Touring Oz this month and next with the original line-up, Veruca Salt has been hailed as one of the foundational elements of the 90s grunge scene. Following the success of their brilliant debut, American Thighs, the band went on to release three more full-length studio albums, as well as four EPs, attracting a huge fan base and securing a firm foothold in the alt-rock scene.
Their new EP, MMXIV, (produced by Brad Wood, who was also at the helm of ‘American Thighs’), features two new cuts: The Museum of Broken Relationships and It’s Holy, but the band plans to return to the studio for work on a new album.
We talked to Louise about the band’s recent reformation, her thoughts on creativity and inspiration, and her early influences.
SR: I know you’ll have been asked this question a million times by now, but what’s it been like to play with the original line up and share vocals with Nina again?
LP: It feels… spectacular. (Laughs). It was really never something I, or she, anticipated, and it’s been like this incredible gift that neither of us really expected that we’d ever want to pursue. And it turns out that we had so much more to say, and so much more to do together. But, more importantly, our friendship has been healed and rekindled, and that’s the best part of all of this.
SR: Has the dynamic changed much, or does it feel just like the old days?
LP: I mean, there have been tonnes of changes personally… But, in terms of what it’s like to perform? You know, everything has been absolutely seamless and beautiful. Our shows have been incredibly profound in the way that we’ve connected with our fans and our audiences, and we feel so welcomed back – more than we could’ve imagined…way more than we could’ve anticipated.
And regarding sharing the microphone duties with Nina: it’s sheer joy. Just hearing her voice and singing with her again is really so much fun – as fun as it ever was. We inspire each other. We inspire great things in one another, and that goes for the whole band. We really challenge each other to rise to new heights, in every aspect of our lives – creatively, musically, spiritually, the way in which we communicate and just walk in the world. We are really good for one another.
“…our friendship has been healed and rekindled, and that’s the best part of all of this.”
SR: You’re essentially each other’s muses, I guess?
LP: We are. I think that we are. We’ve certainly had incredibly, powerfully creative people who we’ve worked with along the way, and people who’ve inspired us. But, for me, there’s been no one in my life since Nina who has rivalled her charge in my life. There’s definitely an electric charge between us and it’s still very much there, and we’re still very much on fire.
LP: Well, in terms of who inspired us… There were so many,*so* many inspiring women right before we began playing together – around that time. I could give you a short list. (Laughs). That would include Elizabeth Fraser from the Cocteau Twins, Bilinda Butcher and Debbie Gooch from My Bloody Valentine, Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly, certainly Kim Deal, and I am completely spacing her bass player’s name right now. Can you help me out?
SR: Josephine Wiggs.
LP: Yeah, Josephine Wiggs – thank you. And Kelley Deal. Let’s see, who else? I loved Mazzy Star’s first album – I love Hope Sandoval’s voice. And Nina and I grew up listening to Prince, and loving Prince – and Prince and the Revolution. We both admired, if not worshipped, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman.
SR: Oh, me too (laughs).
LP: (Laughs). Before we met, you know, there was actually a Wendy and Lisa show in Chicago that we both attended, not knowing each other. And we had the most religious experience watching this band. At the time, it was Wendy and Lisa, and Carla Azar, who’s now in Autolux, and Susannah Melvoin. It was an incredible show! We walked away from that, both of us, feeling really inspired. And we found out later that we had both been at that show. Now, strangely, Nina is very good friends with Wendy Melvoin, and they’ve collaborated on some things. I met both of them recently, through Nina, and it’s just hilarious and amazing. But, the last thing I’ll say is that I went to see a show in Chicago one night. And I was meeting a friend there. We were going to see some band called L7.
“…I always imagined that, when I was pregnant, I would write a record called So I Got Pregnant and Made an Acoustic Album.”
SR: (Laughs). Oh really?
LP: We’d never heard of this band, and they were playing this tiny club in Chicago. And I got there and I was meeting my friend, and there were all these really cool girls setting up the gear. I thought, ‘God, this band has really cute, awesome girl roadies.’
