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Deaf Havana | Interview | March 2014

Check out our interview with Deaf Havana as we discuss life on the road, fan encounters and exciting new things the band have in store.

Credit: PR

Deaf Havana are a six piece rock band from Kings Lynn, whose latest album ‘Old Souls’ has seen them plummet their way up the charts into the Top 10. The band supported You Me At Six as they embarked on the two week long European Youth tour. We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with drummer Tom Ogden and guitarist/ vocalist Matthew Veck-Gilodi before they hit the stage in Amsterdam. The boys discussed things like the state of the music industry, fan encounters, a new music video and some upcoming plans Deaf Havana have got in store for you. Check out a full documentation of what happened below.

HTF: Hey guys, it’s the last night of tour. What crazy antics have you been getting up to?

TO: We haven’t been mischievous on this tour, actually. It’s been pretty quiet.
MVG: Yeah, because we get on so well with the guys in You Me At Six.

HTF: They’re now also bringing you along on their upcoming US tour, right?

TO: Yeah, it’d be cool to go back to America with a band that sells some tickets. But, yeah, mainly every night when we finish playing, we pack down and either go onto their bus or they come on our bus, and we drink.

HTF: That’s the life isn’t it? You recently did this cover of Robbie Williams with Matt Barnes. How did that idea come about?

TO: We only did that once, cause it was his birthday.
MVG: We’d done it before and he asked us specially because it was his birthday, but we didn’t know he was going to come out and play with us.

HTF: I didn’t even know he could play the drums!

MVG: I don’t think HE knew!
TO: He can’t, really.

HTF: He was just hitting things?

TO: Basically. It was funny actually, we were playing the song and there’s this one bit in it where it stops, and everything went quiet. He got onto Dan’s kit which was straight behind me. It was supposed to stop, but then the drums were still playing. I was playing drums as well and I had stopped but the drums were still playing so I was like; “what the fuck? I’m not playing it,” and I looked back and Matt was just going crazy.
MVG: Oh god, it was so funny.

HTF: Sounds like it! Matt, I know you’ve got Italian ancestry. What was that like for you, playing in Italy?

MVG: It was cool. It was a good show. I’d been to Italy a couple of times, only quite briefly but never been able to spend too much time there. It is always really good going there though.

HTF: So, it’s a common thought that rock music is dead but lately, there have been a lot of rock bands doing well in the mainstream. For example, You Me At Six, and your album ‘Old Souls’ was also on the charts. How do you see things progressing for bands?

TO: Actually, last year it struggled a little bit, I think. We did alright, but some other bands didn’t.
MVG: I don’t know, I think rock music did decent. I think what you’re talking about is more smaller bands.
TO: Well, it’s changing because it went through a lull where nobody could get noticed unless you were Kings of Leon, but now like our album got to number nine in the UK charts, which just doesn’t happen to bands like us. When that happened we were just like; “what the fuck?”

HTF: You did play with the likes of Muse and Bruce Springsteen, that may have helped a little.

MVG: Definitely, that does help.
TO: Yeah, but on the other hand, Architects, they’re really heavy and their album got to number 16 or something, which is amazing. For a heavy band to get to number 16 on the UK charts, again, that doesn’t happen. But You Me At Six got number one, bastards.

HTF: So then I’m guessing you agree with Alex Turner’s speech at the Brit Awards?

MVG: Absolutely. I think he’s a lot funnier than people give him credit for sometimes.
TO: What did he say? Something like rock music will always be hiding and it will come back stronger than ever?
MVG: Yeah, and then when he dropped the microphone like; “invoice me for the microphone.”
TO: So bad ass. Did you see what he said backstage for an interview? Someone asked; “how does it feel to win the two awards three years in a row?” or something and he said; “well, I don’t really care about the size of my trophy cabinet.” He said the best gift is people actually liking their music, so basically he didn’t care.

HTF: Awesome. Going back to the topic of your band now. With ‘Fools and Worthless Liars’ and ‘Old Souls’ you kind of changed your sound a bit because you got rid of the screaming. Do you think that opened more doors for you?

TO: I think, it did, yeah. I mean, it wasn’t planned. He just left and we were devastated. We did consider getting another screamer but then we decided not to, because we don’t even really listen to music with screaming at all. We did when we were younger, when we were like 15 and when this happened we were in some ways like; “YES!” but then in other ways it was sad because we couldn’t get to see our friend anymore. Musically, I think this is way better and it’s more similar to what i listen to.

HTF: I feel like since then you’ve also been quite experimental. You did the alternative version of the album, and you have some shows coming up featuring the gospel choir.

