Never judge a book by its cover, or judge someone’s outfit — because they might have great music taste and you might want to start a band with them.
New-ish Nashville trio Veaux, consisting of brothers Aaron and Dominick Wagner and Andrew Black, are performing this Thursday at Brooklyn Bowl for WNXP’s Two Year Anniversary show along with Twen and Wet Leg. The band joined me in the studio to discuss their move to Nashville from Colorado, the inspiration behind the song “Dark Planet” and how a pair of acid wash pants brought the band together.
A Q&A with Aaron Wagner, Dominick Wagner and Andrew Black of Veaux
Marquis Munson: How did the song “Dark Planet” come together?
Aaron Wagner: We had been in Nashville for a minute, and we’d been trying a bunch of things. I think that song was us kind of giving up in a way [Laughs]. Like, let’s just make what we want to make unapologetically. So, I was in a writing session with one of my best friends, Jason Locricchio. We were trying to write a song that was very like One Direction, because that’s the day job, we’re both songwriters. We were writing the song and we were just not loving it. We were really frustrated, banging our heads up against the wall, trying to write this poppy Top 40 song. Jason, in all his wisdom, was just like, ‘Can we just like stop this and have fun?’ So, I pulled up a pad — you and I were talking before the interview about how you’re a fan of classic Hip Hop. I just pulled up a sample and started chopping it up. I’m huge J Dilla fan, so from the jump I just started doing that intro.
Aaron Wagner: We were just like, ‘Whoa.’ We had just written out the idea of this song. These guys came in and made it what it is. It was a song where there’s a catchiness to it, but there’s also this old Hip Hop grit to it in a way. So, we’re like, ‘What direction do we go? Do we keep it down the middle or do we just do what we want to do?’ We did and y’all liked it. We were like, ‘Radio is not going to like this. This is really dumb, but we’re just going to make a four-minute song because it’s what we want to do.’ Y’all picked it up almost immediately, which was crazy.
MM: So how did this band come together?
Andrew Black: Well, that’s a long story. I met them maybe 12 years ago now. I had just moved to Colorado from Texas. First week I was there, I ran into these guys, and I don’t even remember how.
AW: I judged Andrew based off his pants.
MM: What pants were you wearing?
AB: I was wearing some awful, acid washed jeans that nobody should have ever been wearing. I was feeling it though.
AW: I don’t know man, they were fly.
MM: So moral of the story, regardless of what you wear, somebody will like it.
AW: They were brave pants. I was walking past a room that he was just hanging in and was like, ‘That dude listens to dope music. I can tell it like, those pants are brave’ [Laughs]. I mean no one is wearing those pants. I immediately knew everything he listened to based on the pants. It was that vibe. I was just like, ‘This guy listens to dope music. Let’s hang.’
AB: At that time, Aaron had a studio in his basement, this is Colorado days. He was in another band at that point, and I was just like hanging around for a little bit. That band dissolved and we were just friends at that point. It was maybe an hour from where I lived and would just come and stay over for days at a time. We would just be in and around the studio and it just kind of came out that.
AW: There was never a intention to start a band. Dominick and I were in a band that just went in a weird direction. It was a band Dominick and I started with some other guys, and I was the main songwriter. There was a point where the other guys in the band were not liking the songs I was coming up with and trying to write songs, which is fine everyone has creative input, but I really did not like the songs we were doing. So, I quit the band. I was the guy in the band and was just like, ‘Yeah, I can’t do this anymore.’ Dominick and I were just chilling. We had no intentions of starting another band, and then we had met Andrew around that time.
Dominick Wagner: Honestly, the sound you know from us for now, we didn’t sound like that at all. We were a rock band, so it’s vastly different. It wasn’t until we moved here, where we were like we should sit in a more Pop vein, and it’s kind of transitioned into what it is over the last three or four years. But it really has been just a huge transition from pure Rock music to things like “Dark Planet.”
MM: What brought you guys to move here to Nashville to continue your journey with music?
