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I (EK) had the chance to interview the British band, Veronica Falls, when they played at Great Scott in Boston on Saturday, March 9th. My Brooklyn friend Jessica Hirashima came up to see the show and joined me when I interviewed guitarist/vocalist Roxanne Clifford and drummer/vocalist Patrick Doyle. These former Sexy Kids were charming and funny and a delight to interview. Thanks go out to Jack Rabid, Taylor Hass, and Kip Kouri for setting this up.
EK: This is Elizabeth and Jessica with Patrick and Roxanne from Veronica Falls. We’re here to ask them a few questions about what’s been going on with their tour and things like that. You just started in the States, right?
EK: On Wednesday?
ROXANNE: I think the first show was on Wednesday in Washington DC?
EK: How has it been so far?
ROXANNE: It’s been really good, yeah; the DC show was really fun. Everybody was really dancing, getting into it. Ah, we played Philly, which was fun, and then last night, the Bowery Ballroom was really good.
EK: Now, at this point, do you folks still have day jobs?
PATRICK: When we’re in London, we try and do…it’s kind of hard to get a job that you can disappear for a month at a time, but I work in a bar one or two days a week when I’m at home, and try to fit it around touring.
ROXANNE: We all do bits and bobs really. We none of us have a regular job, so we do this and that.
EK: If you had a full time job, it would be hard to take off months at a time to go on the road.
PATRICK and ROXANNE: Yes.
PATRICK: You talk about an understanding boss.
EK: Unless you own the company.
JESSICA: I know that tour schedules are generally pretty tight, but throughout your travels, have you ever made an effort to see any of the sights along the way?
ROXANNE: We do, well we have. We went to Niagara Falls on one tour, which was really nice. Where else did we go?
PATRICK: It’s weird, because you never get days off in the city, you expect to use it because then you’d see parts of the city you don’t know much about
ROXANNE: Smithsonian, Air and Space Museum…
PATRICK: We had a couple of days before we started this tour in New York, so that was nice to just hang out in New York and do New York things, but I don’t know, we should plan it better so when we have days off, we should work out what we’re going to do.
ROXANNE: Yeah, we never have the chance or time to go somewhere, and even if there’s an exhibition or a museum, we rarely have enough time to do it, so we generally just try and walk around near the venue and try and find a guitar shop or a record shop or something like that.
PATRICK: Once we had the day off and drove to Lake Como and that was really nice.
ROXANNE: That was brilliant. That was excellent.
PATRICK: That was actually cool.
JESSICA: Have you traveled the West Coast at all?
ROXANNE: Yeah, we’ve done the West Coast twice?
PATRICK: Twice, yeah. Twice. We did LA and San Diego and parts of the Bay area.
JESSICA: I’ve heard a couple bands say that they made sure to stop and see the redwoods when they were traveling through northern California.
PATRICK: Wow, that would be nice.
ROXANNE: After this tour, I’m going to stick around in LA for a bit and go out to Joshua Tree for a few days.
EK: That sounds nice. Have you been to Boston before?
ROXANNE: Yeah, we’ve played in Boston three times?
PATRICK: Three times, yeah.
EK: Have you been to this venue before?
PATRICK: No, do you remember where we played last time?
PATRICK: Radio in Somerville, and then Brighton Music Hall, and then before that we played the show in Charlie’s Kitchen right in Harvard Square.
EK: I haven’t been there.
PATRICK: It’s like a diner, but we played upstairs.
EK: That sounds kind of cool.
PATRICK: Yeah, it was really fun; it was our first ever show and it was really tiny and bright. It was pretty fun. It was a good show.
EK: The record is so sparkling and fun on the surface, but there are all these murky undercurrents underneath and that makes it so interesting to listen to. I was just curious, what was the recording process like? Did you like working with Rory Atwell?
PATRICK: Yeah, we recorded our first ever recordings with Rory when we just started, so it’s kind of like going back to our roots a little bit. We went away and tried working with a few different people, so we came back to him. He’s quite easy to work with and gets where we’re coming from, so that part was really fun. We were doing it in little patches as we toured. It was broken up a little bit.
EK: I just love your vocal harmonies and I just wonder how much work goes into getting that just so.
