The Hippo


May 28, 2020








Strangled Darlings. Courtesy photo.

Strangled Darlings

When: Friday, Feb. 17, 9 p.m.
Where: Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester

Road tested
Americana duo Strangled Darlings play Shaskeen

By Michael Witthaus

 The music of Strangled Darlings is filled with echoes of the past. Tom Verlaine and Television at CBGB — on mandolin instead of guitar — or Dr. John night tripping through tunes about gris-gris and gilded splinters. There are hints of cannibals and ghosts of the Civil War; fitting for a band with a name inspired by William Faulkner, a most Southern writer. 

George Veech is the singer, picker and chief songwriter for Strangled Darlings; he’s anchored by Jess Anderly on rhythm and harmony. Veech offers a more contemporary vision of the duo’s born-on-the-bayou sound. 
“There is a backstory to these songs,” he wrote in a recent email exchange. “They are characters in a little town that appears out of the smog and Facebook posts of modern ennui.”
Veech and Anderly met in 2009 over a duet of Prince’s “Pussy Control” at a party and formed a band soon after. In 2013, they left their bandmates and home base of Portland, Oregon, to tour the country in a 20-foot RV. Last year, they found a house in Vermont that was enticing enough to make them park for a while.
“After two years of trying to understand what it means to be a touring independent music provider, now we’ve got the time to actually create new material,” Veech said by phone while driving north after a swing through the South that hit Florida, the Carolinas and Maryland. “That’s the only way you can survive as far as I can tell. You can’t cut new material and tape ideas in a Wal-Mart parking lot.”
Their latest album, Boom Stomp King, is a swampy acoustic groovefest. Highlights include herky-jerky leadoff track “Neil Armstrong” and “Kill Yourself,” which was written after a photo shoot inspired a T-shirt. It doesn’t mean what you think it does, Veech said. 
“If the song is about anything, it’s that shopping won’t really make you happy and that one should take care not to get too full of hot air because it usually won’t exit your body as a burp.”
Veech shrugs off occasional comparisons to rootsy duos like Shovels and Rope. 
“Listen man, if I hike my skirt up and nobody stops, that’s a problem,” he said. “Once I can afford to get pissed off about being compared to an indie famous male-female duo playing stringed instruments and drums while yelling a bit off key, I’ll let you know. But you’ll probably have to talk to my agent at that point, and I will have a very cranky agent.”
A guitarist who switched to mandolin because it travels easier,Veech is a latecomer to the music-making trade. 
“It was like a friend who turns out to be a girlfriend in a movie,” he said. “I was always interested and pretended to be a rock star with my brothers when I was a kid; then 10 years ago, I lived in South Africa for a year. For some reason being in a different country freed me up to actually do it.”
His influences began with Led Zeppelin and meandered through blues, early 1980s Police records and King Ad Rock. 
“Finally, Tom Waits and the Pogues made alcohol and depression make sense,” Veech said. “But all that was before weed; really, I wasn’t a musician before that.”
Though he lived in Burlington a long time ago, Vermont is a different experience this time around; a far cry from the Pacific Northwest, and happily so. 
“I was in the middle of northeast Portland, which is all hip coffee shops and cocktails, and now it’s an hour to get anywhere,” Veech said. “Now that I’m in my 40s, just Jess and I up there is perfect timing for the next stage of our creative process. The fact that it’s freezing cold adds to the drama.”
Asked where the new songs he and Anderly are developing are coming from creatively, Veech stiffens. 
“I wish I could answer that, but that’s what songs are for.” he said. “Mostly I think they’re inspired by daily attention to music practice while listening to too much news on the radio. … The recent presidential election has led me to realize that words are spells, and words are power. And I sort of love that. You can have your guns, bitches.”

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