Finn Andrews’ debut solo album One Piece At A Time had only been out for one day when I caught up with him between his two sets at WOMAD New Zealand 2019. The shady media area offered a welcome respite from the sun, though the Kiwi-UK songwriter and The Veils frontman kept his sunglasses on, in order to “help alleviate” a headache. We chatted about the new album, songwriting, festivals, and New Zealand.
Seeing as you are listed as the sole songwriter on most Veils tracks, what’s the big point of difference for you in doing a solo album for the first time?
They felt like they needed their own little world made for them, and that they didn’t really entirely belong in the other one that I’ve been spending most of my time in since I was fifteen, sixteen. I guess it was out of curiosity as well, what would it be like to make another little place to grow things, another part of the garden. It was sort of an intuitive decision I suppose.
So why now?
It’s just the songs, I’d just written all these songs, which is the only reason I do anything or decide to do anything it seems. Sort of where they feel like they need to go, I kinda shepherd them in that direction. It was why I left New Zealand when I was sixteen to go and make the first Veils record, cause I just had written all these songs, it seemed like that would be the place to go do it, and this time it sort of led me back here.
I was wondering about that actually, cause you have worked a lot in the UK with an incredible list of producers, so what made you do this album in New Zealand and what does that offer you that’s different from the UK?
It just seemed to fit with this sort of idea I suppose of stripping everything away. I’d never made a record here, which seemed strange given how important this country is to me and how much time I’ve spent here as well. I think I just liked the idea of turning up here with no idea what I was going to do. I guess I knew that there’d be people here that’d I’d find, and over the years I’ve met so many people here that are in bands and making things here and I knew it’d be a good place to begin making the little world. And sure enough, people were just so generous with their time, and with their efforts, you know. I’d messaged Holly (Fullbrook, a.k.a. Tiny Ruins) about a month before I came back here. I knew she’d know some good people, and sure enough she just immediately put me in touch with her band basically, so I got to have a bit of a pre-formed unit. And then finding Victoria Kelly, we did the string arrangements, and various other sorts of people that came, Reb Fountain and those other fantastic people that were all just kinda floating about.
It’s definitely like an Auckland all-stars kind of line up.
Yeah! Yeah totally.
One songwriter I’ve heard you compared to is Nick Cave, who I saw talk a few months ago...
Oh yeah, you went to that?
He talked about his very disciplined, office-like approach to songwriting, which was quite contradictory to many people’s kind of spur-of-the-moment inspiration approach. Is that something you relate to?
I haven’t written a song in about a year now, which is very strange for me. I’ve never had that long without writing a song. I’ve found that approach worked well for me for a while. He’s a very enviably productive man on all fronts of a sort of scripts and poetry. Yeah, songwriting is a very interesting thing, I just wrote a little piece for The Line Of Best Fit in the UK about just how I find that process. Everyone sort of speaks so differently about it, there’s sort of similarities, a lot of people sort of lie about it as well or sort of exaggerated. I found it hard when I was starting to write songs, knowing if what I was doing was wrong. You never know if you’re doing it right. You can’t really go to any classes on it or anything, there’s no sort of YouTube tutorials about it that you can... well there maybe are haha.
Do you think your process has changed since then?
Since I was starting? Nah, I think it’s just as mysterious to me. You know it’s interesting that Nick can be that sort of regimented with it and it seems so reliable in that way as well, you just go sit down and go to work with it. I think with Total Depravity that’s exactly what I was doing, I was going into a studio every day. It was out of the house as well, I’ve often just written songs in my living room, cause that’s where the piano is or that’s where the guitar is or whatever. But the idea of getting out of your daily life and going and working somewhere I think is a good way to go. But I do find that I can’t make myself do it if it’s not there, but then sometimes I can, and sometimes that’s totally reliable, and sometimes it isn’t. I feel like if I ever knew how to do it all the time I would sort of stop enjoying it as well maybe. But it’s just so different for everyone. Do you write songs? You seem like you do.
Yeah haha. Thanks.
Yeah it’s a funny one, isn’t it? Everyone finds their own little way through. But it’s a process that just flatly refuses to be completely controlled.
I saw you play at the Auckland Folk Festival earlier this year...
Oh cool, oh man, that was such a treat going there.
That festival and now WOMAD, they’re both very heavily involved with the idea of musical tradition, often very old musical traditions of various cultures. What is your connection to tradition in your songwriting, especially on the new album that does tap into some older traditions, blues, gospel…
Yeah, that’s a good question. Honestly, I don’t think about that stuff a great deal and I tend to just write what I feel like writing at the time. As I say whenever I sit down with any intention whatsoever it goes nowhere for me. So I think whatever’s sort of floating around in my head tends to just be the way that it goes. Obviously, I went to the Folk Festival a lot growing up and that was the first band I was in, was sort of a folk band I guess.
The Auckland Folk Festival?
Yeah, the Auckland one, I was in a band that went there, and we were playing sort of old trad instrumentals for the Morris dancers and shit like that. So it was a bit of an introduction to that thing and I think the sort of storytelling aspect of songwriting was very much something I was sort of introduced to through folk music and through that little scene when I was twelve, thirteen. I have a pretty sort of pick-and-mix approach to those things, just things that are interesting me at the time, whatever seeps through naturally. I think I feel more of a kind of familial sense, especially on this record, with the piano, I feel that sort of coming through a lot. There’s a lot of piano players on my dad’s side, and that sense of sort of a family tradition in that way. The piano to me is quite an intimidating instrument and I feel similarly about it as I would an old sort of family member, so I think I’ve been wrestling with that a little bit. Being not a very good piano player that’s sort of trying to find my own way through it, on an instrument that my dad’s far better at, I think you’re always trying to make your own little way with that as well.
What does it mean for you to be included on lineups like these, WOMAD and the Folk Festival, is that a position you predicted when The Veils were starting, that this is the kind of festival…
Oh no not at all, I mean I think that’s why it’s such a treat to play at. I’m not sure The Veils would have fit in, certainly wouldn’t fit in at the Folk Festival. They’ve always got quite an eclectic lineup here, maybe we would have done WOMAD one day but maybe not. It’s nice for me to play these two, we sort of played so many others with The Veils, like Laneway and The Big Day Out when that was going and all that sort of stuff, Rhythm and Vines and all those sort of things, so it’s nice to be able to do a few different sorts of things. We’re hopefully gonna do a few sorts of the arts festivals later in the year and things as well, so that’s pretty cool to be able to come into that world a bit.
Do you have any plan to take the same lineup internationally?
Um, for the solo record?
Yeah, well we’ve got a whole European tour that’s just announced and an American tour now that’s been announced. May I’m in Europe and June in the States, and the festivals in Europe in July. We’ve just got a show in Istanbul which will be fun as well, so yeah, it’s gonna be a busy year with it. Last night was the first of them really, it all begins now.
Who are you excited to see at WOMAD?
I’m terrible with names, let me see. We only just looked at the programme when we got here. It was nice to see Teeks yesterday, and Nadia Reid, god she’s so fantastic. Angelique Kidjo’s gonna be so fucking fun tonight. That’ll be great. Man, have you got any recommends? I don’t really know.
Get a copy of Finn Andrews' new LP One Piece At A Time here, out now in stores and all main digital platforms.
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Released: 15 Mar 2019