One of the most prolific female-fronted rock bands that emerged from the pre-grunge era of the 1990s was Veruca Salt. Nina Gordon and Louise Post led the four-piece until Gordon left the band in 1998 to pursue a solo career.
The songs penned by both Gordon and Post after her departure made it pretty clear that there was more to the story – a fact Gordon openly admits to since her return to the band, and her friendship with Post.
The band’s connection with Australian audiences, however, has been unwavering. They even released Australian-exclusive content in 2003 (the Officially Dead Australian Tour EP) after their debut album American Thighs charted higher here than the USA or UK.
Gordon is looking forward to returning to the country in early 2018 for a series of performances at A Day On The Green, as well as a couple of headline sideshows, although her focus is more on motherhood these days – a role she tells Music Feeds helped her reconnect with Post and her bandmates on a new level.
Music Feeds: Catch us up on what you’ve been up to lately.
Nina Gordon: Well we’re just like starting to think about being a band again, to play some shows in Australia in February! Louise and I have been working together a lot over the last couple of years but, as a band, we have not played together in a while. So we’re just starting to, you know, rehearse a little bit and learn chords to the songs again… we’re a little rusty.
MF: Excellent. So are the nerves kicking in yet?
NG: No, not at all. We’ve got some time for that. Mostly we’re just looking forward to it. Slightly stressed about leaving home, we all have young kids now so there are lots of logistical things that have to be worked out before we get over there, but we will do it. We’re excited about it.
MF: You were last in Australia, I think, before the latest album (Ghost Notes) was released, wasn’t it? Around the time of Veruca Salt’s MMXIV EP.
NG: That’s right! Oh, you’re reminding me! I hadn’t really realised that but yes, you’re right, it was when we had that EP out but we hadn’t done Ghost Notes… that’s good to know when we’re trying to come up with our set list for what we’re going to play on these shows… we should play some Ghost Notes stuff, for sure.
MF: Oh yeah, definitely. Have you been working on any new material?
NG: Well no. We’ve been writing separately – Louise writes and I write – but we took a major break over the summer, our summer, so June/July/August, and we’re kind of getting back in the saddle again and we’ve been working on a video podcast that we’re going to be launching soon-ish, hopefully very soon, but I can’t say too much yet. So that’s been taking up a lot of our time. And life and motherhood have been taking up a lot of our time. But what I know is as soon as we get back in the room with the band to start rehearsing we’re going to start writing new songs and new material like crazy, because that’s what always happens. Once you feel like you’re in a band, you want to write songs again, you know?
MF: Muscle memory and all that?
NG: Yeah… and also just inspiration and feeling fuelled by the sound and the excitement of hearing ourselves all together and the chemistry and stuff. So that just kind of always sparks new material, just getting back in the room together.
MF: Of course! So you’re coming out here for A Day On The Green, with some incredible acts – are you a fan of any of the bands you’re going to be touring with?
NG: I actually have to admit some of them I don’t know. The Living End and Spiderbait I do, and I am a fan so I’m really looking forward to it. Also The Lemonheads, I’m excited about that – we played some shows back in the day together. I think Louise when she was doing Veruca Salt after we had broken up, I feel like she might have toured with The Living End, maybe? I’m not sure, anyway, I don’t want to talk out of school, but anyway I feel like she has some kind of connection to one of those bands. But yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. It seems like it’s a strong group of bands.
MF: It’s also a winery tour, you know – so are you more of a wine girl or a whisky girl?
NG: (Laughs) You know, I was just talking with my husband last night and was just saying you know, I feel like I’ve reached the point where I just don’t feel good when I drink wine anymore. I get a headache, I get a stuffy nose, so I’m more of, yeah, not necessarily whisky but more of a tequila or vodka, things that keep my head clear. But wine for some reason… maybe it’s just red wine, actually, I’m pretty good with white and rosé. But it cracks me up that we’re doing a winery tour, it’s so funny. I mean I think it’s going to be really fun and super cushy because it’s so civilised, first of all, but also the way the tour is scheduled is not too gruelling. There are big breaks between shows.
