Veruca Salt on Reuniting, Modern Bands and What the Future Holds

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Saying that Ghost Notes is the first Veruca Salt album in 18 years is misleading. While it is the first to feature the original lineup, Louise Post continued the band well into the 2000s, eventually calling it a day in 2012, six years after their final release, IV. All the while, co-founder Nina Gordon had been having her own success as a solo artist, most notably on her debut Tonight And The Rest Of My Life. So what would bring these two back together? The easy answer is time. The more difficult side of the coin involves burying some hatchets, rediscovering their groove and, maybe most importantly, a little music therapy in the age-old tradition of rock and roll.

Paste : I honestly never thought I would get to talk to the both of you together.
Louise Post: You’re not alone in that.

Paste : Louise, did you know that you announced the hiatus of Veruca Salt almost a year to the day to when you announced the reformation?
Post: What?
Nina Gordon: Of the Veruca Starship days. I think you said we’re no longer making music or “we’re taking a break.”
Post: It gets a little confusing because of having kept the name alive with the shifting lineup. It’s very possible. I don’t think I imagined what came to pass would come to pass. I don’t know that I was planning on making music in any kind of way in the near future when Nina and I reconnected and realized that we had a more to do together. So it was a really a wonderful revelation to find out that we had a lot more to do and we had another record to make.

Paste : How did that come about exactly? You reconnected, but what happens in that moment when the spark goes off?
Gordon: We hadn’t seen each other in quite a long time. We hadn’t made music in even longer of a time. Then we hooked back up and we met and we talked and we cried and we laughed. Then we went down into the basement and played guitar and played some of our older songs and sang together for the first time in many, many years and we loved it. We couldn’t believe how powerful it was. How exciting and meant-to-be it was. So we imagined maybe we would play some kind of a reunion show. Maybe play some of our old songs for the fans that had been holding out hope. We thought of it more as like a fun, sort of healing thing. Then we started bringing in new songs and writing new songs together, and all of a sudden it became clear that this wasn’t just a reunion. It was like a rebirth.

Paste : Nina, did you know at any point in the past decade this would happen? “Maybe one day I’ll go back.”
Gordon: I really, truly didn’t. I just thought that chapter was over. I really didn’t imagine that it was possible. And then Louise and I were in touch via email and telephone, just sort of becoming friends again. We still really cared about each other, or cared about each other again, but we still didn’t talk about music. I never even broached the subject of music. It seemed like, “No way, that’s never going to happen.” Then something just clicked all of a sudden, like, “Enough time has gone by. You don’t have to deprive yourself of this gift anymore.” And then we decided it was time and we did it. We wish we’d done it sooner, truthfully.

Paste : It does, to a point, really feel like you’ve picked up right where you left off. And I don’t mean that in a nostalgic sort of way, which can be dangerous.
Post: I don’t think we ever worried about making a slocky comeback record because it was coming from such a pure place and no one was asking us to do it. It was just about doing it for ourselves. There would be no reason to do it if it weren’t good—granted that’s all very subjective, and we might have a very warped sense of how good our album is. But we knew we were on to something really special. Frankly, we hadn’t finished and we haven’t finished now. When we got back together, we were finally able to work on the music we had stopped working on when we parted ways so many years ago for personal reasons but not creative ones. It’s such a relief to finally be able to make the record we intended to make back then. We’re staying true to ourselves but not some particular sound for the sake of doing that. We’re just doing it with renewed energy and excitement. It’s really effortless. It happens so organically.

Paste : At the same time, there is a Veruca Salt sound.
Post: I think that’s inescapable. Even if we tried to change our sound, that wouldn’t work. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, just trying to make a good record.

Paste : Have you noticed the other bands that were influenced by you?Speedy Ortiz, Bully. You can hear them and know that there’s a line that connects them to Veruca Salt. And what a great time for you to be back when that seems to be happening. Fashion is cyclical, and music is the same way I suppose. And now’s the time of you.
Gordon: We definitely have noticed when people have pointed it out. “Have you heard Speedy Ortiz? They remind me of you guys.” I can hear that. I also hear a lot of other people like Tracy Bonham and Liz Phair. When you have female vocals and harmony and good melodies, it can sound similar. But Speedy Ortiz are really good. They’re way more like math rock than we ever were. Way more complicated chord changes. Slightly weirder, but really cool. But yeah, we do notice it and I think it’s totally cool.