AW: We were all unhappy in Colorado, just with life and personal stuff, and we just needed a change. Nashville was not even on our radar at this point. My wife and I woke up one morning and by that night we had made the decision to move. There was just a crazy series of circumstances. I think that morning I had woken up and listened to an interview with Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic, he’s like a legend in Colorado. He said something on air like, ‘If you’re making music and you’re not in L.A. or Nashville, what are you doing? Like, do whatever you want to do, but you really need to analyze why you’re not there.’ That started a whole series of conversations. We had had a conversation with Andrew and his wife that night. We’re like, ‘We heard this thing on the radio, and it was crazy. What do we think about this?’ And we started a conversation like, ‘Oh, we need to move to Nashville.’ We had talked to Dominick a few days later and he was like, ‘Yeah, nah, I’m not moving’ [Laughs].
DW: I was not having it, not having it at all.
AW: But we’re here and I think there’s just more opportunity here. We really wanted to put ourselves to the test of seeing how far our potential could go.
MM: How did you guys come up with that name Veaux?
AW: We were in a band with a couple of other guys and one of the player’s last name was Harveaux. He ended up leaving the band and he’s just living his life with kids, job and all that stuff. But we thought that the last part of his name just looked symmetrical and beautiful on a T-shirt. Veaux, we were just like ‘That just looks good.’ When we were coming up with the band name when we moved here. Dominick is just a weird dude and we just like, ‘I would love a name with an X in it, that just that looks hard.’ He just is obsessed with the letter X.
DW: It looks cool. I don’t know what to say.
AW: My wife is a graphic designer. We just had all these band names, and she would design a brand around each of the band names we thought of. Veaux just looked the best. Like that would look cool on a sweatshirt. It’s like a colloquial term for common people in French, or it means baby cows or something like that. But also, it means common people. I think we just come from this idea and this love of songs, just people telling stories. So we just felt like that was a great way for us to approach things. It’s just people telling stories and sharing our hearts on that.
MM: When you guys are in a studio together, what does that creative process look like?
AB: Man, it looks like a lot of things. For a song specifically for us, normally Aaron is just running vibes all day, all night. We’ll come in and he’ll have like 20 different song starts ready to go and me and Dominik will listen through to them. We sit in the room, and we see what pops out and if any anything feels right, I know that sounds super vague, but that’s how it works.
AW: We just have a note of song starts. Any day that I have off from writing for other people, I just make eight bar loops all day and so they just sift through my hard drive and are like, ‘This one.’ So, then we go.
MM: I want to go back to something that you said about one of the bands you were in wasn’t really a fan of the stuff that you were writing, have you felt like you’ve evolved as a songwriter?
AW: With Veaux specifically, I think I’m just trying to make what I love. For any songwriter, for any band out there, I think the big thing is there’s a long time of you kind of copying other people. That’s how you learn to speak, right? Like a baby, they repeat things. There was just a lot of years of repeating what I had heard and getting my brain around writing, recording, and producing because I do all of that. That was just me finding my legs and I think this last maybe two or three years of Veaux is really being like, ‘Oh, this is what I do.’ I’m finally speaking my own language and it’s the amalgamation of like J Dilla, Coldplay, Underoath, and all these worlds that don’t make sense but make sense to me in my brain. Obviously, what these guys bring into that. We know each other so well, where I almost know what they’re going to bring to the table, and they listen to the weirdest music. So, I know that I’m able to approach something from a certain way and know that Dominick or Andrew is going to have a weird idea that’s going to bring it even more into what is unique to our fingerprint as a band.
MM: I want to talk about something that near and dear to all our hearts and that’s the show Atlanta. I talked to Samm Henshaw about this, and he talked about how shows like Atlanta and Insecure help him creatively. Is that the same thing for you when you watch stuff like that or hear something, it inspires you creatively for your own music?
AW: Yeah, I’m obsessed with that show. I think it’s incredible. Donald Glover, Hiro Murai, just phenomenal. I have learned about myself that listening to music is not helpful for me. I get insecure. I feel like I end up making like the Kroger brand version of whatever I just listened to. So honestly in the car right up, we’re listening to this like Alt Country guy. Because I’m never going to make that music on my own with Veaux. It’s just so far outside of what I’m going to do that it’s relaxing for me. I personally, I don’t know about these guys, they can share their thing, but I personally draw a lot of inspiration from TV. Atlanta, Insecure was a great show, and I don’t know, maybe it just sounds lame, but movies like Blade Runner, Interstellar or stuff like that where I’m just like, ‘Whoa.’ I don’t know, it just moves me in a certain way.
