In recent years, bands such as La Dispute and Defeater have helped transcend the boundaries of lyrical constructs.
The former have written albums that experiment with meta-narration (the songs on second album Wildlife, for example, take the form of short stories and the author’s notes within those tales), while the latter’s four records are an ongoing narrative centred around a WWII era family.
Oxfordshire’s Vera Grace have taken a similar approach to their writing with newest EP, Novella. While they’ve had a few previous release since forming in 2012, this release – which takes the form of a play divided into two different acts, with each track representing a scene, and each interlude representing the changing of scenes – represents the quintet as they mean to continue, and is just the start of what vocalist Stephen Nulty hopes will be an ongoing storyline.
“The idea of the concept,” he explains, “is to show how life can be complicated. It’s not simple. We wanted to make an intense, short EP that could try to convey these difficulties that we all can face in different ways and try to push forward through them.”
A dark tale about two religious brothers – one of whom kills a bystander during a brawl and then murders his sibling – the songs on Novella are told from both the point of view of the killer and the random victims’ mother. It ends with the latter pointing a gun at her son’s murderer, but there’s no conclusion – the song and EP end before you know what she does, so it’s up to the listener to decide.
“I wanted to leave it open-ended,” explains Nulty, “so that people could relate to it in their own way and wonder what happened. Did she go through with it? Did she kill him or did she let him with the sins of what he’d done?”
Admittedly slow at writing music, the band – completed by guitarists Jonjo Williams and Rich Lester, bassist Aaron Godfray and drummer Josh Williams – are nonetheless adamant that this specific storyline isn’t over yet.
“We’re writing new music at the moment,” says Nulty, “and it basically continues from there, from the mother’s perspective and how she’s living her life onwards from that final scene. I felt like we needed to continue from the mother’s point of view, not to get closure, but to see how she’s coping with it. We want to make it relate to everyone in real life, to the idea that when something bad happens it’s the aftermath, and how you take it on, that matters. You have to push forward with life – and that’s where the mother’s point of view comes in. Is she pushing forward or is she a complete wreck from what’s happened?”
The music that underpins the narrative ebbs and flows with rage and sorrow, with brutal power and gentle grace, switching between the two as the drama and darkness unfolds and the morality and religious convictions of the characters combine into a whirlwind of cathartic yet sophisticated noise. It’s an impressive tour de force that serves as a powerful and convincing first step to what is hopefully a bright – albeit dark – future for the band.
“We’re just taking it step by step,” says Nulty, “but to have this EP out is amazing. We want people to hear it, and we want to play anywhere possible. We have a couple of tours lined up, and we just want to do as much as we can and play as much as we can. We want to keep the ball rolling now and see what comes with it.”
Vera Grace’s EP Novella is out now. For more information on the band, visit their Facebook page.