In the run-up to Deaf Havana’s Reading and Leeds festivals slot in 2014, frontman James Veck-Gilodi was sure they would be their last shows. The band formed at college in Kings Lynn in 2005 had debts, things weren’t working out with their label and he was feeling disillusioned. But as soon as he started singing, he realised he wasn’t ready to leave the band behind. And so they began writing songs again. The result is All These Countless Nights, an album full of earnest balladeering and driven, melodic tunes drenched in nostalgia and emotion.
Their previous record, 2013’s Old Souls, was an unashamed homage to Bruce Springsteen, so it’s fitting that we meet in the Ace Cafe, a biker bar that through its decor nods to shabby Americana and the freedom of the road – despite now being being on an industrial estate in London. Deaf Havana are on the cusp of a new adventure, and this is what you need to know about them.
They’ve left dark times behind
“I wrote the last album in about a month,” says Veck-Gilodi, “but this one was over a period of about three years. It wasn’t as emotionally taxing.”
Old Souls, while not bereft of uplifting moments, could not be described as a cheerful listen. All These Countless Nights, conversely, comes from a different place: “Maybe I’m just more mature now and not so upset. I’m a hundred per cent happier compared to what I was.”
Veck-Gilodi’s relaxed demeanour is testament to his newfound peace of mind; he and his bandmates are in a jovial mood as they sip lunchtime beers. Their music sounds older than their 20-something years, but they’re full of the energy and hope of young guys navigating the ups and downs of their dream career.
They’re happier on an indie label
“We signed to BMG Chrysalis and thought they were going to do everything for us. I didn’t put as much effort in,” admits Veck-Gilodi. “I learned a massive lesson: that you should never remove yourself and assume someone will do your job for you.” He says the band wasn’t prioritised by BMG, but he understands why. “We don’t bring in the same money as Morrissey. At the end of the day they’re businesses. We found an amazing indie label called So
Recordings. They care and are so passionate about us. I’ve never felt that from anyone else we’ve worked with.”
They love Bruce Springsteen and don’t care who knows it
“I just ripped off Springsteen unashamedly [on Old Souls],” Veck-Gilodi says, laughing. “I love him, and I’ve always wanted to tailor the band in that direction. But these new songs are a bit different. I think people’s opinions will change when they hear the next record.”
As a band they lost faith, then regained it
After embarking on a solo tour with Deaf Havana’s keyboards /guitar player Max Britton in January 2015, Veck-Gilodi started tentatively songwriting again. Those songs were the beginnings of the new record, and Veck-Gilodi says the band have come full circle. “We love making music and hanging out. I took a lot of that for granted, and I won’t do that again.”
They haven’t forgotten their roots
Deaf Havana’s sound is a million miles from their early days as an emo/post-hardcore band, but Veck-Gilodi knows that’s how some people remember them. “Even now I worry about people thinking we’re that kind of band, because there’s still connections” he says. “But I think we’re different to those emo bands. As much as I’d like to appeal only to Springsteen fans, we can’t control that.”
Springsteen isn’t their only all-American inspiration
“I love Charles Bukowski,” Veck-Gilod says. “No metaphors, no bullshit. That’s the way I like to write. I take a lot of influence from him. I have films on in the background when I write, like Into The Wild – big landscapes, nice cinematography, slightly emotional.”
He could almost be talking about the sound of Deaf Havana.
All These Countless Nights is out now via So.