Cambridge. Â Cloudy and cold. At the Gateshead show the crowd was so quiet between songs you could have heard a crumb drop! Very sweet people, though. We all slept fitfully at the Royal Hotel; we’re sure it was haunted. Â The walls were so thin we could hear theÂ man in the next room BREATHING. Alex burst out of bed talking in her sleep and Tim had nightmares about driving the van with the back doors open and the gear falling out all over the road.Â
A bit of trivia:Â Laura Veirs was our very first recorded session when we began all of this roughly two and a half years ago. At the time, she had just moved to Portland and was working on making it feel like home, something she’s had a chance to do while taking a break from touring, for the most part, following her last album Saltbreakers.
Her new album, July Flame, is also a result of that time, though- despite its effortless beauty- it was anything but easy in coming for Veirs. She talks to us about the creative block that she eventually managed to open for these songs, as well as the decision to release the album on her own Raven Marching Band label after the previous two with Nonesuch. The effort also marks a move away from composing with a full band as she had done in recent years, though Saltbreakers conspirators Karl Blau, Steve Moore and Tucker Martine all figure prominently on the playing (not to mention appearances from My Morning Jacket‘s Jim James and The Decemberists‘ Chris Funk, among others).
Veirs was joined in studio by her current touring band, The Hall of Flames, featuring Alex Guy on viola and vocals, The Old Believers‘ Nelson Kempf on keys, guitars and vocals, and Eric Anderson on guitars and vocals. Now touring Europe, watch for Veirs’ return to Portland March 12th at Mississippi Studios.
Greetings from rainy London. Well, I kind of bombed my first live TV performance in Paris the other night. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that my press officer Matthieu told me before I went on that up to a MILLION PEOPLE were watching! I was playing “I Can See Your Tracks” but I got so nervous half way through that I cut out the bridge all together and just sort of awkwardly strummed the last verse instead of doing the fingerpicking that usually supports the song. It was like I was playing with clubs instead of fingers. Â Afterwards I felt embarrassed but Matthieu insisted that my singing sounded great and that I shouldn’t feel bad about it. Still, when I was outside waiting for a cab with my tail between my legs I wondered: how on God’s green earth will IÂ learn to get a hold of my nerves for the next live TV show?Â Just then an older French gentleman from the audience came up to me and told me how beautiful he thought the song was. He was very genuine and of course that made me feel better. But honestly there are times when I feel so frustrated that I can’t calmly and confidently perform a song I’ve played hundreds of times…
Pregnancy update: glucose levels fine, calf cramp bothering me, baby kicking consistently… :)
January 12th, 2010
Happy “July Flame” release day!
For those of you who don’t know, Tucker and I are expecting a baby in mid-April. I’m beginning my third trimester and will be posting blogs from time to time about how the tour is going. I’m doing it so I can have a record of my experience, and also to share my thoughts with other women who are touring pregnant or who are considering doing it.
I’ve already toured for two months of this pregnancy: once in the first trimester with The Decemberists (where we toured in a star-shape, criss-crossing the eastern and southern US, when I was dog-tired and slept for hours per day on a bench in our 15-passenger van), and once in the second trimester with Blind Pilot (when I was feeling more energetic but had fewer opportunities to eat well since we didn’t have the lavish backstage riders). So, fingers crossed for two more months of healthy touring up until the middle of week 35. First babies are usually born at week 41, so i’ll hopefully have some nesting time at home before all hell/heaven breaks loose!
On Friday I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This was a shock since I’ve always been healthy and didn’t know anything about it. It’s a fairly common yet unexplained condition that — if watched closely with diet and exercise — usually doesn’t affect the mother or the fetus after birth. So, I’ve been pricking myself 4 times daily and taking my blood sugar levels and everything seems stable, but what a pain! It’s a reminder that I need to take EXTRA special care to eat well and exercise on this tour, even if I am jostling around from one country to the next every day.
On Sunday I was a teary mess saying goodbye to Tucker. I’ve done long tours like this before, but there was certainly something hormonal telling me: stay home with your man and nest! But now that I’m in Paris on a promo trip before the tour dates start, I feel excited to be here sharing this new album with people.
Today I fought off jet lag by walking around this freezing city. Sacre Coeur looked like a fairyland in the distance. Even in winter the women are incredibly fashionable. People here are friendly but they don’t pick up their dog poop and they drive their motorcycles on the sidewalk. The architecture is humbling. I couldn’t find peanut butter in the grocery store and didn’t know how to ask for it. I left with peanuts, carrots, celery, cheese, greek yogurt, oranges, a banana and cashews (the stuff of my new diet). Tonight I’m going to have dinner at a Thai place with a dear old friend Jean Philippe. Tomorrow I do interviews on big French radio and TV stations. I feel lucky to be here.
