Veruca Salt: No seething after the deep freeze


Veruca Salt's original members (clockwise from top left), Nina Gordon, Louise Post, Jim Shapiro and Steve Lack have reunited for a tour and new album. (Courtesy of Press Here Publicity)

For many years, '90s alternative-rock band Veruca Salt seemed more likely to reunite on "Behind the Music" than on a concert stage. The group found radio and video success with singles "Seether" and "Volcano Girls," which married Louise Post's and Nina Gordon's gorgeous pop harmonies to chunky, roaring guitars. They were notable for being a mainstream band led by two guitar-playing female songwriters -- a rarity at the time. But there was turmoil bubbling beneath the surface.

Gordon abruptly quit in 1998, shortly after a national tour in support of the band's second album, "Eight Arms to Hold You," which included an appearance on "Saturday Night Live." Gordon launched a solo career, and Post kept recording as Veruca Salt, releasing the album "Resolver," which directed scads of vitriol at Gordon, as well as at Post's ex-boyfriend Dave Grohl.

Then about a year ago, out of the blue, Veruca Salt's original lineup -- with both Post and Gordon -- announced a reunion and promised a new album, which is scheduled to be released in a few months. For Record Store Day, the band released an EP with songs that sounded like the group had never split. Now Veruca Salt is in the midst of comeback tour that has sold out clubs from Los Angeles to New York (including Monday's show at the Black Cat).

So what exactly happened? We spoke to Gordon by phone from Chicago earlier this week to find out. (Answers have been edited for length.)

You and Louise didn't speak for years. What spurred the reunion?

We had many years of total silence between us. We literally did not see each other for 15 or 16 years. But then, in recent years, we started communicating via e-mail, and there was some thawing of some of the ice. We started communicating fairly regularly, but it was never about music -- mostly about life, our children, motherhood. I think I was still really unable to make the leap again. Partially because Louise had continued to call her band Veruca Salt, and she basically made amends to me about that, and apologized for that, and acknowledged that that may have been the wrong thing to do.

Then, two years ago, I was online and saw Mazzy Starr was playing Coachella. Everyone was tweeting about it - how they hadn't played together in 15 years and how great it was. All of a sudden I got this pang, this feeling of, "Mazzy Starr is playing together after 15 years? We should do that." So I e-mailed Louise about it, and she was like, "Let's go have dinner." It was very emotional for both of us.

Then this very magical thing happened: Louise came over to my house, we played guitar, we sang, and singing together ... was euphoric. We both clicked back in, and our voices sounded the same. We started laughing, like, "Oh, my God, it sounds like Veruca Salt!"

When you first started talking about Coachella with Louise, did you have an inkling that there'd be new Veruca Salt material?

No! When we sat down to dinner with [original bassist Steve Lack and drummer Jim Shapiro], we were thinking, "Oh, wouldn't it be fun to just play a show?" Just a club in L.A. or Chicago, something like that. We were not talking about new material, because Louise and I had not been writing. We'd both been mommies, and so neither of us had the time to write songs, nor had we even had the desire to tap into that again. It felt like too big of a deal. It's hard to open up that part of you. It's like going back to the gym after you haven't been to the gym in a year, or 10 years.

Louise came to my house, and we were just going to play the songs from [the band's first full-length album] "American Thighs" on acoustic and kind of relearn them together. And she said, "Oh, I'm working on this song here, and I'm going to play it for you." And I loved it so much. When we said goodbye that night, I went upstairs and I told my husband, "I'm sorry, she wrote a song that's so good, and I'm so excited about it, and I can't get it out of my head." That made me want to start writing again.

We went in and started recording with Brad Wood, because he recorded our first album, and he lives near us. It all happened organically, the way it happened the first time around, in a very innocent, naïve way: "We love this and we want to do this because it feels really good." To me, it's miraculous. I didn't think I'd be in this place.

Now that you're playing these old songs again, are there songs that have more meaning to you, or are more fun to play, than they were when you were in your 20s?

