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INTERVIEWS

VÉRITÉ Got Her Start In a Middle School Punk Band

She’s since graduated to ethereal synth-pop on her new EP, ‘Echo.’

Liza Darwin

Judging from her near-instant jump to number one on the Hype Machine, it’s temping to label VÉRITÉ as an overnight sensation. But everyone knows there’s no such thing—and nobody understands this more than the rising New York musician herself.

VÉRITÉ (whose real named is Kelsey Byrne) may have only been around for a few months as an artist, but her big break has actually been brewing for more than a decade. Thanks to an especially musical upbringing—her father’s a rock musician—the singer and songwriter began first began performing in elementary school, booking tiny venues near her home in Orange County, New York. “I was always oddly driven when it came to music,” she remembers. “I’ve been playing shows since I was 8 or 9, but I guess it just took me a really long time to figure out what capacity I wanted to pursue.” Now she’s found it.

Her lead single “Strange Enough” ignited the internet immediately with its melancholia-meets-electro-pop sound. And not only did it qualify for summer anthem status, it also won her comparisons to everyone from Lana Del Rey to Banks to Ellie Goulding and paved the way for her forthcoming EP.

Now, only a few months after she seemingly appeared out of nowhere, Byrne is readying Echo, out today. The EP is packed with crisp, delicate vocals, soaring melodies, and glistening production courtesy of Elliot Jacobson. While the songs’ cinematic finishes are so gorgeous it’s easy to assume that pop in her blood, she spent her childhood emulating bands like The Cranberries.

“I was actually in a punk rock cover band when I was in middle school,” she remembers with a laugh. “Yeah… we weren’t very good. I started writing music when I was 16, 17, and have slowly but surely been discovering my identity.” All it took was a couple of writing sessions and a random message from Jacobson on Twitter to really nudge it out of her, and Echo is born. Just before its release, VÉRITÉ filled us in on the road to the EP.

Take us back to the beginning. Were you always into music?
I was always oddly driven when it came to music, and I guess it just took me a really long time to figure out in what capacity I wanted to pursue it. But I’ve been playing shows since I was really young, like eight or nine years old. I used to perform at little venues in my town where I grew up.

Wow, just for fun?
Performing live has always been my favorite part. I feel like I’ve always been in bands… I was in an all-girls’ punk cover band when I was in middle school. We weren’t very good. I literally used to point to a girl in the hallway or something, like, “You’re going to be my drummer!” And of course she didn’t play drums. We didn’t care, though, because it was just fun.

When did you decide to take music more seriously?
Well, I started writing songs when I was 16 and have just been trying to find an identity ever since. The thing is, I’ve always been really comfortable onstage. But once I started writing was when it became a different game. It’s now much more personal.

Starting from a middle school punk to electro-pop is a big leap. How’d that happen?
It took me a little longer than most, but here we are. It’s funny—my sound sort of happened serendipitously. I was between projects and not sure where I was going to go, music-wise. I was thinking about getting my Master’s degree, even. Then a few years ago my producer [Elliot Jacobson] sent me a message on Twitter randomly asking what I was up to.

Did you know him before that?
I had met him about five years earlier in a session. He was a session drummer, and was on tour with Ingrid Michaelson. We just started exchanging these emails, and the first email was a list of what we were listening to. I sent him over the chorus and melody for “Heartbeat,” which I had saved for a while.

How did “Heartbeat” steer the sound of the EP?
I think we just didn’t put pressure on ourselves and we really had no intention of what we wanted the music to sound like. We just wanted to make music that we enjoyed, and we threw ideas back and forth for a long time. It just developed from there.

Tell us about the title track, “Echo.”
“Echo” was a completely different song for a long, long time. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t cool…Elliot and I just weren’t that excited, to be honest. Then one day I opened my inbox and he had chopped the whole song up. He stripped it, basically. We re-wrote all of the instrumentation, and the result was a super hard-hitting chorus. What it was before is literally unrecognizable.

How weird is it having your music all over the internet?
It’s crazy. And the fact that people reach out is so awesome. One girl just wrote me [on Facebook] saying that she had heard my song in a clothing store in Poland, which is just so weird to even think about. I’m really grateful for it; it’s really a nice validation of all of the work that I’ve put into it. Having your songs resonate with other people is really the goal and why we make music to begin with.

What can we expect from your live show?
I’ve only had one show so far as VÉRITÉ, actually! It was part of the Neon Gold Popshop in New York, and oh my god—we worked so hard for it. We were so prepared. The show was sold out, and the entire time I was convinced everyone was there just for ASTR, who were headlining. But then I walked onstage and the place was full, like, you couldn’t even get in the door. It was absolute insanity and literally the best time of my life. I just want more of those types of performances [laughs].

Which song off the EP is most memorable for you?
For me, “Heartbeat” was the first song that was ever written that I felt like was an actual representation of myself. I’ve always written music and played music, but I remember after we finished producing it, being like, “This is it. I understand this. I know who I am, what I want to say, and how I want to say it.” It propelled the rest of the writing for the EP.

Buy Echo at iTunes.

Liza Darwin is also a reformed middle school punk. She's on Twitter - @lizadarwin.