Hands up if you’re excited about the return of Twin Peaks?
The Veils most definitely are, as it’s likely they will appear in the series, having recorded an as yet unknown track over a weekend chez David Lynch. The director is a fan of the band, and on tonight’s evidence it’s easy to see why.
Playing at KOKO is the realisation of a dream for their vocalist and figurehead Finn Andrews, and it proves something of a homecoming – although, as he details in an amusing link story, encounters with the locals have tended to lead to a ‘you’re not from round here’ response. Certainly Andrews does not exhibit the qualities of a gritty Londoner, with his hat and hard-to-place accent, a blend of Camden Town and Auckland.
One listen to his voice, though, and you should know immediately where he’s from and the band he fronts. For The Veils, believe it or not, have been gracing us with their presence for 12 years over five albums, but they have not experienced the success in the UK they arguably deserve. They have been through a number of line-up changes in that time, with Andrews and bassist Sophia Burn the only constants. What that appears to have done is given the band a number of distinctly different phases in their musical development, evolving in a manner that is never less than interesting.
Latest album Total Depravity finds them stripping back the textures and applying some electronic edge to the production, the fruits of work with El-P from Run The Jewels. He has brought an intriguing rhythm and effects section to complement the dark chamber pop/rock Andrews generally peddles, and although on occasions the rhythms feel a bit clunky when set with a full drum kit, the match is an effective one.
What also helps is the emotional investment Andrews brings to each song. He is a magnetic figure, his penetrating vocal reaching right to the darkest corners of KOKO. It also mines the darkest corners of his mind, for on occasion he is wracked with pain and preoccupied with doubt, moving edgily around the stage as though trying to get rid of the spotlight trained on him.
The band punch out powerful versions of Axolotl and A Bit On The Side, from the new album, and the timeless dark walk down the street that is The Pearl, from previous album Time Stays, We Go. A stark version of Total Depravity is notable for Andrews’ deep, sub-Velvet Underground voice, but then he bravely flips the switch for two solo encores of early songs The Tide That Left And Never Came Back and Lavinia, billed as “the first love song I ever wrote”. They get a rapturous reception before the band return to give us searing versions of In The Nightfall and Jesus For The Jugular, neglecting tracks from their more obvious rocky phase that was Sun Gangs.
The relative neglect of The Veils in this country is an oddity, given our love for the likes of The National, the band to whom The Veils would seem to be most closely aligned emotionally if not vocally. Yet with Andrews at the front they have a majestic, almost operatic grandeur that sets them apart from the average band. Once Twin Peaks airs, don’t be surprised to hear they’re selling out UK venues once again.