Deaf Havana on how to turn small town rock dreams into an international tour


Brit-rock band Deaf Havana was launched to the top of the U.K. music charts with their 2013 album Old Souls. The group quickly began filling up larger venues, playing fan-favorite festivals and even performing alongside Bruce Springsteen. However, problems behind the scenes were not reflective of Deaf Havana's newfound success onstage. Dealing with internal band and financial issues, the group planned what was supposed to be their final performances to pay for their debts.

Luckily, what appeared to be an end to the Deaf Havana's journey was actually just a speed bump. Going through an existential crisis of sorts invigorated the band and sparked a new creative spirit. Their latest album All These Countless Nights is a result of their new energy and new management. The album shows off Deaf Havana's range and eclecticism. had the chance to sit down with members James Veck-Gilodi and Max Britton to talk about how they went from growing up in the middle of nowhere to touring the world with their best friends as well as their songwriting process and obsession for Michael Jackson and Björk. Check out the full interview below!

#OnOurRadar is a feature that showcases creative minds and up-and-coming talents. To see more of past interviews, click here.

How did you get your start in music?

James Veck-Gilodi: We grew up in this tiny, little town on the east coast of England. There was literally nothing to do, so we started a band just because we were bored. Coming from a small town like that made it really hard to get a full arm in the industry because there's tons of people that live in London or in big cities. So for us, it took a little longer to actually get somewhere. I remember when we first had a show in London. We never thought that could happen because we started our music kind of as a joke, it was just something to do. It was hard being from the middle of nowhere.

Did you always know the genre you wanted to be in when you started or were you more all over the place?

Veck-Gilodi: I think we still are all over the place. It's changed a lot. Again, because we just started for fun, we didn't really care that much. I guess after a while we got a hold of what we wanted to do, tailored it to a certain direction without a reason. But the way we started, we just didn't care. We just played music.

How did your sound get to where it is now?

Veck-Gilodi: We used to have another guy who sang. I say "sang," but he didn't. He used to scream the lyrics, and then he eventually left the band. After that, we could have carried on with that kind of music and got a different singer, but I thought we should make this more serious. I decided to sing. We have a record called Fools and Worthless Liars. When we wrote that record, which is the first non-heavy record, that is when I started to take it seriously. That's when I realized we could be more than just a joke, more than just a bout of fun. We could actually get somewhere with it.

What's the best part of being in band, as opposed to solo?

Max Britton: Traveling. Hanging out with your best friends is always fun.

Veck-Gilodi: We've done both, Max and I. We've toured solo like that which is way easier because there's few of us, there's not instruments. In that sense, it's way easier to just be a few. But you miss the dynamic of the band. You miss having so many instruments behind you. My favorite thing is that and being able to do what you want. When you're on your own, you're limited.

How would you describe your dynamic?

Veck-Gilodi: We definitely still don't take this seriously enough. In a good way. Obviously, we take our music seriously. Our main objective is to have fun. We have very similar personalities in the band. We all just pretty much want to have fun. Sometimes, we put that a little too much into the foreground and care about that a little bit more. Other than that, I don't know. I think we have fun.

What artists have influenced your music?

Veck-Gilodi: There's too many people. My attention span is so short, so I change who I like every month. I started singing because I love Michael Jackson. Obviously, we don't sound anything like that. When I listen to our music, I don't usually hear influence in the music because most of what I listen to doesn't sound like that. In terms of being inspired to play music, Red Hot Chili Peppers when I was younger. It doesn't really musically translate, but Nirvana as well in terms of seeing a band and going, "That's what I want to do."

Britton: He already said Michael Jackson, but that's what my dad brought me up on. I've always liked the way he sang and the piano which you really wouldn't think about. I loved the piano in his songs as well.

What does it take to make a band work?

Veck-Gilodi: You have to really remember why you started a band, for the love of music — as cheesy as it sounds. To get through the hard times, I pretty much get to do my favorite thing in the world for a living. That gets me through it.

Britton: ​​​​​​​We went through quite a hard time, a couple of years ago. But it took that realization of this is really what we want to do.

Veck-Gilodi: As much it can suck, you have to realize at the end of the day that you get to spend the majority of your time with your best friends, playing music and drinking beer. It's pretty fun.

What are you most excited for with your new release?

Britton: ​​​​​​​Just everyone to hear the record!

Veck-Gilodi: When you've been sitting on songs for so long. It's such a relief when you actually release them. I can't wait to play the first show where they actually hear the record and, I hope, know the words to the songs. For me, that would be mind-blowing. We've had that record for a long time. I keep forgetting that no one has heard it. I've overanalyzed it, listened to it and wished, "Oh sh*t. I wish I did that." It's too late now, but I can't wait to play shows when people actually know the song.

What is your songwriting process like?

Veck-Gilodi: It normally starts with me or me and Max. I usually find it difficult when there's five people in the room just shouting opinions. Some bands do that, write as a band. I couldn't do it. I'm too opinionated. I start with a song. I write it and record it, like an acoustic version. Then, everyone can add their own parts in. But in terms of the actual song, I actually prefer one or two of us do it. It'll be me or me and Max or me and my brother. I think less people is easier for us. I can't play piano, so I leave Max to come in and do it. I can't play drums, so I need someone else to come in and do that. In terms of the actual song, it's easier if I do it.

Do lyrics come first in the process?

Veck-Gilodi: Mostly, yes. I write lyrics in a phone or in a book. Then, put a song to it. It can be either way. Sometimes you write some music and you really want to write word to that. But mostly it's words first. That's just me, I really care about lyrics. Some people don't.

How has your sound evolved over time?

Veck-Gilodi: It's definitely gotten more mature. Let's be honest. You can't play noisy, screamy music forever. It's not financially viable. Nobody gives a sh*t about that kind of music enough to be able to make a living out of it. That's not why we do it, obviously. I think we've just matured. None of us really wanted to play that kind of music. It just happened. We finally now play music that we more or less are into. It helps. We should have changed our name. 100 percent one of our biggest regrets in the world. People still attach those old songs to this band, and it's not the same band.

Britton: That's more in the U.K., old school fans.

If you could tour with anyone dead or alive who would it be?

Veck-Gilodi: If I could collaborate with anyone, it would be Björk just because she has the best voice. And she's so individual and weird more than anything. I would just love her.

Britton: Justin Vernon. Bon Iver. Big fan of his. Still have never seen him, I'm dying.

What's the best advice you've received about working in this industry?

Veck-Gilodi: The thing I've learned most is to get involved in it more. I think we took sort of a backseat to let stuff happen and didn't get involved too much. Technically, you can write songs and just leave. We did that, and it didn't work. You need to be involved in every aspect of it. Never lose sight of why you started making music in the first place. For a while, I lost sight of that. I was caught up in the free stuff you get and traveling around the world. That's cool. But if you lose sight of the fact that you just f*cking love music, it can turn on it's head. Do it for the right reasons. Don't do it because you have ideas of being this huge artist. There's a lot of bands right now that don't actually care about the music. They just care about everything that come with it. Be an artist, don't be a rockstar.

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