Interview with Brittany Harrell of Veara
I went to the awesome Veara show at Luneta Cafe on Wednesday November 6th (review here) and got to sit down and chat with their drummer Brittany Harrell afterwards.
Where does the name Veara come from?
Well there’s a local music store where we’re from in Augusta called Jay’s Music, and when we were younger and growing up there used to be a lady named Veara who worked there. She had kicked some of us out of the store before for picking up a guitar or whatever, and well, she was kind of a bitch.
So when we started the band we were like, “she sucks! Let’s name it after her!” So it was that kind of mentality that kinda stuck with us.
How long since you left home in Augusta?
Well we did our record release on September 20th in our hometown of Augusta, technically that was our first day but we were at home. We’ve been out since then, almost two months. We’ve been in Canada since November 1st.
Augusta is not known for punk rock, but it will be now, what else should they be known for that they aren’t?
Well it’s already known for this, so I’m not sure if this counts, but the Master’s Golf Tournament? It happens there and it’s super popular. I don’t know though, thinking of something that it’s not known for but should be is hard. I’m going to say the food. One of my favourite restaurants in the world, and we’ve been to a lot of places in Europe and Australia, but one of my favourite restaurants is in Augusta, Georgia. I’m a total foodie, too. The Village Deli is “home of the gooey fries” so I’m going to say it should be known for that.
How are you liking Canada so far? What’s your favourite part?
We’ve played Toronto and Montreal before on previous tours, and also just played Montreal last night for the second time. We love this country, but the free Wi-Fi at the McDonalds is the best thing about Canada so far. We probably spent six hours at McDonalds today sitting there using their internet. Free Wi-Fi is like crack on tour, you don’t want to pay roaming.
You have traveled the world with the band, and I know you played Australia. Can you tell us a bit about that?
We were there in 2011 for Soundwave Festival which had Iron Maiden headlining, and it was one of the craziest tours we’ve ever done in our lives. We’ll be going back next year for Warped Tour Australia, too.
Excellent to hear you are going back. If I am not mistaken you will be playing with one of your biggest influences?
New Found Glory! They actually did Soundwave Festival the same year we did, so I made sure to go and watch them. We’re all friends with them and had a chance to chat. I mean we’re not call ‘em up buddies, but we know them and they know us so it’s always cool and watch them destroy because they are awesome.
I noticed a definite progression on your newer album, what do you think about your steps forward as a band?
Yeah, our new record Growing Up Is Killing Me took a step forward musically – I think we became better writers and musicians. With What We Left Behind, I mean, I love that record, but I think there were some things musically that we were scared to try earlier on. As far as dynamics go, we just stepped it up on the new record. Also, as far as writing goes I think it’s a lot more mature. I’m in the band and I can definitely hear a difference in how mature it sounds. So that’s something that’s different for sure.
How was working with Jeremy McKinnon of A Day to Remember earlier on? Still in touch?
Oh man, working with him on What We Left Behind, we were still writing and trying to figure out who we were as a band. Working with him and Andrew Wade really helped us zone in on our songwriting skills and musicianship too, which really helped us get to where we wanted to be. When we got to Growing Up Is Killing Me we already knew who we were as a band, this is what we sound like, not let’s take it a step further. We worked with Dave Korneff, who is amazing – amazing producer, amazing engineer – and he helped us take that next step.
For those not lucky enough to catch you, what can they expect from a Veara show?
Let’s see. If you’re going to come to a Veara show, you can expect sing-alongs, high energy, jumping around, people going nuts. Depending on the market, it can get pretty nuts. I mean, our bass player is a perfect example of our energy. We always try to get the crowd going and get people moving. Brad sings in people’s faces, just a great time with everyone having fun.
Veara has one of the most intense bass players I have ever seen on stage. He is jumping, flinging his bass, screaming, grabbing the crowd…what is his secret?
Yeah, he’s an awesome dude. I think he’s like all of us, once we hit that stage then a switch turns on and all we focus on the show and what’s in front of us. He’s crazy though. Sometimes I’ll be playing drums and I’ll look up and think, “HOLY SHIT, did he just do that?” So it’s pretty cool!
As mentioned before you played big stages in Australia for example, how do you like playing smaller venues like this one, 80 person capacity?
Big stages are fun and all, but when I’m playing a show like this (at Luneta Cafe) where we’re right in front of the crowd, nothing beats that energy. When you’re playing big shows, sometimes there are drum risers and the drummer is far back. So you gotta really try to maintain that energy, but smaller shows like this it’s no problem. I’ll never stop playing this kind of show.
The punk music scene is often seen as a boys club. And drumming is almost exclusively lefts to the boys. What motivated you to become a female drummer in a punk band?
