Catch Up With Vera Blue
Vera Blue on her debut album, what makes Perth audiences unique and her love of Fergie.
The release of her debut album Perennial just last month is the latest milestone in what has been a whirlwind eighteen months for Vera Blue. With three headline tours, two Splendour in the Grasses, and collaborations with Flume, Illy and Slumberjack already under her belt, Blue’s latest offering is a stunning collection of folk-electronica tunes imbued with heartbreak and empowerment, ensuring the 23-year-old shows no signs of slowing down. Prior to the Perth leg of her Mended Tour this Saturday 5 August, we caught up with the Blue to discuss the origins of Perennial, her love of Australian designers, and why she loves performing in Perth.
First of all, congratulations on playing your first solo set at Splendour in the Grass. How was it?
Thank you. It was incredible. I love looking back onto it, I feel like I’m still living that Splendour moment. The crowd was ready to go, it was just absolutely wild. I loved every minute of it. So memorable.
Did you manage to catch any other artists?
Yeah, so I spent the whole weekend there. I just wanted to be there - I think it’s important to be able to watch other artists perform and see what their live show is like. I had a lot of friends playing there – I saw Tove Lo play, she’s incredible. My friend HWLS played. I saw an artist I’ve been looking up to recently called Asgeir. There was so much to see. All kinds of different genres, I love trap music as well. I saw RL Grime - it was the best.
So obviously congratulations on also releasing Perennial and all its amazing success. How’s the Mended Tour been going so far?
It’s been amazing. We’ve only done a couple of shows and obviously the first couple of shows are a little shaky. We’re just warming up within the sets and my voice is getting used to some of the songs that I haven’t done live. It’s all still a bit of a learning point. It’s fine though, it’s all part of it, and we’re loving it. We’ve got an amazing live show and we’re excited to be able to take it everywhere. I’m coming to Perth very soon (this Saturday). Perth is always a really great crowd. I find they’re a little rowdy, but I love it. I love how excited they get - you can just have a really good time with them. It’s so much fun.
That’s awesome. Do you have a favourite song to perform live so far?
I guess it changes with each show, but I have a few from the record I just really enjoy that moment of singing. I think one that I’m really having fun performing – and also the band are as well – is “Overachiever”. “Magazine” is also really upbeat - it’s just such a great tune that everyone can live in that fantasy and just dance and have a really good time. And “Regular Touch” as well is something that I really connect to now more so than I did when we wrote the song.
Your album obviously has a lot of upbeat moments and also some really emotional songs. So when you’re performing your live set, do you find it difficult to sing some songs more so than others?
Yeah, I mean vocally some of them are quite challenging, but emotionally, I guess when we perform the songs, I’m reliving that feeling of when we wrote the song. And as time goes by, it’s not going to always be this hard, but there is a particular song that we don’t do live at the moment called Said “Goodbye To Your Mother”, which I find is a very emotional song. The song itself is about how you can lose so much more than just love, you can lose the people around the relationship, the people you were connected to through the person you were with. Maybe eventually I’ll whip it out in the set, but that’s the beauty of having an album now – so many songs to be able to share with an audience.
There were moments from the record where I was coming into myself, I was really figuring out who I was, especially “Lady Powers”. “Lady Powers” is such an empowering moment where it’s like – I know who I am, I don’t have to change for anybody, I have that womanly strength that I did not have before
So does the finished product, this album Perennial, differ at all from what you imagined it would be when you started writing it?
When we started writing the record, it was like, “It’s okay, it’s just a bunch of songs, we can do this, it’s nothing.” But once you get halfway or once you get to the point where you’ve got a lot of songs, you think, “Shit, this is actually a beast of a thing.” It becomes quite an intense thing. When you’re working on the record, you start to go a little crazy towards the end and you’re just second-guessing yourself. That part of the creative journey, it’s not easy.
