Whenever you create a work of art, you share a little bit of yourself. Everyone who looks at your work will be able to experience part of what makes you tick. Even if it’s buried deep in fictional narratives or couched in symbolism and metaphors, it’s still there. Some artists take it even further, creating works that reveal their deepest thoughts, experiences, and perspectives. There’s no hiding in these pieces of art, as every ounce of the person’s heart and dedication is poured into the project. It can be an intimidating process for all involved, but the catharsis is equally impressive in relation to the challenge. Independent Nashville band Veridia contains an honesty that is potent, led by frontwoman Deena Jakoub’s writing and powerful vocals. Jakoub–alongside bandmates Brandon Brown and Kyle Levy–has taken that honesty and vulnerability to an even higher level on Veridia’s debut album The Beast You Feed, dropping this Friday, October 26. Veridia and Jakoub have never been more vulnerable, and their music has never been better.
When we speak at the end of September, Jakoub is quick to say that the process of opening up and releasing The Beast You Feed has not been easy. There’s an excitement in her demeanor, but there’s an equal measure of nervousness as well. In a particularly apt description given the season, Jakoub describes the process of holing away to work on the album by saying “You spend enough time being a vampire in a dungeon creating something you hope someone is actually going to listen to and now you’re ready to show it to the world, and you hope someone is gonna bite.” It’s a long and difficult experience, especially since she says she’s a nitpicker with her songs, wanting to work on them and tweak things over and over again. She gets so wrapped up thinking about possible changes she “literally [has] to step away from it for a week or two just to have fresh ears on it and everything.”
And step away Jakoub did. As is not uncommon in the music industry, the writing on the album has been done for months. “We finished it in March and then had to walk away from it,” she recalls. It’s only more recently while Veridia has worked on promotion, imaging, and the other aspects of an album release that they have returned to it, which has given them a new appreciation for the emotion they put into it and the music they created. It’s been surreal for Jakoub. She explains, “You know when you wake up from a dream and you’re like ‘was that real or not?’ I’m kinda in that state of mind because all of that stuff was in my head at one point and nobody knew what I was thinking or trying to say.” When The Beast You Feed is released, people will now know exactly what Jakoub is thinking.
The Beast You Feed is ten songs long, and the album is conceptually split into two halves. This comes up when we’re discussing the two singles from the album, “Numb” and “I Won’t Stay Down.” Besides being the first single, “Numb” also serves as the opening track of the album. This was not a coincidence. Jakoub says “‘Numb’ is the first track off the album and it showcases what the first half of the album is about. You’ll notice in our artwork throughout there’s a half black and half white theme and that’s because the first half of the album tells a lot of dark stories.” There are the difficult times that she’s gone through in her own experience. With a laugh she describes the first half of The Beast You Feed as “pretty sassy,” further explaining these songs have a lot of anger in them, some instances of which she didn’t have a good resolution or answer for. On the flip side, “The second half is more up-lifting. It talks about stories of people who were a light in my life when I needed it the most,” she says. “I Won’t Stay Down” bridges those two halves, with an anger and defiance in the music that gives way to the determination and drive in the lyrics.
Musically, Veridia enlisted the help of Matt Squire to produce the album for them. For Jakoub, this experience was years in the making in her mind. “The fun thing about it is that five years ago I was making sort of a dream board and I was like ‘okay, what are my aspirations? What are my goals? Where I want Veridia to go, ya know? And I had a list of dream producers and Matt Squire was one of them” she recalls with glee. The experience was all she could hope for, as she says Squire had a number of great ideas for them while at the same time possessing no ego, letting Veridia take the lead on everything.
Even the title holds meaning to Jakoub. The Beast You Feed is based on an old Cherokee folk tale. The story goes that there are two wolves, or “beasts,” inside of us to represent our light and dark sides. The one that wins is the one we “feed” or give our energy to. The cover art for the album, which promintely features these two wolves, was done by artist Paul Borthick, who runs the art company Thistle and Ink. Jakoub recalls “He did a piece–the two wolves piece–because his heritage was Cherokee and his father used to tell him that and his father had passed away and I connected with it and everything later on.” The loss of a parent deeply resonated with her; her father had also passed away before she approached Borthick. Speaking further of the collaboration with Borthick and what it meant to her, she says “It was very emotional for both of us to do something in honor of them and in honor of the people we wanted to become to make them proud.”
