Indie upstart hopes for traction
By Moira E. McLaughlin
Friday, Feb. 3, 2012
It would be tempting to dismiss the London-based indie quartet Veronica Falls as just another hipster band with more attitude than aptitude. The band released its first single, the simple and unpolished "Found Love in a Graveyard," on Myspace, and with it, a video that showcases the pale and deadpan band members plodding through snow-covered woods among gravestones, holding red and pink roses against the stark backdrop.
But such a brushoff would be unjustified.
"I don't think we're doing anything miraculous or new, but I think what we do, we do really well," lead singer Roxanne Clifford, 28, says by phone from London. "We don't just have a sound; we have well-written pop songs."
The band was together about six months before releasing "Found Love in a Graveyard," which garnered indie record-label attention. Another single, "Beachy Head," came soon after. (The song is named for seaside cliffs in Britain that are known as a popular suicide spot.) The band's self-titled debut album came out last fall.
"We kind of got a little pigeonholed in being doomy and gloomy," Clifford says. "That's not just what we're about, but we definitely like that line between happy and sad. We like the contradiction."
And the band does contradict. Its morbid lyrics are cloaked in surf rock swagger and drenched in reverb, and the group is heavily influenced by 1960s American sunshine pop. Like the Mamas and the Papas, Veronica Falls employs girl-boy harmonies on top of jaunty melodies, simple accompaniment and an energy that flows like swirling water in and out of and around every song. The band's simple arrangements are wholly on purpose.
"We spent a long time just playing with ideas," says drummer Patrick Doyle, 26. "The only thing we had in mind was that we wanted to keep everything quite minimal."
Before Veronica Falls, Clifford and Doyle played in a Glasgow-based group called "Sexy Kids," a sure precursor to their current band. When the two moved to London, they started playing with James Hoare and, later, Marion Herbain - who had never been in a band, let alone played bass.
"We wanted someone that could play minimal, simplistic bass parts," Doyle says. "She had never played before so it made sense to get someone who wasn't going to get bored. . . . She was learning."
In the same vein, Doyle, who played bass and guitar in earlier bands, decided to pick up the drums for the group.
"I'm really restricted in what I can do," he says. "I think having a minimal rhythm section was a good way to keep everything quite simple."
The band is about to embark on its fourth U.S. tour, with Washington as its first stop, and is working on a new album, planned for release late next year.
"We definitely are sticking to the catchiness and immediacy of the song," Clifford says. "The best pop songs or love songs are written about extreme emotions . . . and I think that people can relate to those kinds of extreme emotions like love and death." Sometimes their lyrics have been compared with a 16-year-old girl's diary, she says.
And just as some of the band members' favorite musicians and influences - such as Violent Femmes, the Velvet Underground and R.E.M. - have stood the test of time, they hope their music will be more than a flash in the indie pan.
"Hopefully we're not just at the moment," Clifford says. "There's a lot of bands who have a similar sound to us, but I think that hopefully our songs will stand the test of time."