There’s barely a write-up of Veronica Falls that doesn’t venture into “Goth tinged” adjectives, yet talking with singer and guitarist Roxanne Clifford couldn’t be more cheerily laid-back. More than two years since the release of their self-titled debut album, Veronica Falls have returned with the release of their much-anticipated follow-up ‘Waiting For Something To Happen’. “We wanted to get away from the whole doom and gloom vibe,” explains Roxanne. But then that intent never came from within. “Even songs from earlier singles were always supposed to be a bit tongue-in-cheek or a bit of a contradiction. They’re not supposed to be gloomy songs.”
Veronica Falls excel in contradiction. Their sound is both miserably downbeat and delightfully joyful. The duel-gender foursome blends a heady mix of late ‘80s UK indie with ‘60s girl garage awash with New York sensibilities. It has the delightful sonic monotony of Stone Roses or New Order woven through the backcombed bounciness of Daughters of Eve. Far from Ian Brown with a beehive, the result plays more like the soundtrack from the coolest alternative ‘80s film. It’s like watching ‘Breakfast Club’ through surf-tinted retro-specs. Such an aesthetical grab-bag is more a result of who they naturally are than anything contrived or driven at. “There wasn’t any great master plan behind it, it just came together really naturally.”
The title track mirrors melodies from Elton John’s ’Kiss The Bride’ played through the textured gauze of a Pixies concert. Bright and thin guitar lines resonate above male and female water-coloured vocals, painting shades of both grey and lemon with “Standing in the middle/waiting for something to happen”.
Far from waiting for something to happen, Veronica Falls have spent the interim between albums producing a beautiful blend of suitably sepia-tinged videos, recording tracks and touring ceaselessly on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet despite having a work ethic that would send most up-and-coming bands shamefaced, ‘Waiting For Something To Happen’ still feels to a certain extent autobiographical. “It’s a feeling that a lot of people deal with,” explains Roxanne, “that feeling of being directionless. Everybody’s waiting for something but it never arrives”.
This sense of middle ground is a thematic cord that threads through the album. “I think a lot of the album’s about that frustration, but it was only when we looked at the thing as a whole that we realized that underlying theme.” And that sensation of unknowing, with the anticipation that brings, is the undercurrent and the energy that drives it.
Although they received across-the-board praise for their debut, the pressure of that daunting second album didn’t faze them. “We do try hard not to think about that. If you think about that too much it’s really counter-productive when you’re trying to be creative. You can’t really please anyone apart from yourself.” This organic sense-of-self ripples through their sound. “We didn't make a conscious effort but you do evolve as a band,” explains Roxanne. It also ripples through their creative process; “Some of the songs on the new album began as ideas on the first. But on the first record there was more imagery; it was dramatic and playful. These are more heartfelt and honest”.
That same honesty is the source of their visual style. Some might see a polarity between naturalness, and a band like Veronica Falls who are stylistically steeped in the greatest hits a whole timeline of music has to offer. But this is just who the band are. “The whole identity of the band comes from us. We just dress the way we’ve always dressed but that’s an important part of the band too, the image and identity.” Speaking about external aesthetics, it is clear “that’s really important” to what the band produce as a whole. As well as personally looking delightfully retrospective, everything from the videos they make to the merchandise they sell echoes this sentimental, soft-focused blending of sonically striking eras.
The album artwork for ‘Waiting For Something To Happen’ plays with this identity and, as Roxanne says, “looks quite specifically like a Veronica Falls record sleeve.” As their musical influences are historically far-reaching, visually “We use lots of ambiguous stuff like found photography and stuff like that”. Specifically “quite emotive photographs that all go along with the sound and the lyrics.” If ‘Waiting For Something To Happen’ is dealing with issues of directionless and the anticipation that follows, the artwork considerately extends that notion. “You don’t know if she’s falling or reaching,” explains Roxanne of the cover. “That was exactly why we used it.”
This conceptual cocktail of anxiety and euphoria is perfectly played out through tracks like ‘Bury Me Alive’. Displaying their equal comfort with the light and the dark both male and female vocals airily breeze the words “I can’t wait/to meet my fate/bury me alive” as if it were the happiest and most natural request they could make. A delightfully straight four-beat rhythm drums beneath twangy guitars that descend and then rise again as the lines “I want to get sick, I want to catch everything you’ve ever caught” echo out. You find yourself cheerily dancing along to this polemic sense of romance and Armageddon as if it were as familiar as tea and toast.
Ultimately this reflects the literal chaos within Veronica Falls. “We never took this seriously. It was a bit of an accident”, says Roxanne casually. A creative dynamic, sensitive only to the sum of its parts, has produced a whole sound that is greater for it. “We never really had a grand plan, we’ve just done it because we love it.” While they’re waiting for something to happen, they’re sounding pretty good.
Words by Anne Louise Kershaw
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'Waiting For Something To Happen' is out now.