Veruca Salt Have a Lot of Catching Up to Do
Nina Gordon and Louise Post discuss what it's like to get back in the studio after years of being away.
In 1998, music was a different world. There was nothing to download illegally, nothing to stream, and nothing that would suggest a band you might want to hear if your tastes were preferable to Everclear or Eve 6. The reverent memories of early 90s Seattle rock that Gen Xers fawned over were squashed like Milli Vanilli’s dreams, and the post-grunge movement with bands such as Fuel and Godsmack was in full-effect. Also in 1998, when music was uninvolving and stagnant, Veruca Salt—a foundational alt-rock component of the early 90s grunge scene (and the band directly responsible for their hit song “Seether” inspiring the name behind alt-metal-alt-rock-alt-garbage-mess, Seether), invariably called it quits after two studio albums—their 1994 debut album American Thighs and 1998’s Eight Arms to Hold You—and one EP, Blow it Out Your Ass. In the midst of writing a new record guitarist and founder Nina Gordon left on her own accord (a move late admitted by Gordon as drug-related) to the dismay of founding members Louise Post, Jim Shapiro, and Steve Lack. But Post, who continued under the Veruca Salt surname, and Gordon, who embarked on a solo career throughout the 2000s, recorded the songs they’d written together separately, and for the next 15 years remained estranged both as friends and musicians.
Of course, rather than getting all weepy and depressed over what was and what could have been, recent news from the Veruca Salt camp regarding an upcoming album and extensive summer tour has fans, more or less, hurling with happiness. With Gordon and Post’s official reconciliation over a year ago prompting a ten-inch release on April 19 for Record Store Day—featuring new singles “Museum of Broken Relationships,“ “It’s Holy,” and the not-so-new single “Seether”—fans can cease from acting like petulant little children and embrace that which they’ve been anticipating for far too long. I recently spoke with Nina Gordon and Louise Post about the upcoming album and tour, and also whether Green Day’s “Brain Stew” was off of Dookie or Insomniac, recording near the 20th anniversary of American Thighs, why balancing baby life with music life is pain, and whether or not they’d tour with Hole if Hole finally gets back together.
At the end of the video for “Museum of Broken Relationships,” you both started laughing. I thought it was a pretty cool moment. What was so funny?
Nina Gordon: When we were playing the song in the studio for the video, for the camera, we just felt kinda silly. You always feel silly when you make a video and you start pantomiming your own song, even though we were actually playing, and we were singing. But when it was over I guess Brad [Wood], our producer, was in our headphones and we were joking saying, "Is this a keeper?" Because that’s what you say at the end of a take when you’re in the studio: "Is that a keeper, or should we scratch it and move on?" That’s why. We were just laughing because it was funny to be pretending to play a song and record, too.
Was it also a response of recording something together and making a video for the first time in over a decade?
Louise Post: Definitely the making a video and having a camera in our faces—we haven’t done that in a long time. There’s some silliness about all of it. But in terms of being back together, we’ve actually been playing as a band now for a year and Nina has sort of been back for a couple of years now. We got together two years ago and went out to dinner. Then we started playing together a few months later. Every step of the way, we are reminded of how nice it is to be playing together again, whether it's listening to each other sing, or singing together, or playing with [drummer] Jim [Shapiro; Nina’s brother] and [bassist] Steve [Lack], and hearing Steve’s beautiful basslines and Jim’s absolutely unique and amazing drumming; the chemistry that makes a band is like the chemistry of a family. There’s no getting around that. It really feels like members of a family being reunited. And we’re actually getting used to it now. The novelty is wearing off for us a little bit in a good way.
Nina: I have to interrupt because for me, it hasn’t worn off. Yesterday we started practicing in a new practice space, and instead of playing clumped together, we were actually playing on a stage in a practice space. Standing up at the mic and hitting my distortion pedal and looking over at Louise at my left—you couldn’t stop me. I was like, "Oh my god this is happening." I’ve had dreams in which this would happen where all of a sudden I’d be onstage with Veruca Salt again and I would get all panicked and be like, "I don’t remember the songs!" But yes, I still do have that feeling, like a weird reality flash where I look over and I see Louise and I’m like, "Oh my god I’m playing with her again."
So why decide to make an album now? Was it more for the fans, or was it more for you?
Louise: Well, we didn’t plan it this way. We really thought we might just do a reunion show or two. As it happened, as soon as Nina and I started playing together, we played some songs from American Thighs and we got teary and it was an incredible thing to sing together again. Then pretty much right away we were interested in what was next. Part of that was because we both had taken a break from music to focus on our families. But right now we’re bursting at the seams artistically and creatively and we’re really eager to return to an artistic life. So we got together right around that time. It was like we both came up for air and it took years for us to be ready to heal our wounds. We went out on our separate ways and had separate lives and it was really like the stars aligned. It had to happen when it happened and it was just a coincidence that we were reunited, recording and releasing a new record on the twentieth anniversary of American Thighs. It was pure coincidence. There was no big design here. It just so happened that the cards happened to fall this way.
You mentioned taking a break to focus on your families. Is it hard to balance your time between your kids and the band?
Nina: [Laughs] I want to be fantastic and be like, "No, it’s easy! It’s no problem at all. There are no problems here." But no, we spend a lot of time agonizing together over how difficult it is, because you really want to throw yourself into music. It’s such a part of who we are and it’s like it’s [music] been reborn. I crave being able to go and write songs; to go into my room and play, but I have two young kids and I love them and I want to be with them. We’ve been rehearsing a lot lately and our kids are seeing a lot less of us and we’re constantly reassuring each other that this is good. That’s is good for them, and it’s good to see us working, to see us inspired and it’s OK.