I started playing drums when I was nine years old because of the band Hanson. When I was nine I saw them on MTV and was like, “Holy crap, I really like this a lot”, you know, that bubblegum pop was just irresistible. I saw that the drummer was close to my age, so I thought that if he can do that then I could do it too. I begged my parents and Santa for a drum set, and magically one day a cheap drum set appeared at my house. They thought it was just a phase but I stuck with it and took lessons. I played in middle school and high school, and just remembered that it was always just something I did for fun.
I remember not really practicing much, and then I heard Blink 182. I think “What’s My Age Again?” was the first song I heard by them and so I bought the CD. I listened to it non-stop, and I remember in “Adam’s Song” especially, the drums blew me away. It completely changed the way I looked at playing drums. I never thought you could play verses and choruses the way he did. It made me practice more and is what helped propel me to get better and really made me want to be in a band.
Any advice to girls who want to start playing drums and be in a punk band?
Yeah, I mean I’ve always been really competitive. I grew up with an older brother and was always going head to head with him, but I think I took that mentality and applied it to drums. I mean, you don’t really see a lot of girl drummers, but I didn’t go into it thinking “I really hope I can play this”, I went into with the mindset that I’m going to play the drums and it was something that I wanted to be good at. So my best advice to girls is to just practice lots, and don’t be gender specific. There are actually lots of female drummers that can run with the best, I don’t think gender really matters. Whoever is at the top of the game, guy or girl, that’s what I’m striving for. Always having someone to look up to and trying to achieve a higher level is really important.
Veara, July, Neighbours, Chris Benton and Monsun @ Luneta
Veara rocking out with an adoring fan.
Veara, July and a bunch of locals injected the Luneta Cafe with a steady dose of pop-punk Wednesday night.
Hailing from Augusta, Georgia, Veara lit it up with their great energy, despite some technical issues. The band, who I would describe as pop-punk with an edge, rocked through a set full of up-tempo, sing-along tracks, that had some die hards in the crowd rushing the mic and crowding the singer. If they weren’t in the singer’s face, Bryan Kerr, one of the most intense bass players I have ever seen on stage was grabbing them by the shirt and screaming the words at them. Yeah, the energy was there, and did I mention this was a Wednesday? Way to go Ottawa, coming out on a school night. Some of the songs that really stuck out for me were ”We have a Body Count,” ”The Worst Part of You,” and the killer tune they closed with, that got the a circle pit going, “My B-Side Life.” The band continues its Canadian tour in Toronto on Friday. (Check out a brief interview I did with drummer Brittany Harrell after the show here.)
The other touring act on the bill was July from Toronto. They were pure clap-along pop-punk, with a very talkative lead singer. He said such beauties as ”Hey don’t you find the guitarist looks like Freddy Mercury?” to which the guitarist replied, ”Thank you, Freddy attracted women and men.” Vocalist, Devin Moody, also made me laugh when introducing the song ”Second Best” which he said was about the guitarist’s ”hot mom, but it is called ‘Second Best’ because her sister, his aunt, is even hotter.” That song came in first place for me, and was the highlight of their set. As they concluded their set and tried to play the final chorus of their last song, the power went out on the amps and left them laughing in disbelief. They thanked us and walked off smiling, glad they stayed positive and didn’t blow any fuses…
Neighbours with a little help from their friends.
Before the out-of-towners took to the stage, Neighbours, from Nepean (they specify Nepean not Ottawa) rocked out. Delivering fresh tracks from their new EP, This Past Year. The six piece are very tight, and what would you expect from a bunch of guys who all live on the same street? Their set had a real local feel to it with a bunch of their buddies crowding the front and singing every word with them. It made for a very busy space, but I love seeing people jumping in on the mic. Nothing whipped the crowd into a frenzy on this night more than their anthem ”Late Nights” which had people belting out at the top of their lungs. How can you blame them when the pop-punk gem makes references to ”late nights spent on the 95” and a final verse which they repeat and commands singing along to: ”my friends never let me go, they never let me down, you’ll never understand what it takes to give your all, when your friends have your back you’ll never fall apart.” Pure gold.
Chris Benton, a solo acoustic act from Cornwall, brought a little bit of a different speed to the evening. The bleeding heart romantic with a guitar slowed it down and played some great sounding originals, such as ”Be All.” During the song he said, ”I think this is where people clap. It has never happened before but it could.” The crowd chuckled and gladly clapped along. Other than his own material, he played two covers which he did very well, Carly Rae Jepsen’s ”Call Me Maybe” and NOFX’s ”Linoleum.” Always have to respect a person playing a solo show, especially on a bill full of bands. He seems like a very cool dude and he even gave me a shout out for wearing a Belvedere tee shirt.
Opening the night was Ottawa’s Monsun. I only caught the last song, but they sounded pretty good. I hope to catch them again sometime soon to hear more of it live.