“I knew I needed to do something different,” begins Deaf Havana’s frontman James Veck-Gilodi, who’s in the process of trying to combat London’s scorching heatwave by hiding in the shade. He’s currently diving into the headspace he was in before beginning work on the band’s forthcoming fifth album, and if anything is clear, it’s that he was ready for change. “It needed to be radical,” he urges. “It needed to make a decision for me, really.”
That decision was about the future of the band. While, on paper, the quintet had released their Top 5-charting album ‘All These Countless Nights’ just eighteen months ago, what most people wouldn’t realise is that it had long been completed, with label complications and red tape pushing the release further and further back. By the time it finally landed in the charts - something James still seems surprised about - the whole process felt drawn-out and bloated. And so he faced his big decision.
“It would’ve been so easy to release another record that sounded like a bit of a progression from the last one,” he says today, just two months on from having completed ‘Rituals’ - an album they promised themselves they’d released this August. What he didn’t entirely expect, though, was to find himself exploring a totally different side to the band’s sound. While ‘All These Countless Nights’ found them channelling the likes of Springsteen and Tom Petty, ‘Rituals’ is a much poppier beast. “After I wrote the first song [‘Ritual’] completely naturally and it ended up sounding that way, I thought, ‘This is obviously in me somewhere’, so I kept going and it seemed like a good path to follow.”
“At first, it was almost laughable. We would listen to stuff and think, ‘Can we actually use this?!’ But we kept writing.
Working with the band’s longtime sound engineer and friend Phil Gornell in his Sheffield studio - “it totally allowed me the freedom to not feel embarrassed to show him an idea that was crap” - ‘Rituals’’ new direction wasn’t just something that surprised the frontman: his bandmates also needed some convincing.
“At first, it was almost laughable,” he explains. “We would listen to stuff and think, ‘Can we actually use this?!’ But we kept writing. There was a point where we’d written ‘Sinner’ and we thought that was gonna be the ‘pop’ song. Even when I first sent stuff to the guys; there’s a song called ‘Holy’ which I sent to my brother, and he said, ‘Great song, but we can’t use it’, then a week later, he messaged me and we decided to go with it. It did take a while but I always wanted a change. The demos I had written before were so average that we needed to shift gears a bit.”
Shift them, they have. When the album was announced, accompanied by the soaring lead track they thought would be their token pop offering, it’s safe to say the band weren’t sure how things would go with fans. “I was so scared,” he laughs. “I was convinced that everyone who had previously liked our band was going to disown us, but there have been less bad comments on the first single of this than the first single of ‘…Countless Nights’. It couldn’t have gone better. “If that reaction’s anything to go by, this gear-change was the right decision after all.
‘Rituals’ is out now via SO Recordings.