Hi Cameron Ray (guitarist), Keven Tecon (vocalist, guitarist), Amy Rosenoff (bass guitarist), Robert Marzio (drummer), and Justin Anastasi (keyboardist)!
It’s such a delight to be doing this interview with all of you. I’m head over heels for your debut album Change In the Neon Light and EP Into a New Mausoleum from 2007. How did the release of your new album go?
Robert: Our new album came out on February 23rd. It has been an amazing experience. It is our first full-length studio recording as well as our first record put out by a label. We have put in an incredible amount of hard work and sacrifice to make it happen and I think the effort really shows. The album has also been getting great reviews as well which is really exciting!
Keven, I read an interview that you did for L.A. Weekly where you mention that you wanted a change in sound for the new album where the focus is on the keyboards instead of the guitars. What spurred an interest in this direction and is the album a big stylistic departure from the EP?
Keven: I really wanted to expand on our palette of sounds as well as push ourselves to explore new areas in the way we write music. I have been really excited by keyboards these days and it has given me a sense of freedom while writing. I was able to get a lot cheap keyboards from garage sales and went through a writing spurt with them. I feel like I am able to be a lot more creative on instruments that I’m not as familiar with. I definitely think that the album is a big step forward from our EP.
I also read somewhere else online it’s not just Justin playing keyboards on the new album, but also Keven and Amy. If that’s the case, are there songs where Justin, Keven, and Amy are playing together on keyboards?
Cameron: Keven and Amy did indeed play all the keyboard tracks on the record. Once the record was finished we needed to add Justin as the keyboard player to duplicate the songs correctly live.
Justin: This album is definitely not a synth-oriented album but it is an important subliminal element. I personally see it as a pure pop album, it’s unique and very well-produced. I think Keven’s intention was to write a pop album but you will have to ask him. If you try and view the album as some sort of experimental masterpiece or boundary-breaking album we will just come off naive and it won’t be any fun. If you keep it in perspective there is a lot of detail in there and it’s pretty catchy.
Your EP was self-produced, but your album is produced by Nick Launay as well as Atom, who has worked with bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Maximo Park. What did Mr. Launay and Atom bring to the proceedings?
Cameron: Atom was the sole producer, but he has worked with Nick in the past with the previously-named bands (Atom is Nick’s head engineer). We had previously worked with Atom to record “The Upstairs Room” for Manimal Vinyl’s Cure tribute album. We had a great experience working with him and were really happy with the results so we decided there was nobody else we wanted to work with other than him on the full-length. Atom brought a lot to the table on this record – everything from reworking song structures with us to adding new, unique sounds.
You have a single out now, “Anthem for a Doomed Youth”, off Change In the Neon Light and there are several songs on the single including another album cut “Modern Lust” and remixes of “Anthem for a Doomed Youth”. Who did the remixes and in your opinion do you think a remix can ever top the original tune? Will you be releasing another single before the album comes out?
Amy: The remixes were done by close friends of ours including Anastasia Dimou from the band Cruel Black Dove (NYC). Recently Black Cloud (who did remixes for IAMX) did a remix of “Change in the Neon Light” which has been getting a lot of radio play. I think that a good remix isn’t necessarily better or worse than the original but pulls new sounds and ideas from the original that previously had not come to light, giving the song an entirely new dimension.
Metropolis Records released Change In the Neon Light. How did you hook up with that label?
Keven: Dave Heckman, who is the label owner, has been expanding the type of music on his label with bands like IAMX, Client, and Moving Units. We really like those bands and felt that we could be a part of that new group. Also it’s fun to think that we are on the same label as Front 242 and Clan of Xymox. Dave really liked what we were doing and let us have complete control of everything which was a big incentive for us as well.
Music reviewers love to stick stylistic labels on bands, and I’m no exception, ummm, except that I find all the detailed terminology so darn confusing! LOL You’ve been categorized as “post-punk revivalists” (I won’t even attempt to explain that one), shoegazer (I detect that aspect in the torrential cascades of guitars on certain chorus sections of songs off the EP), even goth (Hey, you mentioned “mausoleum” in your EP title, so that’s what happens.), and now the term cold wave is being thrown around for your new album… Do these labels suit you or do you chafe at being quantified in this manner?
Justin: The EP may have been considered cold wave if we were from France, the new album definitely not. Honestly, the terms you mentioned are still somewhat open to interpretation themselves. You have to judge this album on its own. It is what it is.
Robert: Sometimes we’re described as punk-noir. If that can be understood as a combination of some of those elements, with modern ones as well, and a focus on contemporary culture, you might get close to an accurate description. The sound is high contrast. It can sometimes be very minimal, and at other times the whole sonic spectrum is filled. It has parts that are dark and edgy, but it can also be very bright and more pop.
Keven, reviewers wax with rhapsody about your softly despondent vocals with evoke Robert Smith in his prime (Oh, wait, he’s always in his prime!), but your tone is less nasal, less “little-boy-lost”, and, well, less British. What do you think of the comparison?
Keven: Well doing a Cure cover probably didn’t help those comparisons but in general I don’t think I sound much like him. It is a compliment though.