ROXANNE: We do a lot of work. We kind of work out and play together and when you start to record things, you kind of realize exactly how things work, so sometimes it changes a bit as part of the recording process. But yeah, it’s a really important part of our sound.
PATRICK: We almost treat the music and the vocals as two different things. We’ll work on the music, and then work on the harmonies instead of writing around the kitchen table. It’s just so much easier to hear what everyone’s doing and what’s working and what’s not, but yeah, we do spend a lot of time on harmonies.
EK: And it shows, I’ll tell you, it’s marvelous.
PATRICK (laughs): Thanks.
EK: There are so few bands these days that are focusing on quality and doing something special like that. I think back to bands like The Hollies and old favorites of mine that still sound amazing these days.
ROXANNE: Yes, we really got some of our influence from the 60’s singing style.
JESSICA: How much thought goes into arranging your albums into a singular, cohesive piece of art, as opposed to a collection of independent songs?
ROXANNE: I think the first one came about quite naturally, when we were getting started and figuring out who you are as a band. We’d been playing all those songs live, and that energy, we just recorded all that live. But this one, this is more about having a dynamic album, as a whole. I think we needed to have some catchy ones in there, and it’s nice to have some quiet ones.
PATRICK: It’s like making a mix tape. You think a lot about what order will the songs be in. We often think, because we all listen to records, that you do one side at a time which is quite a nice way to do it because you have two separate sides.
ROXANNE: In terms of lyrically, the subjects, this came about quite naturally. Generally, you tend to write about the same things, even if it’s not so obvious.
JESSICA: So it’s kind of like you’re writing about the place you are in your life, so it kind of comes together.
ROXANNE: Yeah, I think so.
EK: Your new record seems very well received, at least from the people I talk to. Where has your greatest fan support come from to date?
ROXANNE: Umm, I guess here and the UK is maybe similar.
PATRICK: It’s hard to tell, when we’re over there as well, because the album came out at a slightly different time in the UK than the US. But you know we’ve had some really good shows so far.
ROXANNE: We do quite well in Europe. People seem to quite like us in Germany.
EK: How about sales at your merch table, have those gone well?
ROXANNE: Yeah, really well. We have a lot of our own art, we screen print all of our own merch, and have interesting things to sell. So, people like that.
EK: Still have some of those covers EPs left?
ROXANNE: The new one.
EK: The new one, Volume 2, right?
ROXANNE: We do have them, but we don’t have them with us. We got some CD-Rs that we made that we screen printed ourselves, but we don’t have the vinyl unfortunately, we were going to bring them, but we forgot them and left them back in our rooms.
EK: Oh, bummer. Growing up, did you have siblings or parents with cool record collections that informed some of your musical tastes?
ROXANNE: (laughs) I got most of my musical tastes from my sister who is ten years older than me. My Dad played in lots of bands when he was younger and taught me how to play guitar. So, yeah, I’m really influenced by my family in that sense.
PATRICK: My big brother kind of did a similar thing; I copied a lot of his records.
JESSICA: When did you first pick up your instruments and start playing?
ROXANNE: I started playing guitar when I was 9. And I had lessons at school and it didn’t really work out, I kind of got bored with having lessons. I didn’t do it for quite awhile, and then I started playing guitar again when I really got into music, and I wanted to go out and play music myself, so I just learned all the songs that I liked. So, yeah, I properly started to play as a teenager.
EK: Can you sight read?
ROXANNE: No, I tried. I actually could when I was a child, I kind of gave up. I’m dyslexic, and I find it quite hard. I think in a way it’s kind of an advantage to not really understand music, because you do it by what sound you want, it’s more natural and instinctive. If I really understood the way the chords actually worked, I’d think in a more linear or obvious way.
PATRICK: I think it’s good to just do what feels right. The more you think about things… I think I’d rather just not think about things (laughs).
ROXANNE: Especially for our band. It’s all about simple melodies and immediate pop songs. You really don’t need more than one or two chords
EK: You know what they say about still waters, right?
EK: One of my favorites off the new album is “Waiting for Something to Happen”, and I was just wondering if that’s about complacency in general, or just about relationships?
ROXANNE: I think it’s probably just generally feeling like you’re waiting for this invisible thing to arrive. I think everybody feels like that.
