Last year, Norfolk-based alternative rock band Deaf Havana showed us just what they were capable of when they reinvented their sound entirely with the Fools And Worthless Liars Deluxe Edition. Breaking away from the typical melodic hardcore sounds that they has been previously associated with, the band had a chance to show of their incredible musical talent and prove to the world that there is a lot more to Deaf Havana than meets the eye.
Now though, the boys are back with their highly anticipated third studio album, Old Souls. A slight change in the line-up (keyboardist Max Britton and guitarist/vocalist Matthew Veck-Gilodi permanently joined the band earlier this year) and a helping hand from a number of astonishing vocalists presented another massive shift from Deaf Havana’s earlier records, giving Old Souls a more mature and commercial sound that the band have worked more than hard to achieve. With influences from American rock classics, a few Brit-rock favourites and a hint of indie, Deaf Havana made a risky move that paid off brilliantly, causing ticket sales for their upcoming tour and pre-orders of the album to explode, finally pushing them into the top ten of the Official UK Album Chart.
The album kicks off with the anthemic Boston Square. Premiered on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show back in May, the song was written by frontman James Veck-Gilodi as a dedication to an old school friend that took his own life. It’s clear from the start that the band have seriously matured; James’ lyrics are poetic as ever, yet they lack the cynicism that Fools And Worthless Liars brought us, and his already-incredible vocals have somehow managed to improve. Catchy riffs and steady drums make this song an instant fan favourite and definitely one to watch out for on the tour this month.
An instant highlight on the album was track four, Subterranean Bullshit Blues. Influenced highly by classic American rock, the band brought in a helping hand when Grace Barrett took over on backing vocals. For a band that have been forever pushed into the ‘hardcore’ genre, having a soul-singer on vocals really got people talking. Grace had previously toured with the band in the past few months, and while Deaf Havana weren’t in any need of improvement, they still managed to do it yet again.
Night Drives saw James step down as songwriter, as his girlfriend Catrina Davis took over to write what might be one of the most beautiful songs Deaf Havana have ever recorded. The simplicity of Night Drives focuses more on lyrics then anything else, with a serene sound very similar to that of Fifty Four (the closing track to FAWL) to accompany them. A passionate, heartfelt love song, it’s an incredibly personal track that just about anyone can relate to, guaranteed to bring a few tears to the crowd this month.
Another that has taken on the role as songwriter is James’ brother, Matthew Veck-Gilodi. Mildred, the second single from Old Souls (above), saw both brothers take on the lead vocals in an upbeat pop rock duet. Written about an old friend that “grew up too fast”, it’s unclear exactly who Mildred is about, with Matthew joking in a Radio 1 interview that he “wrote it about [his] friend’s cat named Mildred” – a reference to the first line “Has it really been three years since we chose that name?” It seems talent runs through the Veck-Gilodi family as, much like Boston Square, Mildred was more than enough to send ticket and album sales flying.
The final track on Old Souls is Caro Padre, an incredibly raw and powerful track in which James Veck-Gilodi opens up about his estranged father. Joined by the London Youth Gospel Choir on backing vocals, Caro Padre is like nothing we’ve heard from Deaf Havana before, and it just might be the greatest song that the band have ever recorded.
On Fools And Worthless Liars, James talked about being “more than just that band who had that song about friends and not much else.” Well, they’ve really done it this time. Along with the album, Deaf Havana released a documentary film titled English Hearts, detailing their long, emotional journey from school gigs and their first EP (White Lines, But No Camera), to drastic changes in their sound and line-up, right up to the finishing touches of Old Souls, effortlessly proving just how much they deserve to be in the spotlight.
Old Souls is out now.
Review by Kelly Ronaldson