“I don’t mind you leaving when the damage is done/ I don’t mind how I feel the same when you’re gone,” New York alt-pop and R&B singer-songwriter VÉRITÉ sings mater-of-factly on “When You’re Gone,” the first track on her debut LP, Somewhere in Between. As the shaky, reverbed bass bounces up and down like a heart monitor, the song reveals a personal, intimate breakdown.
By the second song, “Phase Me Out,” it appears as though the heart of the artist, Kelsey Byrne, may have recently been broken. “Don’t you want to stay here/ Or do you want to phase me out/ Don’t you want to lay here/ Or would you rather do without.”
But despite the slow-burner song’s video, which features a disintegrating relationship between VÉRITÉ and a lover more interested in hockey highlights, Somewhere in Between is not a break-up record.
“I really haven’t had many breakups at all,” said Byrne, who performs at Popscene on Monday. “For me, the content is definitely about my disconnection in relationship to the world. Sometimes that gets portrayed as a metaphor of a relationship with significant others, just because it’s a convenient metaphor.”
On the album, the icy-voiced soprano tackles the human condition, and in particular, what she describes as her struggles with boredom and apathy. The writing and recording process was itself a battle to break out of a rut and a search for true emotional inspiration.
Following three EPs, Byrne had gotten used to getting inspired as she wrote and had built a “romanticized notion” that she could channel heartfelt emotion into her songs.
“Making this record, I couldn’t access a lot of that in my psyche,” she said. “And I was really down on myself for a while about that: ‘I’m not making good things and I’m not making heartfelt things.’ So on half of this record there are moments when that comes out. And the other half is me analyzing that experience of feeling like I need to be feeling much more than I am.”
That led to a couple of dualities in the songs on Somewhere in Between (out June 23 on Kobalt). Some were hard and some soft. Some were pop, and some lean in the alt-rock direction.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the middle of the 13-track album, with the one-two punch of two distinct songs: “Saint” and “Solutions.” The first is dark and glossy, with Byrne singing, “Maybe you’re too innocent/ And I’m a crack in your glass.” The second is driving and relentless, with squelching keyboards and unmeasured vocal breakdowns. The only thing keeping the songs similar is the lyrics, with sample lines like: “Searching for absolution in some place I haven’t found.”
“The record is definitely a bridge between alternative and pop,” VÉRITÉ said. “Those two songs in particular are opposites of each other. If you were to point out the quote-unquote pop single, it would be “Saint,” so I wanted it set up directly with “Solutions.” [That song] drops right into a super-odd time signature. It alternates between bars of 7/15 and 8/15.”
Somewhere in Between. Get it?
Byrne grew up in Upstate New York and latched onto music around the age of 8, when she took up singing and playing the piano. Her first musical inspirations came from bands like the Cranberries, Green Day and the Breeders. At 13 she had her own punk cover band that played shows in New York City, to which she moved when she was 20.
That’s when she started writing songs as VÉRITÉ, balancing music with a fulltime waitressing job at Applebee’s in Times Square. She self-released her first single and EP, Echo, in 2014. Sentiment followed in 2015, and a third EP, Living, in 2016.
Byrne held on to the waitressing gig up until the release of the second EP. The job funded her independence, and despite some major label interest, she chose to stay independent to control her own destiny, even though her friends were begging her to quit earlier.
“When you own your master, you are your own investor,” she said. “My say is the final say, and that’s not necessarily the same when you have a major label onboard super early. Keeping that autonomy was important, which meant I had to work.”
By 2016, she was touring with Tove Lo and BØRNS, and was well on her way to independence.
VÉRITÉ worked with a team of producers on Somewhere in Between, including Liam Howe (Lana del Rey, Ellie Goulding, fka twigs), Tim Anderson (Twenty One Pilots, Solange), Peter Thomas (Selena Gomez, Betty Who). But she was the executive producer. This led to some uncomfortable situations for the singer-songwriter, who had previously been accustomed to having many of the production decisions being made for her.
Suddenly, she had to walk a fine line between accepting the others’ creative perspective while keeping true to her vision. Chalk it up as another internal struggle she had to overcome.
“Coming out of the other side of it, it was a very positive thing for me,” she said. “In the future, I think it will be an easier process.”
VÉRITÉ tour dates:
*with Betty Who
April 26 Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s*
April 27 Vancouver, BC @ Imperial*
April 28 Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom*
April 30 Sacramento, CA @ Harlow’s*
May 1 San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
May 2 Los Angeles, CA @The Fonda Theater*