Interview: Deaf Havana

Deaf Havana

Dillon Eastoe quizzed Deaf Havana frontman James Veck-Gilodi ahead of the band’s show at Cardiff’s Great Hall on April 15th. Grab the last few tickets here.

Your UK tour kicked off last night, without giving too much away what can we expect from a Deaf Havana show in 2014?
A lot of sweating! It’s a bit more of a show now as opposed to just playing the songs, we’ve got better lighting and the set’s been more thought out. I dunno, I just want to cover as much material as I can in the one and a half hours we’ve got. It’s just a good laugh really!

For the London dates on the tour you’ve enlisted the help of London Youth Gospel Choir and a string section. How did that collaboration come about?
About two years ago we did a tour and we ended it in Shepherd’s Bush, and we got the London Youth Gospel Choir to come and do like the last three songs, and it worked so well that we always wanted to do a whole gig with them. And then after that we played a little acoustic show and we got a string quartet in to come and play with us, and we thought we’d just fuse it, and add it all together, and hopefully it’ll sound good. I mean, we haven’t rehearsed anything yet, but hopefully it’ll work! [laughs]

What kind of reaction did you get from the people working around the band, your management and at the label when you made the huge change in sound between your first and second album? Was that difficult?
It was actually alright, I mean we’re not on the same label as we were at the time. To be honest, everyone inside the band and around the band already knew it was going to happen for ages. Ryan [Mellor, former lead singer of the band], he wanted to leave for so long that we’d already started writing songs like that, so they were all sort of quite prepared. So it was actually quite an easy transition to be honest.

Growing up in Hunstanton, was it a struggle to see big artists on tour? Did this affect your views of touring at all?
Yeah it was pretty hard, ‘cause the nearest place is Norwich and no massive bands ever played there, because the biggest venue there is the UEA, so we were kind of a bit more deprived in that sort of sense. It didn’t really change my view on touring, it just made me appreciate bands a little bit more.

You’ve recently been on your first tour of America, what were the differences between playing in Britain or Europe and playing in the US?
America is horrible. [laughs] Seriously, it’s too big, the food is awful and the shows were rubbish. So that’s the main difference. But I guess it’s just so much bigger and you have to travel so far to get to each show and it’s just… We did it in a van as well, by the end of it we all wanted to kill each other, it was pretty hard. Not enjoyable.


What’s it like to go to these places though like Japan or Australia and have songs about your hometown sung back to you by people from miles away?
That is absolutely insane. I remember I was in Sydney and that exact thing happened, we were playing ‘Hunstanton Pier’, and these people from pretty much as far away as you can get from England were singing about it. I always forget about stuff and moments like that happen that make you realise “Shit! Maybe we are doing something right?” I dunno, you can’t explain it until you’ve experienced it, it’s so weird.

At Reading last year you made a point of saying the band was totally live, saying that using playback was “a fucking cop out”. What was the motivation behind that, especially considering some of the acts up after you?
Every band these days can’t be bothered to actually play. Well, not that, but I just think it [using playback] is cheating. When I see a band using a backing track, or miming, or whatever, it just pisses me off a little bit because it makes it harder for a band like us who are actually playing. People at shows don’t realise that they’re fucking playing to a backing track, they think they just sound really good, but I can spot it a mile off. It just makes it harder for a band like us who are actually a real band.

So if you were to record song with so many instruments that you couldn’t bring into your live show, would you just skip that song live?
Just work out a way of doing it, there’s always something you can do…

Since the release of “Fools and Worthless Liars” you’ve incorporated new instruments like piano, banjo, mandolin and lap steel into your songs. Did any musicians in particular inspire this, or was it a case of just reaching out to new sounds?
I really like country music and folk music and I always have, so I always wanted to bring instruments in, but I’d just never found the opportunity. But I dunno, I try it and it works, and I just like to be able to expand as many instruments and as many genres as we can really.

With your latest album Old Souls, the singles have been getting quite a lot of play on Radio 1. When you contrast that to before you released the second album, how has that amount of radio success been for you?
Well the obvious thing is at shows people come and see us, whereas they didn’t before! I guess that’s the main difference. But it doesn’t really affect you, it doesn’t affect us really, it’s just more promotion, I suppose. You don’t get a load of money as soon as you start getting played on the radio, it’s exactly the same, just more people come and see you.

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