Ben Leverock and Stuart Gardham met in 2013 whilst auditioning for a band they were involved in for six months, and subsequently sacked from, with no musical output of consequence. This time together did, however, nurture a friendship and musical affinity (in that order), that serves as the basis for the initial sessions that would become VENN.
They then spent a year holed up in Ben’s studio in Hackney writing and recording what would become their self-produced demo ‘Echoes From Foreign Spaces’ - hand made CDR copies of which were left, with a note encouraging the finders to make contact, in, amongst other places, HMV Oxford Street, the toilets of Soho House, and on the grave of Jack Kerouac in Lowell Massechusetts. Concurrently, a number of personnel additions were made that, while they did colour the sound the project was evolving, ultimately didn’t stick. The line-up was finalised in late 2014 when they found a perfect fit in John Petrie via a well timed Gumtree ad.
This trio then began to perform live, and the resultant cohesion and sense of momentum provided the stimulus for VENN to form their own label and begin to release music. 2016 saw the band put out two 12” records to some great press reactions and radio play from, amongst others, Noisey, The Guardian, BBC 6Music, and BBC Radio 1.
All the while, the pressures faced by anyone looking to live and build a family in London led to less and less time being available to write and record together, and ultimately to Ben’s relocation to Berlin. While this geographical dispersal may have been an obstacle, for this band, in the age of the internet and budget airlines, it was the stimulus for a new form and process of creativity; with members able to work on and communicate ideas at home and via the internet, before finding time to converge in London or Berlin and run them through the mill that is VENN. The clarity of communication that this economy of time demanded has also refined the band’s dynamic and identity into something much clearer and precise.
Musically, an affinity exists for early influences like Wire and Liars; bands that are not limited to one sound, yet have clear aesthetics and continue to challenge an audience’s perceptions. In other words, an outright refusal of inertia. As VENN have progressed past their early post-punk-krautrock template, a new constellation of sounds and musicality has emerged, more clear and truthful to themselves.
A motorik repetition remains but with keener attention to harmony and melody that, outwardly, perhaps has more in common with pop music than some of the band’s more experimental and opaque tastes. Each song is designed to an effect - often emerging from visual and drawn cues and blueprints - with every note, and each sound, having a purpose within each piece. Always striving for momentum in all its wonderful forms.
Now signed to Full Time Hobby, the band’s debut album ‘Runes’ will be released on 3rd March 2017. The first single ‘Real Blood’ will be out on 20th January 2017, with UK & European shows in support of the record.
The album was recorded at the Total Refreshment Centre in London, by Kristian Craig Robinson (AKA Capitol K) of The Archie Bronson Outfit and Loose Meat.
Lyrically, each song occupies its own territory, while contributing to the wider thematic arc of the record. Themes of the individual existing within a moment we all share, the incredible flux of culture, the search for nodes of meaning and love, and the confrontation of ones’ own vanity and narcissism amid all this crisis.
The accompanying video for ‘Real Blood’ was directed by photographer, Emma Gibney, and shot by editor, Mark Norgate. It is described by the band as “a visual representation of the song’s deeper meaning – of the struggle to feel real in an increasingly cold, closed culture, to remain human even when you are confronted with inhumanity”, while exploring tangential themes of mutual and reciprocal domination, if indeed such a thing exists.