One listen to Veal's new CD, Hot Loser, will transport you to another realm. One where priorities are girlfriends, beer stores and flying your favourite bird to Jupiter. Some of the record is so trippy I'm surprised you can't smoke it.
It's not just about streams of consciousness though, it's also about meaty playing, milk-fed songwriting and the ability to turn up the jets in front of an audience. I recently spoke to the Vancouver trio (Luke Doucet -- lead singer, guitarist and band spokesmodel; Chang -- drummer and irreverent cynic; and Howard Redkopp -- bass player and, well, the jury's still out) in the land of the mammoth peanut butter and banana sandwich, Cafe S'il Vous Plait.
The first brass tack I wanted to get down is to how Doucet could part ways with Canada's ethereal First Lady of Song, Sarah McLachlan, just as she was poised to cross the threshold to International Superstar with her backing band in tow. Is he crazy, or what?
"I don't know. I suppose. You have to experience that type of gig to get why it's not necessarily everybody's cup of tea," he explains. "I mean, the novelty of being on a tour bus in rock star surroundings wears off pretty quickly and then you're left with two things: the music and the money. The musical incentive wore off for me, not so much because I don't like what Sarah's doing, but because I'm more interested in doing my own thing. So all that was really left was the money, and with a year between tours, it doesn't really amount to more than a half-decent part-time job."
I still think he's crazy, but I applaud his decision. It feels right. Listen to "Mexico Texaco," "Hot Loser (Part 1)" and "Two Heads," with their cosmic twang, and you'll know why Doucet is putting all of his energies into the quasi-psychedelic, surfy Veal. But where did the California big wave overtones come from?
"I've never owned a Beach Boys record or a Ventures record. I like the Ventures a lot, actually. I like Dick Dale," says Doucet. "But I think the reason that there is a twanginess and a trippiness to the band is that I found a guitar that just sounds like that. I found a whole rig, a guitar and amp combination, and it works for a three-piece band. It was born in a need to throw up space in a non-wanky, kind of blues-wank way."
Now, hearing "Cheesecake" and "In Bed with the Pope" makes me think the band might have been stoned to the gills. Were they?
"I'm glad you're asking me that, because I get a chance to bail myself out. I lied the last time I was asked this," Doucet confesses. "Mike Usinger from the Straight was asking me about drugs, and I said 'Oh, no, I don't do drugs.' When I think of 'drugs' I think of something that's going to fuck you up for at least a day and then haunt you for the rest of your life."
"We smoked a lot of pot while we were writing the record and that's something I do all the time, well, not all the time, but often enough. I would say that there is some real abstract, sort of free-association bullshit on this record. But that's not necessarily the result of me smoking a joint and going 'Oh wow, man, let's trip out on this.'"
So what of the future?
"We decided as a band that we want to focus on the States," Doucet explains. "Our reason for that is that we want people, whoever, to see us, we want to play 200 dates a year and go for 15 years. You can't do that in Canada." And if anyone has some extra dough, they would love it if "somebody says they want to invest in the band and help us buy a van and make sure that we can send home four or five hundred dollars a month to pay rent while we are gone."
We also talked about management, local press, UFO's, the Hip vs. R.E.M., politics, Marilyn Manson, ZZ Top, Phil Owen, Brian Mulroney -- and how "Michael Jackson's been a favorite lately on the band's stereo." Too much pork for just one fork! Go out and consume some Veal and help them reach their lofty aspirations, 'cause they've got the tunes and the down-to-reality smarts that could keep them playing for a long time.
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