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"Against The Grain"
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Going Against The Grain
An interview with The Veer Union

 by Mike Newdeck

After signing with Universal Motown in 2008 as result of their independently produced album ‘Time to Break the Spell’, it’s really been a non-stop rise to prominence for this Vancouver alternative rock outfit. Featuring ex Forty Foot Echo men Crispin Earl-also formerly Everything After and June-and guitarist Eric Schraeder the band have been gaining ground on US Billboard with the singles ‘Seasons’, ‘Youth Of Yesterday’ and ‘Darker Side Of Me’.  Mike Newdeck caught up with Crispin Earl in Vancouver as the band flew across Canada in their now well used tour bus to catch up on recent events. 

AA: What bands were you all previously in? and why did Everything After fold?

VU: Well to be honest, things had progressed, we had taken the band as far as we could, we were let down big time by a record company who decided that they didn’t want to back us and it was time to move on. Creatively things really had dried up a bit and it was time to find other people to collaborate with

We were both session musicians for a while and helped out Murray Yates with 40 Foot Echo. I was the drummer and Eric the guitarist.

 Well Eric and I were living in adjacent apartments, we were both in Forty Foot Echo doing a job(they’re both multi-instrumentalists) and then that folded after the band were dropped from Hollywood Records we put our heads together and realized that we had a thing going for writing songs which seemed to click for both of us.

AA: Who are you currently on tour with? And what’s it been like?

VU: Hell we’ve been on tour with everybody, Cavo, Framing Hanley at the moment, but you name it we’ve done it. We love it, getting out in that bus, which is where I am now. Life on the road is what we’re about.

AA: How did the band get signed by Universal Motown? (Not a traditional label for hard rock bands!) how did you feel?

VU: It just worked out right for us. I really came through a period where my self-belief had evaporated after Everything After broke up and I didn’t think that I could go through stuff again. Gregg Archilla was a friend of ours and when Eric and I came to him and played him our new stuff he loved it and immediately set the ball rolling by sending the material to record labels. Universal Motown were our choice as their vision seemed the right one for us. I still had my reservations about doing the major label thing again as I remembered what had happened before, but it’s worked out great.

AA: How did you get the call to help on Tommy Lee’s album? And in what capacity?

VU: I wrote some stuff on that album with Tommy I was pulled in to session, but ended up co-writing some of the material with him, I’ve always been a songwriter and Tommy liked what I was doing so we got together.

AA: You cover the pink song ‘Please Don’t Leave Me’ why did you choose this song?

VU: It’s great fun to do songs like that, we like Pink and it provides a recognizable song to play during a concert, we love it and the crowd loves it….it’s fun

AA: Being a Canadian band do you find that you get compared to Nickelback?

VU: It’s funny, but we never really get compared to Nickelback, but I see where you’re coming from, we play modern rock and come from Canada just like then. To be honest we tend to get compared to Seven Dust simply because I’m black and they’ve got a black singer. It’s funny really because we don’t sound anything like them at all.

AA: How has the album been doing in the States and in Canada?

VU: We’ve been really pleased with the way it’s all going, we’ve had good airplay in The States and also in our home country and as we tour the interest has really stepped up

AA: What do the Veer Union offer that is any different to the host of other modern rock bands out there?

VU: I like to think we offer a harder rougher edge and better songs, although I’m well aware that people like to pigeon-hole everything. I think we have more of a unique sound. Some of our songs don’t really follow the regimented verse chorus approach. For instance ‘Seasons’ has a different formula and we think it breaks the mold.

AA: It is unusual for a band to have a black front man? What are the positives and negatives of this?

VU: Well there’s a problem with some people, although not a major one, in that they sort of don’t see it when they realize that you’re black and sing in a rock band, somehow that doesn’t fit in, but hell, black musicians have graced bands for years, Hendrix, Living Colour, Seven Dust to name just a few. What it does give us though is something different, the sound becomes more unique, less cookie cutter and I suppose more of a novelty and that’s an advantage.

AA: How did you get involved with Chief music management? They seem to be THE management group as far as mainstream rock goes?

VU: I tell you what Chief is great, he really looks after us, being Nickelback’s tour manager gives him massive know how and experience and he really knows how to look after us.

AA: Are you itching to get back in the studio or has ‘Against the Grain’ got plenty of life left in it yet?

VU: Well to be honest, it’s never over until it’s over and the interest in ‘Against the Grain’ has grown as we’ve toured and so it’s still been kept up there. To a certain extent we haven’t had time to think about a new album because we’ve been on the road constantly. The whole thing has been difficult, but we’re now at the stage where it’s close to getting back into the studio and laying some stuff down. We’ve managed to write songs on the road, but it won’t reach fruition until they get recorded. It’s now getting to be a priority. I expect will have some stuff recorded by the end of the year. It’s going to be a slightly tougher sound than on our debut, but retaining the melody.

AA: It seems the norm with this genre of music that Brian Howes has some involvement in the songwriting, why did you choose to use his songwriting skills rather than go it alone?

VU: I’ll tell you Brian is top songwriter, but Brian really tweaked the songs, most of the job had already been done. Brian is great, he’ll listen to the song and say “yeah that’s great, but it would sound even better if you did……” and nine times out of ten it works for the best.

AA: How does the band write their songs?

What usually happens is I’ll write a song with the help of an acoustic guitar, Eric gets hold of it and does his stuff and then we put it all together. With some fine tuning we get there in the end.

VU: The album itself has a gritty sound and is more organic than some of the current releases in the mainstream rock genre, was this intentional?

VU: We just wanted to make a record that rocked and what happened just happened, we didn’t want it over produced and Gregg new this and the result was awesome. However it all seems pretty tight and the balance was spot on

AA: Was the recording of the album a smooth process or did it have its problems?

VU: Recording any album is hard work, but we’re used to the recording studio so it wasn’t a problem Gregg is a brilliant engineer and producer so really the whole thing was pretty painless.


  With a new album to look forward to and enough talent to shake a stick at, the Veer Union is one to watch in 2010/11.

 

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