Hurrah! July Flame is out now.Â Directly support Laura with an LP/CD/download purchase via her web boutique Raven Marching Band (instant download with CD or LP purchase), or find it at your local finer record shop, or visit iTunes where this week it’s been anointed “Indie Spotlight Featured Album”, and is on sale for the first two weeks for a cool $7.99!
Here’s what’s been coming in on the wire:
â€œItâ€™s full of textureâ€¦ You almost want to run your hands across it and feel the nicks in the wood grain, or order it off the appetizer menu in your townâ€™s new warehouse-district restaurant run by a ruddy-faced genius with a beard. Itâ€™s full of layered folk and indie-rock bucolia and plain-spoken but stretchy-thinking language, wherein everyday energies or objects transubstantiate into other, metaphorically richer ones. There are some great, seemingly unforced, sÃ©ancelike moments hereâ€¦â€
- The New York Times
â€œA lost 1960s girlie-folk gem is what it sounds like. A perfect Sunday afternoon record.â€
- The Oxford American
â€œWarm yourself in midwinter with Laura Veirsâ€™ â€œJuly Flame,â€ a summery song inspired by a succulent peach variety. Itâ€™s the title track of her idiosyncratic, captivating album by the same name.â€
- UTNE Reader
â€œWere you the first to tell your friends about Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone in 2009? Female-singer-songwriter fan, your work is not yet done! The extraordinary Laura Veirs â€” a punk rockerâ€“turned-underrated pop folkie â€” should inspire fits of similar evangelistic passion. Always in touch with the natural world, Veirs’ new album July Flame sends us on hikes through dreamy landscapes evoked by her uniquely tangy voice, casting minimal instrumentation in glistening arrangements to captivate the melancholy imagination. If sofa-size paintings of the Pacific Northwest could sing, they’d sound like this. A-â€
- Entertainment Weekly
â€œThe magnificent Portland songwriter delves into the mystic, crafting spare, entrancing pop songs as informed by folk music as they are indie rock. July Flame takes its title from a type of peach, and its content is just as sweet and irresistible.â€
– Rolling Stone
â€œHer best album yet. Though folk at their roots, Veirsâ€™ oddly beautiful songs songs have curious offshoots. Unlike some other nu-folkies, this feels organic and unforced; one reason why her albums, and this in particular, have such resonance. July Flame teems with animals and vegetablesâ€¦ Yet the overall sense is one of calm and reflection, her serene voice flowing over everything like a river.â€
â€“ Filter (FOUR STARS)
â€œItâ€™s hard to imagine a better soundtrack to the chilly months than this collection of heady, steady, pensive songs. Warmer and rootsier than her earlier workâ€¦ July Flame is carefully composed, ever-deepening, glinting and glowing in new ways each time itâ€™s played; itâ€™s Veirsâ€™ finest work.â€
– Paste (8.5)
â€œThis is a vivid song cycle thatâ€™s part-ecstasy, part-sadness, and unfailingly lovely.â€
- UNCUT (FOUR STARS)
â€œThere is no shortage of quality songs here. A wistful soundtrack to your winter.â€
- Under The Radar
This is a great interview segment with Laura:
[8 min 53 sec]
January 9, 2010 – With much of the country in a deep freeze this week, it might be good therapy to daydream about summer. July Flame is the summery title of the new album from Laura Veirs. She’s known for writing songs about the great outdoors, and this new record â€” her seventh â€” is no exception.
You needn’t look any further than the title track as a way to warm up; it’s about a peach grown in Veirs’ home of Oregon. She saw the peach at a farmer’s market and thought it was such a great name that it eventually became a song.
To hear the full Veirs interview with Mary Louise Kelly, click the audio link above. And don’t forget that you can hear the entirety of July Flame right here until Jan. 12.
When we premiered “Wide-Eyed, Legless” I asked Laura Veirs to unpack the ideas behind the title of her seventh album July Flame:
“July Flame” is: A destructive force, lamplight on a cold night, Oregon peach variety, intense summer love, fireworks, war, sunlight trapped in wood, renewal, spooky will-o-the-wisps, desire, pain, ephemera.
You get a lot of that (including the peach variety) in this playfully deadly video concocted by cartoonist Doug Savage for the collection’s title track. If the style looks familiar, it’s because he did her “Phantom Mountain” clip, too. But before you watch: Savaged offered a few bits of trivia that might help enhance your viewing experience.
* The video has 1,804 individual images in it. Yes that’s a lot of photos!