(Laughs) And then, of course, they picked up their instruments and blew my head off. That was a life changer for me, for sure.
SR: Can you describe your song writing process, and whether it’s changed, over time?
LP: Well, I’ll tell you what… It’s still the same, in that I have to sit down with my instrument and just start playing. It’s really mostly about that: sitting down and the exercise of playing music – playing a chord and seeing what comes out…I never know what’s going to come out! One never does…And then following through with it. It’s really like giving birth, in a way. That being said, there was a time when I had literally given birth; and, at first, I was like – I didn’t know whether I wanted to play music anymore. I always imagined that, when I was pregnant, I would write a record called So I Got Pregnant and Made an Acoustic Album.
LP: And when I was pregnant, I didn’t want to make an acoustic album. I didn’t really want to play music at all, as it turned out. I just wanted to watch really bad 80s movies. And later on, when I was walking around with my newborn, I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to write music, I don’t want to write music.’ But all these melodies kept coming to me. It was like in spite of myself, the process kept happening. Some of the songs are the ones I’ve worked on with Nina. They just keep coming. It’s sort of like, once you’ve opened that valve, as a creative person… Because I think we all have it. I really do. But people don’t necessarily tap into it or access it – out of fear, or out of being too busy with other stuff – practicality, or maybe not being interested in going that deep with one’s self. But once you dare to go there, just get ready, ‘cause it’s a lifelong thing, it turns out. Like, it’s just not going to stop.
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I was reading an interview with Chrissie Hynde, and she’s doing her first solo album right now. I guess she must’ve just released it. I just find that fascinating. She is someone like Bob Dylan – someone I grew up with and admired from when I was in grade school. And she’s still making records. Because she opened the valve and she can’t deny it, you know? And I don’t know if that’s my path into eternity, but it’s definitely been my path so far. And I relish it – it’s a really good path to be on.
SR: What else do you do to keep the creative juices flowing, beyond remaining open to this process?
LP: It’s sort of like flexing a muscle. I literally have to pick up the guitar. We’re going back in the studio to record two to three more songs for our album. But recently, we’ve just been so busy with everything but music. Like, we went on tour and we played, and every time I pick up my guitar, I’m not super-creative and inspired, but I have to do it, you know? Otherwise, all the business stuff… We call it the VSBS. We were so busy with all that – deciding when the record is coming out, and how it’s coming out, and when we’re doing a video, and when can we get Jim out here from Chicago for rehearsal? Right now, obviously, we’re planning all of our Australian dates. So, we’re so busy with all the VSBS, and the rest of life stuff, that it’s a challenge to just sit down, turn off the ‘phone, turn off the electronics, and just pick up the guitar. But that’s what I have to do. And that’s what makes a person creative. It’s actually working at their art. I have a cousin who’s a writer – a novelist, a successful novelist.
SR: Can I ask who?
LP: Her name is Elizabeth Kendall. She wrote a book called American Daughter, which is about her mother, her now-deceased mother. She passed away when Elizabeth was about, I think, 20. It’s a fascinating story, to me, in part because it’s my extended family; and it takes place in St Louis, Missouri, where I grew up. But Elizabeth once told me, ‘You have to write down something every day. Carry a little notebook around your neck.’ You probably know this, as a writer.
“One of the great things about playing with Nina again is she gets excited by an idea that I bring in, and vice versa.”
SR: I do hear people say this all the time: not to wait for inspiration to strike. It’s good to be reminded.
LP: Most definitely.
SR: You’ve written a lot of cryptic, yet incredibly evocative lyrics. Which are your favourites?
LP: Well, let me think. That’s hard to think of, on the spot. I think I feel proud of a lot of the songs I’ve written. The one that I’m thinking of, right now, that really resonates the most and the longest to me is the song Wolf, from American Thighs. That one is about a loss that I had. When I sing it, which is rare… Because we never played it live in the past. We play it now. It could bring me to tears any time. It’s very personal and I wrote it straight from the heart. And I remember living with my boyfriend, who showed up at the door – and I heard his key in the lock – right when I was in the middle of writing that song. And I was cognisant of writing something very special… And if I turned my head to even acknowledge him, the moment and the feeling would be lost forever. And I didn’t. I didn’t acknowledge him; I finished the song. And I always think of that. When one is interrupted – and there are so many interruptions in life – little, precious, sacred moments get lost. Expressions get lost. And I call them dead soldiers. There are a lot of songs that I’ve written that I feel are just lost in the stratosphere, you know? They’re just… they’re vapour.
