The San Fran quintet weighs in on inspirations, favorite albums,
songwriting strategies and what makes for “cookie cutter” pop.
BY GIL MACIAS
As mentioned last month, we continue our conversation with Veil Veil
Vanish. (Read part one at BLURT here.) This time the whole band chimes in:
Cameron Ray – Guitar
Keven Tecon – Vox/Guitar
Amy Rosenoff – Bass
Robert Marzio – Drums
Justin Anastasi – Keys
BLURT: So what inspired you to pick up your very first instrument and why
did you choose the main instrument that you’re playing now?
RAY: For me, it was the piano.
I took 8 years of lessons. My mom was very insistent on me playing the piano. I
wasn’t actually allowed to get a guitar until I graduated. The day I graduated
from high school I got a guitar. I was about 18.
MARZIO: I kind of started the
same way, I started on piano. But in my home growing up, music was everywhere,
everybody played something. I started with piano then went to guitar and then I
played bass and now I play drums. I’ve musically evolved. I ended up picking up
drums this time because some people needed a drummer. That’s how I came to be
with these guys.
TECON: I actually started
MARZIO: No way!
TECON: Yea. I had a lot of
energy when I was a kid and it was a good way to get it out. But I couldn’t
afford a drum kit. I bought sticks and I would just use them for practice. So
eventually I just started playing guitar—that’s my exciting story. [Laughs]
ROSENOFF: My family was pretty
musical as well. My mom has always played piano and she still does. I started
taken piano lessons, stopped for a while, then I picked up a violin on my own
and started taking lessons. Then I dropped that and picked up bass when I
started playing with my previous band, so it sort of stuck. I like playing
ANASTASI: Normally I play bass
as well, that’s my normal instrument. I started playing keyboards for these
guys. I didn’t know that Cameron had 8 years of piano lessons [Looks at Cameron]. No wonder you’re
always riding me!
MARZIO: Justin’s actually an
incredible bass player.
ANASTASI: I got inspired by
early punk bands. I just wanted to play. It was a pure need to let out
It sounds like you all play a
variety of instruments. For most bands, when you read the liner notes in a CD,
it usually only mentions the one instrument that a particular band member plays
and that sort of becomes their permanent fixture. Do you ever plan to mix it up
or trade instruments on certain tracks?
MARZIO: Well, Keven played
several instruments just on this album.
TECON: Personally, I don’t
have any kind of fixed idea on a particular instrument. I primarily play guitar
but I wouldn’t mind playing some other things. I think it’s kind of exciting to
play other instruments. I have been writing with other instruments because it’s
kind of helped me be a little more creative. It helps break up getting stuck on
a particular instrument.
So what band, song or album would
you say changed your life?
RAY: Two or three bands for
me. Jane’s Addiction is definitely one. Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. I
grew up listening to punk rock. I dated a girl that loved Cocteau Twins and The
Cure. Actually, I used to fucking hate The Cure. [Laughs] Seriously, I did. Still, I’m not the biggest fan, but
they’re alright. And I liked Slowdive.
MARZIO: For me, The Cure, The
Pixies, and The Smiths. They just hit me at the right time when I was 15. Totally
changed my life and reaffirmed my faith in humanity. That’s why I thought music
TECON: A band that changed my
life would be Neurosis.
RAY: Fuck yes, dude! Fuck yes!
TECON: They were so intense.
Just seeing them live was a barrage of sounds and images. They had lots of
projections onstage. I saw them more recently. You can see the guy working all
the images behind the band, layering all these textures. The music was all textures
and so were the visuals. It changed my idea of live shows.
ROSENOFF: Discovering the
darker music scene was pretty influential to me. The Cure, I’m just a huge fan.
Faith and Pornography are still my top favorite albums. Simon Gallup is an
amazing bass player. And the first Cocteau Twins album blows me away every time
I hear it.
ANASTASI: Obviously, I was a
big Siouxsie fan. I got into her pretty early. But I also got into the first
wave of the punk bands. That’s what made me get into music.
Are there any albums in your
personal collections that might shock or surprise fans? Any guilty pleasures?
RAY: The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds. [Laughs]
MARZIO: Al Green and Marvin
Gaye. They’re amazing to me.
RAY: I’m also a huge Phil
ROSENOFF: I’m a huge pop music
Yea, Justin and Keven told me that
ROSENOFF: I like Lady Gaga. I
just love pop music. That’s definitely my guilty pleasure. [Laughs]
TECON: Randomly, I’ll put on a
What’s it called? The party
station? [Laughs] It cheers you up.
