In 2010, Hunstanton-based band Deaf Havana lost their aggressive vocalist Ryan Mellor, and with that a substantial aspect of their post-hardcore sound; their future as a band was uncertain. But the band had been through too much together to just give it all up; too much hard work had been put in and too many hours had been spent on the road to run away. Thank God they didn’t throw in the towel then! The boys battled on and produced a fantastic album that surpassed all expectation, ‘Fools and Worthless Liars’, which saw them essentially become a new band, with a new sound and renewed vigour. With this, people’s expectations of Deaf Havana changed – they had raised the bar – and this left them with yet another challenge; how were they to follow it up?
Their latest output, ‘Old Souls’, is the sound of a fully formed band, confident in themselves as musicians and songwriters, as well as their sound and place in music. The band drafted in two more permanent members in the form of Matthew Veck-Gilodi (vocalist James’s brother) on guitar/vocals and Max Britton on keyboards during the making of the album. This expanded band – as well as additional instrumentation such as trumpets, strings and even gospel backing singers – does wonders for the record, offering a huge, anthemic sound of a timeless nature – very similar to influential artist Bruce Springsteen, who the band got the opportunity to play with at this year’s Hard Rock Calling, and who is even name checked on ‘22’; “Oh Brucey Baby, I’ve seen better days”. This new found ability and opportunity to express themselves exactly how they wish and subtly wear their influences on their sleeves gives Deaf Havana’s album ‘Old Souls’ more scope, a more developed sound that separates them from other generic contemporary rock acts.
Although the musicianship on ‘Old Souls’ is exceptional and it sees the band take a huge leap forward, it is still the vocals, lyrics and song writing that stand out on the album. For this we have their reluctant frontman, James-Veck-Gilodi to thank. His voice has a fantastic range that allows him to achieve beautifully soulful, clean vocals on tracks such as ‘Caro Padre’, the album’s emotional closer; as well as more forceful additions on tracks such as ‘Kings Road Ghosts’. The lyrics are wonderfully melancholy and endearingly self-deprecating; and they are almost disguised behind the outstanding melody, a conundrum epitomised in the title of track 3, ‘Everybody’s Dancing And I Want To Die’.
Deaf Havana have achieved things that they themselves would never have dreamed possible, such as a sold out date at London’s prestigious Roundhouse at the end of their recent UK tour. Yet, the subject matter of James’s lyrics are still very rooted in his own youth, hometown and individual past experiences, whilst paradoxically being easily relatable. This comfortingly reminds the listener, however cliché it may be, that although the band has been through relatively big changes in personnel and sound, they are still the same people that they have always been and that is something that deserves a lot of respect.
All in all, ‘Old Souls’ is a fantastic album and one that every kind of music fan will get something out of, listen to it!
Latest single, ‘Mildred’ is available now from BMG Chrysalis.