An Interview with Crispin Earl of The Veer Union - April 10, 2012
By Tina Dealwis
Vancouver rock band The Veer Union is out on tour to promote their newly-released second album, Divide the Blackened Sky. The band has undergone a tumultuous two years, having been dropped from their record label, and seeing the departure of bassist Marc Roots and guitarist James Fiddler from the band this past February. Nevertheless, TVU is moving forward, as they oversee the new release and continue to do what they do best – make solid music.
This past week, lead singer Crispin Earl spoke with Lithium Magazine over the phone from Chicago, about the tour, the new album, his enduring friendship with guitarist Eric Schreaeder, and overcoming the hard times of the last two years.
Tina: How’s the tour going?
Crispin: The tour has been amazing. We actually just finished our tour with My Darkest Days, and it was amazing—great guys to tour with, the crowds have been amazing, and people have been very receptive, so it’s been great. We are actually now starting our tour today with Cavo and Janus. We had a chance to tour with both those bands in 2010, I believe it is, and so we’re excited to go out with those guys because we’re definitely big fans of both of those bands.
Tina: You’re also going out this summer and playing the summer festivals as well.
Crispin: Absolutely. We’ve got a couple of festivals coming up.
Tina: The summer festivals sound really exciting, with bands like Korn, Staind, and Godsmack. Who are you most looking forward to playing with this summer?
Crispin: I’m definitely looking forward to playing with all of them, but I’ve always, since day one, been one of the biggest Korn fans ever, so I‘m really excited to see those guys, and definitely excited to hear what their new stuff sounds like in a live setting. I’m really excited to play with that band for sure.
Tina: Since you were a kid, music has always been a part of your life, and you started out as a drummer when you were first in school.
Crispin: That’s correct.
Tina: Do you still play drums now, or do you just focus exclusively on singing?
Crispin: Oh yeah, I definitely still play the drums. Whenever I get a chance to, I still play, and I’ve even still considered at some point in time doing a side project and just playing drums. It’s an instrument that I love, and unfortunately I don’t get to play it as much as I would like because I’m a little more focused on singing and songwriting in this band right now. But it’s definitely something I will never forget, and it’s a skill that I’m proud to have achieved.
Tina: Why did you decide to pursue music as a career? Did you always know it was what you wanted to do?
Crispin: When I was 10 years old, I saw the local high school band come to my elementary school, and there was this drummer that was playing in the band there, and he was just a phenomenal drummer, a phenomenal musician altogether; and so I saw him play, and from that moment on, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and I’ve never changed, I’ve never looked back.
Tina: You’ve mentioned as well that Led Zeppelin was one of your biggest earliest
influences, as well as Living Colour and other bands like that. Who are you listening to now?
Crispin: That’s a really good question. I still listen to a lot of old stuff. As far as new stuff, I listen to a lot of the bands that we tour with as far as rock goes, but I still also listen to a lot of different stuff. I’ve been listening to the new Florence and the Machine record a lot, I’ve been listening to a lot of John Mayer; City and Colour is one of my favourite artists for sure. I listen to a lot of mellow stuff, but at the same time I’m also influenced by a lot of metal stuff. So it’s right across the board for me. If it’s good and if it’s real, I’m listening to it.
Tina: What about some of the old school stuff that you’ve been listening to lately?
Crispin: Old school stuff that I’ve been listening to lately, let me think. I would say that
Soundgarden’s—one of their first records called Louder than Love—I’ve been listening to that a lot lately. It’s one of my favourite records.
Tina: Why is that one of your favourites? What strikes you about that album?
Crispin: I think it’s just because of the fact that, that record came out in a time of innocence where rock was just all about attitude, and it was real and it was no rules, and you can hear that in that recording, it’s just raw emotion and power. It’s just an amazing record.
Tina: I know it’s been a challenging couple of years for you guys, with a couple of your band members leaving the band and with leaving your record label. Can you speak to what the band went through, and what was the biggest learning experience for you over the last two years, and what you took away from it?