It's pretty intense playing the song "25," which is the last song on "American Thighs." We used to close our sets with it back in the day, and we've been doing that now. Back then, the song was about what happened when I was 25 -- I was 26 when I wrote it. Now, it's taken on this incredible meaning for me. When I was 25, all of this was happening: It was about what happened when I formed a band. I always got emotional singing that song, and now I really do. It's nostalgic and bittersweet. This whole thing is fascinating from a personal standpoint. So many lessons have been learned, with time healing all wounds, the feeling of life being very long, so things you thought could never happen can happen.

When you left the band, Veruca Salt was at its peak. Over the years, did you think, "I wonder what would have happened if we'd stayed together?"

Absolutely. I try not to dwell on that, and I know Louise does, too, but we could have been ABBA [laughs]. Who knows what we could have done? We made our separate records, and I don't think either one of us was as good without the other. That's not to diminish the work we did individually, but we do think about that. The really cool thing is that people who have heard the new songs, the feedback has been, "You really picked up where you left off." It really does feel like a time warp in a way. When we're playing together, it doesn't feel like any time has passed at all. ...

Louise and I have a lot of regrets for not mending fences earlier. We let a lot of stuff get in the way of this really important musical connection that we had. I think we do have something special -- we never had a problem musically. It was all personal s--t. I wish there had been someone in our lives who said, "You know what? Get over it. This is too precious." In fact, the new song "It's Holy," which is on the 10 inch we put out for Record Store Day, is pretty much about that. There's a lot of regret, but there's also all of this glee that we are having a second chance, a do-over.

That's funny: When I first heard the Record Store Day songs, I had to look and see if they were new material or if they were outtakes from the "Eight Arms" sessions. I haven't seen you live, but it really feels like "It's Holy" could slot in a set in between [older songs such as] "Number One Blind" and "With David Bowie."

Right! We play it right in the midst of all those songs, and it doesn't feel like a major departure, like, "Oh, now we're playing that new song." It all flows together really naturally. I feel like what happened with us, the breakup wasn't cliche "musical differences" or whatever people say. We didn't have creative differences. We loved playing music together. So in a way, it makes sense that we'd just pick up where we left off.

So all the new songs are in the same vein: Two-part harmonies and chunky, buzzing guitars?

Yes, absolutely. There are a few songs that are epic, longer, more elaborate -- we refer to them as "epic f-----s." We have a few of those on the album. But harmonies are our favorite things to do, with big heavy guitars.It's the same thing, but all the content is new.

Let's talk about the tour. There have been a string of sold-out shows on your current tour. When you got back together that first time, did you think, "We can do a national tour"?

No, we had no idea. And we really didn't care. We just wanted to play together again. If we had just gotten in a practice room together, that would have been enough. Then we started this Facebook page, and little by little, we got an inkling there were people out there, and we could book some small clubs and people would probably come. We'll see how it is and where it takes us. It's really about the four of us again. It's such a thrill to look over and see Louise again to my left. I never thought that would happen again. I had dreams about it, and I know Louise had dreams about it.

Really?

Yeah. Some of them were good dreams, and some of them were bad dreams, like those "Oh, s---, I'm back at school and I didn't study for the exam" dreams. "Oh, no, I'm onstage with Louise and Veruca Salt and I don't know the songs!" [laughs] Sometimes it was, "Oh, my God! Yes! I'm back!" Sometimes it was like, "I'm onstage with the Beatles, and Louise is there, too!" Whatever. We had all kinds of dreams like that.

We've played only 10 shows now, but I look over and I see Steve rocking out, and I look back and I see my brother [Jim] smiling and having a blast, and then I see Louise, and sometimes I'm moved to tears, and sometimes I just laugh hysterically. It's a hoot. It's thrilling. We loved what we did, and we love that we're getting to do it again.

Appearing Monday at 8 p.m. at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. 202-667-4490. www.blackcatdc.com. The show is sold out.

Fritz Hahn has written about bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. A product of Prince George's County public schools, Fritz majored in journalism at the University of Maryland and lives in the District.
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