Veruca Salt

Veruca Salt

Photographer Olivia Malone
Stylist Sean Knight
Words Tish Weinstock

It was in Chicago during the early 90s, that Nina Gordon and Louise Post were first introduced. Set up on a sort of musical blind date, by a mutual friend who thought they should sing together, it was love at first sound.

It was in Chicago during the early 90s, that Nina Gordon and Louise Post were first introduced. Set up on a sort of musical blind date, by a mutual friend who thought they should sing together, it was love at first sound. In Nina, Louise had found her soul mate, and in Louise Nina had found hers. Like day and night, visually they were each other’s opposites (Nina was blonde haired and brown eyed, while Louise was brunette and blue eyed). However it was their similarities – the way they spoke, the way they finished each other’s sentences, the way their voices melded together in the most exquisite harmonies –which made them so mesmeric. In 1993, they joined forces with bassist Steve Lack and Nina’s brother Jim Shapiro, and together they formed Veruca Salt. Just like their namesake – the little girl who wanted it all now – the band rose rapidly to stardom. A cross between My Bloody Valentine and The Pixies, their sound was raw, riotous and full of teen rage, so much so that it spread across the pond like wildfire. Their first single, Seether, was a huge success, and was quickly followed by their debut album American Thighs. Tipped to be the next big thing, they started touring with bands like Hole and hanging out with rock stars like the Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl. But eventually fame and the pressure to succeed got the better of them and relationships within the group broke down. In 1998 the band split, as Nina and Louise’s relationship soured to the point of hatred and toxicity. But after a decade of not talking, the ice between Nina and Louise began to thaw and they gradually started to build bridges. It wasn’t until 2012, after hearing that Mazzy Star was set to play together for the first time in 15 years that Nina suggested the idea of a reunion. Fast-forward to today and Veruca Salt are back bigger, bolder and better than ever before. As they embark on the second US tour we catch up with the two who made it all happen. Introducing: Nina and Louise.

How’s the tour going? Does it feel just like old times?

Louise: We just played in San Diego in a tiny little club as a warm up show, it’s exciting!

Nina: It felt like really old times: tiny stage; not a lot of room to run around; super loud; super hot; super heavy.

What was it like playing to a crowd again?

Louise: Well, we actually toured last summer in the Unites States and Australia so we’ve actually had the pleasure of playing together in front of crowds and reconnecting with our fans already. That was really moving; it was intense and profound to reconnect with people who have been holding out hope that we might reunite one day and it finally happened. It was a reunion tour where we dipped into our back catalogue and played our favourites and our fans favourites. This time we’re playing all our new tracks.

Before we discuss the present, I wanted to go back to where it all began, to when you were first introduced. What were your first impressions of each other?

Nina: The first time we met we played each other music and sang together, it was sublime. Our voices just clicked; we had found our musical soul mates. We were kind of set up on a blind date; we’d met having been told that we’d get along and that we should play music together. I thought Louise was beautiful, I thought she was funny. But mostly I was struck by how well our voices melded together.

 

Louise: I would echo that, I was immediately at ease in Nina’s presence, I thought she was just such an incredibly cool person, then hearing her sing it was just mind-blowingly beautiful. It was the moment of real truth where I realized we had something incredibly special.

Was it a case of opposites attract?

Nina: No, we have a very twinny vibe between the two of us. In terms of our interests, our tone, our way of talking. We finish each other’s sentences; we always did back then and we do now. We have trouble telling our own voices apart. Although we have very different personal lives now, we still have that twins-in-a-past-life connection.

How did you go from your initial meeting to forming Veruca Salt?

Louise: Nina and I had been playing for over a year and a half before we met Steve, we forged our own identity as singers and as a creative partnership. We had our voices, our harmonies, and then the band came up around that. We put an ad out in the Chicago Times for a female rhythm section, because we were pretty clear we wanted an all female band. Despite our best efforts Steve was the one who answered our ad and he was the right bassist for us. We melded instantly. The same thing happened with Nina’s brother, Jim. He fit so perfectly with our music and elevated it to such a level that we asked him on the spot to join our band.

 

What was it about being in an all female band that appealed to you?

Nina: Well, we were young women in our early 20s, we were feminists. We loved the idea of working with all women, a female assault. It would have been so powerful if all four of us were women. There’s an energy and an incredibly badass spirit when it comes to all women bands.

