The Veils’ frontman Finn Andrews is in a “rickety little house” in Auckland, New Zealand. “There was a storm last night and the whole thing nearly blew over,” he says. It’s the city where he first formed The Veils as a teenager, but now he has returned home a different person after spending over a decade based in London, England.
“I’m a belligerent old man now,” he jokes. “I’m fully embracing being miserable. The problem with being somewhere nice and chill [like New Zealand] is it just highlights what a depressive weirdo I am and you stick out more. In London no one notices, but in New Zealand everyone’s in a better mood and asks, ‘Who’s that buzzkill?’”
The Veils have released five excellent albums over the years, beginning with their gorgeous 2004 debut album The Runaway Found. However, he found his latest batch of songs were more personal and didn’t quite work for The Veils. Rather than abandon them, he took them to his home country and recorded them for his debut solo album, One Piece At A Time. “It was clear that’s where they needed to go, so I took them [to New Zealand]. I needed to get out of London because it had become this really suffocating and unhealthy place for me, and I’d written these songs I think as a way to get out of there.”
The last album Andrews made with The Veils, 2016’s Total Depravity, was different to anything they made before. Recording with Run The Jewels rapper producer El-P, he describes it as “very electronic and very [sic] pain-stakingly put together, and lots of fucking MIDI and modern, tedious things”. He sees One Piece At A Time as a reaction to that album. “It was enjoyable in its own way, but by the time we’d finished it I needed a break from that way of working and needed to be in a room with some human beings with wooden instruments hitting things and singing.”
One Piece At A Time was recorded during a punishing New Zealand summer. “We were recording underground [at Auckland’s The Lab studio], and all the air-conditioning was broken,” he says. “It wasn’t a comfortable time; everyone was very hot and stressed out.” The album was recorded live to capture the spontaneous energy, something has he never attempted with The Veils. “We had a thing of rehearsing a bit so the band knew what was going on but really tried to not rehearse anything too much just to try and get that early thing that happens when you’ve just written something and are so excited by it.”
Another new thing for Andrews was writing and recording completely on the piano. The instrument is prominent on the first singles from the album: the jaunty current single “A Shot Through The Heart (And Down In Flames)” (yes, he’s aware the title sounds like the chorus of ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ by Bon Jovi) and the melancholy first single “Love, What Can I Do?”. The latter features a piano chord taught to him by his father, Barry Andrews of XTC and Shriekback. “Whenever dad came to visit I’d get him to teach me some chords because he knows all the clever chords and I just know the dumb ones,” he chuckles. “It’s quite a simple chord but it’s beautiful and it made sense to open with a chord passed down in the family. I’m hoping that it becomes like, you know how in guitar shops people always play ‘Stairway To Heaven’? I’d really like it if when people are buying a piano they play that chord. It’s such a good one on a grand piano to let it rip, just a big ‘Throng’! It really is fun. I’m hoping it’s the ‘Stairway To Heaven’ of piano chords.”
Last year, Andrews visited Australia to preview his new songs with a series of special performances. “I felt like such an entertainer,” he laughs. The solo performances were a contrast to his reputation as a particularly intense live performer – a reputation that led to his casting in Twin Peaks: The Return and director David Lynch complimenting him: “The way you sing, it’s like an exorcism”. For Andrews’ return, he’ll be backed by a full-band, and will surely bring out the weird side in everyone.
“It’s actually quite fun,” he says. “You get people sitting really weird or getting up and telling stories. Some guy started doing this really strange interpretive dance for quite a while in the middle of the room, just staring really intensely. It brings out a different side in all of us.”
One Piece At A Time is out now.
Finn Andrews Australian Tour Dates
May 2: The Landsdowne, Sydney, NSW (w/ Jacob Diamond and Moreton)
May 3: Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD (w/ Jacob Diamond and Moreton)
May 4: Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC (w/Jacob Diamond and Moreton)