MM: I always tell people that Atlanta is one of the smartest shows. It’s one of those shows that you watch and then have to go online and look up what everything meant and then it all makes sense afterwards.
AW: And it’s just the scale of it. I think I’m inspired by scale. There’s like this stoic principle they talk about where if you see someone do something, then it’s possible for you to do. I think really tapping in with that in the last year, especially for us. Seeing someone like Donald go to the nth degree of their creative abilities. You’re like, ‘Oh, he’s using the same software that I have. I can buy that.’ I can tap in and really exercise my creative sharpness to that level. It is possible for me.
MM: Even with his evolution music-wise. I remember because Camp, his first project and I listened back to that recently and I’m like, ‘What is going on here?’ He came out with Before the Internet and Awaken My Love you can listen and watch the evolution of him with his music.
DW: Donald Glover is one of those cool guys. We love him, but it’s like you listen to his music and I appreciate his artistry because there is no wrong answer. Even if there is, he doesn’t care. Whether it be in his music, his TV shows, the jokes that he tells, the videos that he makes for his music, there’s no wrong answer. I think that’s really, at least for me, liberating to watch that. Here it is, there it is. Take it as you may. I don’t care.
AW: I’m on to the next thing.
DW: Yeah. Like he’s done. And I love that.
MM: Are you guys working on a project or releasing a couple of singles and seeing how that plays out? What the next plan musically for Veaux?
AW: We just want to work. We just want to be busy. At the moment, the plan is just singles. But I don’t know, we’ll see how that works. I think we’re still from that old school. At any given time, all three of us are obsessed with a different album. Like all of us are listening to an album. There’s a guy here in town named Louie Prince and I can’t stop listening to his last record, Flounder. I think it’s the only thing I’ve listened to for two months. So, I’m just really in that right now. I really want to make an album, but I want to wait till we have something to say. So right now, it’s just singles and exploring how to even promote a song, let alone ten plus songs.
MM: Yeah, I also saw you guys shouting out Isaia Huron too. Fantastic artist, as well, based right here in Nashville. We are celebrating two years of music discovery here at this station. I would love to know what you guys are listening to. Anything new? Any established artists that you’re currently into right now?
AB: I’ve got like vertigo. I’ve been on like a Black Sabbath train for the past month [Laughs]. I don’t know anything that’s happening right now. I got to go to weird outer edges and kind of stay there to circle around for what we do, that’s just my vibe.
AW: Who is that crazy industrial band that you like?
AB: I don’t know.
AW: He listens to weird stuff [Laughs].
DW: I finally got off the Tears for Fears train that I was rolling heavy on. I’ve really gone into that era the eighties, seventies, getting into the sixties a little bit with the Rolling Stones. I just really enjoy that sound and that thought process of music in that timeframe, there’s nothing quite like it. I kind of bounce around and then I get super weird. Like yesterday I was listening to Ariana Grande and then I turned on the Deftones, I just bounce all over. I listen to J Dilla records and stuff like that to vibe out, but we really do bounce all over the place.
AW: I’ve been listening to Danger Mouse and Black Thought’s record. Louie Prince’s Flounder, great record. Isaia Huron, he’s a buddy of mine, that song “Self.” Ridiculous.
AW: This is Caleb here filming us. I don’t even know what his experience is driving in the van with us and we’re on the road. But at any given moment you’re hearing Neil Diamond to Blink-182 to Danger Mouse to Tame Impala [Laughs]. And it’s like, ‘All right, this is where we’re at.’ Like we have ADD in that way.
MM: I want to set the scene for people walking into a Brooklyn Bowl on Thursday. They’ve heard the songs, heard “Dark Planet” on this station, but they never seen you perform live. What can they expect from a live Veaux show?
AB: Energy. You would not know by the tones of our voice in this interview [Laughs]. There’s a little hardcore kid switch that gets flipped on and there’s a lot of energy.
AW: We try to put on a big live show. We want every room to feel like a stadium.