"I’m proud of what ‘Meet Me Halfway, At Least’ and the EP were at the time but it was very different for me." - James Veck-Gilodi.
Today marks 10 years since the release of Deaf Havana's debut album 'Meet Me Halfway, At Least'. In this month's issue of Rock Sound, we have a career-spanning interview with Deaf Havana frontman James Veck-Gilodi, which covers everything from the beginning of the band's career, through to today.
Below is a snippet about 'Meet Me Halfway, At Least', but you can read the full interview by picking up a copy of our current issue now from SHOP.ROCKSOUND.TV.
When did you know you wanted to pursue music as a career?
Says James: “Where we grew up was so remote that if you weren’t into sport or incredibly intelligent, there wasn’t anything else to do. It was just a few outcasts and me congregating in the music room at school. We had nothing else to do, so we would play music. I always pursued it as a hobby but I never ever thought it would become anything like a career, I didn’t even think that was possible. I think I always wanted to be a guitarist, but never anything more than just playing. It was just like my version of football, my escape. With football it’s even harder to make a career out of it because you have to be actually really good. With music, you can almost trundle your way through.”
How did the band come together, then? Did those outcasts in the music room decide to write music?
“Partially. I think there were a few groups of people around who were like that. I remember playing with a different group of people who were really into funk. I played with them because that was kind of the stuff I liked but then Ryan [Mellor, vocals], who used to scream in our band, was really into metal. I don’t really know how we became friends. I think we both had the same random guitar teacher when we were 13. He really got me into metal and that progressed into emo and then emo became really cool to like and side partings became a thing. I guess we were just a group of people who had nothing else to do.”
Your breakout EP ‘It’s Called The Easy Life’ was released in 2008 at a time when British music was having a huge surge. What was it like being a part of that group of bands?
“My main memory is that we weren’t really in that group. I remember from the outside seeing bands like Canterbury, Tonight Is Goodbye and You Me At Six all touring together and we weren’t. I wouldn’t call us outsiders, but we didn’t really have any friends. I can remember playing shows with those guys and they would all know each other, but we would just turn up and play really. The music we were playing at the time was different. They were all a bit more pop-punk and we just wanted to sound like the heavy bands we grew up listening to. It took a long time to really get in with those bands... I don’t think we ever truly did.”
Then came the debut album ‘Meet Me Halfway, At Least’. Just after release, Ryan Mellor left the band...
“When Ryan left we didn’t know if we should get someone else. We fucked around a bit and got our friend Max to come and scream for a bit. We didn’t know if we wanted to carry on being that band at all, because I couldn’t scream. I tried it, and I really couldn’t do it. We had a transitional period where I tried to do both parts and it was weird. It felt like a limbo. I remember coming off stage every night and thinking, ‘What the hell are we doing?’ It was a pretty quick learning curve for me as well because I never wanted to, and I still don’t really want to, be the frontman. I didn’t even really put myself down as much of a singer back then either. It took about a year and a half for me to really get my head around it and know that I had to do this. I treat that as a different band though. When people ask how many albums I’ve got, I start at ‘Fools And Worthless Liars’. I’m proud of what ‘Meet Me Halfway, At Least’ and the EP were at the time but it was very different for me. Back then all I did was write the music. Ryan took care of all of the lyrics, so I don’t really feel attached to those songs. They’re just a timestamp.”
How do you feel when you still have people asking why you don’t play songs like ‘Friends Like These’ and ‘Nicotine And Alcohol Saved My Life’, then?
“I think you have to respect where they are coming from. They fell in love with us at a time in our musical life where we weren’t thinking about looking forwards. The band was just a thing to get us out of our village and nothing else. I remember when we wrote ‘Friends Like These’ we were trying to write the cheesiest chorus we could. We did it and it kind of worked for a bit. There was no sincerity in any of those songs whatsoever. Any good things that came from them is a bonus and that is still the same right now. Whenever anything cool happens even today I’m like, ‘Oh fuck’. I think that is kind of detrimental. I speak to people like [You Me At Six frontman] Josh Franceschi and he has always had a goal. Ever since he was a kid he has always had a vision. I have never had a vision. I’ve always thought that as long as I can keep playing music, hanging out and travelling then I’m happy.”
Turn up Deaf Havana's debut album: