The former Applebee's waitress is a force to be reckoned with
gigwise intern
11:16 12th June 2015

The most appropriate place to interview pop sensation Vérité  - aka Kelsey Byrne - would be over a soy latte in the courtyard of her beloved The West in Brooklyn.

Gigwise, however, is meeting the singer inside the dingy confines of Dogstar in Brixton at the close of her debut UK tour. On a blazingly hot summers day, accompanied only by the sound of breaking glass and the faint pubby scent of regret, Byrne turns out to be great company - erudite, enthusiastic and particularly self aware. "My band have started calling me 'Queen V' and 'Veyonce' she says with a smile. "They do it very sarcastically, obviously. It's hysterical"

We're here to mark the release of her second EP - featuring firm favourites 'Colors' and 'Wasteland' as well as two new tracks. Having begun her musical education in a pop punk band (they specialised in a drum-free version of 'Basket Case' by Green Day), her first UK gigs at the The Great Escape and The Lexington have shown her the true potential of her shimmering electro-pop. To mark the release of the EP she talks about admiring Marina and the Diamonds, getting arrested in Busch Gardens and why you should always tip your waitress.

Gigwise: What was the strangest record in your parent's collection?
Vérité: Warren Zevon 'Werewolves Of London'. We used to play laser tag to it. My family is very competitive so we had the lazer tag grenades and we had the machine guns. These games would last for hours. We literally had blackout curtains up and would go all out. I don't come from a family that lets you win: so it was a free for all. I have this quiet, competitive nature.

What's been your most memorable British show so far?
That final Dot to Dot show we did in Nottingham. I feel like it's been this whirlwind and when you do festivals like that, you go in and you don't know how it's going to sound and you don't know how the crowds are going to be. Since I've been here the crowds have been phenomenal: attentive, rooms have been full. I've been so grateful for it. Nottingham was just so crazy getting there that, as we got on stage, I turned to the band and I said 'Fuck it! Right? Final night of UK tour!" it's a bucket list thing and we got up and had the most fun that I've ever had.

 

A photo posted by VÉRITÉ (@verite) on


Describe your worst ever gig?
We can talk about the millions of empty clubs in New York. I feel like in life I've definitely paid my dues of the grind of what it actually means to be an up and coming artist. I started playing gigs in New York city when I was 16. I had a full horn section sometimes. I really tried. I feel like those were so hit or miss.  There was one show in particular at the Alphabet Lounge which is just not a nice place. There was just no-one there. I just remember thinking 'I don't want to do this.' Those moments when you're just like I might as well not be doing this but you have to. I think that's part of it. It builds character.

What live experience was most intense for you as a fan?
When I was 16 I went to see Beirut at Central Park Summer Stage. That was the most brilliant. For me it was the most intense because I feel I was very myopic when I was younger. My world was very small. I remember seeing them and they had full orchestration and literally a full dancing horn section. I remember thinking "Holy shit this is what music can be!"

I feel like since then my mind has been so much more open to different things. It's funny because my music doesn't sound anything like Beirut. 'Nantes' is a favourite but that whole Flying Club Cup album was beautiful. It was the moment that I discovered it and the nostalgia I associate with that... and obviously the music is beautiful and perfect.

You're a fan of Orange Is The New Black. What are you hoping to see in the third season?
I want to see them all get out of jail... no I'm joking. I'm interested to see the whole Piper and Alex dynamic. I feel like those Orange is the New Black seasons I literally watch them in two days.The fact Netflix puts all their series out: it's literally a black hole. For me it winds up being mind numbing. It's the only time I can shut my mind off because otherwise I'm constantly writing and thinking and planning logistics. My favourite moment? The end of the first season where she got stabbed. That was the moment where I was like "Where is the next season? Give it to me! I don't want to go back to work." Netflix: they're sick.

Can you recommend a good book?
Amanda Palmer 'The Art of Asking', Robert Pirsig 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' and Evelyn Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited'. I want to give you a tonne of books that I read but I tend not to finish them. 

Which small festival would you recommend?
I've never been to a festival before I played a festival. So probably South By Southwest and CMJ. South By I only got to see the shows that I played. I got to see Marina and the Diamonds at the Neon Gold showcase. It's been a cool experience watching other artists and seeing their live set and being inspired. With Marina I like that she commits to the character of each album she puts out. I'm like very very impressed with that aspect of her music. Like with the Electro Heart persona and the new Froot persona, that's great. Her South By show was intense. I've just started playing piano live so I watch people as I'm coming into my own and just watching her: no fear, all comfort, so smooth.

What advice would you give about going out on tour? 
In the van we come up with arbitrary games that literally mean nothing. We operate on an arbitrary points system so it's how we judge our humour. If someone makes a good joke you give them 10,000 points. I made 16,000 points at that Nottingham show that's probably why it's my favourite.

What do you listen to together?
I like to balance my sugary pop with some nice ambient indie. Then my band like Mastodon, Audioslave and Queens Of the Stone Age. They play it in the van - I'll pop my head round the corner and say "I like this. Who is this?" They always say "Mastodon. We're proud of you". Then we get into the harder Nineties stuff that we all grew up on - and then every once in a while they'll listen to Limp Bizkit and I'm done. I just can't. They've sold a ridiculous amount of albums worldwide: I think my drummer threw out the statistic at me that they've sold 40 million albums. I'm doing it all wrong! I should get into rap rock.