The way the album is right now, looking at the piece of work, it’s so perfect to us. My co-writer Thom, he’s been there right from the beginning of the Vera Blue stuff. We created it from the ground up. He placed the album into three chapters, and the three chapters represent the different phases that I went through to overcome heartbreak. Stepping back and looking at the way he placed the songs in that order, I would not have thought of it in that way because I’m so kind of consumed in everything that I went through. It’s amazing to have him structure it in that way.
My dad actually came up with the title. My dad’s a horticulturalist and a big lover of plants and flowers, and the word ‘perennial’ in itself means everlasting. It came from the term to describe plants and flowers that grow back year after year. And it kind of related to the album. It’s related to emotions, feelings, memories, and all those things about relationships – past and new relationships, how they’re kind of always going to come back, always going to have an effect on you in the future, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Your new sound is obviously this awesome blend of folk and electronica. Did you make a conscious decision to try and incorporate electronica into your music, or did it happen organically when you started listening to artists from that genre?
It definitely happened organically. I was always writing folk music, I was very – I wouldn’t say narrow minded, but I was very focussed on Joni Mitchell, artists from the sixties and seventies, no electronic music. And then I came across alt-j – there was something so mind-blowing about their sound and the way they used their melodies as an organic sound and added the kind of grunge of the electronic music, which added such an angst to the vibe. There was just something about finding that electronic music that really completed me and completed the music that I dreamt making.
I’d like to talk a little bit more about this ‘project’, Vera Blue. You’ve described Vera Blue as a project that represents this new chapter, this new sound that you co-created with Thom and Andy Mak. So I’m curious, how has the concept of Vera Blue evolved since it was born roughly two years ago? Would you still describe it as a musical project or has it maybe grown into a version of yourself?
No, well I guess the music is about me - it’s about everything that I’m going through, it’s very emotional, very ‘heart on your sleeve’ kind of thing. But the making of this entire project was not just me. Andy created the sound, we created all the sounds, we created the energy. Thom helped co-write and helped me verbalise the emotions that I was going through after a breakup and everything else. So when I think about the Vera Blue project, I think about the fact that I’m the person who is representing Vera Blue onstage, but as a collective and a collaborative team, we are all Vera Blue and it’s definitely a project that’s going to be something that we all always continue working on together. Anyone can think of Vera Blue as whatever they want, it’s totally subjective.
I’d like to ask you about your sense of fashion because I love how bold and colourful your outfits are. So I was wondering, do you choose all of your onstage outfits or do you work with someone else to decide what you’re going to wear onstage?
Well, it really changes and now things are beginning to really kind of pick up with style and fashion. I really love fashion and I love reaching out to Australian designers wherever I am Most of the time it’ll work, sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes you need a stylist to be able to do those kinds of things. One in particular that I reached out to was EWOL, the outfit that I wore for Splendour. She had this small fan base on social but her pieces were just absolutely insane so I just had to reach out and be like, “Let’s collaborate for Splendour.” At the moment, I’m feeling so many colours and I’m feeling lots of different textures, and I love outfits for special features and movement, especially when I’m performing
So your song "Hold" is one of my all-time favourites, I just always go back to it. I’d like to know, what’s one of your all-time favourite songs that you can never get tired of? Not necessarily from your album, but just in general.
There are a few songs that always keep coming back like Fergalicious and Glamorous by Black Eyed Peas or Fergie. But my all-time favourite song would definitely have to be Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell. I can never get over it, ever. Really beautiful.
That’s amazing. So just to wrap it up, can you tell me what your plans are post-tour? Are you keen to relax or maybe keen to start writing more songs already?
I spent a bit of time with the boys, Andy and Thom, the other day and we’ve already started working on some new stuff. It’s kind of never-ending for us. I think I might need a bit of a holiday after the tour just to refresh, but I think after that I’m going to go to the States and do a bit of a touring there. Maybe the UK, meet some people over there, so there’s lots and lots of touring plans. It’s exciting to know that I’m feeling inspired and ready to continue making music for everyone. It’s amazing.
Don’t miss Vera Blue at Metropolis Fremantle this Saturday 5 August. Get your tickets here.