A family of spiritualists, writers and performers generations deep; a home haunted by legends of literature and music; personal upheaval and a sense of being unseated in time: these are the origins of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Vera Sola. Dark Beauty had the chance to go one on one with this unique and talented artist…
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Where were you born and where are you now?
I was born in Los Angeles and raised between New York and Canada. I’m currently back in Los Angeles for a brief period of time following a solo tour supporting Sixto Rodriguez.
When did you discover the gift of writing music?
I’ve written poetry for as long as I can remember, and have always messed around with instruments. Have always heard music, too, in my head, but never felt the confidence to translate it into sound. I guess I began writing songs properly when I was in college, but never played them for anyone. Even after I began touring professionally as a backing musician, I had no plans to strike out on my own. I was eventually encouraged by friends to record, but never expected anything to come of it. It wasn’t until early 2017 that I experienced a sort of psycho-spiritual shift that changed my relationship to my own music. I let go of a lot of fear, and in doing so, unlocked a whole well of sound that had been churning in me for a lifetime. The process of that letting go actually changed my voice—and I was suddenly capable of doing things I’d never been able to before. The mind is powerful. Fear is powerful. Moving beyond it truly changes the body. The result of all that is my upcoming album “Shades”—to be released November 9, 2018.
You’re a multi-instrumentalist, would you list the instruments you play:
I play a number of instruments but mostly guitar, autoharp, bass and keyboards/various pump organs but my voice is the primary channel for my expression. When I’m in the studio I love to work with my own voice in multi-layered harmony with itself. I call it my ghost choir. I’m not great on a drum-kit, so most of the percussion on my record is cobbling together of found objects, like chains and scrap metal. My favorite, and primary, percussive element though is called a Quijada. It’s an actual donkey jaw that creates clacking and clicking as the teeth rattle in the bone. I love that instrument. Everything else is mostly trial and error. Though I can’t for the life of me get a sound out of a trumpet and can’t make much music on a violin except for sounds that would best fit a badly scored horror film.
Who are you as an artist and how would you describe your music?
Who and what I am as an artist is ever shifting, it’s sort of an impossible question to answer. I consider myself a vessel more than anything, for something that is both deeply within me and something that is far beyond me. I’m basically just a channel. As for describing my music, that’s also hard. I’m a songwriter and a story-teller, so that comes first, and I’m a born performer, so I play with characters in my voice and perspective. I have a lot of influences though and balk at genre. So it’s tough to say myself but I’ve heard it described as ghost-folk, alternative outer-space saloon, a cabaret unstuck in time, demonic orchestral Americana. It’s definitely haunted music, whatever it is. One review of my most recent single “Small Minds” described the character as if a deranged Nick Cave had taken on the role of StaggerLee. That’s the greatest thing I ever heard.
You mentioned you were on the road with Rodriguez and I noticed you performed at the Warfield in San Francisco August 17th. That’s an amazing venue, tell us some highlights and how was the performance?
I just got off the road with Rodriguez, yes, which was a surreal, beautiful dream. The Warfield was my favorite show by far on the tour. The venue is spectacular, everyone who works there is wonderful, I couldn’t believe how it felt to have my voice soar up through those dark rafters. Not to mention I met many wonderful people at the merch table, signed my first human body, and a far right-wing conservative attempted to rush the stage in rage at one of my lyrics. That to me is a success.
Any shows outside the United States planned?
Absolutely. I’ll be playing Le Guess Who Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands in November, and have a few dates that have been announced already around then up on my website. The dates for the full fall euro-tour will be up very, very soon. I’ll be in Europe for most of November. Look out for dates!
How would you describe your personal style?
Old velvet and taped up cowboy boots, in short. I work with a brilliant dress maker I’ve known my whole life and design my own costume. So if I’m not wearing an old Victorian wedding/funeral dress, I’m certainly dressed in Jane Booke. On stage, it’s a cross between a disgraced silent film star, a Weimar-era lounge singer, a Westworld robot madam, and a fallen saint of Catholic iconography. Or at least that’s how I’ve been described.
Bigger stages, bigger bands, more songs, longer dresses, more records, more sound.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
It means loving the shadows, talking to the shades, honoring your ghosts and finding fire in the ashes.
*photo credit: Damon Duke, Nate Burrell, Laura Lynn Petrick and Belle Kingston