Review and interview by Sarah Spohn
English alternative rock band Deaf Havana sprang onto the scene with their debut album, It’s Called the Easy Life in 2008, but soon found out the business can be anything but easy. Turmoil and trouble almost resulted in the London five calling it quits.
The band (James Veck-Gilodi: vocals, rhythm guitar, Lee Wilson: bass guitar, Tom Ogden: drums, percussion, Matthew Veck-Gilodi: lead guitar, Max Britton: keyboards, piano, acoustic guitar), returned to the scene with their newest album, All These Countless Nights via SO Recordings in January 2017. Debuting at #1 on the UK Charts with mentions in Alternative Press, Billboard, and Paste, Deaf Havana fans certainly aren’t hard of hearing for this new record.
Bringing newfound confidence and carefully crafted storylines weaving through All These Countless Nights, Deaf Havana’s latest sounds show a growth and a new set of lessons learned. Alcohol and partying took its toll on the group, and affected much of their playing and performances, but the album evokes themes of recovery, revitalization, and the return of Deaf Havana in all its alt-rock glory.
Matt Veck-Gilodi spoke with Music Creates Us on the making of the new album, saying goodbye to some old ways, and embracing the group’s new sonic transformation. “The process was quite different to be honest,” Veck-Gilodi said of the making of the honest, emotional new album. “We built a group of around 25 songs that we had to choose an album from, which was a nice headache to have, but previously we’ve only ever had just enough songs to make a record and then gone straight into the studio to record it.”
This was the first album of their 11-year-career in which the group went through a pre-production stage with a producer, according to Veck-Gilodi. “We relentlessly worked on every song until it was essentially perfect for us. We also then went into a studio and recorded the base of every track as a live band, which is something we’d never done before and it was absolutely amazing and to my mind, makes the record sound much more alive than our previous recordings.”
Fans and even band members were not sure if this album would ever exist, with issues that left the band on the verge of breaking up a few years ago. Nowadays though, Deaf Havana is speaking out about the different place they’re in, complete with a separate head space.
“Ashes, Ashes” was one of the first songs to be written for ATCN and was “very natural in how it came about,” Matt said. “It’s also probably the most similar in style to songs from our back catalogue and so it made sense to us to open the record with it. It essentially stemmed from a time years ago now, when James first moved to London and found the whole experience overwhelming and as a result started having quite sever bouts of anxiety. It’s also probably the only track that reminisces about ‘the coast’ alluding to where we grew up and so I think… it is something of a goodbye to old ways and older sounds.”
Fans are often skeptical hearing their longtime favorite acts have a “new sound,” because that can mean the heartbreak of saying goodbye to the soundscapes they fell in love with in the first place. Matt and the group are very thankful for their loyal fans, scattered all over the world, but they also want them to know that change is a necessary part of life, including music.
“Firstly I’d like to say that we are very lucky in having an incredibly loyal and understanding fan base, they’re amazing,” he said. “I’d probably ask them to understand that as musicians and even as people, I think it’s really important to accept change and grow as a result. I mean, some people may be fine if we just churned out the same record over and over again, but there would be no passion or fire in it and if there isn’t that, then what is the point in us making anything at all? I’d just ask them to try and go with it, the lyrics will always be personal and meaningful, that’s just how James writes – but the music has to develop and change for us, otherwise we would feel like we’d be completely shortchanging people.”
Other album tracks like “St. Paul’s” deals with change, in the case, of the heart. You’ve got a certain something about you, and I’ve got a past I want to leave behind. “St. Paul’s” is about James moving from one relationship to another and rediscovering what that feels like. Going from something that should’ve probably dissolved earlier into something new,” Matt said. “For me it’s really about him finding his feet again in everything. Change is scary and intimidating and this song deals with aspects of that, but also the excitement of something new. It’s also probably the closest thing that we have to a love song!”
All These Countless Nights is chock full of guitar-driven tracks, storytelling elements woven throughout James’ songwriting, and not shying away from emotional topics- the good, the bad, and the ugly; no shortchange there.
Songs like “Happiness” relay the effects of alcohol. ‘Cause my drinking takes a toll on everybody around me, especially you. It’s like a degenerate disease. It eats away at everything, but mostly love. Matt spoke about the track: “I think everyone of us realized that getting drunk all the time can be really quite unhealthy! I think more than anything this record thematically deals with the effects it has on each of us,” he said, “but those around us too and about how managing it is important. I guess more than anything else, this realization comes from growing up a little bit more than we have done before.”
Fans and band members alike will be able to sleep at night knowing that All These Countless Nights is the proudest moment of achievement for the band, a feat that was unimaginable just a few years ago, when an indefinite hiatus could have led to the end of the band. “Honestly, it’s one of the best feelings we’ve ever had,” Matt said. “It feels like an amazing achievement that we’re here together, happy and releasing the music we love. I can’t really put it into words, it’s a little overwhelming. The support we’ve all been shown has been absolutely incredible.”