Interview with Crispin Earl of The Veer Union

The Veer Union are staying strong despite setbacks and hardships throughout the years. Founded in 2004 by vocalist Crispin Earl and guitarist Eric Schraeder, the band have released two studio albums — one of which many of their fans may not know about. Now, following its independent inception in 2006, ‘Time to Break the Spell’ is getting a second chance. The record is set to drop once more (with a brand new song) before the quintet offer up their third full-length, ‘Divide the Blackened Sky,’ later this year. The reissue, trailed by the release of a new record, will provide fans with the opportunity to not only hear the band’s beginnings, but the progression they’ve made since.

Not long ago, Crispin spoke with Rock Edition about ‘Time to Break the Spell,’ ‘Divide the Blackened Sky,’ and how he approaches songwriting. Take a gander at what he said below.

It seems like there have been quite a few delays in regard to new music, tour dates, and everything else, right?

There have been, yeah. To be honest, I’m focusing more on the pros than the cons. We’re really excited about the new record, ‘Divide the Blackened Sky.’ We’re in the process of working with our whole team and getting everything set up. Things are good. I’m not complaining.

When is ‘Divide the Blackened Sky’ coming out?

We’re looking at possibly dropping the first single in the first week of November.

Cool. What have you guys been focusing on for the past few months?

There’s been a lot of stuff going on, some of which I can talk about and some of which I can’t. I know that we’ve had our fans hitting us up a lot saying, “What’s going on with the new record?” We knew we were going to have to end up pushing this record back. Essentially, what we’re now doing is taking the record that we made in 2006 [‘Time to Break the Spell’] — the original record that formed the band — and releasing it with a new song — “I Will Remain” — from the new record. Most of our fans didn’t even know this record existed. Our fans have now been coming back to us with positive feedback on the fact that we’ve done a little something to appease them, so to speak.

Around the time of ‘Time to Break the Spell,’ the band had really come into its own, right?

No, actually, I wouldn’t say that at all. I would say that 2006 was the absolute beginning and nucleus of the band. At the very beginning, it was just Eric [Schraeder] and I that had written all the songs, and it was pretty much only Eric and I that were really in the band at that point. At the end of those sessions, when we were finishing up that record, we met Fid and [Marc] Roots, who were just kind of dropping by and hanging out in the studio. We all became friends, and I didn’t even know those guys played instruments at the time, but that’s essentially how the whole situation came about.

Is it safe to say that ‘Divide the Blackened Sky’ will be showcasing a side of The Veer Union that we haven’t heard before?

Yes and no. ‘Divide the Blackened Sky’ is definitely the greatest progression we have had musically as a group. I don’t necessarily think the formula has changed. In some bands, like Soundgarden, Kim Thayil will bring a full song to the table. I wouldn’t say that that happened in this band. For the most part, I’ve been the main songwriter. However, I think that we’ve pushed ourselves harder than we ever have, and that we’re really proud of this record and how it turned out.

Nice. In general, I feel like it’s really easy to give up on things too quickly. It seems like staying motivated is a huge part of making sure your band stays tight and is able to produce the best album possible. Do you agree with that?

Absolutely! I think that with every situation that happens in life — whether you’re a musician or somebody that is working up the chain of command for a company — you’re always trying to better yourself and get to the next level. And sometimes you have to take two steps back, you know? I know for us, we love what we do. It’s never been about getting something like a Lamborghini — it’s always been about wanting to do music and hopefully having people appreciate it. When I see one person come onto our Facebook [page] and say, “Dude, your song ‘Into Your Garden’ changed my life” or “Dude, I relate to your song ‘Final Moment’ in so many ways,” that’s what makes it worth it. I decided a long time ago that whether things are going great or not, I’m going to do music until I physically can’t do it any longer.

Why do you think the fans connect and have such an attachment to the band’s music?

I like to think that people are connecting with us because of the fact that the songs aren’t mathematic. There are so many artists these days that are forced into a situation where they have to sit down with a songwriter and go, “Okay, we gotta write a hook. This has to be a hit.” I think that’s such a sad world. Bands like that never inspired me to want to become a musician. And you hear this from the big songwriters all the time: “To make a pop hit, you have to have a four-year-old be able to understand what you’re saying.” I don’t agree with that. The music that inspired me [when I was younger] was music that had a little bit more depth. I think that the sincerity of our music — the fact that it’s honest and it’s real — shows. We’re normal people that are no different than anybody else. It’s just that our job is making music versus being a carpenter or whatever. For us, we want to write songs about real experiences, and I think that’s why people connect with it, because it’s real.

