At some point over the last couple of years, you might have wandered into a show and come across VERO, playing one of the incendiary live sets they’ve put down over that time. The band, a trio comprised of Amanda Eddestål (bass), Clara Gyökeres (guitar) and Julia Boman (vocals), have made their mark on the live stage, and also on record, blending an 80s pop-indebted ear for massive choruses with an appreciation for rock sludge and muscle. Those traits come together on their debut EP Saxophones And Danger Zones, the product of a band with a deep, detailed knowledge of the ins and outs of pop and rock music and a knack for using that knowledge to good effect, to make bright, exuberant music that treads the line between them. We met the band to find out more.
Julia had a solo project a few years ago called Julia Vero, how did you get from that point to the start of Vero as a band project?
Julia: I started to hate what I was doing, basically [laughs]. I didn’t feel at home with the music I was making and the direction I was going in, and then I had writer’s block, nothing was happening and I was just sad all the time. Amanda was already playing in the Julia Vero band, and I had just met Clara and we started DJing together. Then all three of us started DJing, and I realised it’s way more fun to have a band. I had done that before, and it’s way more fun than being solo. So we just formed the band quite organically.
So it was a desire to be more of a gang, than a solo project?
Julia: Yeah, and with being a band came more of the musical direction I wanted to go with.
Amanda: We’ve [Julia and Amanda] known each other from when we were 16, we studied music together.
And you met Clara here in Stockhom?
Clara: I used to arrange clubs. Still do, but that’s how we met. But like Julia said, it wasn’t such a big step to form a band, as we were all creating music together in another form [as DJs].
Then, back in 2017, Vero debuted as a project with the three singles, Hello, Virtue and Out Of My Head. They all showcased different aspects of your sound, they’re all in their own little space. Did all those three come from the same writing session?
Julia: No, actually Virtue and Out Of My Head were songs I had started with in the late days of the Julia Vero project. So I picked those two up again, and rewrote them and rearranged them because we weren’t sure what we wanted to do. So we had these songs, that sounded completely differently anyway, so we decided to just let them sound differently. And then we wrote Hello, that was supposed to be the song that’s the essence of the band.
So Hello is the first one you wrote, from the start, as a band?
Julia: Yeah. It became the first single because it was so weird. The record company heard it and went ‘this is so weird!’ and they liked it. The other two had more of a poppy vibe, so Hello was a good conversation starter for us.
After those three came out, there was quite a long pause before there was another release. A couple of the songs on the EP, Love Bark and In Flames have been around for quite a while in your live shows. So was it difficult to get this EP together, a long process?
Amanda: It was a question of time and managing our own time. We all worked, we were in school, we DJed. So I think that’s why it took quite a long time.
Julia: It was also a question of management from our record company, because we could have released the album like a year after the singles were released, we just didn’t get the time and the money together that fast. The EP was basically finished in December 2018, but we released it in May 2019. So that’s almost half a year and it was spent waiting for the people above to give us their blessing to release the music and the money to master it.
Amanda: There was a lot of ‘take this song to the studio one more time, give it another session’ and we were like ‘there’s nothing we can change’.
Clara: It wasn’t hard, it was fun. It was just a matter of waiting.
So it was more due to external factors, rather than it being tough to write?
Clara: Exactly. But watching the songs come together like that was good for us, because we knew they were ready, we didn’t change anything. Only tiny tweaks.
Julia: I think it was good to wait half a year actually, because then everything, the artwork and so on fell into place. And in this time, we’ve started on our next EP, we have four more songs for that.
And that must also make you more prepared for the live shows that follow the EP release, you’ve a lot more songs to play with?
Julia: More gigs behind us as well. We’re still a new band, we haven’t played that many shows, so it was good to wait until May.
Clara: A lot of the so-called pause was just us playing live. After three singles, we played for a whole year. We did 25 shows or something.
And when you’ve been sitting on the songs for so long, getting them out there must be such a huge release?
Amanda: It’s a little double-edged, because there’s also an anti-climax to it. It was like ‘this Friday our EP is out. Let’s have a release gig and then…nothing’. We had been preparing for so long, so it was kind of a shock. It was just out. Is anyone going to talk about it? I think we’d have been more into it if we got to release it as soon as it was done. Now we’ve lived with the songs for so long.