EK: It reminds me of the Nada Surf song, “Waiting for Something”, you know? It’s the same kind of sentiment. I felt like that my whole life, until I realized, I have all that I ever wanted. It’s just realizing that.
PATRICK: Yeah. It’s going to be the next single, that one. I’m glad you like it.
EK: Oh, I love it. I mean, so many memorable songs. So I said before, your songs are deceptively simple. How do you approach songwriting? Is there any set way a song is put together? And did you feel more pressure for this release than your first album?
ROXANNE: Yeah, it was quite a lot of pressure, because when people receive you quite well and like what you do, you can’t help but be influenced by that, and feel like you want to make something people will like. But we tried to do what we do, and make songs that we like, and not think about it too much. In terms of writing, there’s usually like an idea promoted to song and we sort of do it together, and everybody adds their parts, and we just make it into Veronica Falls. Every song’s different, really.
EK (to PATRICK): Do you have anything you want to add?
PATRICK: I forgot the question.
EK: About the songs being deceptively simple, and what goes into the songwriting process.
PATRICK: Oh, yeah, yeah. Someone will bring an idea forward and we’ll just make it into sounding like us, and everyone chips in a bit.
ROXANNE: Some songs take more work, sometimes we’ll completely rewrite a melody or if a chorus isn’t good enough, we’ll make it better.
EK: Where do you usually find the inspiration for your songs? For example, are Stephen and Daniel real people?
ROXANNE: PATRICK wrote those lyrics.
PATRICK: They’re based on real people, but probably not the right names. They’re from conversations we have with friends or things like that. I find it really hard to write anything from my imagination, it has to be based on something someone does or says. But that’s just me.
ROXANNE: I get a lot of inspiration from other music, other songs; sometimes I just like a lyric and want to change it or the sentiment or idea. I also get a lot of ideas from books, the titles of books and the titles of films. They’re usually quite dramatic or sum things up in a really nice way.
EK: I’m going to avoid the C word and the T word. C86 and twee. Because every review that I’ve read seems to put those words in there. And I have to be honest, I never heard that. I’ve listened to a lot of those bands in the past, and so many of them were here one minute and gone the next. Your music has never seemed like that to me, it seems lasting and something that, ten or twenty years from now, people will still be listening to. I hear things like The Beach Boys, the start of one of your songs, I swear it sounded like a Who song.
PATRICK: I’m trying to think which one that would be.
ROXANNE: “So Tired”.
PATRICK: Oh, yeah, maybe.
EK: I definitely hear The Feelies, especially on the first album, and there’s one song, I think it’s on your new album (actually, it’s the B-side to “My Heart Beats”), “Killing Time”, it reminds me of The Chills.
ROXANNE: Oh, good.
EK: With all that, how would you like to be thought of to people out there, as opposed to the labels that critics like to put on you?
ROXANNE: I guess how you said, something that’s more lasting and not some flash in the pan. I don’t think that we particularly want to enter into any scene or trend. So yeah, I guess we want to make songs that people will appreciate forever. A lot of bands hide behind their sound, but they don’t have particularly good songs.
PATRICK: So I think our music is quite honest in that respect, we just kind of write straight up pop songs that hopefully will be things people come back to listen to. It can be quite dangerous to push yourself in any certain direction or scene or genre, we kind of avoid that and not be influenced by musical trends. That’s all you can do, really.
EK: You ever think of covering “Pink Frost”? I think you’d do a marvelous job of it. It’s one of my all time favorite songs.
ROXANNE: It’s one of my favorite songs too. When we first started the band, in my mind that was what we wanted to sound like. We chose every song like “Pink Frost”. But we don’t sound like that really; you can’t really tackle songs like that.
PATRICK: It’s hard to touch something like that.
EK: That’s a devastating song. Just listening to that, I think I feel like crying every time I hear it.
PATRICK: There’s something spine-tingling about that song, there’s something about that atmosphere that gives you shivers whenever you hear it.
ROXANNE: The lyrics to “I Found Love in a Graveyard” are really influenced by that song.
PATRICK: Remember we started doing a cover of “Doldrums” years and years ago? I don’t think we ever recorded it, but we sung it a few times.
EK: I was lucky enough to see them in Boston back in the 80s, and one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. And they played “Pink Frost” of course; I think my mouth was open the whole time.
