Deaf Havana: “If you can’t 100% commit to the sounds you’re making for yourselves, how is anyone else gonna take to it?”

Deaf Havana: “If you can’t 100% commit to the sounds you’re making for yourselves, how is anyone else gonna take to it?”

By Yasmin Brown

Nov 15, 2018 9:34

Despite having just rocked up after a long night of drinking with his bandmates, there was no evidence that Deaf Havana’s guitarist, Matt Veck-Gilodi, was “dying from a hangover” as we discussed the band’s latest release, ‘Rituals’. In fact, as he he gave into the classic hair of the dog treatment and swigged his cider, his excitement was tangible and, had we been confined by walls, I’m sure he would have been bouncing off them.

It’s clear to anyone who speaks to the members of Deaf Havana that ‘Rituals’ is an album they’re proud of, and regardless of public response (which has, on the whole, been extremely positive), they have no regrets. And nor should they.

Of course, as with any band that departs from their original sound, there are reservations – but for Deaf Havana, authenticity won over any desire to pander to the masses. To the band, ‘Rituals’ is the first album they feel they’ve written for themselves, as they turned away from “the mindset of being like, ‘well this is what people will expect and wanna hear, so we have to make songs that sound a certain way’”, not paying “that any credence at all, and so by the time it came around to releasing it, we were shitting it a little bit”.

As such, the gratitude that radiates from Matt when he hears any praise surrounding the album is humbling, with the phrase, “thank you so fucking much” passing his lips more times than I could count.

This humility that Matt possesses makes chatting to him feel like chatting to an old friend, and despite the achievements that have come with the release of ‘Rituals’, the band remains entirely grounded – with Matt getting easily distracted by his “pretty gnarly” finger injury that saw him playing guitar with just three fingers at their St Pancras Old Church release show back in August, and his explicit love for the members of The Xcerts. It’s easy for fans to forget that these are just a bunch of friends doing what they love, but that’s exactly what fuels Deaf Havana: friendship, and a love of music.

There was a vocalised fear that, with ‘Rituals’ being influenced more by pop than rock, they might be considered sell-outs – but as Matt so bluntly states, “How can you sell out when you don’t earn more money?” He might pass it off as a joke, but he’s right when he points out that this is a lazy thing to say, going on to elaborate on his thoughts by explaining that, “If you think we’ve sold out, you haven’t listened to the record. Because you haven’t understood – yes the first six songs on the album are the best pop songs we’ve ever written, but the next six are the most miserable songs we’ve ever written”.

And it’s completely true. ‘Rituals’ is an album about loss, and coming to terms with who you are as a person when that person doesn’t align with who you want to be. It might sound poppy and upbeat, but there’s an underlying darkness that is far from being mainstream – and even if it was, the album is so sonically coherent that it’s clear Deaf Havana committed 100% to this sound, and that it’s exactly what they wanted to create.

This was important to Deaf Havana, because “if you can’t like, 100% commit to the sound, the sound you’re making for yourselves, how the fuck is anyone else gonna take to it?” As it is, ‘Rituals’ sounds completely genuine and sincere, and while it’s a sharp departure from the Deaf Havana we knew from 2010, it’s somehow also the most authentic they’ve ever sounded.

Deaf Havana: “If you can’t 100% commit to the sounds you’re making for yourselves, how is anyone else gonna take to it?”

Matt speaks about this album with conviction, and it’s no wonder that fans have connected with it so strongly when they have quite clearly been true to themselves, avoiding going against what was coming naturally to them and trying to make it “more rocky”. Instead, they decided there was little point in going to so much effort to create something that didn’t feel right, deciding that “if this is how it’s going, let’s wholeheartedly go like that because then we can actually give some fucking meaning to it”.

Anyone who takes a moment to really listen to ‘Rituals’ will understand what this meaning is. The album itself is an accidental concept record, written and recorded in just three months; completely different to how their previous records came into fruition, and yet happening more organically than anything they’ve done before.

“It was very strange, it was um, it’s really weird trying to explain it because it happened really organically but it was also the least organic record we’ve ever written. Because normally it’s like, James will have a song on acoustic guitar so you know how it’s gonna go and then we all go into a room and record most of it live and then add on top of it, whereas this was like, right, let’s write a section, get it done, next section, next section… So it – yeah, it was very, very different way of going about things. It felt more like hard work but, it was good. It’s good. Very creative.”

The fan response has reflected this creative process, too, with Matt feeling confident that “if you like our band for the right reasons, you’re gonna love the album… cause like the emotional crutch, which is the main thing that our fans have a tangible connection with, is still there”.

This emotional crutch is so intense that Matt – who decided the track order – cried when listening to it the whole way through for the first time, and with that emotional response comes a confidence that allows the band to ignore the few “iffy reviews” that came to light following the album’s release. Deaf Havana are, collectively, so pleased with the final product and “so proud of it that reviews really don’t mean a thing to us. Like you can see in the people at our shows that it means so much as well so, that’s all we wanna do”.

Deaf Havana have their massive headline show at Brixton Academy coming up in less than a month – a show they’d booked in last year before even considering releasing another record – and while they considered adding a few dates around it, it felt important to keep it as a one-off. “I mean in this day and age with social media where everything is so shared, everything is so accessible, it’s really nice to just have a one off event where if you don’t go there, then you’ve missed out”.

And for those that do miss out, a full tour of the UK and Ireland is coming soon, “but for this year, that’s – after these two shows at Reading and Leeds – that’s gonna be our only UK show. So yeah, I’m into it, it’s cool”.

Taking it slow in the way they have this year has allowed them to really enjoy the journey – something a lot of bands forget to do, getting carried away with sales and followers. Matt admits that “it’s very easy to when you’re surrounded by people saying, ‘oh you’re doing really well’ – but I’ve found myself a lot happier these last few years just taking every day as it comes”. So while he used to get caught up in the destination, Matt has realised that if you think that way, then “you’re in a band for the wrong reasons” – that is, you’re not doing it for the love of music, but instead for the so-called fame and glory.

By being in this band for all the right reasons, Deaf Havana have slowly but surely gained the recognition they’ve always deserved – getting to play massive festivals like Reading and Leeds, where not only do they get to play to fresh ears, they also get to see old friends and “have an amazing catch up. Maybe you’ll play a show and then you get to see some fucking wicked bands later yeah. It’s awesome.”

It’s refreshing to find a band so humble and genuine, and so thoroughly enamoured with what they’re doing. The British music industry is so incredibly lucky to be able to call them ours.

Deaf Havana have just announced they’ll be touring the UK and Ireland this coming March – get all the details here.