MVG: We just like trying something that’s different, because it’s very easy to just write an album and then just sit on it and then become bored very quickly. You always forget that by the time you release an album, you’ve had the songs for ages. Then, you live inside those songs for the next 18 months or so. After a while, you start getting a bit bored, and artistically you never really want that. So we always want to keep trying something that keeps us going, keeps us interested.
TO: I think musically as well, we’re all quite influenced by older rock bands. Bands like Bruce Springsteen, who play with 13 or 14 members on stage. It looks and sounds incredible. Basically, we just want to be the next Bruce Springsteen.
MVG: Not even that, we just always like adding something new.
TO: We’re trying to do more stuff like that. We were talking about it last night. We don’t know how easy it’s going to be, but we want to do something this year which is going to blow people’s minds. I can’t say much because we still need to plan some things first.

HTF: That sounds exciting! Your songs are very personal, so it must be insane to see fans’ reactions, like when they cry while seeing you live. What are some of the most humbling experiences you’ve had?

TO: It’s weird seeing people crying. It’s like; “man, grow a pair,” (laughs) No, I’m only kidding.
MVG: It’s strange, the first time it happened, it was very odd. You keep wondering why on earth are people crying, but then the more you think about it you realise obviously it’s because they’ve connected to it so much. I don’t know, it’s strange.
TO: James (Veck-Gilodi) had a weird experience the other day. I was packing my drums and this girl kept asking me to go get James. Sometimes we get weird fans that want to tell you something horrible so I was like; “if you tell me what it’s about, then I’ll go and get him,” but she wouldn’t tell me, so I was like; “I’m not going to get him unless you tell me.” Then she started crying. I gave her a hug and asked what was the matter and she went; “James saved my life. Twice. I was going to kill myself and then I listened to his words.” So then I went to get him and they had this chat. I think it was really nice to see, but also it’s quite upsetting to know someone can feel that low. The fact that our songs help them, that’s really nice. I don’t know, it was a weird experience for me just to watch this happen.

HTF: Again, because your lyrics are so personal, what would you say was the hardest song you had to write?

MVG: Well, James writes but I help with some of the lyrics. Like in the song ‘Saved’, James struggled with a couple of lines and I helped out. We work quite well together. I don’t know, this last album James hardly struggled at all. We went through a majority of the writing process, the two of us together. It just flowed really easily. For ages, we had troubles writing anything for old souls; we had like three songs from two years.
TO: We had ‘Boston Square’, ‘Speeding Cars’…
MVG: …and ‘Lights’. ’22’ as well actually, so we had four. We needed eight more songs and in the space of about a week, me and James managed to come up with eight songs to make up the rest of the album.
TO: ‘Mildred’ wasn’t ‘Mildred’ at the time was it? It was called ‘Mildred’ but it was completely different. I remember you sending it over and I thought it was shit.
MVG: We first tried it and it was completely different. Then we realised we had 11 songs and me and James thought that a 12 track album is a number that sits well. I remember that we just played about with that drum beat, the drum beat that Tom basically plays all the way through it, and added a bass line to it and carried on doing that. Then, I thought; “these words could fit over that,” and so yeah, it just happened.
TO: Mental. It’s strange how it goes like that.

HTF: A lot of your songs are about missing your friends or your coastal hometown. Where do you go to or what do you do when the pressures of touring or fame becomes too much?

TO: In there (points towards bunks in the bus).
MVG: That’s the thing I struggle with a lot. You don’t always have anywhere to go, especially when you’re on tour.
TO: It’s easier on a bus because you can just go hide in your bed.

HTF: You’re not all in each other’s space?

TO: No, I haven’t actually seen the other guys today, apart from Matty. Everyone’s always off doing their own things, which is cool. But it’s harder when you tour on a van, like when we did America. We were travelling in a van and by the end of the tour I was really worried about the future of the band because I thought we literally all hated each other. It’s so hard.
MVG: You just end up wanting to cry every day, basically.
TO: You’re sat in a van for ten hours, or you’re in a hotel room with three other people, and you just can’t get away. I mean, I love hanging out with everyone, obviously; they’re my best friends in the world, but sometimes you just need to be on your own for a bit, like talk to my wife or whatever.

HTF: On that note, a lot of people may have misconceptions about the music industry when the reality is it’s really hard. What encourages you to keep going? What do you love so much about music?

TO: It’s the hardest, but seeing people’s reactions when we play live, like with that girl with James. Like, I don’t care how high up in the music industry you are, you can’t make people feel like that unless you’re the actual musicians themselves. People in the industry would be nothing without the bands.
MVG: that’s the thing with the industry, they’ve sort of all forgotten that and turned their heads.
TO: Everyone is in the industry nowadays to make a quick penny, a quick buck. Long gone are the days when bands get developed. Once upon a time, you’d sign up for like four albums and the record album would develop you and by the time of the fourth album, you’d be huge. That’s probably what Kings of Leon or Arctic Monkeys or bands like that did, but they don’t do it anymore. You have to do it yourself and when you get to a certain level you get a one album contract on a major label. It sucks.
MVG: Yeah, it is a bit shit.
TO: Because bands don’t get any money so some bands can’t continue touring.

HTF: Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot of the time bands are actually funding themselves to tour, and sometimes you may even lose money.