One of the great things about playing with Nina again is she gets excited by an idea that I bring in, and vice versa. And we brought certain songs of each other’s back to life that were just sitting on our computers and weren’t necessarily doing anything that we liked but didn’t feel like anyone around us had really believed in, or pushed for. We’ve given each other, you know, play lists of songs that we’ve loved, that we’ve written ourselves, but that could’ve been on the chopping block. And we’ve totally revived these songs, and reclaimed them and made them ours, and it’s been such a great process. And another thing is co-song writing like we’ve never done before. And writing lyrics together, and trading off chorus, verse, and bridge… and not feeling so precious about every little thing that we’ve felt precious about in the past. So yeah, lyrics are incredibly important to us, and deeply personal. We don’t take them lightly at all. We spend a lot of time on them.
SR: I’m a great fan of your lyrics. Well, I have two final questions, which we ask of all our interviewees. The first is this: do you have any funny, or weird, tour stories involving a fan that you could share with us?
LP: Hmm. Welll… (Laughs). Australian or American? (Laughs). Let’s see… Funny… Well, I don’t want anyone to feel that they’re being made fun of. The only funny story I can think of is… When we were starting this band, we put an ad out in the Chicago Reader. It’s a weekly there. We were looking for a female rhythm section, because, once again, I had seen L7 and my mind had just exploded, right? And we got calls from mostly guys. Some girls – but they couldn’t really play their instruments. You know, times have changed. Every girl goes to rock camp and there are so many female musicians now, which is fantastic. But, at the time, there was a definite lack of female musicians. And we got a call from one guy, who said something about sitting in the back because he likes to look at girls’ bums or something. (Laughs).
LP: Yeah, that was fantastic. You know, it can get a little bit strange when you have fans who really, REALLY like you, and have had a lot of time to really like you. One guy asked me, recently… He said that he knew that Nina and I were equidistant from the centre of the stage, but how far would that be? Like, how many feet would that be from the middle of the stage? He wanted to know… you guys are metric, aren’t you?
LP: Alright. So, what’s your equivalent of feet? I can’t remember.
SR: Metres, but we understand feet. It’s fine.
LP: He said, ‘How far are you, exactly, if you were to measure from the middle of the stage – because I want to put myself right in front of where you’re going to be…and be there. So, that was a little odd. (Laughs).
SR: (Laughs). Yeah.
LP: That might be one of the weirder moments.
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SR: (Laughs). I think so. Okay, just to wrap up, do you have a message for your Aussie fans, ahead of your tour?
LP: I would like to say that our Australian tours have always been very special to us. We have had incredible times in Australia, individually and collectively, and we can’t wait to see and reconnect with our fans again and play some music.
SR: Louise, it’s been such a privilege to talk to you today. I’m a great fan from way back, but I promise not to stand equidistant between you and Nina in the mosh pit and do anything off-putting.
LP: (Laughs loudly).
SR: Good luck with the tour. We can’t wait.
LP: Oh thank you so much, Bec. I really appreciate it and it’s been nice talking with you.
VERUCA SALT AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
Wednesday, September 24: Brisbane – Zoo
Thursday, September 25: Adelaide – The Gov
Friday, September 26: Melbourne: Corner Hotel – SOLD OUT!
Tuesday, September 30, Melbourne: Corner Hotel – NEW SHOW
Saturday, September 27: Sydney, Factory Theatre SOLD OUT!
Thursday, October 2: Sydney, Factory Theatre – NEW SHOW
Saturday, October 4: Perth – Rosemount Hotel
Tickets are only $59 + booking fee and available from metropolistouring.com
On Sale NOW