As soon as you put on “Suit of Hearts,” the new album from Katy Vernon, you’ll notice two things, first the awesome quality of the band, and second Katy’s amazing voice. “Suit of Hearts” starts off with the up beat title track about being good enough as you are and how no one is defined by one moment in their lives, even the mistakes. This song really stands out to me as the one I go back to listen to again and again. I love the sentiment and it really comes through on lyrics like “You’re not broken, just a little rearranged, and none of us get out of here without a little change.” The second track is the full band version of “Listen” with the strings and vocals version being the penultimate track. I feel like this has to have been intentional and significant since the tracks end with the lyrics “How it all begins, is how it all ends.” It is incredibly difficult to narrow down what my favorite track on the album is so here are a few; “Latest Disaster” an ABBA influenced pop tune about trying to stay positive when you’re down on your luck, “Undertow” a slower thought provoking song detailing the emotions that go along with suddenly feeling like you’re drowning whether metaphorically or literally, and “Pink Cloud” the poppiest ditty on the album that notes that happiness can be fleeting, so embrace it. It is impossible to not at least bop along to Katy singing, “I’m happy, you’re happy, we’re happy, so happy, I know this feeling won’t last long, It feels so right not to feel so wrong.” The last song on the album is “Christmas Wish,” which I will admit was a bit disorienting listening to on the first day the Twin Cities hit 80 degrees this year, but is a track I’ll definitely be adding to my Christmas playlist when the season rolls around. The instrumentals on “Suit of Hearts” are tight and provide an absolute a perfect backdrop through out the entire album. The range of the songs from slower twang filled folk ballads to almost purely pop jingles is worth drawing attention to and it’s all executed flawlessly. You can hear Katy Vernon’s amazing voice along with the full band on “Suit of Hearts,” released Friday and available on streaming services, or live on their tour of the UK and at Lowertown Sounds’ in St Paul in August 1st.
Katy Vernon - Vocals, ukulele
Clay Williams - guitar and Lap Steel
Simon Husbands - keys and backing vocals
Reed Pagel - Bass
Chris McAtee - drums
Paul Odegaard - trumpet
(Melodic Noise) How's your day going?
(Katy Vernon) Great, thanks for asking. It’s just two days till the national release of the record so I’m nervous but excited.
(MN) How did the band form?
(KV) We’ve been evolving since I made ‘Before I Forget’ in 2012. I wanted to make a record and Clay was involved right away. Simon came on board towards the end of that and the rhythm section joined to make the 2015 record ‘Present’. Like most Mpls musicians we already knew a lot of the same people and I feel honoured that they continue to play with me.
(MN) What is the story behind the album name?
(KV) Suit Of Hearts - I always felt like I wore my heart in my sleeve and in the past few years more than ever I felt like I perhaps over share. Like I’ve turned every detail of my life, grief, mental health, recovery, creativity etc etc into a public sharing and that can feel scary and vulnerable but ultimately strong. I wanted to celebrate wearing a complete suit Of hearts and sharing that vulnerability and honesty.
(MN) What was the inspiration behind the album?
(KV) The songs are the most autobiographical I have ever made. I always get personal on my records but this one delves into every aspect of my journey back home to the U.K., journaling my mental health struggles in the past few years, and getting sober.
(MN) What do you hope people take away from the album?
(KV) Hope is the word. I knew I would get pretty deep and dark with these songs but I wanted to chronicle that it is possible to get better and reach out no matter what you’re going through.
(MN) Is there something that connects the songs together?
(KV) They are mostly chronological of me dealing with grief, getting sober, being diagnosed with depression, and then embracing recovery.
(MN) Are you local to the Twin Cities?
(KV) Simon and I are both british, I’m from London and he’s from Nottingham. Then the rest of the band are MN based.
(MN) What are your influences and your Minnesota influences?
(KV) As far as MN influences I am a fan of many of the amazing women in town. Sarah Morris, Dana Thompson, Laura Hugo, and others. They inspire me more than influence me.
As a songwriter I’ve been influenced by The Beatles, Madonna, lady Gaga, ABBA, Rogers and Hammerstein!!! All kinds of a crazy mix
(MN) Favorite current Twin Cities artists?
(KV) Laura Hugo has my favorite voice. I also really love Dessa.
(MN) Favorite venue to play & see shows in Twin Cities?
(KV) It’s going to be tough for any venue to beat my sold out release show at the Parkway. They did such a great job redoing it. It was a dream show. I also had the privilege recently of playing the main stage at First Ave with my ABBA band.
(MN) What can fans expect when they come to your show?
(KV) Fun. I wrote sad songs but it’s important to inject fun and connect with the audience. Full band shows are an amazing example of 6 different players collaborating and excelling at their parts. I laugh sometimes mid song at how lucky I feel to play with these guys.
(MN) Do you have a favorite/crazy memory of playing a show?
(KV) When Simon pulled out a KeyTar at the release show and surprised me playing a whole new part! It was so unexpected and he nailed the part!!
(MN) Who are your dream tourmates?
(KV) I’d love to tour with Brandi Carlisle. I feel like she exemplifies everyone that inspires me right now about music.
(MN) Other hobbies?
(KV) I love upcycling. I make things out of broken things. Jewelry, sewing things, old furniture etc. I had my own store for a while and I hope to do that again.
(MN) What do you like about living in the Twin Cities?
(KV) The arts scene and people. It’s a place where you can get a shot in the music biz if you keep at it. Many cities are just so big and not as welcoming.
(MN) Anything that sets the Twin Cities scene apart from places you've toured?
(KV) It’s home now, so I’m biased. I have only really toured in the U.K. and it’s very hard there to deal directly with the venues. Everything goes through producers and it’s less hands on.
(MN) Favorite places to grab food or drink in the Twin Cities?
(KV) I love the New French Meadow. I’m mostly vegetarian so they have great options. I’m not fancy though, I’m happy at a Noodles and Co! When I sing there I really enjoy the flatbreads at the Aster. My advice to any musician is to eat the free food :)
(MN) Day jobs?
(KV) i work part time for a local vegan lipstick company. Called Elixery. I help make the products and work shows for them. It’s a great little company.
(MN) What are the band's plans for the future?
(KV) Hopefully touring as a band. I love playing solo and it frees me up to travel but I’d love to be able to take them along.
Review and Interview by: Andrew Perrizo
Edited by: G Blu
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