Judging by the showcase of bands from the Slumberland Records label at the Troubadour on Friday, it is safe to say that Veronica Falls has found its perfect match for US distribution. Slumberland is an independent label that trades in a kind of no-fuss, hype-free indie rock with a real DIY ethic. The appeal of Veronica Falls is very similar in that they are not riding any particular wave at the moment. This is not a band that is going to throw in a dubstep bass drop to sound relevant. Instead, the band has more basic goals in mind, namely writing lean, super-efficient rock songs and playing them as a tight live unit.
It may sound simple, but it is still always a pleasant surprise when a band manages to pull it off. Veronica Falls trades in songs with memorable hooks, subtle but nicely judged harmonies, and lyrical content that displays both a morbid wit and a wistful streak depending on which album you’re listening to. They opened their set at The Troubadour with “Tell Me,” the opener from the group’s new album, Waiting For Something To Happen, which is also a pretty good starting point for the band’s strengths with its snaking opening riff. The band’s twin vocals from Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare are dry without sounding aloof, cool without trying particularly hard to be.
The band’s harder edge was evident on songs from their self-titled debut. “Beachy Head” in particular featured a driving riff and the odd chant that gave the song a more creepy edge. “Fell In Love In A Graveyard” was perhaps the most obvious display of the kind of content that saw them labeled as “goth-pop,” but the truth is that this limber and versatile live display proved them to be a difficult band to pigeonhole.
Veronica Falls features elements of ’60s guitar bands like the Byrds as well as the more recent spate of jangly guitar bands from the ’80s, but they also have a vague hint of punk about them on certain tracks. Indeed “My Heart Beats” sounded like something Sleater-Kinney might have written in a lighter mood, propelled by a rhythm section that made every bass strum and beat count.
The laid-back charm of “Teenage” showed another side to the band, a recent development of more open-hearted songwriting that marks a clear break from their debut. That is what Veronica Falls is all about, really — they’re a band that does little things very well, that makes quiet changes but makes them count. It is what prevents them from becoming monotonous even when most of their set at the Troubadour seems to pass by at a similar tempo.
The key to Veronica Falls’ current and future success is that they are both free of any scene and of expectations. The feeling from the audience was one of passion, and there is a sense that without the angle of a gimmick or a trendy backstory, the only thing the band has going for them is the songs themselves. Fortunately those songs are strong enough to pull an eager crowd, even if the band is still lacking a bit of confidence in their material. A little more fire in their bellies, allied to what is already becoming a good back catalogue, should see them go a long way.
Be sure to check out Veronica Falls’ recent interview and acoustic performance on the LA Music Blogcast!
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