Have you ever stolen anything?
Absolutely. I got arrested in Busch Gardens when I was 15 for shoplifting on a chorus trip. They called my parents to come get me and my parents were like "No you can bring her back up it's cool." It was just a bunch of random things. I just remember they sat me down and I just emptied my bag and was like 'Oops I'm sorry.' It was my rebellious phase. We had a moment, which was immediately replaced by work. I started working and my rebellion ended.

What's the worst job you've ever done?
I feel like the worst job I ever did was the job where I didn't make money. I feel like I was born to work and that is what I was used to. I've waited tables for ten years. One of my waiting jobs was so slow and I used to just stand there: when all I want to do is work! They made you clean the bathrooms: which is not the fun part.

What did customers do that irritated you?
Existed. No - when you go to a table and you ask them what they would like and one person says they would like something. You go to the kitchen and get it... and then the next person asks you for something. Especially at Applebee's in Times Square the kitchen is upstairs so you'd literally be: 'You want ranch dressing? Let me climb two flights of stairs to get it for you'. But I didn't need to belong to a gym so I guess that's a positive.

You must have seen a very random cross section of people.
Literally every culture, every country, everyone. It's just interesting to see why people come to New York and go to Applebee's in Times Square. Because I would never. I remember there was one Chinese gentleman sitting by the window and he comes to pay with this wad of cash this big. I'm like "Dude put that away! You bring that out and someone is going to mug you right outside." Just things like that. I got to interact with everyone. It kind of humanises the world, recognising that everyone just wants a coffee and some pancakes.

Is there something now you can never eat after working at Applebee's?
Applebee's, in general. I avoid all the chain food restaurants. Just because I know. I can never speak poorly about it because Applebee's has literally funded Verite. So I am eternally grateful they have employed me for the amount of time.

Where would you recommend visiting in New York for food?
There's this dumpling place called Vanessa's Dumplings. We get it for rehearsals, I eat there way too much. You should get pan fried vegetable, pan fried pork and chicken/bazel blend and have a little sampling of each. I feel the dumplings are so good, so perfect and they're so cheap. For me I get really cagey going out to eat - I think because I waited tables for so long - I'm uncomfortable at times because I know the waiter hates me. Even though I'm going to tip him I know in the back of his mind he's thinking 'Go home!' So I like the environment where you go, order your own thing at the counter and then you leave. There's no formal aspect to it. That's why I like it. Tipping should be base line 20%, but I understand the kind of difference that a good tip can make in a day and so I feel like I always overtip. Its important.



What's the strangest gift you've got from a fan?
Flowers are the only gift I've ever got from a fan. Someone in Atlanta threw one on stage. They whipped it at me so it hit me and I was like 'Ow... but thank you.' It was a rose - with thorns! But I just thought I'd not going to yell at you for the flower so thank you. I still have it.

What's the worst thing a critic has ever said about you?
Somebody said once - it's not even a critic per se - during the first fun of shows at CMJ and it was like "Good music that we saw" with a bunch of artists and then "Things to pass on" and there was Vérité. It was our second ever show. It was very early on but other than that the critics have beeen on my side - which is a scary thing because I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop - which is inevitable. I'm been really lucky that people have been really positive.

What was the last song that stopped you in your tracks?
'Worry' by Jack Garratt. I've just discovered it. I've never listened to it before. It's just so well done and it hits so hard and it's so delicate in the beginning and the harmonies come in. That's on repeat right now.

If you had a cameo in Taylor Swift's 'Bad Blood' video, what would you hope your scene was?
I would want to just destroy something. If you're going to put me in that setting I literally want to knock down a building with my fist, something ridiculous. I don't want to look baddass, I want to be baddass: and literally fuck shit up.

What was the last guitar or indie band that really impressed you?
The new Sufjan Stevens album: it's so funny because I started it a few times but it's a such a slow still album that I had to be in the right mood to listen to it. Once I finally got to it there's a track 'John My Beloved' that is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. I've listened to that song 50 times and each time I'm just staring out.

What's your karaoke song?
I hate karaoke so that would be a never thing. I don't know why I hate it's so much but I despise it. I feel like if I was going to get up and do karaoke I'd want to sing well but people who get up and karaoke and sing really well are the worst. So I just don't do it.

Do you get chatted up or hit on a lot?
No. I think I put out a big "fuck you" vibe. Unintentionally or intentionally I don't know.

Describe the way you dance.
Horribly. I think because I know I'm a bad dancer, I accentuate all the bad things about it. So it's very jerky with lots of shoulder shimmying. Nothing that I would ever want to do in public. 

Which band would you like to see get back together?
One Direction. Poor Zayn! It's sad. I never actually listened to One Direction so have no idea. I watched this video of one of the girls who follows me on Twitter. For her high school commencement speech she was just like "High School has been the best years of my life. Except for that time Zayn left One Direction." This is a cultural phenomenon that I just have no idea it's about. I've never felt that strongly about a band. Which is odd because people seem to feel strongly about that with me. I'm just not that type of person. 



Where do you stand on Tidal?
That's a good one. I can't knock Tidal because they had me as a featured artist. I think that any platform that allows music to be heard is good. I think that the way they presented it was a little challenging, especially as somebody who has the mentality that I have to release music for free to spread it to as many people as possible and that profits can't be at the forefront of my mind as an upcoming artist. So I think the presentation was a little controversial. But for me I'm also grateful for the exposure that they've given me. So I'll stick with my philosophy in general and let the pieces fall where they may. In principal - we'll see.

How would you like to be remembered?
I think I would just like to be remembered as someone kind, genuine and at least I tried to do the best that I could.

Sentiment by Vérité is out now. Vérité will support Tove Lo in Williamburg on 15 June.