Back when Deaf Havana was touring on their 2013 album “Old Souls”, it seemed to be smooth sailing for this UK band. But internally, they were experiencing financial problems and a lack of internal communication almost led to them breaking up. Fast forward to 2017. Armed with a new label, new management and new energy, things are definitely looking up for Deaf Havana. We caught up with drummer Tom Ogden about the past, the future and “All These Countless Nights”, the band’s excellent new album.
PRT: First of all… congrats on the new album! I liked “Old Souls”, but I absolutely love “All The Countless Nights”. It’s massive and sounds like Kings Of Leon and Funeral For A Friend had a baby. Is that a description you can live with?
Tom: Haha, well thank you very much, I appreciate that. If I'm honest I've never really listened to FFAF, but I can definitely live with the KOL comparison.
PRT: My favorite song on the new album would have to be “Sing” and I’m guessing it’s one of yours as well seeing as you’ve already been playing it live and did the video for it. Can you tell me a little bit more about where that one came from?
Tom: Well we wanted to show different elements of our band with this record, and that one shows of our energetic, guitar driven, grunge side I think. We release that one first because lyrically made sense, it kind of explained why we disappeared for a bit, and why we're releasing music again.
PRT: New album, new management, new label… am I talking to a band that has been reborn?
Tom: Yeah I'd say so. It seems like we've finally taken control of our careers, and we're doing things properly. Everyone around us is also on the same page as us for the first time, so when we bring an idea to our management or label, we all work on it together, rather than fighting to get what we want, and them fighting to get what they want. That relationship alone has played a major part on how this album sounds, looks and feel. It's great.
PRT: You’ve been on the verge of breaking up when you were touring on “Old Souls” because of financial problems and bad communication. I hope the new label and management help with the financial problems, but have you talked about how you can avoid bad communication within the band?
Tom: Yeah, we all talk a lot more now, and if there is a problem we'll address it, rather than just saying nothing and letting it build up. It also helps that everything is working as it should be, so there isn't really any problems to discuss. There is definitely a better vibe between the five of us going forward.
PRT: With everything that you have been through as a band since “Old Souls” came out, what is the main thing you learned about both yourself and the band?
Tom: I learned that I actually really want to play in a band, and that I'm not shit at it! It sounds silly, but when all of that is taken away, it feels empty. I didn't realise what we had, but after taking a step back, it made me realise, and I certainly won't take it for granted any more. It also made me want to do it properly. If we're going to release another record, I want it to be right, or I don't want to do it at all.
PRT: You worked with Adam Noble for the new album and – correct me if I’m wrong - I read somewhere that he helped with the writing as well. What was it that he brought to the table? And how different do you think “All These Countless Nights” would have sounded without him?
Tom: Yeah, he definitely helped with the writing. Adam has a very good ear for chord progressions, hooks, choruses etc. One of the most enjoyable things about recording this album was spending time together (all 6 of us) and discussing / trying out different ideas to see what worked and what didn't. That album would've sounded very different without him for sure. The chorus to England was different, the chorus for Fever was different, Like a Ghost was basically a different song. It's great though because we basically had another band member to bounce ideas off.
PRT: I feel like one of the biggest improvements is that the songs feel like they have more room to breathe. Do you think that comes from taking more time for both the writing and the recording this time around?
Tom: Yeah definitely, I also think it came from Adams production. We're not all fighting to get our instruments heard, all all times on this album. Sometimes I would play softer to make Matty's solo shine through, or Matty would hold back on his guitar so James's vocals can take the lead. It was great bouncing off each other like that, it was something we'd never done before.
PRT: When you were starting out, you released an album every year. If you had the chance to do it all over again, would you still take the same approach?
Tom: I'm not sure. I definitely think writing and recording a good album takes time. If we had released an album a year ago, it would be nowhere near as good as this. I'm a firm believer in quality over quantity, so I imagine we'll take our time from now on, and make sure it's right. Obviously we won't nearly break up again, and take 4 years, but it took a while to get the album into a good shape.
PRT: I always felt you were about to become the ‘next big thing’ (playing some of the biggest festivals, opening for Bruce Springsteen), but at the same time it seemed like you kept flying under the radar. Did you feel the same way?
Tom: Yeah, massively. We were told we are the next big thing, and we believed it. Maybe that was where it all started to go wrong. When these people sit in their offices and tell you you're going to be the next kings of Leon, you kind of, naively, believe it. Then when it didn't happen we were all a bit disheartened. I think we had a lot of people working with us that weren't on the same page as us, and everything started to turn into a battle. The moment everyone around you has different ideas and opinions to the actual band, it's only a matter of time before everything comes crashing down.
PRT: “All These Countless Nights” will be out later this month. What’s up next for Deaf Havana after that?
Tom: We have a UK tour followed by an EU tour, then we have some festivals lined up. We just want to take ATCN round the world and let as many people hear it as possible.
PRT: Something I’ve already wondered about a bunch of times in the past… why would a band want to use the word ‘deaf’ in their band name?
Tom: Absolutely no idea. It was a stupid name out old guitarist came up with in college. It means absolutely nothing. The only reason we chose it is because it was so strange, when people typed it into google, we would be the first thing that comes up.