Veruca Salt: We're like a family -- with all of the love and, sometimes, dysfunction
Photo by Piper Ferguson
A definitive cultural relic that beautifully captures the '90s zeitgeist is the opening scene of high school black comedy Jawbreaker, scored by Veruca Salt's "Volcano Girls." During that time, the Chicago-based band became a foundational part of the post-grunge alternative rock scene, developing into MTV icons and touring with the likes of Hole and Bush. Leading ladies Louise Post and Nina Gordon had unmatched musical chemistry, but after just two full-length albums personal contentions between Post and Gordon unraveled the group seemingly for good. Post carried on with different musicians, but it would be 15 years before she and Gordon buried the hatchet. Not only have the two refueled their strong friendship, but also Veruca Salt in its truest form lives on. For the first time in nearly 19 years Gordon and Post have reconnected with original drummer Jim Shapiro and original bassist Steve Lack for both a reunion tour and a new album.
Ahead of Veruca Salt's show at the Varsity Theater tonight, Gimme Noise talked with Louise Post and Nina Gordon about cultural perspective and getting a second chance.
Gimme Noise: Veruca Salt's original lineup is back together for the first time in 19 years. It all feels strangely paralleled to when you initially gained attention in the '90s for American Thighs. How does this feel compared to the first time around? Are you spiritually the same band?
Louise Post: I feel like it's the same band and also a more evolved level of the band.
Nina Gordon: I feel very similar because there are so many parallels. It feels like déjà vu to me. It doesn't feel that different and we have the same level of excitement about what we're doing internally amongst the band. It's the same feeling of "We cant wait for everybody to hear this!" Will everybody hear it? Who's going to hear it? We don't know but we love it.
LP: I second that.
Is it accurate that you truly never thought this day would come?
LP: No we didn't. I actually wrote a lyric in a song that said "Antarctica will have to thaw for us to meet again." Ironically, Antarctica is thawing. At the time that I wrote that I didn't imagine that that would ever happen -- either of those things -- and yet here we are. I had hoped in my heart that it would but thinking that we might play music together again was too far-fetched to really entertain the possibility of. But for me it's been sort of a dream come true. I literally had dreams about playing with Nina and missed playing with her terribly. I missed Jim and Steve as well but Nina was always my main compadre.
We were really partners in crime, all sorts of crime. That relationship was really important to me: it was the hardest to be away from and the most glorious to return to. That being said, we as a four-piece band are like a family -- with all of the love and, sometimes, dysfunction as any family. We have to work hard to stay in communication. This time around it feels like everyone is really game and we've had a lot of time to appreciate what we shared as a band a long time ago. It strangely feels like we're resuming right where we left off and get to take it to the next level. It feels fantastic.
One of the singles you released on the Record Store Day 10-inch this spring, "It's Holy," seems to be centered on the theme of fresh starts.
NG: Definitely. It's very much about what we have been through and very much about what's happening now and about our reunion. When I say reunion I don't mean it in the theatrical sense, I just mean the repairing of the two of us. It's about all four of us; we all wrote it together. It's about doing this together again and the surprise and thrill and realizing for myself how precious and valuable our connection and our music is.Who are the people in the music video?
NG: Those are all fans. A friend of ours who shot the video had this idea because we hadn't had any new music out in so long and there were fans who also thought this day would never come. He had the idea of asking through social media to get these über fans to videotape themselves listening to our new songs for the very first time. So that's what that is. We thought it was really sweet. Veruca Salt captured a very specific spirit and essence of the '90s but now -- years later -- culture has inevitably shifted and you are making new music amidst a completely different cultural climate. How has this affected your approach to creating music?
NG: I don't really think that it has at all. We've always written from our gut I guess. We have always written what comes naturally. Certainly we listen to lots of music all of the time and are influenced by everything that we see and hear and love and that sounds great. But I don't think it's changed out songwriting or lens. We're always writing from such a personal place and have a very "anything goes" attitude and so I don't feel like anything about the current cultural climate has really influenced us. We are a product of this time and this world and we live in this world and so we're writing from that as human beings. Don't you think, Louise?
At what point did you realize that the band would come back in full force and that there would be an album?
NG: That was my moment. Louise and I met up and we decided that we wanted to play together again and so we got together and started singing and playing together and playing our old songs. It was incredible and it felt really great but we didn't know what we'd do. We thought maybe we'd play one show together or something we had no idea. But after meeting and singing I guess we were both just really inspired again musically. Something had been sparked again that hadn't been alive for awhile. Louise brought in this song that she played for me and all of the sudden I could really see it.