Keven, I love how you have an air of “caressing despair”, with your lamenting, aching vocal tone where you draw out certain words (like “forget” on “What Will You Say Tonight”) in a velvety hush on verses, but then urgently, and sometimes sharply, exclaim on the choruses. When playing live is it difficult to always sing in this type of “wounded” tone?
Keven: I wouldn’t say that I sing in a “wounded tone”. I think that there is actually a lot of playfulness in the lyrics that I accentuate vocally. There are several dimensions to the music, some heavier than others, but wallowing just isn’t any fun.
As mentioned previously, you covered “The Upstairs Room” for The Cure tribute album Perfect As Cats earlier this year. How did you get involved in that project?
Amy: We became involved with Manimal Vinyl (the label that released the tribute album) shortly after a West Coast tour with one of their bands from New York, Apollo Heights. Paul (the owner of Manimal) really liked our sound and asked us to contribute to the Cure tribute album he was releasing which was a really exciting and honoring opportunity to us! We chose “The Upstairs Room” as the song to cover because, while it’s an amazing song in its original form, being a b-side it felt slightly ‘unfinished’ so we felt like there was a lot of room to play with and add to it. We chose to record the track with Atom in Los Angeles. It was a really amazing experience overall.Soon after its release, Manimal called us up that say that Robert Smith had contacted them and really liked our cover!
You’ve played shows across the U.S., including the Noise Pop music fest in San Francisco where you are based and CMJ in NYC. What has the live experience been like for you and are you planning a national tour to coincide with the release of Change In the Neon Light?
Cameron: The response has been really amazing. We’ve actually been playing most of the songs off the album for quite a while with a great response but it’s great to hear a lot of positive reviews from critics now that the album has officially been released. As for a tour, we’re currently booking west coast dates and are planning to play the east coast sometime in May. From there we’re hoping to do a nationwide tour in the summer.
The covers of the new album and single feature Art Deco artwork with a glamorous Jean Harlow-like look. Who created the covers and who modeled for the images?
Justin: I created the artwork for the band pretty close to when it formed. I have a fascination with old Hollywood so I guess it comes through. The music from the EP reminded me of Art Deco paintings and old Noir movies so I kept with the theme. The model is Angelique Hennessy, a friend of the band.
Going into more detail about your EP Into a New Mausoleum, the crepuscular, brooding, but vibrant sonics which emanate from the turbulent interplay of guitars, deep undercurrent of bass line, propulsive drum work, and loftily peaking synths create a distinctive, enveloping atmosphere. I noticed that no one is credited for playing keyboards, but I was enthralled by a heightened, sustained, shining synth sound that runs through most of the songs. How was that sound created and Justin, are you playing those notes?
Justin: Actually when you think it’s a big synth sound it’s probably Cameron. There are no keyboards on the EP.
Keven: All the seemingly synth sounds on the EP are Cameron playing through a lot of effects pedals which create that very synthetic tone of a keyboard. It really gave the EP a distinct sound. Cameron still uses those sounds on the new album but we have mixed them with many new ones.
Lyrics-wise the EP is a cool-tone downer with phrases like “…won’t ever sleep again…” and “…won’t ever be this way again…” from “Into a New Mausoleum”, “…alone, we’re together…” from “Shadows Dripping like Honey Kissing”, and “…you confess everything…” and “…you can hardly feel the distance…” from “All Hands In Prayer”. The imagery is bleak with visions of night, cold, relationships dissolving, isolation, memories, loss, and dreams. Do these themes and images continue on the new album? Who is the songwriter for the band?
Keven: We write the songs together but I write the lyrics myself. I think the new album is lyrically much different from the EP. It’s much more socially-conscious, aggressive and less internal. There is also some humor and playfulness to the lyrics that were absent from the EP.
Amy, I hope I’m not prying to much, but I wanted to find out how you got lured away from the band Astral to play as part of Veil Veil Vanish.
Amy: I was promised a large pot of gold…I’m still waiting for it. 😉
What bands and singers do you admire? Were you into the U.K. shoegazer scene at all in the 1990s, and if so, what were your favorite bands? I was (and still am) quite the fan of bands like Lush, Curve, Secret Shine, Slowdive, and early Catherine Wheel.
Cameron: I was definitely into the whole shoegazer movement. In fact, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, and My Bloody Valentine directly influenced my playing when I was learning about guitar effects. I was obsessed with trying to figure out how those bands created the sounds that they did. Over time, I think I finally created my “own” sound, but I suppose that’s up for debate.
Keven: I used to really like reverb-soaked vocals. I loved how it would sound like another instrument that would flow in the sonic landscape of the music. Over time I’ve started to prefer to hear the vocals and the lyrics. It gives me a place to enter the music. I always thought the Verve did a great job of forming an atmosphere and having prominent vocals that sounded great and didn’t take you out of the headspace.
What is your official web site and where can your upcoming album be purchased (CD format, download/iTunes files)?
Cameron: Our official site is www.veilveilvanish.com but you can also visit us on www.facebook.com/veilveilvanish and www.myspace.com/veilveilvanish. Our album can be purchased in stores, iTunes, and through the Metropolis Records website.