Crispin: Every time I think that my biggest learning experience was being strong and not giving up, a new problem presents itself, and then you have to again learn how to just be strong and make it through and keep going. I think that with the amount of problems that have presented themselves, I’ve even surprised myself to be able to endure through having to kind of carry the weight on just Eric’s and my shoulders, instead of having five people to share that weight. So it’s been a very difficult time, but the best thing for me, what keeps me going, is I sit back and go, ‘Wow, I’m still creating music,’ which is all I’ve ever wanted to do, and I’m able to continue to do that. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s never been about being rich, or famous for that matter, I just want to be able to continue to be able to make music, and have enough fans to be able to continue.
Tina: You’ve said in other interviews that your friendship with Eric is like a family, and going through so much together, how has it made your friendship stronger?
Crispin: The same way it does with a family. You know, when you go through hard times, you sit back and you talk about some of them, you laugh about some of those hard times, and then you just keep moving forward. It’s very true, when you have a friendship like Eric and mine, it really does seem more like a family versus friendship.
Tina: That’s great.
Crispin: Yeah, we’ve definitely been through a lot together for sure.
Tina: What advice would you give to up-and-coming musicians who are struggling with some of the issues that you’ve dealt with in the music business?
Crispin: The honest truth is, the best advice I can give is if you think that you’re going to make a lot of money, and you think you’re going to be rich and famous, go get a job. Because the truth is the only people that are going to make it in this industry, there are only two different types of people—the people that are going to be willing to go through thick and thin and be broke for a really long time and do it because they love it; or the other is the person that is going to get lucky and have one type of hit that hits really quickly, and I think that’s .0000001% of the population of the world that that’s going to happen to, and I might be high in that percentage (laughs).
Tina: So just make sure you really love it and you’re willing to go the distance?
Crispin: You have to love the music, you have to be passionate about it, otherwise there’s just no point in doing it. Don’t do it for the wrong reasons, because it’ll never happen. You’ll just end up arguing about money that doesn’t exist, and then your band will break up.
Tina: Tell me about your new album Divide the Blackened Sky. I listened to it several times, and I really enjoyed it.
Crispin: Thank you!
Tina: How would you describe the sound?
Crispin: I would definitely describe it as a heavy, melodic, dark, edgy, real rock record. And you can definitely hear, lyrically and emotionally, sound-wise on the record, that it’s a very real record. A lot of people are trying to create mathematic type songs these days, but this record, at the time we pretty much just stopped listening to anything and just focused on what felt right, and that’s pretty much how Divide the Blackened Sky was born.
Tina: So you sort of tuned out the rest of what was out there and other influences, and focused on what was real to you.
Crispin: Exactly. And it ended up coming out as a much heavier, much darker record than the previous one Against the Grain.
Tina: That was actually my next question—how do you think it differs from Against the Grain?
Crispin: Like I said, it’s a lot heavier, it’s a lot darker, it’s a lot more gritty, it’s a way more rock record in comparison. Against the Grain had a lot more ballads on it, this one doesn’t.
Tina: Yeah, this one definitely isn’t focused on ballads at all. Did you have a vision for this album, or did it just sort of come out through inspiration?
Crispin: I think it came out through desperation. Everything that seemed like it was coming to an end, it just came to a point where we put that into an audio track, where it felt hopeless, everything seemed hopeless, and it was almost kind of like answering your own question—we had to fight through this, we have to fight through this hopelessness, and that is what we’ve captured on the record.
Tina: How are you guys doing now?
Crispin: We are fighting through every day, and enjoying every day as it comes.
Tina: It sounds like there’s a lot of great stuff coming up with the tour and the album.
Crispin: There’s lots of great things that are happening and we’re really, really, really excited. Right across the board, pretty much, the feedback we’ve gotten right across the board is this record is better than the last one, and that’s all you can really ask as an artist is to be improving. I’m not saying we tried to beat the last record, we just tried to make another honest, real record. And I that think people can identify with that, which is great.
Tina: What message do you want your fans to come away with when they listen to this record?
Crispin: Let’s put it this way, I think the message they are getting is you’re not alone. I think that everybody’s going through difficult times with the recession right now, with the economy, it’s really tough times for everybody. I think anybody that’s going through a tough time in their life is going to be able to relate to this record, because that’s exactly what they’re going through as well.