ROXANNE: I think every band’s got one song, well, every good band has got one good song and that’s definitely their song.
JESSICA: I was going to ask, I know you have the covers EPs and we’re talking about covers. I was going to ask if you ever played any live and I saw “Starry Eyes” last night, so I already know the answer to that. Are there any other cover songs you are thinking about adding to your repertoire?
ROXANNE: We’ve just done another covers EP, and we can play a couple of them live.
PATRICK: We could do one during sound check tonight.
ROXANNE: I think it’s the thing where we have so many new songs.
JESSICA: Not that I don’t love your songs…
EK: You do such a special job of the covers as well.
ROXANNE: Yeah, it’s nice to put them in every now and again.
EK: I mean, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band?
PATRICK: We’ve never played that live, that might be a bit weird.
EK: How many people know about that band? They were pretty obscure.
ROXANNE: That’s why we like doing it; because we like opening people up to music that we like that they might not have heard of.
JESSICA: I feel like people who really love music like covering other people’s music.
PATRICK: Yeah, it’s really fun to cover other people’s music. Just from a purely learning point of view, they find someone else’s music really fun and it changes the way you approach things.
JESSICA: And it’s a challenge too, it’s always easier to play your own music.
PATRICK: You want to make a different version; you don’t want to just copy it.
ROXANNE: We did a cover by that band The Rats from Portland. And I really want to play that song in Portland.
EK: That’ll be fun. Any favorite CDs, books, or movies you’d like to share with us?
ROXANNE: Yeah, loads. Whenever I get this question, my mind goes completely blank.
EK: Because there’s so many, right?
ROXANNE: Where do I start? I really like that film, The Collector, with Terence Stamp. Have you seen that?
ROXANNE: It’s actually the front cover of “What Difference Does It Make?” by The Smiths.
ROXANNE: It’s a picture of Terence Stamp, from that film. I love Morrissey’s lyrics; a few of them kind of reference that film. And it’s an amazing book as well; I read the book first and then saw the film. It’s very good. You should check it out. Book’s by John Fowles.
JESSICA: What music are you listening to right now?
PATRICK: The last record that I played was…do you know?
EK: What did you play in the van on the way up here?
ROXANNE: We all listen to our separate headphones.
JESSICA: Do you have a traveling record player?
JESSICA: Because you talk about listening to records.
PATRICK: We don’t take our records with us, but it would be nice. Remember in that Makeup DVD, they’ve got their tour band, they’ve got a little portable record player, it kind of reminds me of, everyone would be jumping up and down all the time, literally destroying their records. It would be cool though, it would be nice.
JESSICA: They sell portable record players, I have one.
EK: They have USB record players that plug right into a computer.
ROXANNE: I’ve been listening to that Electronic record. Have you heard that Electronic record?
EK: I don’t think so (actually, I have it at home, I just thought she said Electronics during the interview).
ROXANNE: It’s just been re-released. A friend of ours re-released it, it’s really good.
EK: How about shout outs for any favorite bands at home? Do you have any?
PATRICK: At home? Who is there?
EK: There aren’t any?
PATRICK: I actually really like a band from Australia called The Twerps. They released their first record the same time as we released ours, and they put some new stuff online, and I really like them. As far as London goes, I’m not too sure.
ROXANNE: I go through phases of really not seeking out new music, sometimes I do but I just feel like there’s so much old stuff I haven’t listened to that I just try to do that. Sometimes I’m really into music but other times I prefer not to really listen to music that much, especially when we’re playing live every night, and everything’s about music.
PATRICK: We basically kind of tune music out in a way and watch TV. Just to give yourself a break.
EK: I understand. I work on computers all day, and I hear people saying, have you written this yet, have you done this? And I say no, I took a break (laughs). Everyone needs a break, right?
EK (to JESSICA): Do you have the next question?
JESSICA: No, all the rest are yours.
EK: You have a lot of great company on Slumberland Records. How has it been to work with that label?
ROXANNE: Great. We really like Mike (Schulman). He actually got in touch with me and Patrick about a single of our old band’s, and I was a massive Black Tambourine fan as a teenager, and I never knew anybody who was into them. And then suddenly he emailed us and he could put the record out, and I was like, oh my God, it’s Mike from Black Tambourine.