* The fireworks were made from over 180 individual peaches.
* The puppets are painted paper glued to a backing.
* The matches are one of my favorite things in the video. I loved drawing the cover.
* The puppets/set took 3 weeks to design and build. Shooting took 2 weeks.
* Watch for cameo performances from the Phantom Mountain chicken and paper clip.
* The desk is my Grandma’s old kitchen table. You may remember it from the Phantom Mountain video.
December 21, 2009 – Laura Veirs‘ latest release, the stripped-down July Flame, uses atmosphere and tension as the connective tissue for its songs. Veirs, who’s been setting her observations to song since 1999, says she was in a writing slump going into this record, so she challenged herself with odd tunings on her nylon-string guitar. She dug deep inside for inspiration, did away with her full band for most of the album and wrote many of these tracks in her barn in Portland, Ore.
The reviews keep coming in.Â We thought we’d round up some of the highlights:
“There was a girl, a very strange enchanted girl, who wandered very far from her punk-band past to become an acoustic singer-songwriter whose songs were suffused with the natural world.”Â [Four Stars] – Sylvie Simmons, MOJO
The Band: Laura Veirs
The Buzz: Magnificent Portland songwriter delves into the mystic, crafting spare, entrancing pop songs as informed by folk music as they are indie rock. Her upcoming July Flame takes its title from a type of peach, and its content is just as sweet and irresistible.
Key Track: â€œJuly Flame,â€ where Veirs hypnotic, mysterious voice wends its way around stiff guitar, purring an endless string of curious riddles until the whole song crests in a crescendo of swirling violins and ghostly choirs. – J. Edward Keyes, Rolling Stone.
“Part of me wants to make this a review, but I think I’ll let someone who is more skilled at it have a go. And I’ve been so excited this afternoon to preview the full album that I keep skipping back and forth from track to track which isn’t very reviewer-like. But I’ll tell you this….it’s rich with textures and sounds and finger picking and alternate tunings and strong voice.” - No Depression
The natural world is often the star of Pacific Northwest singer-songwriter (and one-time geology major) Laura Veirsâ€™ musicâ€”birds and eels and oceans and cliffs and caves and constellations tumble together in surreal lyrics that actually speak to love, loss, and lifeâ€™s mysteries if you stop to consider them. Veirsâ€™ imagery is as captivating as her husky, cloudy voice and her sophisticated arrangements, which sometimes get alt-folky with acoustic guitar, banjo, piano and violin, and other times go pop in a â€™70s Laurel Canyon kinda way while making room for jazz-tinged grooves and dabs of electronics.Â -The Philadelphia Weekly
For folk singer Laura Veirs, inspiration for her newest album came from a simple box of peaches sitting on a table at a farmersâ€™ market. The words â€œJuly Flameâ€ written on a cardboard sign caught her eye, struck a chord and inspired her to write what she believes is her strongest album yet.
â€œYouâ€™ll notice, actually, if you look at varieties of peaches and apples and fruits, that theyâ€™re really cool creative names,â€ Veirs said. She went on to write a song and album titled after those July Flame peaches.
Veirs hopes that the stripped-down, summery album that will drop Jan. 12 will bring some sunshine to the cold winter months.Â -The Pitt News
“Several songs are about trying to live in the moment and embrace life as it is now,” she says, “to treasure beauty when you encounter it because it is fleeting.
“I was exploring concepts of summer and night, love and war, and fire as both a healing and destructive force,” Veirs says. “I think we’re always struggling for things to be clear and known in our lives and relationships, but we have less control than we think.” – The Oregonian
“There’s something fascinating about Laura Veirs. As she performed on stage at Neumo’s last night, it was hard to look at anything but her.” – Seattle Weekly
â€œI kind of had a crisis of faith, to be honest,â€ she says. â€œI was writing so many songs that didnâ€™t appeal to me. It was like they were boring to me on some level.â€
When the dam finally broke, July Flame started coming in a rush.” - The Straight
Further examination of just whatâ€™s so compelling about Laura Viers doesnâ€™t yield simple answers, given there is so much songcraft going on. Veirsâ€™ voice almost always carries the heart of the melody, and the strength of itâ€™s high register personality generally dominates at the center of the song, even at its quietest.Â -Sound On Sound
Upon my first listen, Iâ€™m pretty sure I listened to the title track â€œJuly Flameâ€ about ten consecutive times, though, I tend to be a bit obsessive over songs that I enjoy.Â Itâ€™s truly a gorgeous album that Iâ€™m sure will find significant growth as 2010 grinds along.Â Â -The Yellow Stereo