The influence of her father’s death also made its way into the music of The Beast You Feed. Specifically, album closer “I’ll Never Be Ready” carries a ton of meaning for Jakoub. “It’s definitely the most personal, vulnerable song I’ve ever written,” she reveals. She says the band knew the song had to be on the album, but also knew it was not a song the full band should perform. Fighting through emotion, she told me the whole story behind “I’ll Never Be Ready.” She says “It was very hard because I had written the song when my dad was sick a couple years prior and I knew that the inevitable was coming. I knew that I would have to say goodbye, but I didn’t want to think about it in that moment because he was still present with me. I still had him. And I was like I can’t waste my time with him thinking about what’s to come, but I can’t change the past that he got sick and I can’t change the future. I don’t know when I’ll have to say goodbye, but I do have now. I have this moment, and that’s what the song was about. Be in the moment, and be grateful for the people who are around you that surround you with love and compassion and strength.”
Jakoub knew the song needed a special touch, and she knew exactly the person to contact. Veridia toured with Evanescence in 2016, and the band reached out to frontwoman Amy Lee to see if she would play the piano on “I’ll Never Be Ready.” Jakoub didn’t expect a fast response, but as it turns out her and Lee were in a similar position at the time. She says “The crazy thing was [Lee] responded immediately, and I had no idea that just a month prior she lost her younger brother.” She further describes the confluence of events that brought the two women together as “divine,” and says the two spent an entire night processing and grieving together after the song was done.
If you’ve ever been through any of these major hardships, you know how hard it is to talk about. The fact it is difficult is exactly why it’s important to Jakoub. She explains “I am a huge advocate for vulnerability and having relationships that aren’t superficial, that are very in-depth. I think that’s what we live for is connection and authenticity in our relationships, and the only way we’re going to get that is by being vulnerable because someone wants to be able to relate to you.” She further says that she’s had many people in her life who have been open and honest with her, and she wants to share that with Veridia’s fans in order to create an authentic connection. She also says that the process of writing itself can hard emotionally, as when she’s in the middle of writing something she carries a “tension” that doesn’t dissipate until the project is done and the emotional resolution has been released.
While she is a pillar of emotional growth and strength, Jakoub is the first to say she couldn’t make Veridia work all on her own. When we talk about Brown and Levy, she’s quick to heap praise on her bandmates. “I wouldn’t be able to do this without them. I don’t play any instruments … but when I met Brandon he was exceptional at the guitar and he was able to emote instrumentally what I couldn’t,” she says. Levy joined the band after Brown, but Jakoub says the same sentiment goes for him as well. In addition, Veridia are an independent band, which means they don’t have access to much of the infrastructure a label provides. Instead, the band relies on their own separate skills and support from fans to get things done. Jakoub reveals Brown is the businessman, while Levy possesses carpentry skills that cover everything from building sets to “Pretty much remodeling her entire house,” she says with a laugh. Her praise for the fans is effusive as well. She says, “It’s unbelievable. I always thought that this was what I was called to do, was tell stories and sing, write songs. And I’ve always gone one day at a time, hoping I get to do it another day, another year, another five years.” In her estimation, she gets to do what she was called to do because of the fans.
No matter what subject comes up, Deena Jakoub will do her best to share her experience, her view, and her vulnerability with the world. It holds true in her conversations, and it holds true on stage as Veridia next to Brandon Brown and Kyle Levy. The Beast You Feed is the most open and honest music Veridia has ever created, and it’s not hard to tell this is a huge accomplishment for Jakoub. She’s going to share her energy and her heart with the world no matter what, and if we all followed her lead just a little more we’d probably be a whole lot happier. Jakoub has set the example; it’s never too late to start.