Do your kids ever come into the recording studio?
Louise: They not only come into the recording studio, they started a band.
Nina: They’re four, five, and seven and they go in the studio and they want to play the drums and the organ and all the cool keyboards.
Louise: And Nina’s daughter knows all of our songs and her friends know them, too.
Nina: It is pretty funny, but it can be pretty stressful. We’re just trying to stay positive and trust that it is really good. One of the things that struck me the first couple of years of motherhood when I wasn’t playing music and I wasn’t working, was when my daughter would say, "Daddy works, Mommy doesn’t work." It always kind of cut me to the core. I’d be like, "What? Wait a second, this isn’t right. Yes, I want to be with you all the time, but there’s this other part of me." Then I started playing my kids my songs and being like, "This is what Mommy did before you were born. This is what I used to do." They started to really like the songs and then they were like, "Mommy used to have a job." [Laughs] It always made me feel really shitty. It’s just nice now to be able to say, "I gotta go work. You’re the most important thing to me, but music is important to me and it’s important for me to do what I love." I think that’s a great lesson for our daughters and also for my son.
When you first started hanging out together after 15 years, did you notice any changes in one another?
Louise: That’s a big question.
Nina: That is a big question. I don’t want to monopolize, but I’ll just say for myself that my gut reaction is no. Louise is so familiar to me that it was like being with my sister that I hadn’t seen in 15 years—and 15 years is a really long time—but it was so instantly familiar and comfortable past the first moment. The first moment when we got together we were both nervous. But immediately, once I saw her face, it was kind of amazing how instantly comfortable and how musically we just clicked back in. It was so moving and exciting. That’s why we have this momentum and the desire to continue, because its chemistry; you can’t deny it. As a friend and a woman it’s like we have so much in common and our lives have taken such a similar path even though we’ve been separate. Do you have anything to say on the subject, Louise?
Louise: I totally agree with what you said and I would add that I feel like the way we’ve both grown and matured compliments one another. It’s also reassuring to know you as you are now; to see how the passage of time has affected both of us and where we’ve both landed in our lives. It’s as if we knew each other the whole time, because we did. And like Nina said, we had similar paths in certain ways and it’s kind of amazing. I just love who Nina has become over the years and I’m so glad to know her again now. When we first got back together I just felt this wave of relief. Like, thank god, everything is how it’s supposed to be now—and we’re also grown-ups.
Nina: Yeah, we’re grown-ups now. We were in our 20s [in Veruca Salt] and we didn’t have stable lives, really. So some of the differences now are stability and the feelings of being anchored in a way that we certainly weren’t when we used to play together. Also, it’s funny: we’re constantly asking each other stuff like, "Oh my god! So what did you think of the White Stripes?" One came up the other day… what was it? We were like, "Did that come out while we were together or when we were broken up?" It was a Green Day song and we both really liked it. There’s always things like that where we have to touch base.
Louise: What’s the name of that song? It goes like… [Louise starts humming the chord progression from “Brain Stew”].
Nina: I can’t remember what it’s called.
I know what you’re talking about but I can’t think of the name either. I think it’s off Dookie or the one after that.
Nina: Insomniac [Green Day’s 4th studio album].
Louise: I went to go see American Idiot last night and my husband said, “All I can say is that I better get the name of that song.”
Nina: It’s kind of like the chord progression from “Smoke on the Water” [by Deep Purple] and a chord progression from some Chicago song. It’s the one that goes, "On my own, here we go." But anyway.
Louise: The other thing, Stephanie, is we really had another record in us when we broke up, and we were on our way to making that record before we fell apart personally. We went ahead and recorded some of the songs in our individual careers—"career” is such an icky word, sorry—but we hadn’t finished working together. We were never done creatively and it felt that that was ripped out from underneath us. But now here we are and we get this chance to make another record. We could have just gotten together and played a reunion tour and it might have been fun, but I imagine it also would have been kind of boring for me—not that it wouldn’t be fun to do—I just feel like that’s not enough and I’m not ready to throw in the towel.
What’s more interesting to me, to all of us, is writing new stuff and playing new stuff. It’s super fun to play American Thighs, Eight Arms to Hold You, and Blow it Out Your Ass [Veruca Salt’s 1996 EP]. It’s really fun to play those records and we can’t wait to play them on tour this summer.
I wanted to ask about those songs you were writing around the time you broke up. Are you going to go back to those and perhaps incorporate them into the new album?
Nina: I ended up recording a couple of them on my first solo album, Louise ended up recording some of them on Resolver [Veruca Salt’s third studio album post-Gordon]. There were definitely pieces of songs that were in various states of completeness that we have picked back up again, yes. Then there are also some songs that have just been written now, collaboratively, in a way that we’ve never written before. Just to be able to sit together and write a song? We never did that.
But also, to go back to your first question, we aren’t doing this for the fans. We are thrilled that there are still fans out there and it’s been nice to watch it unfold on the internet and to know that there are people out there who are excited about this. But really as it was originally in 1993 or 1994 with Brad, it’s exactly the same. We’re kind of doing this for ourselves. We’re doing this because we’re just so thrilled to be playing music together and recording together and it’s exciting. To be recording vocals with Louise again is like a dream come true. It’s mostly about us and our artistic desires.
Louise: But, Stephanie, that being said, you cannot entitle this interview, “Sisters Are Doing It for the Artistic Desire.”
OK, one last question: If Hole decides to get back together, would you consider touring with them?
Louise: [Laughs] We would love to tour with the Breeders, we would love to tour with Sonic Youth and a variety of bads that we loved at the time… but that’s not one of them.
Stephanie Dubick is on Twitter, remembering the 90s - @SteffLeppard