“It’s fucking freezing in here! Does anyone want a beer then?” Thirty seconds into Bido Lito!’s second interview with VEYU and we’re already nursing an obscure brand of foreign lager courtesy of their lead guitarist, Adam Bresnen. Outside, the grandiose architecture of Liverpool’s business district partially shields the congested streets from the leaky, blackened sky. Inside, we’re shooting the shit about hangovers, performance anxiety and major record deals, as the Andy Burrows-alike thrusts two beers into the hands of bandmates Chris Beesley (Vocals, Guitar) and Tom McCabe (Drums). Adam then slumps into the empty chair next to them as we discuss the merits of hypnosis.
“Fuck, well, my memory would just go on stage,” explains Adam with regard to his crippling stage fright. “I’d forget my own songs, my own lyrics, my own guitar riffs. So, I went to see a hypnotist. It worked.”
This isn’t the kind of affliction you’d expect the lead guitarist of one of Liverpool’s most exciting buzz bands to harbour. Nonetheless, his candid admission gives an indication of just how serious VEYU are about what they do. They want to exert control over every aspect of their make-up, and they’re prepared to use mind-altering techniques to do so.
It’s a Saturday and we’re at the Fallout Factory Art Gallery on Dale Street. It’s been about a year since Adam acquired the building to use as a non-profit art gallery, and the room in which we now sit looks a bit like the gutted window of a soon-to-be bankrupt shop, save the ‘everything-must-go’ Letraset. This is VEYU’s home, creative HQ, rehearsal space and soon to be regular gig venue. It’s an ailing council building with a creepy wooden staircase from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, crude promotional etchings plastered all over the walls, long-forgotten trinkets, curious artsy knick-knacks and a dank basement which could well have been where the final scene of the Blair Witch Project was filmed. But in the lead-up to I/O, their first self-curated show, the gallery is littered with band paraphernalia as the group tinker about with an abundance of light and sound to make sure that their own precise universe translates just how they want it. “We’ve got free rein to do what we want here,” says Tom of the gallery and event. “It’s more of a DIY thing. It’s not fancy or plush, but we’ve put a lot of thought into the visual elements that could complement our music.” In collaboration with visual artist David Ogle and 3D effects maestro Deerstalker, the event’s amalgamation of art and music is the quintet’s own gentle nod towards the spirit of Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Taking place after we sat down for this interview, the event acted as an iridescent lightbulb to the moths of Liverpool’s creative community (not to mention a handful of A&R scouts), who gathered round to see their latest darlings come good on months of promise.
When Bido Lito! last interviewed VEYU, they were lamenting the difficulties of forming a band. Fast-forward just five months and they’ve already curated their first multi-themed event, and are in the process of penning their [“mostly finished”] debut album and exchanging digits with a number of major record labels. Just don’t ask them whether they plan to put pen to paper with said labels anytime soon. “We’re not going to just sign off on any old contract,” shrugs Adam. “We want to be thorough and we want to know what sort of creative control that we’ve got,” Chris butts in. “We’re not 18-year-olds who will sign our souls away at the sight of a lucrative contract. I think we’re just a bit more grounded than that. It’s about sniffing out the good eggs from the bad.”
To put it plainly, VEYU have unwittingly piqued the interest of the industry’s biggest wigs, bleeping on the radar of everyone in the music biz who likes their choruses big, dewy-eyed, sprinkled with tropes of 80s-era pop and sung by Matt Berninger. The twinkling, Fleet Foxes-like lope of Running is now bolstered by B-side Everlasting, a bold move towards the edgier, less pastoral end of the spectrum. Their reaction to all this interest? Dissolution, obviously. “A few months ago I feel we were really naïve as to how the industry works,” offers Chris. “But now it’s like, the more I find out, the more I think ‘I wish I didn’t know’. Everything has this methodology to it. It just seems very formulaic.”
To fill-in between the lines, the gist is this: VEYU recently linked up with a management company in cahoots with a major label, their first encounter with the glass ceiling of the music industry. Thus, a raw nerve has been exposed somewhat. “We’ve talked to our managers and we’re not dead-set on signing with a major label,” says Chris, before Tom interjects. “The thing is, we didn’t just want to nosedive straight in, [but our management] actually wanted us to sign a contract straight away.”
Adam sighs: “I know bands that have signed to [major labels] and just been discarded.”
“We’re just precious about what VEYU is,” explains Chris. “We’re cautious about handing over certain responsibilities to the right people. It’s just a natural scepticism. It’s nothing personal.” This isn’t just playing hard to get though. VEYU really want this. And not just a plastic, pastiche version of rock ‘n’ roll sold to us in gift shops at the Hard Rock Café; they’re confident enough to flirt with the devil without putting out on the first date. “I think [the music industry] is very flaky,” says Chris with a raised brow. “We’re just not puppets.”
It’s beginning to become clear why VEYU are so ill at ease with their interim status as major-label ear-candy. Basically, they’re still an unknown quantity. And, ultimately, the cynical and morally panicked culture of no control = no integrity, married with the burden of buzz, is pranging them out. To be fair, they’ve not even released an awful lot of music. That said, this month’s release of debut single Running ought to allay any worries as to whether VEYU are the real deal or not.
After we run out of questions to have evaded, we settle in to a discussion about their positive experience at Parr Street Studio for the recording of Running. The results suggest that the band’s first foray into the studio bodes well for the future, adding space and clarity to the rough gem of the track’s demo recording. Could history repeat itself for the recording of their debut album perhaps? “We want to keep our options open,” offers Chris. It’s as simple as that. VEYU are playing the long game and, you know what, they’re winning.