PATRICK: He’s like the nicest guy ever. So sweet.
ROXANNE: And then suddenly everybody became aware of his band and his label.
EK: So many good bands on that label.
PATRICK: I really like that band The Aislers Set. I thought they were amazing.
ROXANNE: Aislers Set are really good. So is Black Tambourine, Brilliant Colors, Crystal Stilts, they’re one of my favorite bands on the label.
EK: And then there are labels like Captured Tracks putting out all the old New Zealand records, which is awesome.
ROXANNE: We did our first single with Captured Tracks.
EK: Moving to my geeky question, do you have any favorite gear, your guitars, etc, that you use?
ROXANNE: I just play a Fender Coronado, only one I’ve ever played in this band.
EK: Is that one of the guitars with the openings?
ROXANNE: It’s a hollow body and it’s really big. And it’s really cool.
PATRICK: I’ve only ever had one drum set, since I only just started playing drums for this band. I really love it, I got it from New York, it’s like an old 60’s Slingerland, and it’s really small. It looks beaten up in places.
JESSICA: What did you play before you played the drums?
PATRICK: The guitar.
EK: Oh, have you ever done any guitar for Veronica Falls?
PATRICK: Not in this band. Nah, I played guitar with Roxanne in our old band and the band before that. I just started playing guitar again. I bought a guitar recently; it’s been nice to play something else.
EK: To switch off and do something different.
PATRICK: Yeah, it’s nice to write songs on a guitar, easier than writing songs on the drums.
EK: Do you have preferences for vinyl over CD or digital?
PATRICK: Oh yeah, always have vinyl.
ROXANNE: I don’t buy any CDs.
ROXANNE: It’s more like, I just like to collect records and I don’t want to collect more than one format.
PATRICK: You feel really involved when you put on a record. There’s something really nice about it.
JESSICA: That’s what I tell people when they ask why I listen to records. Well you have to flip it over.
EK: And to close, do you have any new songs in the pipeline for fans to look forward to?
ROXANNE: We haven’t really been writing anything, to be honest, because we’ve only just done this record, and we’ve been touring loads, but there are always seeds of ideas.
PATRICK: We kind of literally just finished the record, went on to record the covers EP, and then pretty much been on tour.
EK: You think you might ever put those covers EPs together and release it as a full length release?
PATRICK: All the B sides.
EK: I think that would do well.
PATRICK: A box set.
ROXANNE: We really like having lots of releases. We like to have things for people to collect who are really interested because we really like collecting records ourselves. So we’re like, let’s keep doing that.
EK: You have quite a few singles with B sides.
ROXANNE: Yeah, and we always try and do a B side that is different.
PATRICK: We always approach B sides differently, more of a relaxed way, we’ll often record them at home, rather than going to a studio, which is always nice to get that different feel, which is nice for our B sides. You feel like you can get away with a bit more on a B side, experiment or something.
EK (stage whisper): You could do “Pink Frost” as a B side.
ROXANNE: We need to just stop doing covers. We’ve got too much now we need to quit. Everyone’s going to think we’re a covers band.
EK: A really good covers band.
PATRICK: We played with a band recently that covered “Pink Frost”. I don’t think it was the best version.
EK: Have you heard the House of Love’s version of it? It’s very good.
ROXANNE: Really? I like The House of Love. I like “Christine”.
EK: That whole album is wonderful.
PATRICK: Christine is really good.
EK: I know Jack Rabid has a copy of House of Love’s version of “Pink Frost” that he played on his show for me, because I requested it. But I would say, it’s very hard to find.
ROXANNE: I have the first Chills 7”, “Rolling Moon”, I love that song too. But it’s not as good as “Pink Frost.”
PATRICK: It’s hard to touch that; they really nailed it, didn’t they?
EK: It’s hard to live up to that. When you’ve had a lot of great songs, I mean, that Kaleidoscope World release was great.
PATRICK: Some really good songs, yeah.
ROXANNE: Yeah, really good.
EK: I think that’s all we have, unless you have another question, Jessica.
PATRICK: It was great to talk to you guys, great to meet you.
EK: Same here, thank you.
Photo credit: Tim Bugbee, Tinnitus Photography.
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