The last time we came to Australia in 2014 it was ridiculous how that thing was scheduled. I don’t know how that happened, but it was a non-stop two weeks. I think because we wanted to get a lot done in a short time, we didn’t want to be away from our families, but also we kept adding shows so it was like, Melbourne then fly to Sydney then back to Melbourne then back to Sydney [laughs] I mean it was just really stupid. I mean, it was great, but this is going to be much more chilled and I think pleasant. I just hope it’s not going to be too hot, I don’t like extreme heat. I live in Los Angeles and it’s like, September and October are ridiculously hot and you may know, there are terrible fires going on right now in California and it’s really hot, so I’m looking forward to winter. Then I’m going to leave during winter and go to your summer! So I hope it’s not too beastly over there.
MF: I hope so too, for your sake! So, this is something that I’ve always personally wondered – what was it about Veruca Salt the character that made you want to name your band after her?
NG: [Laughs] Well we were young and not necessarily spoiled but we had a very arrogant attitude of just like, ‘we want to dominate the world, we want it now’. There was just a feeling of, like, not necessarily a bratty little rich girl vibe but more like, I want what I want and I don’t want to apologise for it. So there was a whole kind of feminist attitude behind it, a feeling of like, we can demand exactly what we want and get it. I think that was the inspiration. Also, it was just a cool sounding name, the words were cool. What we didn’t know, though – until we were touring in England and doing interviews in England – we didn’t know that of course Roald Dahl who wrote the book was British and named the awful, miserable character Veruca Salt because verruca was a type of wart. So I don’t know if that’s true for Australia, I don’t know if you call it a verruca, we just call it a wart you know, in America you don’t hear the word verruca. But apparently, in England, everyone refers to, “Oh I have a verruca on my foot.” So we were shocked when we got over there and people wanted to take pictures of our feet and we were just like, “Oh shit, why did we do that?” We were just going by sound and symbol.
MF: You left the band for a good 15 years or so – what was going on when you left?
NG: Just bad vibes, bad stuff. A lot of disagreements. We just kind of broke each other’s hearts in a way, we had gotten to the point where we were just kind of… I never know what to say. It’s all so blurry and sounds so silly now, and we have big regrets about letting anyone come between us and shutting down communication when we should have been talking to each other. We just pissed each other off, and we couldn’t just get in a room and work through it. We always think, you know, had we been a bigger band or had we had better support around us, somebody would’ve said something. We always joke that if Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had ever gotten into a fight, one of them would have punched the other one and then it would have been over and they would have gotten on with it because they were The Rolling Stones, you know? [laughs] But our band wasn’t massive, we weren’t like U2 or anything, we weren’t a massive cash cow – those bands are like corporations, there’s a whole machine saying, “You’ve got to keep it together.” In our case, it was sort of like, “No we don’t, I don’t want to be in the same room with her right now… so bye! We have our whole lives in front of us, so bye!” And then we let all that time go by.
When we finally found each other we were full of such regret that we didn’t patch things up sooner because we loved playing music together, we loved singing together. Louise and I have a chemistry, and we love singing together. It all seems so silly and stupid now, but at the time we were very dramatic and very precious about our thoughts and our feelings, you know? And now it’s just like, “Huh? Why?” it’s all such silly stuff.
MF: What actually prompted you to come back to the band?
NG: Well, Louise and I had been talking to each other on the phone maybe? Or via email? Things had kind of thawed out a little bit, we had warmed up to each other at least on a personal level. Not necessarily on a musical level, we hadn’t talked about making music. I think, like, she had heard I’d had a daughter and sent me something very nice when Ivy was born, and then we talked and sent some emails. We were just getting to know each other again but neither one of us would even have dared to say, “Hey, do you want to get together and play some music?” That chapter was done. That book was burned, we were done. Then something happened, I think it was Mazzy Star playing Coachella or something, and they hadn’t played together in 15 years or something and all of a sudden this – I don’t know if it was jealousy or envy or inspiration – something just popped and sparked this feeling of, “We need to do that. Why aren’t we doing that?” So I emailed her and just said, “Hey… why aren’t we doing this?” Louise was like, “I don’t know, let’s go have coffee?” [laughs] We hadn’t seen each other in person in 14 years. So we met for dinner and we talked and we sobbed and we apologised and we made amends and we did our whole thing. Then we called the guys – my brother happens to be our drummer, so that was easy – but we called Steve and were like, “Would you consider… maybe… yes?” Everyone was really excited about it so we did it and we’re all so glad we did. Again, it all seems so ridiculous now that we busted the whole thing up for so long.