The song was so good and I just thought: "Oh yes. We're gonna do this again." I wanted to work on it and I wanted to continue to write. We had planned to go in and record a new song with Brad Wood who recorded our first album. But when she played this one song for me it was like I could see into the future and I realized that we had to do it again. We still had something to say and I was so inspired by that song that I continued to write. I didn't know that that part of me even still existed. The fire was really ignited that day.
LP: It was the same for me too in different levels at different times. Nina started writing a lot and that's the most exciting time, when you realize you're actually writing a record. Again, neither of us had been writing songs for some time. I didn't even know if I wanted to do it again ever. I was okay with not making music anymore. But it turns out I really wasn't okay with that and there was a lot more to be said but I couldn't tap into in until I started playing with Nina again. All of the sudden I realized there is something that happens in her presence that elicits a lot of creativity from me and also it makes me excited to write. It's like a sisterhood, having a healthy, exciting and -- I don't mean this in any way -- but a competitive thing going on where you're inspired to reach new heights.
You're excited to bring things in because you know you have a really active participant in what you're creating. I really thrive within a partnership and specifically this partnership. I don't know how many times in one lifetime that someone can experience something like this but this one is very special to me and it's really brought me back to life creatively. I think the best relationships are made between people who inspire each other to be their best selves in any facet, including artistically. LP: Right? And you don't know why the fire exists but it just does, you know, to use the fire metaphor again. It really was like a spark, though. It was reignited. Nina was playing me songs like "Museum of Broken Relationships" and I was just like "Oh shit, we're making a record now. Let's do this!" We've also been co-writing now and it's been really fun. It's something that we didn't do before. Now we're literally throwing ideas back and forth at one another and working together. For some reason that seemed too threatening when we were working together originally.
I think it's because we were trying too hard to figure out who we were as songwriters independent of one another. We were in our 20s and thought we had to be really precious about our lyrics and the song structure as we were finding ourselves. Now we feel confident in our songs and in each other's talents and abilities. But we're also just busy. We have families and we're doing a million things. So if Nina has a great verse and I have time to work on a chorus we go with that and vice versa. We've been playing with songwriting in a way that we didn't so many years ago and that's been really new and really fun.
When will the new album be released?
LP: We're done tracking and we're hoping to release it in the fall.
Have you been playing a lot of the new tracks at your shows thus far? Do you sense that you're gaining any new fan base?
NG: We've been playing the two songs that have been available to people that we put out on a 10-inch for Record Store Day in the spring and will be on the album. We've been playing those two because we know people know them and these shows that we've played (only 5 so far) have really been mostly über-fan shows, you know what I mean? They're small clubs and the people that are coming are people that either were too young to see us when were playing back then or people who did and have just been waiting and hoping that we would reunite.
I don't think at this point at these shows so far there have been many new fans. We're really only putting out this music in a very casual way so it's like, the songs aren't being worked at radio stations. We don't have a record label who is out there madly promoting the stuff. It's not like we're getting played on top 40 radio and teenagers are coming to our shows. There are teenagers amazingly who were like babies but whose parents listened to our music. That is so crazy.
LP: Or they've just come by our music through their friends or people just listening to stuff when they were kids and just didn't know about it.
NG: Yeah so that's pretty crazy and great but at this point there's no real marketing plan or anything. We're just going out there and having fun doing it and playing shows and enjoying this process again.
LP: I had a friend say after our show at the Roxy in L.A., "You guys clearly really feel the new songs." And I thought, "Of course we do!" It's always in a way more meaningful to play the new stuff because it's immediate. It's what you've just created or are in the middle of creating. The catalog is great and meaningful for everyone in the crowd but it's especially fun for us to play the new stuff.
NG: Yeah, it is.
Now the whole band has this rare chance to essentially do things again and to be cognizant of things you can do differently this time. I know there was tons of hyperbole surrounding your private feud but if you were giving your own selves advice what would you say?
NG: That's a really good question.
LP: I'm interested to hear what Nina says, but I see it now as less about the individual and more about the whole. We all have to protect ourselves and make sure that everyone is happy and healthy and good. We aren't a good band unless everyone is happy and so we're really focusing on maintaining the joy and the fun aspect of it. If someone is having a rough time with something we talk about it and hopefully do it more effectively than when we were younger. We know now how precious this is and we want to preserve that.
NG: I agree with that 100 percent.
Veruca Salt. With Battleme. $25/$30, 18+, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 9 at Varsity Theater. Tickets.
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