It was, he says, overwhelming.

“It’s still something I’m figuring out, honestly,” he confesses. “This one was probably the closest I got to feeling like I’d run out of road. We were going into the pandemic without a label, and that was pretty full on… No-one was signing anything new.”

Thoughts also turned to how The Veils record their music and he wondered about radically downscaling, asking himself if he should record a new album alone in his bedroom. He was also wrestling with the idea of the band itself, wondering if they were “an old idea… this group of people with all their stuff, all their dirty, expensive, delicate instruments,” he laughs.

“Is The Veils just sort of a dinosaur whose time is up, and maybe I’ve written enough songs anyway? Who would care if that was the last one?”

Such conflicted thoughts (which he now calls “fucking irrelevant”) during a time of global crisis at least proved good for his songwriting, delivering a lot of new material. The track that came first was Undertow, a song about being a writer, how it’s in his blood, and how he can’t escape it.

“The songs came, and I felt like I wanted them to exist… I just got back to the love of writing things, and I had a lot of songs.” 

The resulting Veils’ double album, ‘…And Out of the Void Came Love’, is released locally on Banished From The Universe and internationally on Ba Da Bing Records. Andrews laughs that he wrote enough material for a triple album, but says, “I’m glad that didn’t happen, for everyone’s sake, but that was a thought at one point. There was a lot pouring out.”

The re-jigged Veils recorded the album at The Lab and Roundhead Studios over two years (in-between lockdowns), with new bassist Cass Basil and guitarist Tom Healy (who both played on Andrews’ solo album), and returning bandmate Liam Gerrard on keyboards joining, Dan Raishbrook (guitar) and drummer Joseph McCallum.

Sophia Burns has (for the time being at least) left the group.

“Soph got a job. She’s in England, I’m here, and it’s all been kind of boringly logistical,” Andrews laughs. “Liam is here, and it’s been another bit of a re-jig, and also an amalgamation of the solo band and the old Veils line-up. Dan and Henning Dietz are joining for the European tour we’re about to do over there… it does seem to be a bit of an open-door policy in the band now. I hope that Soph can come back again at some point.”

While down-scaled in some respects, ‘…And Out of the Void Came Love’ is an album of wider collaboration. UK duo The Smoke Fairies appear on backing harmonies after Andrews heard one of their EPs. “Rings Of Saturn was the first one we did which we knew we wanted Smoke Fairies for close harmony singing. They agreed to do it… they really added so much to the album.”

Producer Tom Healy (who plays on this album and also produced Andrews’ solo release), was also key.

“I think without Tom’s encouragement as well, it wouldn’t have come together, and he really just let me spend so much time on this album, far beyond what we had the budget to do,” Andrews smiles. “He had so much faith in the album… I can’t imagine it without him.”

The tracks also feature string arrangements by composer Victoria Kelly, with elegant performances from the NZ Trio. Kelly worked with Andrews on his solo album, and he considers meeting her one of the greatest surprises of his creative life. Their newfound friendship led to her “completely transforming” much of that record he says.

“With this album, it’s been the same, where she added this whole other dimension to the record. She’s just so fantastically talented, and I felt so lucky to have her lending us her time.”

‘…And Out of the Void Came Love’ is complex. It’s beautiful, it’s weighty, and it’s frequently funny. It’s tender, raging, and ironic, with visceral, intense imagery in the lyrics and music that’s often light as air, and almost playful. The influence of Nick Cave shows in places, while in others there are shades of Leonard Cohen adding to the gravitas. The title reflects the last three years for Andrews, who considers albums to be markers of time and experience, similar to diary entries.

“The older I get… they feel less like music or like an album, and more like a sort of chunk of your time. They’re the only record of my time on the planet.”

As a double album it naturally has parts, and a lot of different ideas are explored.

“The division in the middle just felt natural to me, and there’s a second half of the story, I think.”

There are some extraordinary songs which examine deep themes of mortality, new life, and existence. Lyrically, it’s rich with vivid imagery and storytelling familiar from earlier Veils albums.

“I don’t really seem to divert that far from the same stuff. Obviously writing an album, expecting a baby during a pandemic tends to make your thoughts go to certain places!” he laughs. “They’re fun places to figure out what I think about… you can sort of funnel it into these little songs and eventually they make some kind of sense.”

The single No Limit Of Stars was written after Andrews read the book Novascene by James Lovelock, which includes theories about extra-terrestrial life.

“Why we might not have heard from anyone?” he muses. “Whether it’s because we’re so reprehensible, or they’re scared of us, which is such a melancholy thought. Or maybe we are really the only ones here, in which case that’s quite beautiful, and melancholy in a different way, or more inspiring maybe to live your life better.”

The opening song, Time, is a particularly moving and lovely piano ballad, imagining time as different figures or entities. Again Andrews considers it a way of trying to process his thoughts and feelings around the last few years.

“I like the idea of this mantra-like song … you could see the structure of time in a way that I couldn’t before.”

The same thread of humour that runs through much of The Veils’ work appears on The Day I Meet My Murderer, a song about meeting death that presents as a lyrical dance, and the sprechstimme (spoken-singing) vocal delivery is seductive to the ear. It almost didn’t make it onto the album, as the label wanted to drop it, but Andrews fought for it to stay.

Bullfighter (Hand of God) may be the opposite in tone, the result of a fever dream where Andrews dreamt of being the bull stabbed by the figure of a bullfighter. In an album overflowing with wonderful songs, one highlight is The Pearl (Part II), a melancholic, disturbing song of longing and possession, and how quickly this can turn to regret and despair.

The album’s closing track is a cover of a Shriekback’s Cradle Song – a song Andrews’ father wrote for him as an infant, and one he is now singing to his daughter. The circle, it seems has closed. Unsurprisingly, fatherhood has affected Andrews’ worldview.

“I finished this album two days before she was born, so it really was going from one world into another… everything else in my life that has changed completely ever since having her, and the way I look at everything seems to have changed,” he smiles. “The world does look very different now. I’m sure it will only improve the way I do things as well.”