MF: During the time away from the band, you did a lot of solo stuff. Did you learn anything from going solo that you brought back with you to the band?
NG: Ah, that’s an interesting question. I don’t know about that. That’s a really good question. I don’t know, I can’t really make that connection at the moment. I’m sure I’ll think of it at like two in the morning, I’ll be lying in bed like, “Oh, yeah, that totally makes sense, yes of course I did.” [laughs] I can’t think right now of what that would be… except for maybe the confidence that I felt in trusting myself and being able to do it on my own. But also I missed the collaboration. I loved recording on my own right after. The experience of making that first solo record was awesome because I was still pissed and I loved the fact I didn’t need to answer to anyone and nobody had to agree with my opinions, I just got to make all the decisions. That was very liberating and fun. But then I started to miss that feeling of bouncing ideas and feeling like we’re in this together. A band is like, you know, it’s like a gang, it’s a team and you’ve got each other’s backs – ideally – so there was some aspect of that that I really missed and was so happy to have back again after all those years.
MF: And Louise and yourself have always shared the frontwoman role, which is quite unusual for a lot of bands – how do you guys make it work?
NG: Well we didn’t, that was part of the problem. We didn’t make it work and ultimately I think that was part of what made it so difficult to be in the band together. We were four people with extremely strong opinions, then we were two people who were supposedly fronting, or like co-parenting the band, and co-parenting is really hard you know, and so is co-fronting a band. You think your way is best, and you feel like someone is getting in your way if they’re disagreeing with you. You have to compromise, and sometimes you don’t want to compromise. I think it’s much, much, much easier now because we have evolved as human beings and as artists. When you’re in your 20s it’s like, “No, these are my feelings and they are sacred and no-one must disagree with them,” but having children, being married, having some wisdom and experience that comes with time allows you to collaborate, I think, in a way that you couldn’t before.
Plus there’s a practical aspect to this, which is, once you have kids and life and family, you don’t have the time to do it all yourself. You need someone else. Louise and I are really good at passing the baton, it’s like a relay as opposed to an individual race and you kind of need that. It’s like, “Oh, Louise, I don’t have time to finish this song – can you finish it for me? I’ve got to go pick up the kids!” [laughs] Or, for example, doing phone interviews – she’s doing half of them and I’m doing half of them. So you need a partner, it makes it much nicer.
MF: And I guess actually being parents now and being used to parenting makes it a bit easier now in terms of compromising?
NG: Yeah, absolutely it does. Because when you have children they don’t think about… oh, well, anyway, I think one of my children is actually listening at the door so I’m not going to say anything. (Ivy! Will you please get back in bed?) She doesn’t want to get back in bed, and I have to somehow live with that. [laughs] So it is, it’s a lesson.
A Day On The Green 2018
With: The Living End, Spiderbait, Veruca Salt, The Lemonheads, Tumbleweed & The Fauves
Saturday, 24th February
Bimbadgen, Hunter Valley
Sunday, 25th February
Sirromet Wines, Mt Cotton
Saturday, 3rd March
Petersons Winery, Armidale
Saturday, 10th March
Josef Chromy Wines, Launceston
Sunday, 11th March
Mt Duneed Estate, Geelong
Saturday, 17th March
Leconfield Wines, McLaren Vale*
*The Lemonheads not performing
Veruca Salt 2018 Australian Headline Shows
Thursday, 1st March
Metro Theatre, Sydney (18+)
Friday, 9th March
170 Russell, Melbourne (18+)