« I am not apt to follow blindly the lead of other men », peut-on lire en exergue du clip du morceau « Axolotl », qui ouvre le cinquième album de The Veils, Total Depravity, sorti le 26 août dernier. Un album aux sonorités sombres et mélancoliques, porté par la voix du compositeur et chanteur Finn Andrews, qui nous transporte dans des contrées oniriques et fantasmatiques en nous plongeant dans un état de transe cathartique, dans une sorte d’exutoire poétique traversé de romantisme torturé. Et pour mieux saisir la complexité et l’étrange beauté inquiétante de l’univers créé par The Veils, nous avons eu l’occasion de poser quelques questions à Finn Andrews.
Manifesto XXI – First of all, could you present the band very quickly? How did you meet?
Sure, yeah well… Sophia, who plays bass, she’s from my oldest friends, we met when we were 10, we went to school together in New Zealand. And Henning and Dan, they both joined the same time on our second record, we met them in London. And Uby [Uberto] who plays keyboards, we met about five years ago, it’s sort of the most recent addition.
Manifesto XXI – And the name of the band? Where does it come from?
I honestly can’t really remember, I think it was… There was a poem at the time, I remember reading… We used to have a different name, when we were in highschool, because the principal used to give you more hustle time if you were like in a Christian rock band or a Christian band, so we pretended we were in a Christian band, so we called it « Gold boy », and then, when we moved to London, we changed. (laughs) So, yeah, « The Veils », I don’t know, I liked it because it was very… It’s quite blank, I like that you can sort of turn into whatever you want it. Yeah, there isn’t a great story really… I think it’s from something I was reading at the time, but I can’t remember.
Manifesto XXI – A veil is something you use to hide things behind… Is there something like that?
Yeah, there are those implications as well, but… I just liked it because you can sort of make… It’s open to a lot of interpretations I guess.
Manifesto XXI – What are your inspirations when you create the music and the videos? Is it this dark side of your band? Is it something inspired from external inspirations? Is it linked with your personal life, are you a dark person?
I think I’m… Well, songwriting has always felt very helpful for me, it has always felt like something good. I don’t know what I’d be like as a human being without it, I think it’s a very good outlet for a lot of things, I’m not sure where that energy would go otherwise, it’s a good place to self-direct all your fear, anger and love, and sort of… Everthing, really, everything. It sort of gets felt through that, and I write a lot, so I think it’s sort of a routine, really, now. I started writing songs when I was 13, so I don’t really… I haven’t had any of my adult life without it, so I don’t really know what it would… What I’d be like otherwise. I imagine not a very fun guy… (laughs) I think it has been good to me. And it continues to be this huge sort of mystery as well really, that sort of… It’s a huge amount to learn, and I never feel like I really have learnt very much, I sort of feel like I learn something, and then it gets disproved and it’s sort of constant… A constant little journey, I guess I’m trying to figure it out, I’m trying to work out where it comes from and why, and how to control it if you can ever control it.
Manifesto XXI – Do you have some artists, poets, writers… That you like, that inspire you?
Yeah, of course. Like Tom Waits, I guess it’s the most obvious songwriter. People who had great stories for their songs… It’s just vast and… Unpredictable, and… Yeah, I love them. I read a lot of… Predictably, kind of… Like Sylvia Plath and stuff old school, that had a big effect, and Ted Hugues as well. And… David Lynch, people like this. Nina Simone…
Manifesto XXI – So it’s international artists. Are you inspired by British artists in particular?
I would say generally not so much. I think it was always mostly Americans, or Canadians… I’m not really sure why. I mean I certainly… I was sort of obsessed with the sixties, really, when I was at school. I was so pissed off that I was in the nineties, the music was terrible, I did everything that was going on at the time. I just wished I was in the sixties. That was basically what my teenage years were like. Just trying to pretend as much as I could that I was living at a completely different time. Which have changed a little over the years, I’m glad to be alive when I am now. I really wasn’t then.
Manifesto XXI – About the video for « Axolotl »: I was wondering when I watched it, it was a kind of… As if the characters in the video wanted to get something out of them, in the dark water – I don’t know what it is exactly. I was wondering if it was something we can find in the other songs, this idea of getting something out.
Yeah, sure. I mean… When we covered the record as well, I guess there was a lot of that going on with it, the video sort of just came from a drawing I did after… Like a silly drawing after we recorded, it was a sort of a… Charles Darwin turning into a sort of tentacled creature, the idea came from that I guess. Yeah, the black bowels… There’s a lot of it in this record I think.
Manifesto XXI – Are you inspired by Surrealist artists? Because your videos are very dark, and we can feel that there is a lot of symbols, but it’s not very defined, we can’t really… It can be interpreted in many different ways, so… For example, for this video, could you explain a little bit the symbols behind these images?
Jodorowsky was a big influence I think, and I mean… Tu Neill, who directed it, that was I know a big influence on him. Jodorowsky, with the films Holy Mountain, Santa Sangre… Amazing movies. I think that was a bit of an influence certainly. I think part of the symbols… I have my own sort of ideas with them, but I think other people’s interpretations are really interesting as well. So I don’t think there is a correct way to read it necessarily, I think there is a lot of differents things going on. And it’s always interesting how people point out different things, you know.
Manifesto XXI – You did the video by yourself, or someone else did it for you ?
A friend named Tu Neill directed it. We all sort of helped out, we sort of came out with the concept together.
Manifesto XXI – Which type of music would define your band? What kind of music? Which universe, which movement in music would define yourself?
I don’t know, that’s really hard. I think particularly this record is even more confusing, it’s taking a lot from a lot of different places I think. The fun about this record was how this record was combining all these different elements from… It’s sort of a band in a room playing, a life band, but then there’s a lot of… Sort of drum machines and computers, going on, it’s also to combine, to make this… This « Axolotl » reference as well, it’s a sort of mutated, a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of the record.
