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Monday, September 1, 2014 
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edited by michael goldbergcontact


Sounds From Nature: Laura Veirs

Like the stark yet fresh landscapes of America's Pacific Northwest, Laura Veirs' art is both primitive and urbane. Her music and paintings are as much at home in the barn on her farm as in the cultivated venues of Seattle. One can imagine her voice haunting the forests that surround her.  Her songs, as well as her paintings and drawings, are often literally dark.  Her voice can be shivering and fragile.  Yet when she speaks to you, she sounds more like a friendly teenager than a soul-searching adult; full of enthusiasm for the future.  "I'm just really happy to have this opportunity to share my music with people, and so far, the tour has been really fun," she said during a recent interview.

Carbon Glacier wowed some critics upon its release in Europe earlier this year, with The Independent declaring it "the most enthralling album of the year thus far."

Reviewing an import copy for Neumu in late March, Brian Barr wrote, "The challenge here?  Crafting a record that fully captured the emotional diversity of the Northwest landscape.  And she has met her challenge.  Here, Veirs' songs echo the loneliness of the Cascades, meditate on the moodiness of the Puget Sound region, and drift to sea on the numbing freedom waves of the Pacific."

Veirs recently completed her first U.S. tour, and Carbon Glacier is finally available in the U.S. on the prestigious Nonesuch label (Wilco, Buena Vista Social Club, Randy Newman, Brian Wilson's Smile).

"Connecting with the audience makes me feel vital and alive," Veirs, 31, said, on the phone from New York, after returning from a three-week tour that took her to England, Scotland, Switzerland, and France.  

Perhaps inspired by years of studying geology in college — Veirs has a double major in geology and Chinese — Carbon Glacier includes countless references to the natural world.  Written and composed in her backyard barn in Seattle, the 13 songs make use of a broad range of environmental metaphors ranging from ether to riptides. The songs are both haunting and happy; the lyrics linger and demand re-examination of their meaning, as in the dreamy musical poem "Rapture" — "Love of color, sounds, and words/ Is it a blessing or a curse... enraptured.”

This is an album full of questions, not answers; Veirs is more of an observer than a philosopher.  She offers us her inner thoughts not so much as ideas but as images. Not all her words are enigmatic, though; often she is very direct about her strong feelings about representing a different side of America than what the world has seen since 9/11, telling me in frustration, "We Americans are not all ignorant! I always make a point of playing [the anti-war] 'Cannon Fodder' [off her previous album, 2003's Troubled by the Fire] these days while on tour in Europe."

Veirs tours with her band the Tortured Souls, an eclectic ensemble whose members include such veteran Seattle underground rockers as former Nirvana cellist Lori Goldston, the producer/drummer Tucker Martine (Modest Mouse, Bill Frissell), Beck viola player Eyvind Kang, Steve Moore on keyboards and trombone, and bass guitarist/guitarist/vocalist Karl Blau.

Martine also produced two previous albums by Veirs — The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae in 2000 and Troubled by the Fire (which former Cocteau Twins member/ Bella Union Records founder Simone Raymond released to critical acclaim in the UK after seeing Veirs perform at the 2002 South by Southwest Festival).

The former college punk rocker and Colorado native was still feeling the effects of travel when she called from New York. "I'm learning it's difficult to be out there emotionally all the time," she said. "Sometimes I get uncomfortable and nervous [performing] night after night.  It's difficult to be emotionally honest with your audience when you're doing 18 shows in 19 days."

Still, she was clearly invigorated by her experience abroad.  "I learned a lot in France — about enjoying life and food and taking more time. I'm trying hard to slow down with people, say hello, even if I don't know them when I walk into a store. There they are much more integrated. For instance, the host of the talk show we did sat down with the audience and the artists later in the cafeteria.  I can't imagine that happening here in the U.S."

Veirs did not start playing guitar until the age of 19, when she found herself emotionally falling apart during a geological research trip in a remote area of a northwest Chinese desert. There, all she had were a couple of yaks and a cheap Chinese guitar to keep her company. She was only able to leave after agreeing to do so by a 10-hour donkey trek.  

After surviving the exotic adventure, and dysentery, she returned to Carleton College in Minnesota.  There she formed an all-girl punk band and began second-guessing her scientific ambitions.  Veirs did manage to stay focused enough on her studies to graduate, and soon thereafter moved to Seattle, working for a time as a guide at the Pacific Science Center. She also taught English as a second language to new Asian immigrants. But she could not get music out of her system and became a regular at open-mic nights around the city.

Her musical career got serious after a friend convinced her to submit a tape for consideration to the 1999 Bumbershoot Festival.   She was accepted, and within a year recorded and released her debut album Laura Veirs (which is still available on her Web site). She followed with The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae (also self-released) in 2001. Last year Bella Union released Troubled by the Fire.

