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Deaf Havana are back! Back!! Back!!!

Words: Jack Glasscock.

April 2014 must seem like a lifetime ago to the members of Deaf Havana. It saw the band’s ‘Old Souls’ tour culminate in an undeniable triumph at London’s Clapham Grand; performing two sold out dates accompanied by a string quartet, a choir and a band full of beaming gentlemen to match. Just four months later, at August’s annual Reading & Leeds Festival and to say that the band’s trajectory had performed a 180 would be an understatement.

“We were really badly in debt, but we didn’t know because it wasn’t being communicated back to us from various different people that worked for us,” explains frontman James Veck-Gilodi of this turbulent time. “When we finally fired those people, we really found out how bad we were. We were so badly in debt it was horrific.”

But the financial crisis that Deaf Havana found themselves in caused more than just friction. It came close to breaking them. “Personally, I was going to quit after Reading & Leeds because I knew after that we would have enough money to have paid our debt off. I said to everyone, ‘the second we pay this debt off I’m quitting because I can’t do this anymore.’”

Not only was this brutal perspective voiced to the band, it was also said without a hint of sentiment. “I actually didn’t care at that point. I didn’t take much notice of them [the other band members] to be honest; we all just kind of fell out. I think they were in the same boat really. I don’t think anyone really cared that much. It got to the point where it became obvious to other people and that’s something I didn’t want to happen. That sucked.”

It was this apathetic outlook on his band’s direction that led to James finally pursuing his dream of a solo career. With friend and keyboardist, Max Britton, he recorded and released a handful of songs directly onto SoundCloud. A combination of the rhythms of folk and the sentiment of ‘Nebraska’ era Springsteen proved, ironically, to cheer James up a fair bit. “I really enjoyed it and it was really easy because me and Max get on really well, but I really did miss having a band behind me when I played,” he admits.

“If this doesn’t work, I’d say it was probably the last chance.”

It seems that the time and space the solo endeavour provided James is exactly what was needed to breathe life into what was quickly becoming a stagnant Deaf Havana. “We didn’t even know if there was going to be a band, let alone a record,” he confesses candidly. “I just out of the blue wrote a song, demoed it, sent it round to everyone and everyone just got really excited again. It felt like it just made it fresh again.”

“It was literally overnight; it was ridiculous. Now we’ve got like 30 new songs. We’re just waiting to record it properly. But, we’ve got a new album written.”

James is the first one to admit that things went from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again. “Definitely. It sounds a bit cliché and I never thought that would be the case for us, but it really was. I think if all that stuff didn’t happen I think we probably wouldn’t be together anymore because it was getting a bit stale anyway. We needed something to really kick us up the arse.”

From the turmoil of seemingly insurmountable debt and the very real possibility of a dissolution of the band, Deaf Havana now find themselves in a position that would have seemed an impossibility a year ago. Not only are they still a prospect, but they’re pretty chuffed with what they’ve got for us. “I’m really confident in it. It’s the first time I’ve ever written a song and not actually cared about what it sounds like. ‘Fools and Worthless Liars’ was the first record I wrote. I was really scared and anxious about what people were going to think because I’d never really written a song and put it out before because prior to that our old singer wrote everything. Then ‘Old Souls’ I wrote to sound like Bruce Springsteen and people like that. So this is the first one I’ve written and not cared what it sounds like. When I wrote that first song I didn’t even know if I was going to use it, so I didn’t have any pressure or expectations. It’s the most natural thing that came out.”

But that’s not to say that Deaf Havana are out of the woods yet. There are only so many chances that one band can have. They already used up one of their nine feline lives when they came out with ‘Fools and Worthless Liars’ following their previous singer’s departure way back when. So would it be cynical to say that this is Deaf Havana’s last chance? “No, absolutely not,” replies James without a hint of apology. “There are a lot of bands that seem to just keep going and fair play if that’s what they enjoy doing, but things just get stale and I’ve always been of the mind-set that the minute this becomes unnatural and forced, then there’s not point in doing it anymore. So if this doesn’t work, I’d say it was probably the last chance.”

“We know exactly what works and what doesn’t work within our band dynamic.”

Before he runs away into quite morbid territory, he asserts, “I don’t think it will now because this is pretty much the most positive I’ve ever felt about it, but if it got to the point, like it was before, where it was getting in the way of our friendship, making us hate what we were doing then I don’t there’s any point in trying to drag it out.”

When then, will we see this more positive statement and what will it sound like? “It’s all demoed, but we haven’t actually recorded it yet. It’ll be out mid this year I imagine. It’s definitely nothing like ‘Old Souls’. It’s a bit more like ‘Fools and Worthless Liars’, but some of it sounds like The Police, but a bit heavier. I don’t really know how to describe it. That’s going to be the hard bit. The last two albums, we’ve written just enough songs to go on the album. But this one we’ve got like 32 songs, so we’re going to have to really whittle it down and choose which ones go together. So it could go one of a few ways.”

From the ashes of what was a very much a defunct Deaf Havana rises an incarnation where positive will certainly reign supreme. “I think it will be the first year for a while where stuff actually works and stuff happens as it should because we’ve got new management and a completely new team behind us. Everyone’s positive and we’re all ready to go. So more touring, new record and try and grow more.”

For now then, Deaf Havana will put their sombre, broken year behind them and battle on with this album as their next statement of intent. “This time, we’re all a lot older and it sounds cheesy and cliché, but we’re all a lot wiser. We know exactly what we want and what we don’t want. We know exactly what works and what doesn’t work within our band dynamic. I’m just a lot more positive than I ever have been.”

Taken from the January issue of Upset. Order a copy here.