Do you ever sit down and say, “I need to write a song,” or is it just about waiting for inspiration to hit?

Inspiration. I mean, sometimes you sit down and you just feel like writing, and sometimes what you start writing sucks. Then there are other times when you sit down and whatever you start playing makes you feel something and it just starts to pour out of you. I do find that the more you work at it, there’s a larger chance that you’re going to write something good. But it’s not always going to be a great song that one time you pick up the guitar, you have to keep working at it, as with anything in life.

What was your initial thought when recently putting ‘Time to Break the Spell’ on for a listen?

It’s interesting that you ask that question because I actually had this conversation with Eric the other day. One of our fears was that people were going to construe this album from 2006 to be ‘Divide the Blackened Sky.’ We don’t want people to think that this is our new record, because it’s not, it’s the beginning of the band. Maybe the production isn’t quite as slick as the new record, but I’m proud of that record. When I listen to that record, it doesn’t make me sick. [laughs] There are a lot of bands that will listen to their first record and go, “Oh man, what were we thinking?” I can honestly say that I don’t feel that way. It’s definitely something our fans should hear so that they can hear the progression of the band.

I read that you guys recorded ‘Divide the Blackened Sky’ in eight different studios, is that true?

Yeah, eight studios and two countries. We actually recorded a lot of bits and pieces on the road. We were so stoked about some of the demo stuff we created, so we didn’t touch it. The motto was: don’t overthink it and don’t touch it if it’s got vibe and sounds cool. We followed our hearts on this and didn’t want to make it too technical, just a great record.

Did you worry that the album might not sound cohesive because it was recorded in so many different places?

Maybe if you’ve got a hundred different engineers and producers, but that wasn’t the case. It was pretty much the same people doing the whole thing, even though we were in different studios. I think we were all very much in the same headspace, and nothing got passed until everybody looked at each other and went, “Yep, that’s it.” We were all kind of dialed in, as far as that goes. I think when people hear it, they’re going to understand why we’re so proud of it.

Do you feel the same way about lyrics as you did back in 2006?

I definitely think that I’ve always felt the same way about lyrics. If I’m reading that story back and I don’t know what I’m talking about, then I’m not there. When I’m reading the lyrical content and it makes me feel like it’s right, then I just go with it. I think it’s really that simple. The lyrics just need to describe something real. If it doesn’t even make sense to us, then it’s not quite done. Our songs have always been about personal experiences.

When it comes to songwriting, are the lyrics and melodies connected from the start or do you approach them one at a time?

For me, it’s been very bizarre. Whatever words are subliminally uttered out of my mouth are usually the lyrics that end up being the best. This is where I believe it’s true art. One of the things that drives me crazy in this day and age is that [that belief] is starting to go away. When a lyric or melody comes out of my mouth, it’s just coming naturally and flowing out of me. [On the other hand,] if I was to just sit down with five songwriters and write a hit, how am I supposed to tell my fans about that song? [chuckles] I think that’s sad.

Tell us about the song “I Will Remain.”

That song was actually written over a long period of time. With some songs, you start it and keep writing it until it’s done, which could take five minutes or a few weeks. [“I Will Remain”] was written over a couple of years. When the song was done, I was like, “Man, that is exactly like the new record.” We’ve been going through some hard times. I can’t necessarily get into what those hard times are at this point, but when we’re closer to the release date of the record, I’m more than happy to talk about all those things. At this point, I can say that ‘Divide the Blackened Sky’ has become a very conceptual-sounding record. It’s definitely about hard times. At the end of the day, while there’s still a breath in my body, I’m going to continue to do what I want to do, and that’s exactly what “I Will Remain” is about.

Awesome. Can fans expect to see The Veer Union back on the road soon?

I just got off the phone with our booking agent two days ago. He had mentioned three or four really cool options that could be coming up in the fall, so we’re definitely looking at touring. I know we’re going to be out all over the US and Canada next year. I can’t say much more than that until something’s confirmed, but we can’t wait to get back out there. We’re not sitting at home right now because we don’t want to be touring, we can’t wait to tour again.

Pick up the The Veer Union’s album Time to Break the Spell.