Mine would be Roxette.
I’m a diehard Roxette fan. I have all their albums.
ANASTASI: That’s a really good
question. I’m really trying to think. Maybe Hall and Oates? [Laughs]
I asked Keven and Justin this
question before, so for the rest of you—How long do you see yourselves making
RAY: I don’t have a choice.
This is what I do.
MARZIO: I find there’s a
difference between people who are artists who have a studio. They go in there
and they do a painting—and people who kind of just make art as they go
through life. They’ll just draw shit on a wall or wherever they can while
they’re walking around. To me, that’s what making music is like. I’m always
going to be doing something with music, no matter if it’s on a professional
level or just happening day to day. I can’t think of life without music.
RAY: I like the canvas idea.
MARZIO: Yea, I don’t go
somewhere and just make music to be a product. Music is just part of everything
that I do. If I didn’t have music to listen to or to play—I can’t imagine
what that would be like.
ROSENOFF: Music is always
going to be part of my life. It’s not going to go away. I don’t know what
direction it’ll take me in, which is an exciting part of the process.
Some bands and solo artists are
obsessed with being on the charts. They want that #1 single, they want that
Grammy nomination. Do you care about stuff like that or plan to make
achievements like that a top priority?
RAY: I personally don’t think
we write songs to make that happen. If it happens—awesome.
ANASTASI: I don’t think any of
us trip about charts.
TECON: I personally feel so
detached from that. It seems like a completely different world to me. When I
was growing up, charting or things like the Grammys were the most meaningless
thing to me.
MARZIO: Every once in a while, I get fooled into
thinking that it matters and that it’s something that we should be concerned
about, but then I realize that I don’t choose bands that I like based on how
well they chart. I never look at a chart and decide who I listen to. So it
doesn’t really matter to me.
That’s why I am not a fan of
someone like Mariah Carey. She’s broken so many records and has come so close
to breaking the all-time #1 hit record, her output is all about quantity over
quality now. She keeps cranking out these singles that are obviously designed
to score that next #1 hit.
MARZIO: Oh, it’s a formula,
man. Pop music has been designed to a point where you almost can’t tell the
difference between pop artists anymore. It’s so formulaic and packaged as a product. It’s all one cookie cutter
type of thing now.
ANASTASI: Honestly, is there
were no charts and no system at all, I know we’d still be doing this anyway.
MARZIO: We’d be doing exactly the same thing.
So do you have any input on the
next album you want to share? How do you all get together and write a song?
TECON: It depends on each
song, that’s what makes it kind of exciting. Sometimes it’ll start off with a
bassline, or a drumline or even a keyboard line. “Wilderness” actually started
with vocals first before anything else. We never really write in the same exact
process, like let’s do the guitar line first, then the drumline. We don’t
really work that way.
There are 5 of you, so I imagine
there are times when 3 of you might hate how a song is coming out, and 2 of you
RAY: Oh, definitely.
How do you come to an agreement on
when a song’s finished or not?
TECON: We always know a song
is going to be good when Cameron doesn’t like it.
RAY: That’s pretty true!
ANASASI: That’s the formula!
So Cameron, are you happy with the
9 final tracks on the album?
RAY: I’m totally happy with
everything we have. But it is actually kind of funny.
So there’s a democratic process
then? You guys vote until you all agree a song is finished?
MARZIO: It’s very democratic
as bands go. Generally speaking, one or two of us will have an idea and bring
it to the table and the rest of us will fill in our own parts. So it’s never
like one person wrote everything and hands out the parts. Everyone’s involved
in some way.
TECON: We don’t write in a way
where we write a whole bunch of songs and pick the best ones. Each one is like
our own little kin and we really work on it. There’s only one song that we
wrote that didn’t make it on the album.
So how many songs did you make?
Some bands might make like 20 tracks, but then narrow it down to 10 for the
TECON: We made 10 and put out
9. That was it.
So no b-sides then?
ANASTASI: Yea man, where are
TECON: Next time, I’m hoping
we’ll be a little more prolific and have b-sides and stuff like that.
RAY: I’m really excited to start writing again, really excited. I think this next record is going to be extremely
good. I’m excited. I have a lot of ideas. Keven has a lot of ideas and I’m
excited to hear them. I think it’s going to be fucking brilliant!