Your music was essentially the soundtrack to teen angst in the 90s, was this something you wanted to tap into?

Louisa: I don’t think we had to tap into it, it sort of happened organically. It just made sense, we sung whatever we needed to sing, it was a catharsis. It was really about purging our demons, finding our voices, and forging our own identity. We had no idea anyone was even listening to our records, as far as we knew we were just recording them for our friends and family, and for each other. The fact that Seether became a surprise hit in England, and then LA, was really shocking and exciting, but it was also kind of jarring. We didn’t know what would hit us. The fact that we became so important to so many girls around the world was something we couldn’t have fathomed beyond our wildest dreams. 

And what about the name, where did Veruca Salt come from?

Louise: We were in Nina’s apartment pulling out some books and one of them was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That’s when you brought up the name Veruca Salt and  it just felt right.

The music scene in Chicago exploded in the 90s, what was it like to be a part of that?

Nina: It was electric and inspiring. There was so much energy.

Louise: It was a golden moment in Chicago and it was where all this music was emerging and converging. It was the zeitgeist, and we were caught up in it, although we didn’t necessarily know it at the time. It just so happened that we were the ones who got recognition, there were so many incredible musicians who were our counterparts and, in our minds, who tragically didn’t get the recognition they deserved.

Seether became a surprise hit in the UK, how did it feel going from total anonymity to worldwide stars?

Nina: We thought we were just part of this embryonic world in Chicago and then all of a sudden there were all these articles being written about us across the pond. It was crazy! Getting recognized was always really weird, but always super flattering. It’s nice to know that you’re making an impact and influencing people’s lives in a positive way.

Was there a moment when fame, or rather the pursuit of fame, took precedence or was it always just about the music?

Louise: I don’t think it was fame that took precedence; it was more about success or the pressures of success. So many people became invested in our careers and really stuck it to us to do well that the expectations became too high.

I felt like we were continually emerging on a world stage but we hadn’t quite got there yet, and then we broke up. We truncated our career, and abandoned ship too early. The precious connection that Nina and I shared, that had started the whole thing, got polluted and there was an increasing divide between us. When we were making Eight Hours to Hold You, Steve could already feel the ever-expanding rift; he knew it was the beginning of the end. We actually had a great time with that album, but there was a time when our drummer Jim was deeply unhappy and was edging his way out of the band. We made what we thought was a glorious masterpiece, we really loved that record, we stand by it. But it didn’t necessarily get the critical acclaim that we thought it would and we lost Jim at the end of it. We weren’t communicating the way we should have in order to keep the ship afloat amidst stormy seas. Pardon the obvious metaphor. We just never knew what was coming our way and we didn’t have the tools to handle the conflicts that would occur between us.

How did it feel to lose each other?

Louise: It was devastating. We were like sisters, like twin sisters, but on some level I think it was also something that was very difficult to sustain. We can see now where we needed to break apart in order to rediscover ourselves individually. Our lives were in a whirlwind and we were so interwoven and inexplicably linked. We needed to separate and see what life was like without each other. I have to say it was hard to revel in that experience and find joy in it I when I missed her so much. When we split apart there was all this anger and poison; it was a very bitter split. I was recoiling from that for many years to come. It was a very open wind.

How did you guys find your way back to each other?

Nina: There were some years where we spoke not at all. We didn’t see each other for many, many years, we were both licking our wounds and writing albums without one another and duking it out through our songs. Little by little we started to grow up, and started to soften, or at least I did, and something started to thaw a little bit. We started sending each other emails on each other’s birthdays. Things just got a little bit lighter. It felt so bad to be so isolated from each other, but we’d hurt each other so much. In the end it was motherhood that actually brought us close again. We were going through similar journeys in our lives of wanting to be mothers and becoming mothers. We used to joke that we’d lose our hearing and that we wouldn’t even be able to hear our babies cry, but now we were leaning on each other, and that’s where the bond formed, or was repaired. But music was a distant prospect. It really wasn’t something we were thinking about, until one day I heard that Mazzy Star were playing together at Coachella for the first time after 15 years, it just sparked something in me. I emailed Louise and said, “We should be doing this.” We then realized that after singing together we needed to be together again. The kind of connection we have is too special; it doesn’t come along every day.

Louise: This is our happy ending and it’s also the happy beginning to the next chapter of whatever it is yet to come.

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