New Audio: The Veils Share Atmospheric and Brooding “Undertow”

Though born in London, acclaimed singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and frontman of The Veils, Finn Andrews spent his teenaged years attending high school in Auckland. Largely disinterested in school, Andrews spent the bulk of his free time playing in several bands — and writing the material that would later comprise The Veils full-length debut, 2004’s The Runaway Found. When he was 16, a set of demos he sent to record companies created some buzz and led to invitations for him to return to London to record an album.

Andrews and The Veils were signed almost immediately to Blanco y Negro, an indie/major hybrid imprint led by Rough Trade label head Geoff Travis. The band released a handful of singles including the promo-only single “Death & Co,” their commercial single debut, “More Heat Than Light,” and “The Leavers Dance,” a single distributed exclusively at gigs. By 2003, increasing contractual disparities and creative differences between the head of Warner and Travis wound up delaying plans for the band’s full-length debut.

Blanco Y Negro closed up shop and the dispute turned into a court battle with The Veils regaining ownership of their masters from Warner. By mid-2003, Travis signed the band to Rough Trade. The band went on to record four more songs with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, including “Guiding Light,” “Lavinia,” and “The Wild Son,” which led to the release of the band’s full-length debut, The Runaway Found. Although the album was released to rapturous critical applause, Andrews felt unhappy with the band’s creative direction — and after alleged altercations between him and the other members, The Veils’ first lineup split up two months after their debut album’s release.

In early 2005, Andrews went on a solo tour of the States and Japan, eventually returning to New Zealand, where he rehearsed with high school friends Liam Gerrard (keys) and Sophia Burn (bass) in Gerrard’s bedroom, quickly amassing an album’s worth of material. When the trio returned to London, Dan Raishbrook (guitar) and Henning Dietz (drums) joined the band, completing the band’s second lineup.

Early the following year, then-newly minted quintet started recording sessions with Nick Launay in Los Angeles, which resulted in their sophomore album, that year’s Nux Vonica. Released to critical applause, with the album landing on the Best of Year lists of both American and British journalists, Nux Vonica had a darker, heavier and much more complex sound, bolstered by string arrangements by former Lounge Lizard Jane Scarpantoni.

Over the course of the next 16 months, the band played over 250 shows across 15 countries. But during the Stateside leg of the tour, the band announced that Liam Gerrard was leaving the band to return home, due to personal reasons. The band continued onward as a quartet, and while living out of a classic garage in Oklahoma City, started recording demos at The Flaming Lips‘ studio between Stateside tour dates of the East and West coasts.

By mid-2008, they returned to London to work on their third album with Graham Sutton. The three-week session at West Point Studios resulted in 2009’s Sun Gangs, an album that continued a remarkable run of critically applauded material — with the album appearing on a number of Best of Lists that year.

2011’s Finn Andrews and Bernard Butler co-produced Troubles of the Brain EP marked several major changes for the band: They had left Rough Trade, their longtime label home of nine years and started their own label Pitch Beast Records.

2013’s Time Stays, We Go was recorded in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles and was supported with a 150-date world tour with sold shows across North America, Europe and New Zealand. Once the tour ended, Andrews told NME in an interview that the band had moved into their own studio in East London and had already begun work on a new record, slated for release in 2016. He also mentioned that he had been commissioned to write an orchestral piece to commemorate the Antipodean dead of World War I, which would be performed in Belgium.

2016’s Total Depravity was recorded in Los Angeles, London, NYC and Porto and features production by El-P, Adam Greenspan and Dean Hurley. The same month of the album’s release, David Lynch announced that Andrews would appear in the Twin Peaks reboot. The band with Andrews performed album single “Axolotl,” on episode 15.

Following the release of Total Depravity, Andrews released a solo album and supported it with a world tour. One night, while lashing out at a particularly intense moment on piano, he broke his wrist on stage. “It sounds wild and Jerry Lee Lewis-esque, but it was an absolute fucking nightmare,” Andrews says. He played on and finished the tour, but it wasn’t until after he got the wrist examined much later, that he learned that was a major mistake. “The scaphoid bone in my wrist had died, which I didn’t know was possible. My sister said that at least it was a really ‘on brand’ injury for me.”

Andrews’ convalescence necessitated a lengthy hiatus from touring, so he spent his free time at home writing songs. “I was in a cast and couldn’t use my right hand. I sang the melody lines, then recorded the right hand piano part, then the left hand part,” Andrews recalls. “It might have been an interesting, avant-garde process if it wasn’t also just profoundly annoying.” 

When his wrist had healed enough to allow him to play again, The Veils also found themselves in need of a new label, but in the meantime Andrews was determined to write and record an album regardless. Tom Healy invited Andrews to his studio, where they listened to the massive amount of songs he had written throughout the previous year. “Tom was incredibly patient. It was a really laborious process,” Andrews says. “I brought a lot of junk down there and we had to sift through it all to try and find the parts worth saving.”

During the past two years of intermittent recording between pandemic-related lockdowns, Andrews wife gave birth and he wound up writing even more songs. By the time the songs were recorded with a backing band that featured Cass Basil (bass), Joseph McCallum (drums) and longtime bandmates Liam Gerrard (piano) and Dan Raishbrook (lap steel, guitar) and guest spots from NZTrio, who play string arrangements by Victoria Kelly and Smoke Fairies, who contribute backing vocals, it was clear that the album’s material should be split into two halves to best suit such varied songs. But for a while, the overall meaning of the songs was eluded Andrews. “Then my daughter was born, and suddenly the whole record made sense to me,” he says. The music was telling a story, and somewhat strangely for The Veils, it seemed to have a happy ending.

The Veils’ forthcoming album . . . And Out of The Void Came Love is informed by and is the result of the past two-plus years of convalescence confinement, uncertainty and questioning. Structurally, the album is meant to listened in two sittings with a short break in the middle. Or as Andrews instructs us, “Make a coffee or smoke a cigarette – but don’t mow the lawn or go to the movies or something, that takes too long.”

. . . And Out of The Void Came Love‘s first single “Undertow,” is an atmospheric and brooding song centered around an arrangement of twinkling keys, reverb-drenched, guitar textures, dramatic, glistening bursts of pedal steel, padded drumming paired with Andrews’ hushed delivery. As The Veils’ frontman explains, “In the year before I started writing this album, I really didn’t think I’d ever write another album again. I was done. I’d irreparably broken my wrist on stage. Then this song came shimmying down the drainpipe, and it really seemed to be willing me to carry on. It is, embarrassingly enough, a song about writing songs, written at what I admit was a pretty low ebb for me emotionally. Both my parents are writers, and though I am grateful to it for the life it continues to afford me, it is a complex genetic inheritance.”