Paste : What I find funny is that these are kids. They weren’t around for the first time. While we were in the ‘90s, everyone in the ‘90s were trying to be from the ‘70s.
Post: Totally!

Paste : At this point in your careers, where do you go for the material for new songs?
Post: We’re still artists and expressing ourselves as artists. There’s still a lot to say. It’s not like you can turn off the valve. It’s just going to open itself up at some point, even if you try to turn it off. And I know. I did try to turn it off. It was such a relief when Nina and I started working together again, because I could just release it and let the expression flow again. For me personally, there was a lot less pressure on my own. It was so much fun to do it with Nina. We kind of revisited, reclaimed some old songs that were written some time ago, revisited and reworked them to some degree. Those are on the record, but other than that, all of these songs are brand spanking new. We spent a lot of time examining what happened and what made us implode and fall apart and what were the things that led up to that. It takes two to tango, and we were both sort of at fault in our own way, and then there was the rest of the band and all of the characters involved inside and out of the band. So we spent a lot of time examining a lot of pieces and parts of our breakup. There was a lot of healing that happened after the initial fracture of our friendship on everybody’s part. We’ve hopefully all grown up a lot, but hopefully not enough that we don’t know how to make good music anymore.
Gordon: And whereas in the past, most of our songs on the two full-length albums we made together back in the day and to some extent on the EP we made, a lot of the material was very personal and individual. I would write a song about the relationship that I was in or about a family member or about what happened to me when I was a child. Louise did the same. Then we would bring those songs in, and I could relate to her songs and she could relate to my songs. We were able to work on them together and perform them together. But in this case, so much of the material on this album is about us, about the two of us, our relationship together. It’s about, as Louise said, what happened back in the day. What happened that brought us together, pulled us apart, and brought us back together again. It really is the story of this band and this friendship.

Paste : Do you think fans are going to be able to find the answers to the questions they’ve had for the past few years about what happened? Is it that obvious?
Gordon: Yeah…

Paste : I’m even more interested to hear it now.
Post: Ha!

Paste: There’s a song I’m really interested to hear about on Ghost Notes, “Alternica.” That’s an interesting title.
Gordon: It’s a really important song on this album. It’s the last song, and it was the song that I think really pushed us toward being a band again, a band that makes records again. Louise and I always imagined that we would play a reunion show or do something together, but we didn’t know what. Louise and I sang together and it was great. Then she brought in this song “Alternica” and that was when I knew that we were not done. We have new songs to write and record, and we gotta get in the studio. It’s a really beautiful song and once again tells a really important part of the story and talks about the music scene we came up in.
Post: It’s really about coming full-circle, and that’s why it’s such a nice closer. We sing the words “And in the end it comes around again.” We repeat those words, and it’s about the band coming full-circle and coming back to each other, finding the redemption and healing this whole process has brought for us. There were so many songs over the years that I began, even when I was actively making music, making albums, that I didn’t have a partner and I wasn’t able to bring them to my partner, specifically Nina. I had to really work to keep the wind in my sails without her. “Alternica” was the song that almost got lost. There were so many songs that I wrote at two in the morning that would just get forgotten and maybe I’d record on my phone and just leave a memo until I changed phones and forgot about it, or on a handheld recorder. They would never see the light of day because I wasn’t playing with anyone and I didn’t have Nina in my life to say “I’m so excited about this.” I call those songs dead soldiers, the ones that never saw the light of day but were spectacular had they been given their shot. “Alternica” was one of those. If I hadn’t reunited with Nina, I wouldn’t have wrote that particular song because it was inspired by our getting back together, but it’s also one where I wrote it at two in the morning. The whole house was sleeping, and I was up and had to write this. I saw her the next day and played it for her and she got excited about it and I was reminded what it was like to be in our partnership because there’s been nothing like it in my life ever since. To have that excitement of playing something for her and see her face change and to know that the song has a life now. It’s here for good, and it’s going to turn into something really amazing. I had countless moments with Nina on the album where she brought in songs and I was like, “Oh my God! Holy smokes! The ball is rolling now.” They were just really exciting. I could just feel the album building and taking shape every day that we were working on it.