Deaf Havana don’t play songs from Meet Me Halfway, at Least anymore. That’s ok, though. The novelty and simplicity of songs like ‘Friends Like These’ will never be forgotten – standing suspended in time as a memento of the era in which we didn’t care if a song was well-written, as long as it had the right balance of screaming and melody.
I had a chat with Deaf Havana’s guitarist Matt Veck-Gilodi all about it. Not being in the band at the time, but being the brother of the vocalist, he’s in a position to give what I call ‘an insider’s outside opinion’ on the whole thing.
The album that kickstarted their career, released in October 2009 during the golden age of ‘scene bands’ and screaming, is one that divides opinion, ten years on. “It’s not very good, is it?” Matt laughs. “I’m not sure it was particularly good at the time, and I wouldn’t say it’s aged well.”
‘Play ‘Friends Like These’’ shouted out by hecklers has become a running joke at Deaf Havana gigs. But if the band were to ever play a song off the album – perhaps only by having guns pointed at their heads – I wondered which would be the most likely choice.
“I think the last track. The last track is alright. ‘In Desperate Need of Adventure’, because obviously, it needed that many syllables in a song title, because it was 2009.” Ah, the golden era of whole essays as song titles.
Another nod to that moment in time is the feature from Young Guns’ Gus Wood on ‘3 Cheers for the Easy Life’. Along with bands like We Are The Ocean, Kids In Glass Houses, The Blackout, Lower Than Atlantis, Blitz Kids – and now Mallory Knox, Young Guns are another band that didn’t survive to see the 20s. It’s probably time to firmly conclude that that scene, incredible as it was, is dead. But why have Deaf Havana – along with You Me At Six and Don Broco – survived?
The band have evolved so much through the years, and have always left themselves with room to develop further. Perhaps this is why in an era where most of the bands they came up with are either breaking up or staying stagnant, Deaf Havana are still steadily growing, countless Radio 1 plays and big festival slots under their belt. And they’re deserving of it all.
Post hardcore, alternative, folk, straight-up pop – Deaf Havana have done it all. “Apart from jumping away from being a screamo band, we’ve never really made a conscious decision to change a genre or a style. It’s just sort of happened,” Matt says.
They’ve not yet hit their plateau, and the fact that they’ve never released two albums that sound the same and never regressed in their songwriting is likely why. But where does Matt see the band’s sound heading in the future? He’s not sure.
“I have no idea. People have asked us this after the last couple of records, and we’ve been like, ‘Yeah, I reckon we’ll carry on down the same route, or maybe go a bit heavier’, and it’s always been the opposite.”
Having toured with the band since 2012, Matt officially joined Deaf Havana in 2015. I asked him what it was like slotting into such an already well-established band. “It wasn’t too tough; it was just fun,” he says.
Perhaps the biggest change-up Deaf Havana have had was the shift in sound from 2011’s Fools and Worthless Liars to 2013’s Old Souls. What almost felt like a full departure from ‘the scene’ was a big folk nod to the likes of Mumford & Sons. Did Matt’s involvement in the band have anything to do with it? I’m not sure. But he is very much involved in the writing these days.
“It varies from song to song, but generally speaking, James will do the bulk of the writing, and then I’ll come in and help out with that. The last record, I helped out a lot, and the record before. And then we’ll all have our own flavour, but I’d say sometimes I’ll come up with a main part of a song and we’ll flesh it out like that. It is mainly James; me and him together, a lot of the time.”
Perhaps the synth-enthused, dreamy pop sounds of latest album, Rituals, are a product of his own influences. “Right now, I’m listening to a lot of electronic music. I can’t stop listening to Bonobo at the moment. Probably because we’ve been travelling loads, and I find it lends itself really well to that.”
Whatever it is that inspires the sounds that Deaf Havana are making, it works. They may not be the same screamo band that you first heard of back in 2009, but they’ve outlived almost all of their peers, and ten years later, they’re at the top of their game.
They’ve matured – as have their fans – and grown into something truly substantial; a band that can hold their own in the charts amongst the heavyweights of UK music. They’ve left Meet Me Halfway, at Least behind – and the dodgy haircuts that came with being in a band of that ilk – to graze on pastures greener, and deserve every bit of success they’re now getting.
Evolution is key.
Happy 10th birthday, Meet Me Halfway, at Least. Gone but never forgotten. Especially by that one guy who has a ‘Friends Like These’ tattoo.
Catch Deaf Havana on their UK tour, starting tomorrow. £1 from each ticket will go to War Child. The dates are as follows: