When Rock Stardom Runs In The Family
My mum's boyfriend at the time had an acoustic guitar, which I found under his bed. And she taught me how to play 'Gloria,' and I just kept playing it, and it's been one of the few things I didn't give up when I was crap at it. I was kind of crap at everything at school, and it was somewhere to go that made sense. And it's kind of the same for me now, I guess.
Finn Andrews is a second-generation rock musician.
His father, Barry, leads the band Shriekback and played keyboards for XTC and League of Gentlemen. The younger Andrews fronts The Veils, which has just released its third album and launches a U.S. tour next month.
But Finn Andrews says he didn't get his knack for rock from his dad who, like many working musicians, spent a lot of time on the road.
"I think people assume I had a more musical upbringing than I remember it being," he says. "My dad wasn't around an awful lot when I was a kid. And when he was, he was kind of doing things that didn't really make much sense to me. It wasn't this particularly bohemian childhood surrounded by music every day."
Barry Andrews remembers that time a little differently.
"Oh blimey, yeah — a great deal of music in the household," he says. "I actually met Viv, his mum, through Dave Allen, the Gang of Four guy I was in Shriekback with. Vivian was working as our cook at the studio, so she was there exposed to this groove everyday with the baby Finn inside her.
"And then I would come home in the evening and listen to the mixes back obsessively. And when Finn was born he did seem to recognize a tune and he used to buck like a wild thing against the stereo."
The Other Side Of The World
Finn Andrews says he didn't start getting interested in music until after his parents split, and his mother moved the family to the other side of the world — New Zealand — when he was 11.
"My mum's boyfriend at the time had an acoustic guitar, which I found under his bed," Andrews says. "And she taught me how to play 'Gloria,' and I just kept playing it, and it's been one of the few things I didn't give up when I was crap at it. I was kind of crap at everything at school, and it was somewhere to go that made sense. And it's kind of the same for me now, I guess."
He might have been "crap" at everything else, but he matured very quickly as a musician and songwriter. And New Zealand proved to be a good place to develop.
"The culture there is quite young," Andrews says. "So there's a real creative spirit there and no ideas are particularly tied down. The place is still making it up. There's certainly a lot more going on than Hobbits."
When he was 17, Andrews moved back to London and wound up living with his dad, who put him in touch with Sarah Partridge, a former background singer for Shriekback. She became The Veils' manager.
"When he first came over, everyone was gob smacked," Barry Andrews says. "You know, 17-year-old boy had this amazing voice and blimey, he's quite good looking as well. And suddenly Sarah Partridge was getting calls from London record companies saying, 'We'll give you a grand just to be the first to hear the demos,' sort of thing. So it was kind of all a bit nuts really. He just went from high school to getting signed within literally a few weeks of getting off the plane."
Drawing The Veil
There can be drawbacks to everything happening so quickly for an artist and at such a young age.
"When I started, I was pretty insecure in a lot of it," Finn Andrews says. "And I think, 'cause I was signed at 17, that first album was all made up of amongst the first songs I'd ever written.
"I felt kind of strangled by it for a while, and I didn't really know if I deserved where I was. But with this record I feel a lot stronger in it and feel more worth in what I'm doing, I guess."
Two things stand out right away about Finn Andrews: his reticence in person, and the self-assurance of his strong singing voice. It's front and center on The Veils' records, so his lyrics become a focus of the music.
He identifies Leonard Cohen as an influence, and the two do share a heavy, heart-worn quality. But where Cohen's lyrics have a simple directness, Andrews' are opaque and hard to penetrate. He calls them personal, but he draws a veil over the source.
Maybe it's too personal.
"I think Finn's always found it painful that his mother and I are on different sides of the world," Barry Andrews says. "And there's a sense that you can hear in his music, a sense of a kind of yearning and loss that — I must say, I don't feel great about. Beyond that, I don't know. It's a veil of tears whatever you do, isn't it, really?"
But Finn Andrews says he and his dad have developed a nice little ritual for the last two Veils albums.
"We go for a little drive out to the country," he says. "And I put on the record and we sit in a paddock and listen to it on the stereo in his car, and he gives me notes. It's quite nice."
He says he finds his dad's notes pretty useful. But like most kids, he sometimes has the urge to do exactly the opposite of what his father says.
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