Tina: What’s your favourite track on the album and why?
Crispin: It changes from day to day. Because we’re talking today, my favourite track today is “Buried in the Ground.” I think that it’s definitely the one song on the record that is a major departure. It’s quite a bit different from what we would normally do, and it’s just got a very simple message. The main lyric is, “I’ve got to turn it all around before I’m buried in the ground.” It’s just that feeling of hopelessness and trying to get through it.
Tina: Very personal to what you guys have been through as well.
Crispin: Absolutely, 100%.
Tina: What are your goals for The Veer Union in the future?
Crispin: To keep doing music.
Tina: Keep doing music, definitely. I think once you’re a musician, you’re always a musician, and it’s something that’s just a part of who you are.
Crispin: 100%. Unfortunately, some people don’t have that privilege, even if they’re a musician, sometimes there are too many problems that come and you know, take that dream away. So I hope that nobody takes that dream away from me, that’s all I can hope.
Tina: Was there anything that you wanted to add, or that you think is important for people to know?
Crispin: Yeah, I think the most important thing that I’d like to add is if people really, really, truly love an artist out there, whether it’s us or somebody else, go and buy their record and support new artists, because new artists are suffering, and people really need to understand how important it is to go and buy their music if they really truly like that artist. Because in the future—if people don’t support those artists that they love hearing music from—then they’re going to stop hearing music from them.
Tina: Yeah, I know that’s a big problem in the music industry.
Tina: How do you comb at that kind of problem?
Crispin: By trying to get the word out, like in this interview right now, trying to really spread awareness. People really think that music is free, but it’s not. It costs a lot of money to make, and it’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to make it, and people just take it, you know, so eventually the money will dry up and the blood, sweat, and tears will stop, and so will the music.
Tina: That would be a real shame if that ended up happening.
Crispin: It’s getting close. (laughs)
Tina: I’m a big Prince fan and he promotes that message a lot, he even monitors YouTube really carefully.
Crispin: 100%. Here’s the biggest thing that people don’t understand. If a person like Prince is having problems, imagine a band that’s never been heard before. It’s not the people like Prince that are suffering. They’re just not making as much money as they used to. New bands aren’t making any money, because they come out with something brand new, and people just steal it. So they don’t have a nest egg to sit on, that nest egg never existed. So a new band comes out, they spend their hard-earned money on making a product, then that product just gets taken from them. Sure, it’s great to make fans, but if the fans aren’t giving back, then that band has no choice, no matter what, but to fold. I mean, if you open up a car factory and you build a bunch of cars, and then you open the door, and everybody comes and takes your car and drives away because they love the car, well you’re not going to be a very good businessman if you’re just giving away your cars. How are you going to buy new materials to make more cars? You can’t, because everyone just drove away with the ones that you just started off with. It’s very simple. The unfortunate reality is that’s where we’re at. People think they’re hurting major corporations by taking away, by stealing music, but they’re not, they’re hurting the artist more than they’re hurting the corporations.
Tina: Was there anything else that you wanted to add?
Crispin: We have a lot of dates coming up. It’s always been about playing live for us. We’ve got a lot of live dates coming up, we’re going to be out on tour for most of the summer, and would love people to go to our Facebook page, which is www.facebook.com/theveerunion. Check out our dates also at www.theveerunion.com. And we’re also running a package deal right now where you can get a couple of CDs—our brand new CD and our first CD—with a T-shirt and a poster for a really good price promo, if you go to www.theveerunion.com and go to our store. Basically that’s about it!
Tina: Well, I wish you all the best with the tour, and hope to see you in Toronto.
Crispin: Perfect, yeah, absolutely!
Tina: I really enjoyed the new album, too, I hope it does really well for you.
Crispin: Thank you very much, I do appreciate it, and I definitely appreciate the time and helping us spread the word.
Tina: My pleasure. It’s been great talking with you, and all the best with everything.
Crispin: Perfect. We’ll see you when we come to Toronto.