Heartbreak is an absolute mindfuck. You probably know that too well. I know that. Vera Blue knows that. How do we get through it?
Celia Pavey is a gorgeously gifted human who channelled hers into the Vera Blue project. The result is a debut album, Perennial, that confirms her place as one of Australia’s best vocalists.
“The album was inspired by and written in the ashes of a break-up,” says Pavey, “but I wouldn’t call it a break-up album. It’s more of a recovery, self-development, repairing album. The journey I went through to become who I am now.”
She sounds a lot fresher than I do. I haven’t even gotten home yet from Splendour In The Grass – coughing up my guts off to the side while barely halfway down the coast to Sydney. Pavey takes care of her voice far better, of course, having needed it not only for her own Vera Blue set, which lifted our hearts, but also as a guest on stage with Perth-based duo SLUMBERJACK for their collaboration, Fracture.
“I love trap music,” she says. “SLUMBERJACK properly introduced it to me.”
Despite its electronic elements, Perennial is far from a trap album. It touches on something that inherently connects with many of us, expressed in three chapters.
“The first chapter has a lot of heartbreak and vulnerability, a bit of frustration, wanting to break free of the chains of heartbreak. With Regular Touch I wanted to feel content on my own, feel happy in my own skin and not need any attention or to feel like I’m loved.
“The second chapter kinda starts with Private and has songs like Magazine and Lady Powers. It was exciting because I was getting over the heartbreak, recognising my surroundings, feeling empowered with Lady Powers.
“Then the third chapter comes back to recognising vulnerability and realising that’s okay to feel the things you’re feeling, knowing it’s familiar. It’s what the whole album is really about. It’s got songs like Pedestal [/Cover Me] about falling back into new relationships and not knowing how to handle it because you’ve been hurt. The last song, Mended, looks back, realising you might not have quite mended yet. It takes a long time to mend, and it’s okay.”
Learning who we are again can take years – or one whole album. Dancing away your blues at an Aussie music festival also helps a fair bit, which Pavey did not shy away from.
“I saw heaps of bands at Splendour!” she says. “I saw Tove Lo, that was a big highlight, HWLS, a bit of King Gizzard, RL Grime…”
And her own set?
“It was amazing, absolutely incredible. I wasn’t ready for that amount of people. It was quite early in the day but everyone was ready to get the party started. I was on such a high that day.”
During her set, we got super sassy on the grass dancefloor for Lady Powers, and of course sang along with Mended as best as our poisoned throats could manage, the last track of the set and album. The day of her performance, Friday 21 July, was also the day of her album release, which she got the chance to announce on the mic.
“My dad actually came up with the title, Perennial,” says Pavey. “He’s a horticulturist. ‘Perennial’ refers to plants that grow back every year, season after season. Perennial is a word that means everlasting, always going to grow back. It was special to have other people touching into the album in their own ways.”
The Vera Blue project is, in fact, a collaborative effort between Pavey, producer Andy Mak, his brother Thom as co-writer, sound engineer Jackson Barclay, Melbourne singer-songwriter Gossling, and, of course, Dad with the title.
“All the Vera Blue songs, we write as a team, as folk songs, before we experiment before we go all out with the production and electronica. I grew up with folk in the country, I still touch into that, but I discovered electronic music maybe five years ago. I was really slow off the mark. I started listening to alt-J, BANKS, FKA Twigs, and I was like, ‘This is wicked!’ I want to blend folk with electronica. I met Andy at the perfect time when I was discovering electronic music. We were experimenting and we got the song called Fingertips, and it just went from there.”
These days, Pavey even gets amongst the synths and beat pads and effects for vocal samples, taking turns with the team on production. She also gets amongst the live shows if you’re keen to see her perform (it’s a beautiful treat).
“I’m about to go on a three-month tour,” says Pavey. “It’s super exhausting but incredibly rewarding, to perform songs you’ve written and to have people singing them back to you. I’m excited to spread the Vera love worldwide, hopefully.”
Escaping loneliness and embracing solitude – it’s the same thing when done right, and doing it right requires time, new experiences and heaps of music. Pavey is finally at the other end of it all, the place you can only hope exists when lost in the thick of heartbreak.
“We wrote Regular Touch a long time ago, my newest single, and that song is about wanting to feel content and happy on my own. That’s exactly how I feel right now and I connect with it even more now. I love it.
“I have fears here and there – fears of failure or fears of being judged – but at this particular moment, I’ve got a very strong heart and head. What we’re doing feels so right.”
4 August, The Gov, Adelaide
5 August, Metropolis, Fremantle
8 August, Tap House Bendigo, Bendigo
9 August, Grand Hotel, Mornington
11 August, 170 Russell, Melbourne
12 August, The Wool Exchange, Geelong
25 August, The Triffid, Brisbane
26 August, The Mills Precinct, Toowoomba
27 August, Miami Marketta, Gold Coast
31 August, UOW Uni Bar, Wollongong
1 September, The Beery, Terrigal
2 September, Metro Theatre, Sydney
8 September, Bar On The Hill, Newcastle
9 September, Odeon Theatre, Hobart
10 September, 170 Russell, Melbourne