TO: We don’t make money. We don’t lose it, but we don’t make it either.

HTF: Okay, had music not worked out, what would you be doing instead?

MVG: I’d probably be at university to be honest.
TO: I’d like to think I’d have my own restaurant or something. Be a chef. I love cooking.

HTF: Oh you can cook? Go on then, what’s your specialty?

TO: Loads of stuff. Anything.
MVG: Microwave chips innit?
TO: Yeah, microwave chips and jacket potatoes.

HTF: How fancy! Okay, so as a band naturally you all had to start at the bottom. People are always talking about their most memorable or best show, but what would you say was your worst?

MVG: Good question. I’ll tell you what, last month when we were in America, we had done a 17 hour drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Dallas, Texas and we felt terrible after that drive anyway. We got all the there, went on stage and there were only about 10 people there. It was really disheartening and got me thinking; “what’s the point?”
TO: Another one for me was also in America, in Phoenix actually. We turned up to the venue, and it was literally just a pub. There was no stage, nothing. The Superbowl was on, so nobody was there. We couldn’t even fit our gear on stage so James just did it acoustically. So we travelled all that way and couldn’t even play. I was just like; “why am I even here?”

HTF: Well, that sucks big time. So one of the lines from your songs ‘Subterranean Bullshit Blues’ goes “I look forward to the day I can say look what I’ve done with my life,” – what are some goals you want to achieve with Deaf Havana?

TO: That’s a good question, because I think we’re always trying to do better, we’re always trying to climb the ladder a bit more. One of my favourite moments was when we opened the main stage at Reading and Leeds. That was amazing. This year, we’re like higher up on the main stage. I’d love to headline a major festival. That’s a big goal for me. Also I’d love to play, not even headline, just play Wembley Stadium. We played Wembley Arena with You Me At Six and that seats 10 to 12,000 but the stadium is 70,000 people. The stadium is where they hold the football matches and stuff, it’s fuckin huge. So yeah, that’s mine. What’s yours?
MVG: Realistically, over the course of the next few albums I was us to sound not different, obviously still the same band, but like each one will not be the same. I just want to keep moving, artistically really.
TO: I always want to keep climbing the ladder. The moment we start going downhill is probably the day I will stop doing it.

HTF: Oh no!

TO: It’s true though, I want to be remembered at the top of my game, I don’t want to be that band that…
MVG: …got fat and plays Queen’s Arms singing Kings of Leon (laughs).
TO: No, I don’t want to be doing that.

HTF: Haha, good point. I know your next single is ’22’. Have you shot a video for it?

TO: Yeah, yeah.

HTF: Can you give us a hint what to expect?

(Lee Wilson yells out from his bunk: “pissed up!”)
TO: Yeah, basically. We were out in New York and we got the camera crew to pay for us to get fucked up, and we did.

HTF: Sounds like a very Blink-182 thing to do!

TO: Yeah, it is a little bit. We filmed inside this loft. It was supposed to be the morning after or whatever, there were loads of females, booze, the works.

HTF: When is it coming out then?

TO: Any day now. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow? I don’t know, but soon.

HTF: Right, I keep forgetting you guys don’t know the details of these things.

TO: That’s the thing, and we also haven’t been home properly in seven weeks.

HTF: I know you’ve been playing a new song on this European run called ‘Trigger’. How are things looking regarding new music?

MVG: This is pretty much the only solid song we’ve got. We are recording it as soon as we can. We go back home tomorrow and then we have one day, tomorrow, to record it.
TO: When we re-release ‘Old Souls’, we’ll put it on that, maybe add some extra content.

HTF: No alternative version this time?

TO: We haven’t got time. Our time schedule is so hectic at the moment. We haven’t actually got time for anything.
MVG: You say hectic, I say shit.
TO: Yeah, we just have no time. When we did ‘Fools’ we only really toured England so we had loads of time, therefore we could sit in the studio for a month and re-record it. This time, ‘Old Souls’ is taking us all around the world, so we’re not at home a lot.

HTF: Right, your upcoming UK tour is also going to be your last one for a while, what else have you got on the cards?

TO: We’re doing that, then we’re going to America, then doing some festivals. We’re doing Pukkelpop.
MVG: Also, Southside and Hurricane in Germany.
TO: Doing Reading and Leeds again. We’re doing a festival in Norway as well.

HTF: Have you played in Scandinavia? The fans there seem insane!

TO: We did on this run actually. It is incredible, yeah. It was some of the best shows on this tour to be honest. Then I think we’re coming to Europe for a headliner.

HTF: Have you headlined here before?

TO: Sort of, ages ago, but not really headlined so that will be fun. Then maybe we will do another UK tour at the beginning of next year and then finish the cycle of ‘Old Souls’. Then it’s time to record another one.

HTF: Sounds great. Alright, that was it from me. Thanks a lot for your time guys!

TO: Amazing. That’s alright, thank you for the interview!

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