Deaf Havana talk latest album, relief and fatigue of touring, and social media

Deaf Havana continued on as a two-piece after other band members departed the projectDeaf Havana continued on as a two-piece after other band members departed the project
Deaf Havana continued on as a two-piece after other band members departed the project | Chuff Media
Deaf Havana talk their latest album and the unique process behind it, how touring it has had its ups and downs, and where they see themselves now compared to their earlier tours together

Deaf Havana saw a group shakeup before heading off to quietly record their album, and spoke to Ewan Gleadow about the reaction and response to a record they put together in absolute secrecy.

Ewan Gleadow: Well done on the new album, the process of that is kind of a strange one. You’re down two band members and you’re pushing on through. How was the recording experience for that?

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Deaf Havana:  It was very, really enjoyable. Yeah. It was the most we’ve actually concentrated on making music to be fair. We’ve always treated it as an excuse to party and make a few songs as well. This time, we put the making music firmly in the foreground, which is great. It was really fun to fall in love with just doing loads of stupid stuff in the studio with synthesizers and stuff. It was just creative and a good laugh, which yeah, it hasn’t always been because we didn’t really have a time frame. Whilst we were recording the album, pretty much no one even knew we had written a new album and that we were recording it.

I don’t even think our record label knew that we were making a new album when we started recording it. I know for a fact that Mike, the producer, didn’t get paid until like, the end of the process. He kind of did it on faith, so I’m pretty sure no one knew about it. We didn’t really have any sort of stress. The main thing that stresses us out or probably stresses anyone out when they’re recording a record is the fact that you’ve always got that end date looming and you get to the last week and there’s a lot of stuff still to do left and you just freak out.

But this time we had too much time. No, well I dunno, it was good. It was great. We were really confident with the demos we had and so that meant we could just get into it all that bit deeper than I think we’ve been able to previously. It felt like because we didn’t have to rewrite much or work hard at specific songs, it felt like we could do little bits that make an album really creative. Really create an album with varying textures. That was great. It was a process we’ve not really been able to do before. We haven’t been able to do it like that. It was also way more collaborative. Me and Matt have always written together but this was just more involved and better for both of us.

Ewan: It does feel more lucid, freer, more relaxed even like you said there. Would you want that consistency the next time you record?

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Deaf Havana: I dunno, I mean I think I just really enjoyed it. We’ll see what happens. Obviously this one was a sort of relief as a release for us because we hadn’t done anything, well, nobody had done anything for years because of the pandemic. But I don’t think it’ll be exactly the same, but I would definitely record it with Mike again. It’s that sort of atmosphere. He’s great. The atmosphere definitely helps, we’ll try and achieve that kind of environment again just because it’s more productive and fun.

Ewan: Speaking of fun, heading up on a tour. It’s a question I always ask but, do you enjoy touring? The experience of moving city to city and playing the tracks for everybody? I’ve spoken to some that say it’s horrible and others that feel it’s a great way to explore.

Deaf Havana: It’s both. Absolutely both of those things. On this tour, I’ve really enjoyed it, but if you asked me the tour before this, I would have said I don’t like touring. I think it’s all down to how you look after yourself or don’t look after yourself. On this tour, no one really drinks anything and it’s way more chilled than it used to be. Before we were treating it as an excuse to get hammered every day, and that puts you in a bad mood. It’ll sound lame as hell but the magic, those magic moments you never think are going to happen, happen. They do happen when you’re hammered on tour in a random country that you never thought you’d go to. There are some unforgettable things that I’ll never want to take back, but 80% of it is miserable.

The latest iteration of Deaf Havana recently performed at NX NewcastleThe latest iteration of Deaf Havana recently performed at NX Newcastle
The latest iteration of Deaf Havana recently performed at NX Newcastle | Chuff Media

But this tour has been great, probably as well that you’re just so tired all the time. That’s one thing i forgot that you kind of have to just go with. It’s weird because, especially when you’re on a tour bus, we’re not a rich band so the tour buses we get, although they’re nice and we’re thankful for them, they’re not luxury. There isn’t a hot tub as requested or the double bedroom. But when you’re sleeping in a bedroom which is basically just a coffin, toward the end of the tour you just, it’s habit, isn’t it? You learn how to do it and by the end of the tour you don’t want to go home. You are just always tired, though.

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Ewan: It does sound quite relentless. I mean I just got back from seeing bob Dylan and he’s like 81, he was doing every night on tour. Have a break man, two days off, calm it down a bit.

Deaf Havana: At some point, that’s when you go, ‘You’re not doing this for the fans anymore, right?’

Ewan: Definitely. Doors opened at six, he came on stage at eight and left an hour and a half later. No encore either.

Deaf Havana: What was everyone doing before that?

Ewan: Honestly I sat waiting for two hours, he walks onto the stage, smashes about on the piano, does a little shimmy, goes back behind the piano and then leaves. It was mad.

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Deaf Havana: He seems, I dunno, mental. He sounded mental to start with, but now - he did all that gospel music. Nobody wants to hear that Bob, but for the last 30 years it sounds like you’ve been eating nothing but gravel.

Ewan: Can’t say that, he’s a God. Sounds like Sean Dyche doing cover songs, though. Say that though and you’ll get 3,000 Americans saying “Well you don’t know anything about music.” Anyway, you’re on the rise and rise. You go into places like NX, you’ve been around for a while, but for new musicians and the social presence of it too, it’s a new minefield for bands old and new. How are you adapting to that? Being interactive with fans online and through Instagram. More and more artists are chatting away with their fans.

Deaf Havana: We’re absolutely awful at it. We don’t have personal social media pages. I feel like I went to sleep for a bit and I woke up and now everyone has a TikTok. I don’t understand how so many people are comfortable looking at their own face for that long. The old-school way was to go and talk to our fans anyway because 99% of them are lovely. I’m personally really uncomfortable at standing around with a camera and talking to it. Some people are really comfortable doing it and that’s great.

I do have our Instagram logged in on my phone and use it sometimes, most of the time I think with the younger people now it’s going to the toilet. It’s a natural bodily function. People just look at their social media. I haven’t got that built into me because I don’t really use it. If I’m doing it, it’s not natural. I forget I’ve even got the app on my phone. Basically, we’re not as good as we should be at it. But we do have some people who help us, much like my Ma and our grandparents help us out.

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Ewan: Social media is essential now for growth of anything and it’s just awful. I don’t know how it works either. I’m 22 and I got TikTok, I had it for about three weeks and it’s, nah, it’s not for me. I just found out what my phone number is. People would ring me and it’s like, right brilliant, how do I give this to other people? There’s a little card thing on it. But for social media, it’s not even just engagement now it’s making people aware of what you’re doing. Your release, your tour, it’s relentless.

Deaf Havana: At the end of the day you’re there to perform, one way or another. You can be as genuine as possible, but it’s still not how you would act if you were having a conversation with someone.

Ewan: But speaking of genuine, you’re back on tour - and you’ve headed to Newcastle. Any go-to places in the city that you enjoy?

Deaf Havana: I don’t remember the name of it, but they all took us to a really nice cocktail place. Was that Liverpool? Last time we were in Newcastle we went to a craft beer place, like a tent. It was near Christmas, it was wicked.

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