What struck me about the EP compared to the early singles was how coherent and consistent it sounded. Because the three early singles were all quite different, they all seemed to come from different places. The songs on the EP are all different in ways, but they share a DNA and a sonic texture I think. Did you work on hard on getting them to sound like part of the same musical family?
Julia: We made the EP over a long time, and we always find new sounds to work with, so when we make something we need to act fast to make it coherent.
Clara: Also, you find the drum machine sound you like on one song, so you add it to the next one, and from there it’s easy for them to follow a similar line. But it was important for us to make it sound like an EP. The three singles were more like cousins.
Amanda: These ones are like sisters.
When you’re doing the introductory singles, I guess you want to show off all the things you can do?
Julia: You’re always like ‘look what we can do!’ I think the next collection of songs are going to be even more like each other, without sounding the same. We’re going to make it over a shorter time, and that’s how it happens. When you make something over a longer time, it sounds different. So next time, they’ll be even closer. Twins.
We spoke before about how you took a lot of influences from different time periods. On the EP it seems to settle a little more consistently into an 80s rock vibe, and that for me reflected in the lyrics as well. For me, they’re maximalist, they’re not afraid to be dramatic, which is very 80s in style.
Julia: Yeah, they’re not shoegaze lyrics [laughs].
Clara: it’s a good question, but we hadn’t thought about it [laughs].
Amanda: It was more, what do we hate, what’s fun, and how can we write lyrics that make us laugh. In Flames was basically a laugh-fest of hate. We wanted to diss everyone.
Clara: But we are maximalists in so many ways, and so when we get the chance to talk, which usually is when we’re writing music, it’s wonderful, because then we can be completely honest. You can’t talk like this on a daily basis, so we just write it down and use it.
Julia: But the songs are either very powerful and majestic, or really creepy and crawling. It would be weird to have Dry Kisses with lyrics about nothing. This is how we talk when we’re together though, it’s basically like that. It’s not like we’re creating a version of ourselves that’s more crazy. We write them together sitting in a circle and talking, and then we translate them into lyrics for a song. It’s not like I’m sitting in my chamber – ‘be heartfelt!’. We’re all sitting around laughing.
It must make a song like In Flames, the most snarky and aggressive song on the EP, really fun to write I guess?
Julia: I think we wrote it in like an hour.
Clara: So much to say.
I think you called it a hate letter to the Stockholm nightlife scene?
Julia: I think we’re also beating down on ourselves, because we’re a part of that scene.
Clara: You include yourself a lot. The rants aren’t just for others. Most of the lyrics we have to cut down, because of the length of the song. In Flames was one of those. We had so many pages.
Amanda: There was a verse we cut off. I don’t remember that verse right now, but I remember being upset we had to cut it. ‘What the fuck?’ [laughs]. Every word was good.
Reading through your interviews, it strikes me how many different artists and genres you cite when talking about music. And you also DJ with disco and soul, and it seems that you’re all music nerds and listen to a wide range of music compared to a lot of bands. It’s always surprising with some bands how limited a range of music they listen to. Do you think that range of tastes plays into how your music sounds sometimes?
Julia: Yeah, that’s the ground we stand on as a band. Between the three of us, we listen to almost every genre imaginable. And we are music nerds, and we like digging for music, and we like weird music.
Clara: We are also able to influence each other. When we’re together, one will want to go to this jazz gig, and someone else will suggest a club gig, everything imaginable is mentioned. We’re good at contributing to each other’s tastes.
Julia: Of course, that makes it hard when you’re supposed to create a sound of your own, we have often been scattered in our style. But we are trying to boil it down to three or four styles that sound super different, but that we can work around.
Clara: Usually, we create love children, so we’ll say ‘this is Prince and King Krule, meeting up one at Saturday at a club”. So we create a scenario for the sound. We don’t get stuck in any sound, and it creates a pool of sounds we can use.
Amanda: And it doesn’t even have to be music, In Flames is John Cooper Clarke in a bar, taking the piss out of everyone. We paint a scene, and imagine what would happen.
You mention a nod to ‘It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to’ on Dry Kisses, That’s a lyrical nod.
Julia: We have Easter eggs in all our songs.
Clara: And if you ask about line in any song, there will be an explanation. Nothing is filling in a gap.
Saxophones And Danger Zones is out now on Sony Sweden.
Photo: by Austin Maloney, taken at Garlic & Shots, Folkungagatan 84