An Interview with Deaf Havana
Ellie and I caught up with Tom and Matthew from Deaf Havana just before their show at the O2 Academy in Liverpool. We spoke about our mutual favourite band Counting Crows, mental health, and the current music industry.
Ellipsis: So hi! Welcome to Liverpool. How are you enjoying the tour so far?
Tom: Yeah, it’s been really good. It started off a bit strange.
Ellipsis: Why did it start off strange?
Tom: I just felt like some shows weren’t as vibey. Last night was amazing though, one of our best shows.
Ellipsis: Oh okay, where was that?
Ellipsis: You played Rock City didn’t you?
Tom: Yeah. It was great. It’s a really good venue, really good venue to see bands at too.
Ellipsis: So we wanted to ask about the fact that you’ve reworked the last album, what influenced you to do that and how is it different from the one that you originally released?
Matthew: Well the genres and styles of each song are different. We made it different because we get bored, James especially does very quickly, and it was always an intention to repackage the record. I think it’s a bit of a cop out to rerelease an album and just put two demos on the end of it and maybe a live track or something. If we want people to spend money on it we want something worth having so we went away with our producer and really thought about how to make the songs interesting. It’s just quite a creatively gratifying thing because you can do things that you might not necessarily be able to do on a normal record.
Ellipsis: My favourite track from the album is Happiness, I love the lyrics. Is that written from experience? And do you have a favourite track from the album?
Tom: Yeah. Every song is written from experience.
Matthew: We don’t really know how to do it any other way
Tom: James’ lyrics are always stories and past events and what he’s been going through. My favourite song has always been Ashes, the first track.
Matthew: I think mine’s the last track. Pensacola, I love it.
Tom: Everyone in the band has a different favourite song, for different reasons. We worked quite hard on it and it means different things to each of us.
You’ve been together for twelve years now and over that time there’s been a very rapid evolution in the way that people discover and consume music, what are your thoughts on that as both consumers and artists?
Tom: Good question.
Matthew: We started off in the MySpace stage where it was quite easy to get a few followers.
Tom: But that was before streaming, other than Napster.
Matthew: There wasn’t Twitter, there wasn’t Facebook.
Tom: There was Pure Volume.
Matthew: But for me I still find it mad that on this (holds up phone) I can access any artist, ever.
Tom: It’s cool for new artists, it works both ways, because they can release their music and it’s so much more accessible, they can just get a record out. But at the same time, there are a lot of artists getting their records out on the same day.
Matthew: As much as it makes it easier to find new music, it makes it harder because there is so much more. I personally think it’s amazing. Obviously record sales don’t work the same when it comes to how much money that makes you as an artist but that’s never been a big thing particularly for us.
Tom: Yeah, it’s because we’ve never had it (laughs) I imagine for someone like Liam Gallagher who’s sold millions of records and streaming now counts, he might feel the brunt of it.
Ellipsis: I think the pros of it outweigh the cons personally.
Matthew: So do I. I think it’s the reason more vinyl’s are being bought now too, people listen to music on their phones or on their computers and so to convince someone to actually spend more than their monthly subscription on a record, you have to make it into a piece of art, something tangible and worth having.
Tom: I also think it makes the better artists shine a bit more because there are so many bands of so many different genres, you only really want to listen to the best ones.
Ellipsis: Something that I really wanted to ask you about, I saw you guys play a show in Bath about five years ago and you played ‘Round Here’ by Counting Crows, I’m a huge Counting Crows fan and I just wanted to ask about the influence that they’ve had on you.
Matthew: Yeah! My favourite album is probably This Desert Life, I love it. August and Everything After is the one I first heard because of Round Here.
Matthew: Yeah. Recovering the Satellites is a great record too.
Tom: I’ve never been that into them, mainly because I just missed it. My parents were never into them. But when James plays them I always like it.
Matthew: His lyrics are insane.
Ellipsis: Yeah, he’s the best lyricist of all time in my opinion. I’ve never met anyone really that likes them so it was amazing when I saw you play them; I wasn’t expecting it at all.
Matthew: They’re not really a band that a lot of people under a certain age listen to. But again, I just instantly got the lyrics, I think they’re amazing.
Tom: They are amazing, I’ve just never had the time to listen properly.
Ellipsis: Over the years you’ve played hundreds of venues around the world, do you have any favourites or any venues that you haven’t played but would really like to?
Tom: I’ve never played the O2, I’d like to play there.
Matthew: Really? It’s weird, whilst the gig’s on you can see all the advertising still.
Tom: Really? Oh okay I take that back then! (laughs)
Matthew: I’d really like to play somewhere like Madison Square Garden, as a support gig or something.
Tom: One of my favourites in the country though, and I’m not just saying this because we played it last night, is Rock City. The layout, the venue, the sound system that they’ve got in there, even down to the dressing rooms, the showers work! Hint, hint Liverpool!
Matthew: Yeah, they’re a bit hot and cold. Yeah, Rock City is good. Union Chapel is also amazing in Islington. I would personally like to play Hammersmith actually, the Apollo is great.
Ellipsis: I read an interview with Kerrang! that James did recently around the issue of mental health. Is it something that you think should be talked about more?
Matthew: Absolutely. I think that’s one of the very large parts of the problem because you feel like there isn’t anyone you can speak to. Whereas, if there is a support network there, people can actually speak about it. Because it’s important. I mean, its there every day, not for everyone, some people are lucky, so it is an important issue that so many people feel like they can’t just share that and work through it more than finding some other way to cope.
Tom: I think we’re quite lucky though because we’re all really good friends. I imagine if you’re away on tour and you’re playing huge shows away from home, away from family, with nobody to talk to, that’s the part that I reckon is excruciatingly painful. Yeah, if any of us have a problem any day we can just talk to each other.
Matthew: Like, I had a mini meltdown the other day.
Tom: I had one yesterday. James has a few, he suffers quite badly, and you’ll know if you’ve read the piece. But we all talk to each other and try and make each other feel as good as we possibly can.
Matthew: But that’s not that regular though. The other thing is, none of us are particularly macho and that’s a big part of it. I know so many people who have struggled and suffered and I would never have had a clue because they were so ‘put on a brave face’.
Ellipsis: I think it’s spoken about now a lot more than it ever had been though, which is good. People talk on social media which helps.
Matthew: Yeah, it does for sure.
Ellipsis: You’ve already achieved so much but what are your hopes for the future of the band?
Tom: Just to continue making music that we like really.
Matthew: To evolve.
Tom: Just to keep things interesting!
Matthew: and to be able to afford to do it still, like we do. To be able to do this as a living is pretty great. When we were a bit younger we used to have much more grandiose aspirations, we had a lot of expectations but we realised that it’s not always that important to focus on things so far away. I realised that getting something sustainable and being able to do that is, in a way, just as good.
Listen to the new reworked version of ‘All These Countless Nights’ and us know what you think!