VEÌRITE IN LOS ANGELES, MAY 2016. PHOTOS: ZOEY GROSSMAN/ART DEPARTMENT. STYLING: DANI + EMMA. HAIR: SYLVIA WHEELER USING KEVIN MURPHY AT ATELIER MANAGEMENT. MAKEUP: SAMUEL PAUL/FORWARD ARTISTS. MANICURE: STEPHANIE STONE FOR MAC STUDIO NAIL LACQUER AT NAILING HOLLYWOOD. SPECIAL THANKS: THE HOLLYWOOD ROOSEVELT.
Growing up, Kelsey Byrne would sit with her cousin and eat cereal while writing “very angsty pre-teen” music. Now, after a high school punk phase, the 26-year-old creates powerfully relatable electro-pop ballads under the name VÉRITÉ. In her single “Underdressed,” she vulnerably admits the power a man can have: “You could convince me to / Tie my hair back / Relive the years I’ve left behind / You could convince me to / Stay up all night with you / While you leave me / Underdressed and out of time,” over a hypnotizing melody and structured bass. The strength of “Underdressed” reflects each of the songs heard on her Living EP, which was released independently last Friday and is the first follow-up to 2014’s EP Echo.
Raised in New York City, VÉRITÉ played in high school bands and began performing around age 16, though at the beginning she admits she was horribly awkward. “I hyper-analyze everything, I’m always in my head,” she says. “Those moments where you don’t think and you’re just part of the environment did not come easily to me, but it was those moments and highs that I chased.” Now, however, she says there is nothing she loves more than being on stage. Just before her performance tomorrow night at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, we spoke with her over the phone.
BASED: Brooklyn, New York
BEING AWAY FROM HOME… Is more conducive for writing because when I go anywhere else, it’s specifically for work. You pack as much as you can into the schedule, but it’s my preferred mode of operation.
LIVING, THE EP: All of the ideas were started in New York by myself. I do a lot of my own writing in my bedroom/studio. Four out of the five songs were finished with producers in L.A. I went through a period of speed dating writers, which is the worst, but I ended up finding some really amazing people to collaborate with. There are five producers for five different songs, which started off as unintentional, but I learned that my voice and my perspective need to be at the forefront, and if you’re really collaborative with people, they’re willing to bend with you and go with you on your vision. It was an amazing process, getting five producers to sound like they’re living in the same world.
“LIVING,” THE SONG: That’s one that I’m most proud of. I had the chorus for a really long time and I was unsure about it because it’s very up front and literal. A lot of my music has ambiguity and room for people to interpret. That track is super personal, like, “Nope, this is it.” So I brought it to James Flannigan, who had done a Kodaline song, and trusted him to collaborate. The goal was to make it as dynamic and up-front as possible.
OPENING UP: As I’m growing as a human being and as an artist, my confidence has grown so it’s much easier to not hide behind ambiguity and different metaphors. I’m at a place now where I don’t give a fuck, in a good way, where I need to say what I need to say and put it all out on the table. If I’m happy with what I’m putting out and proud of it—that is becoming enough for me. It’s testing myself, but I’m ready to do it, whereas I wasn’t ready before. Sometimes it’s feigned confidence, but if I make a decision I can do anything.
FROM PUNK TO POP: It was a very prolonged shift. When I was 16 or 17, I started listening to Death Cab and I started writing my own songs. I was writing alternative rock and I had a seven-piece band. The shift was just iterations of experimentation and finding what sounded right. When I stumbled on the sound and vibe that I currently have, it was kind of by chance. It was putting music to the songs, versus making a choice to go in an electro-pop direction. I started listening to way more music, and now I listen to everything. When I was writing Living I was listening to a lot of James Blake, a lot of Kimbra, and a lot of ambient electronic music, like Tim Hecker and Animal Collective. A lot of different things informed the direction.
THE LAST THING TO INSPIRE ME WAS… walking. Honestly, I write so much when I walk. Living was written about these tiny experiences I had, or these small moments and completely overanalyzing them. That’s kind of what I do: I overthink and I hyper-analyze my surroundings, relationships, and people. One time I was walking down the street and a guy texted me. I was on my way home and really excited to go lay down and be by myself. He was like, “You should come over,” and I remember this moment, I just turned around and walked in the other direction. Then I felt this intense guilt about it, just because how can something that simple deter my plan? Then I wrote “Underdressed.” So I think all the EPs are about those little moments, and they’re completely blown out of proportion.
INDEPENDENCE: Right now is an odd time in the music industry. I think a lot of developing acts sign really early and then lose ownership and control. It’s a good short-term strategy, where you get funding and attention and all these resources, but I want to have a lifelong career, and I want to be able to make the music that I want to make without external pressures. My philosophy has always been to have proof of concept, so when I go to a larger entity and the big label machine, we can sit and be like, “This is what we’ve done, this is what’s working, let us keep doing it and help us push it forward.” So there’s definitely been interest, but I’m an optimist and I’m waiting for the perfect situation. I know it’s available and will come and I’m willing to hustle the fuck out of it until I get there.
TWO EPs, NO ALBUM: There’s no real hesitation with an LP—I definitely have enough material for an LP—but it’s more so that I’m doing everything independently. Strategically it’s about maximum impact and recognizing that people consume music differently. As I’m growing a fanbase and growing a project, it’s more about access and having people hear the songs in a way that’s digestible than to put out an LP that maybe wouldn’t have as much impact, or wouldn’t reach as many people. When I release an LP, I want it to go as far as it can possibly go.
VÉRITÉ IS PLAYING AT BABY’S ALL RIGHT IN BROOKLYN TOMORROW NIGHT, MAY 18. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT HER SOUNDCLOUD.