Manifesto XXI – It would be the word to define your music, « Frankenstein »? (laughs)
I think it comes from… Like my songwriting, it comes suddenly, from sort of folk music and blues, I think it’s probably all the things I listened to the most when I was younger, so I think that’s why it’s hard… It suddenly comes through more and more into… There’s more electric guitars, and there’s, you know, drum machines, and synthesizers, so there’s a lot of different influences.
Manifesto XXI – About « Axolotl », the music made me think about Massive Attack, do you feel close to this band?
Yeah, I like them very much actually, I guess in the late nineties there was a lot of Massive Attack going on then.
Manifesto XXI – Maybe with their last album, Ritual Spirit?
I didn’t hear that one, actually, no. Yeah, I don’t know, « Axolotl » is a very strange song. I think that’s what I liked about it, I couldn’t place it really. I really wasn’t sure if people would… I wasn’t sure if I’d just got mad for a while, and people would just be like « What is this fucking thing? », so it’s nice that people seem really into it, and I can’t wait to play it live, I think that will be really… I can’t wait to hear it definingly loud, it will be a lot of fun I think.
Manifesto XXI – When I saw the video, I was like : « Which drug did they take?! »
Yeah… That’s a different question. (laughs)
Manifesto XXI – I’m joking. What are the links between the different albums? Does one album influence yourself for the next one, or is it a completely different one?
All comes from the songwriting, I guess it’s constantly… I’m constantly battling with that, that’s my own sort of little part of it, and in the band there’s influence of the later… Yeah, I guess they all sort of run into each other, but you tend to get quite sick of the record you have just made, I think, because you’ve worked on it for years, then you’ve toured for years, but at the end of that you just want to work on something new, so I think you’re always sort of rebelling against the last record, a little maybe. Yeah, that’s how it feels.
Manifesto XXI – Do you have a particular memory of a live, or a special story, a fun story, to tell us about the shows?
From live shows? I mean… We played thousands of shows now… I think part of the amazing thing with playing shows is you tend to have very little memory of the middle actually, they tend to turn into… I usually only remember the bad kicks (laughs), so usually it means that it’s not going very well, and you are sort of thinking about everything and you… When it goes well you’re so « I can’t remember what happened », you walk off feeling crazed and excited and very… I don’t know… Yeah, that’s probably the best answer I can come to.
Manifesto XXI – During a live show, is it hard to present your universe to the public? Because you use a lot of visual things with your music, so when you are on stage, is it difficult to present that to the public, to make them feel the universe?
It’s a good question, I think it changes all the time, when you start out as a band, it’s a hard thing because generally everyone who has come to see you has never seen you before, heard you before, so… Those first few years were quite hard I think, but now we’ve moved to a point where the people who come and see us tend to have sort of heard of us for quite a while, and they’ve seen, you know… And also the live thing is different, I think you’re trying to… You’re not necessarily showing every element of what you do, it’s more about having a direct connection with everyone in the room. And sort of leading the room somewhere interesting and strange, I think that’s why people go to shows. That’s a different thing maybe… We tend not to have any sort of, you know, backdrops or… But it’s very intense, very… It’s cathartic, during the shows and you try to… Yeah, lose yourself for a while and sort of bring everyone along with you.
Manifesto XXI – What are your links with fashion? Do you like fashion?
I don’t know really… Yeah… No, I don’t know. My mom worked in fashion for most of her life, so I guess that was always around a lot… So I guess it’s sort of an affection for it in that way. The word « fashion » itself is a sort of dangerous one, and it kind of… I like these sorts of aesthetic things, very pleasing, but this side of fashion is just so incredibly fickle and ephemeral, and that’s sort of the side I don’t really enjoy.
Manifesto XXI – Is there a style, or a particular designer you like? Because the link with music and fashion is quite obvious sometimes in the bands, like they are dressed in a certain way, and they behave a certain way…
Yeah, I mean, I guess it’s sort of a… I never really… It’s not a world that I think about really often I guess, it’s sort of… Just the way that everything changes every few months and everything is sort of just thrown away, it’s sort of an industrial way I think. Nothing lasts long and everything is so disposable, you know. I wear the same shit all the time, I’ve basically looked the same for twenty years, I haven’t changed. (laughs) I’ve changed the clothes, but they’re all basically the same. I kind of have a uniform, which I kind of like, and that’s it. You could pick, it doesn’t really change the last ten years, or the hairstyle I guess. A uniform is good I think.
Manifesto XXI – Do you only write songs or do you write novels or poems?
Yeah. I don’t know how… I sort of have something else I’m writing alongside writing a record, they never go anywhere, at the end, but there’s always sort of complementary things, poems, or… Yeah, I’ve sort of written short stories, scripts and all kinds of things… I would like to make a film, when we have time, but I love writing, and… But, yeah, I probably wouldn’t show anyone anything just yet…
Manifesto XXI – Do you want to publish something one day?
Oh maybe, in my fifties, I might… You know, I’ve certainly never concentrated on anything as intently as I have songwriting so it’s… But I enjoy it, I enjoy writing all kinds of things really. Anything with a story, you know, stories are the king.
Manifesto XXI – So whatever the medium, you are writing…
Manifesto XXI – Would you like to do movies one day?
Yeah, I love all that. I’m such a sort of film groupie. So many people, you know, it’s such a nice communal thing. Writing songs is such a sort of solitary thing. I like all that.
The Veils sera en concert à Paris, à la Maroquinerie, le 29 octobre.
En attendant, retrouvez-les sur :
Propos recueillis par Gaëlle Palluel et Suzy Piat.