Asked about the rave reviews Carbon Glacier has been getting, she  said, "I don't read my press. I don't want it to influence my songwriting. I want to keep my inner world separated from critical influences."

Veirs is preparing to record a new album with the Tortured Souls in January, with Tucker Martine producing again. "In some ways it is a departure," she said.  "I'm experimenting with new rythyms, more electric guitar and distortion."

For more information on Laura Veirs, as well as tour dates, check out her Web site.


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John Vanderslice Kicks Genre

Paul Duncan's Elusive Pop

Stephen Yerkey's Wandering Songs

French Kicks Complete 'Two Thousand'

Spazzy Romanticism: Love Story In Blood Red

Brain Surgeons NYC Rock The Big Questions

Jarboe's 'Men' Charts Turbulent Emotions

Delta 5's Edgy Post-Punk Resurrected

Blitzen Trapper Spiff Things Up

Minus Five: Booze, Betrayal, Bibles and Guns

New Compilation Spotlights Forgotten Folk Guitar Heroes

Chris Brokaw's Experiment In Pop

Old And New With Death Vessel

Silver Jews: Salvation And Redemption

Jana Hunter's Beautiful Doom

Vashti Bunyan Finds Her Voice Again

Nick Castro's Turkish Folk Delight

Katrina Hits New Orleans Musicians Hard

Paula Frazer's Eerie Beauty

The National Find Emotional Balance

Death Cab For Cutie's New Album, Tour

Heavy Trash's Rockabilly Rampage

Help The Wrens Get Their Albums Released!

Devendra Banhart, Andy Cabic Launch Label

Lydia Lunch's Noir Seductions

Bosque Brown's The Real Deal

PDX Pop Now! Fest Announces Lineup

Sarah Dougher Starts Women-Focused Label

Jennifer Gentle's Joyful Psyche

Mountain Goat Darnielle Gets Autobiographical With 'Sunset Tree'

Mia Doi Todd's Beautiful Collaboration

Return of the Gang of Four

Martha Wainwright Finds Her Voice

Brian Jonestown Massacre's Acid Joyride

Solo Disc Due From Pixies' Frank Black

Heartless Bastards' Big-Hearted Rock

Mike Watt's Midlife Journey

The Black Swans Balance Old And New

Nicolai Dunger's Swedish Blues

The Insomniacs' Hard-Edged Pop

Yo La Tengo Collection Due

Juana Molina's 'Homemade' Sound

Beans Evolves

Earlimart's Songs Of Loss

Devendra Banhart's 'Mosquito Drawings'

Negativland Rerelease 'Helter Stupid'

Alina Simone Transforms The Ordinary

Sounds From Nature: Laura Veirs

Octet's Fractured Electric Pop

Sleater-Kinney Working With Lips Producer

The Cult Of Silkworm

The Evolution Of The Concretes

Devendra Banhart's Exuberant New Songs

Catching Up With The Incredible String Band

Gram Rabbit's Desert Visions

Three Indie-Rock Stars Unite As Maritime

Remembering Johnny Ramone

Jarboe's Many Voices

Phil Elvrum's Long Hard Winter

First U.S. Release For Vashti Bunyan Album

Incredible String Band To Tour U.S.

New Music From Lydia Lunch

Le Tigre Protest The Bush War Presidency

Joel RL Phelps: Bleak Songs Rock Hard

Time Tripping With Galaxie 500

Patti Smith Wants Bush Out!

Sharron Kraus: A New Kind Of Folk Music

The Fiery Furnaces' Psychedelic Theater

Harder, Heavier Burning Brides

Sonic Youth's Ongoing Experiment

The Dt's Do It Their Way

Poster Children Cover Political Rock

Rare Thelonious Monk Recordings Due

Uneasy Pop From dios

Beck, Lips, Waits Cover Daniel Johnston

Understanding Franz Ferdinand

The Truly Amazing Joanna Newsom

Mylab's Boundary-Crossing Experiments In Sound

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The 'Magical Realism' Of Vetiver

The Restless, Rootsy Songs Of Eszter Balint

The Sun Sets On The Blasters

Devendra Banhart To Tour U.S.

