INTERVIEW: Veruca Salt’s Louise Post

Veruca Salt were an anomaly when they hit it big in the mid 90s. Louise Post and Nina Gordon created a wall-of-guitars sound upon which to hang their intricate harmonies and hooky-yet-edgy songwriting – and when you step back and think about it, Louise was one of the few guitarists to get solos on the radio consistently throughout the 90s. The partnership of Louise and Nina ended in the 90s but now the whole gang is back together and touring, and they’ve released two new songs – “The Museum of Broken Relationships” and “It’s Holy” – to show us where they’re at before a full album is released in the near future. I spoke to Louise on the eve of the band’s Australian tour.

These shows have been selling like crazy. 

It’s been fantastic. We feel so very welcome in Australia right now. It’s really nice to have booked a tour and to know that people are expecting us and buying tickets. We already know that we’re going to have incredible shows. We’ve played in Australia before but never with the original line-up. We had a new drummer in 1997 and that was the first tour we did there. Then I came back a couple of times fronting the band with different members after Nina and I split up and went our separate ways. So this is the first time the original line-up has played in Australia ever. We’re really excited about that.

Veruca Salt 2014

How are you relating to each other musically this time around?

Strangely we’ve all gotten better and we still have the same chemistry and magic, the same electric charge between all of us and yet we’re much more collaborative and more relaxed about the songwriting process. I think when we were in our 20s and we were just forming our band we were still figuring out our identities and what our place in the world was. All of our ideas felt very precious to us and we didn’t want to dilute them with anyone else’s ideas. The whole thing seemed very threatening, so we sort of clung to our individual sentiments to our last dying breath, like “You will not dilute and change my song!” We just weren’t ready for that. And at this point we’ve all collaborated with other people, we’ve played with other people, we’ve grown up, we’ve relaxed, we’ve started families, we’ve done a whole lot of stuff. And we’re so excited to be playing together again that we’re eager to hear each others’ ideas. And we’re also really busy: if Nina writes a verse that I really like but she doesn’t have time to write the chorus, I’ll write the chorus, and we’ll continue together, flesh it out together. When we were apart we had all these different songs that I call dead soldiers. No-one was really there to see them through with me. I did write with other people but I never had the same kind of partnership that I had with Nina. So having her excitement about a song is enough to see it through, finish it and actually record it. I’m completely wide open to her ideas now and it’s so much more relaxed, so much more fun. I think we were fine the way we were and it worked that way for us but there was a lot of tension in the songwriting process and now there’s less tension. There’s still a lot of batting ideas around and there’s even arguing because we take it very seriously, but it’s definitely a more fluid process and a more all-encompassing process with everyones’ ideas.

So what’s your relationship with the guitar?

I started playing when I was 20. A friend of mine lent me her acoustic guitar in college. I was living in New York City in this little apartment with no windows, and she taught me how to play Chinese Rock by The Ramones. And she gave me this sheet music to “The Love Boat” for some reason! But I started writing my own songs right away. I never played covers It’s like I found the guitar and it found me, and I needed to write with the guitar. I played piano my whole life but I never needed to write with the piano. The guitar was the thing that allowed me to start expressing myself artistically in a way that I never had, and it was such a relief to find the guitar. And that relationship has developed over time, certainly. And what I find is that whenever I pick up a guitar and just start playing, a song comes out. So if I played every day I’d have a song a day. But I don’t play every day and I think in part it’s because it’s such a charged experience for me and the more I flex that muscle the more I write. So the challenge for me is really just picking it up and playing it, and making sure I do that with regularity. Life with a 4-year-old is really busy and we’re dealing with the business aspect of our record, so if we’re not in the studio or on tour or in a songwriting process I’m not necessarily spending long hours picking the guitar up and playing it. And so that’s my job as a guitar player: to flex that muscle every day. And I can say that not having played for a while and then picking it up it was like no time had passed, and at the risk of sounding like a horrible cliche it’s like an old friend. It fits my body perfectly and it feels as natural as breathing. It’s just a part of me.

It’s interesting what you say about not playing covers. We need people to write original songs for everyone else to cover. 

I always feel inferior because I don’t know covers but I didn’t start writing that way. I wish I was sitting in my basement learning Black Sabbath in high school!

So what guitars do you play? I see you with pretty much all Gibsons.

Gibsons are my favourite. I’m currently playing predominately my SG. I have two SGs now that I play. One of them is old, one of them is new. I’m still on the fence about the new ones because it’s one of those really thin necks and it’s kind of weird but it was such a cute guitar and I really wanted a white SG so I bought it but I don’t like the neck. And also it’s funny, it feels kind of like a toy guitar compared to my old SG, which I think is a ’79 and feels so substantial. I also play a Les Paul Standard that is custom-made. It’s a cherry-red guitar that’s semi-hollowbody so it’s not so heavy. I can’t play that black Les Paul any more because it’s too heavy for me. I’m not gonna do it! I’m not going to wear that tree-trunk around my neck any more. So that’s what I’ve been playing: my SGs and my Les Paul.

Are you much of a pedal or amp collector?

I’m not. I love to play with fun pedals but I don’t have a tonne. I pretty much find stuff that works and I just go with that. I just started playing Orange and I’m totally in love with it. I’m playing the Rockerverb and I have an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, a standard BOSS overdrive, digital delay, chorus… I mean, I like to mess around with Micro Synths and the Line 6 digital delay pedal. That’s fun. And there are these pedals, these painted pedals [Z. Vex] which are just crazy-sound pedals that range from crazy wahs like the Ooh-Wah to obnoxious distortion, just chaos! I always love playing with feedback and chaos. I love wall-of-sound. I love the crazy noises that you can make, and I just like things to sound ballistic and out of control. I mean, I definitely like controlled chaos too, but I like to turn it up really loud. I don’t like to play in the control room when I’m recording, I like to go into the live room and have everything turned up so loud that everyones’ ears are bleeding.

Hardly any bands in the 90s were playing guitar solos but you seemed to have them in every song!

You can totally blame my guitar teacher, who was this stoner who was always telling me to play more solos. It’s so funny because I was not inclined to play solos but he was always pushing me to do it. He was teaching me all the modes, like Dorian mode, etcetera. And I remember him saying “Dude, play more solos! Play more solos!” I think there was just something super-appealing to me about the idea of a woman playing these crazy, masturbatory solos at times that even were just a tip of the hat to the over-indulgent, over-zealous solos of the 80s, y’know? And that being said, I really like melodic solos. The Beatles had them: they’re great! So I just thought, why not? I’m a sucker for standard song structure and I love pop. I love pop songs and pop rock, and there’s nothing wrong with a guitar solo. So the combination of Jim, my guitar teacher and then my band not shying away from them either, and then certainly playing with Bob Rock who is all about the solo, the rest writes itself. And I’ve definitely gotten away from it more though. Once in a while I’ll write a song with a solo but it’s not something I strive for. It’s not something that’s super-important to me now. I really enjoy playing them but it’s not something I aspire to for any gender-political reasons.

Veruca Salt tour dates

09/24 – Brisbane, QLD – The Zoo
09/25 – Adelaide, SA – The Gov
09/26 – Melbourne, VIC – Corner Hotel
09/27 – Sydney, NSW – Factory Theatre
09/30 – Melbourne, VIC – Corner Hotel
10/01 – Melbourne, VIC – Corner Hotel
10/02 – Sydney, NSW – Factory Theatre
10/04 – Perth, WA – Rosemount Hotel