‘Trials and travails’: A Live4ever interview with Deja Vega

Deja Vega

Deja Vega are the latest in a fine tradition of great bands from the north west of England; a power trio in the most literal sense, they combine the adrenaline of Oasis, the grandeur of The Verve and the widescreen soundscapes of the much-missed Exit Calm. Yet such musical ambition and dexterity belies the trials and travails that they, like many of their peers, have gone through.

When Live4ever met frontman Jack Fearon in Bristol prior to the second show of a recent five-night UK tour, he told us of the unusual position they were in of having a fully recorded, mixed and mastered album with no label on which to release it: “We had the album recorded and it was sat on the shelf for about a year or two. We were drip-feeding the singles and eventually we were going to take songs off the album and make a five-track EP with songs people had already heard and scrap the others.”

It was desperate times calling for desperate measures. They were eventually able to release their self-titled debut album last October, but unfortunately the label which had first given the band an opportunity had by then fallen by the wayside. “It was really sad,” Jack explained. “We signed to an independent label called Runway Records, as it was coming up to the releasing the album the owner emailed us and said, ‘We haven’t got the funds to press the album’, it wasn’t just us, they did it to three or four other bands. It was a bit gutting, and we felt sorry for the guy because we could tell how gutted he was.”

This early setback left the band in a quandary, but they were undeterred; “We just said, ‘Sod that, we’ll save some money and press the first single ourselves, with a DIY ethic’. Then another label called Sister 9 came along and they said they wanted to press the album for us.”

“I still listen to it now and I’m quite proud of it. There’s nothing I’d particularly change about it.” Rightly so: it’s a sonic slap in the face, comprising eleven watertight tracks of pacey psychedelia that sound like they’ve been produced by Phil Spector and mixed by Kevin Shields.

It’s fair to say it’s not in-line with British guitar music’s current dalliance with ‘post-punk’, instead the album could be from any point over the last forty years, exemplified by their residency at the Shine On festival. “It’s amazing and we’ve done every year. It’s great to see the progression of fans. The first year we played to about forty people. As we’ve gone on, we’ve gone up the stages and played to loads more people.”

Unusually for music of such widescreen ambition, the subject matter of the songs is generally quite intimate. Fearon is an observational songwriter, following in the footsteps of Damon Albarn and Kelly Jones, broadly writing about the foibles of individuals. “People fascinate me,” he told us. “I get dead inspired by hearing stories about people I know or people from the town that we’re in. Each song is about a person I’ve come across or a story I’ve heard.”

The music itself, however, is a group effort: “We just jam, play for three hours solid and something will pick us up. We like that so we’ll concentrate on it, find the structure and use it. It’s very rare that I go in the studio and say, ‘Lads, I’ve written a song, what do you think of this?’. We tend to jam and it turns out better.”

Their sets at Shine On brought them to the attention of The Wonder Stuff, whom they have supported, and a music legend of the north west, Brian Cannon, whose Microdot company designed the iconic early Oasis sleeves, and in the 90s also worked with The Verve and Ash. Cannon now works on all the artwork for Deja Vega.

“We met Brian years ago as our old band and we were saying, ‘Listen to our tunes’,” Jack recalled. “He never got back to us, so we thought it probably wasn’t for him. Then we did Shine On in 2015 and we saw him there. We said, ‘Come and see our band’, and obviously he couldn’t remember who we were. Then he happened to be walking through as we were playing and pricked his ears up. As soon as we finished he ran into the dressing room and said that was the best thing he’d heard in the last ten years. Then he kept asking when he was going to do some artwork for us, and we told him we had no money. He said, ‘I don’t care, I like you that much that I want to do the artwork’. Brilliant, a legend of a guy that’s sorted us out. We’re working with him now.’

The short tour, meanwhile, which covered London, Bristol, Nottingham, Birmingham and Manchester and sadly will have finished by the time you read this, was in conjunction with not only the album, but also a new single entitled Who We Are, the first salvo from their forthcoming second long-player, inspired by their experiences of the music industry thus far: “It’s a song about not giving up and having self-belief. There’s been loads of times we’ve been promised stuff and it’s been dropped, like the stuff with the album. We had to pull ourselves back up and get on with it.”

Tour details are being finalised, as well as some support slots, although the band have no preference on who they tour with; “I don’t think you can be picky,” Jack said. “If someone turns round and says to me, ‘Do you want to support Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs or the Spice Girls?’, I’d say I’m not bothered as it’s a gig at the end of the day. And it’d be a good gig.”

Based on their showing at the Louisiana, ‘good’ is underselling it. The three young men filled the room with a glorious cacophony: Eyes Of Steel packed a punch like Kasabian on speed, Chasing bounced along with drummer Tom taking a break from his usual relentless pounding to throw everything at the song, filling every space, and the closing wigout of The Test was, like much of the set, held together by Mike’s titanic bassline.

The trio managed to create a vibe that was both intensely epic and spacious. When asked earlier to describe Deja Vega’s sound, Jack had said ‘fast and bulbous’, which is incredibly self-deprecating. Volcanic would be far more fitting.

Richard Bowes

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