The East/West Fusion Sounds Of Macha

Destroyer Gets Mellow For Your Blues

TV On The Radio Get Political

Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse To Play Lollapalooza 2004

New Music From The Fall

Apocalyptic Sound From The Intelligence

Fast And Rude With The Casual Dots

'Rejoicing' With Devendra Banhart

New Album, Tour From The Polyphonic Spree

Shearwater Take Wing

Sleater-Kinney To Tour East/West Coasts

Resurrecting Rocket From The Tombs

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Lloyd Cole Makes A Commotion

Funkstörung's 'Cut-Up' Theory

Waiting For Mirah's C'mon Miracle

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Experimental Sounds From Hannah Marcus

The Ponys Play With Rayguns

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Sun Kil Moon To Tour U.S., Europe

Nothin' But The Truth From The Von Bondies

Sultans Survive 'Shipwreck'

Sebadoh Reunite For Spring Tour

Xiu Xiu's 'Reality' Rock

Meet The Patients

Beth Orton, M. Ward Make Sadness Taste Sweet

Oneida's Pathway To Ecstasy

Radiohead, Pixies, Dizzee Rascal To Play Coachella

Young People Tour Behind War Prayers

Pixies Tour Dates Announced

Ani DiFranco Tells It Like It Is

Deerhoof Back For 2004 With Milkman

McLusky Set To 'Bring On The Big Guitars' Again

Pixies Reunite For U.S., European Tours

American Music Club, Decemberists To Play NoisePop 2004

Damien Rice Set To Tour U.S.

The Frames Accept Your Love

Punk Rock's A-Frames To Re-Record Third Album

Finally! Mission Of Burma Record New Album

A Solo Detour For Ladybug Transistor's Sasha Bell

Return Of The Old 97's

Spending The Night With Damien Rice

Tindersticks Reissues Due This Spring

The Evolution Of 'A Silver Mt. Zion'

Neil Young Rocks Australia With 'Greendale'

Poster Children Back In Action

'The Great Cat Power Disaster Of 2003'

Chicks On Speed's Subversive Strategies

Oranger At A Crossroad

Peaches On Tour And In Control

Jawbreaker's Complete Dear You Sessions To Be Released

Belle & Sebastian + Trevor Horn = Sunny Pop Nirvana

Von Bondies' Pawn Shoppe Heart

Descendents Are Back!

Modest Mouse Touring; Album Due in 2004

London Suede Take A (Permanent?) Break

Saul Williams Wants You To Think For Yourself

The 'Zen' Sound Of Calexico

Elliott Smith Dead AT 34

Debut Due From Mark Kozelek's Sun Kil Moon

The Hunches: Music That'll 'Fucking Live Forever'

Vic Chesnutt Speaks His Mind

90 Day Men Cancel Tour

Keith Jarrett, Cecil Taylor Highlight SF Jazz Festival

For My Morning Jacket, It's The Music That Matters

EP Due From The Polyphonic Spree

Bright Eyes, Neva Dinova Collaborate On EP

The Rise & Fall & Rise Of Ben Lee

Catching Up With Cheerfully Defiant Tricky

Hanging Around With The Polyphonic Spree

Sophomore Album Due From The Shins

Noise Rock From Iceland's Singapore Sling

Death Cab To Tour U.S.

Rufus Wainwright's Want One Is 'Family Affair'

Death Cab's Transatlanticism On The Way

Heartfelt Rock From Sweden's Last Days Of April

The Minus 5 Get Down With Wilco

Tywanna Jo Baskette's Southern-Gothic Rock

Xiu Xiu's Stewart Takes On 'Gay-bashing'

Portishead Producer Resurfaces Behind New Diva

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wire, Primal Scream On Buddyhead Comp

Yeah Yeah Yeahs To Tour West Coast

Sonic Youth, Erase Errata Kick Off 'Buddy Series'

The Locust Are One Scary Band

Damien Rice In The 'Here And Now'

Remembering Karp's Scott Jernigan

ATP-NY Postponed 'Til At Least 2004

The Soul Of Chris Lee

Gits' Frenching The Bully To See Re-Release

Stephen Malkmus Is In Control

Superchunk To Release Rarities Set; Teenage Girls To Swoon As A Result

Summer Touring For The Gossip

Babbling On About Deerhoof

Irish Song Poet Damien Rice's O Released In U.S.

Chatting With ATP's Barry Hogan

Former Digable Planets Frontman Surfaces With Cherrywine

ATP L.A. Festival Rescheduled For Fall

Freakwater's Janet Bean Takes A Solo Turn

Lee's 'Cool Rock'

Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs Highlight YES NEW YORK

Mark Romanek's 'Hurt' Revives Johnny Cash's Career

The Rapture's Post-Punk, Post-Dance Sound

R.E.M., Wilco, Modest Mouse Highlight Bumbershoot Fest

Set Fires To Flames' Sleep-Deprivation Sound

Southern Gothic Past Shadows Verbena's La Musica Negra

The Subtle Evolution Of Yo La Tengo

Spring Tour For Jolie Holland (Plus A Live Album)

Liz Phair Still Pushing The Limits

Gold Chains Wants You To Dance And Think

Young People's War Prayers On The Way



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