Moments before she was due onstage at Winter Jam, we grabbed a few minutes to talk to Deena Jakoub of VERIDIA. The alternative rock band was nominated for a 2014 Dove Award for “We Are The Brave” alongside Red, We As Human, and tour mates (and Dove winners) Skillet. They’ve also gotten notice for a striking story-video for their song “Disconnected.”
We asked Deena about the band’s background, life on the tour, and the story behind the video.
TSO: Can you explain the name of the band?
Deena: It actually means “truth.” We derived it from veritas, the Latin word for truth. Veridical is the English word. We wanted to have a name that was a daily reminder to us of why we do this in the first place: to strive for honesty in everything we do, our music and our lyrics and even just our words every day. It’s something we want our fans to be able to relate to because they are as much a part of it as we are.
TSO: How long have you been playing together as a band?
Deena: About a year-and-a-half. We just celebrated our 50th show together last week.
TSO: And now you’re on this tour! How did that happen?
Deena: We have a really awesome label that hooked us up! We are part of the Pre-Jam with Blanca and About A Mile. We’ve been having a blast. We were on the West Coast [Winter Jam], too.
TSO: I would think this would be a great learning experience for a relatively new band. What are some things you’ve learned about yourselves during this tour?
Deena: I think a couple of us have issues with being perfectionists. With shows like this, it’s so spontaneous and fast-paced that you really don’t have time — you still do your absolute best, but you don’t have time to make sure everything’s absolutely perfect before you go on. Or if you have interviews, you have to run and run. I think it’s been very humbling to be able to come to an event like this and see 150 people involved in putting this together. We’re on a bus now, but we were on a van before the tour. I think the biggest difference is the connection with the fans. We would play clubs, and it was a lot easier to get to know personal stories one-on-one. At these types of venues, afterwards we get to shake hands and everything, but we don’t really get to hear people’s hearts. That’s the main inspiration behind everything that we do. That’s probably the thing that I miss the most, but it’s been just as encouraging to get to know the 150 people backstage who are doing this.
To be able to share our stories with this many people at once has been a huge blessing, and I feel like we’re where God wants us to be at the moment, so we’re just taking it a day at a time. It’s definitely a surreal situation to be in.
TSO: It’s a long tour. How do you keep up your energy?
Deena: I think the first two weeks we were reminding ourselves that we were trying to rebuild stamina. Everyone was a little groggy and trying to fight sickness and stuff, but now we’re building our strength. A great part about this tour is every week we go home for about three days, and then four days we’re back on the road. That’s rejuvenating to be able to go sleep in your own bed and see family and a couple of your friends — if you have time between doing laundry.
TSO: You’re based out of Nashville now, right?
Deena: Yes, we’ve been in Nashville since two years ago. Brandon, our guitarist, moved up there just before me and my husband moved there from Dallas. Brandon and I have played music together for about eight years. When our previous act disbanded, we wanted to keep doing music. Nashville was calling our name. After eight years you kind of know the system out there. There’s not a lot of industry and not a lot of writers, and we wanted to really start collaborating with people. We met Trevor and Kyle through mutual friends about a year before we were signed.
TSO: That’s quite a journey of faith to pack up and go like that. Lots of bands have done it, but that doesn’t diminish the anxiety and what a big step it is.
Deena: It was hard, especially going to a new place where we didn’t know anybody. Leaving a community that was encouraging us was hard. But God definitely provided a lot of really great friends and an awesome community church there.
TSO: Your “Disconnected” video is this spectacle to behold. The whole old movie storyline, where did that idea come from?
Deena: I had actually written five stories to go along with each one of the songs on our EP. Since we were such a new band, we could really only afford to do one. It was supposed to be like a movie explaining the songs in a really theatrical way. It’s something we try to bring to the stage whenever we can. For that particular one, we really just wanted it to tell the story about love and heartbreak and how when you’re really striving for true love, there are so many obstacles that come your way, like miscommunication, jealousy, pride, and all those things that can literally separate you. The guys’ roles in that were representing those things that were keeping true love from being together, the bridge exploding and everything. But obviously, in the end, love survived.
TSO: Did you give your story to someone and say, “Make this happen visually”?
Deena: Yes, I had a friend of mine draw some pictures and do like a storyboard for me. We worked with really amazing people out of Austin, Texas. They had us come out, and we spent two days there, and they rented out a warehouse. This guy they found on Craigslist had a warehouse for rent and he said, “Just go there, and by the way, I have this little farm house full of old props.” The day before we went, we picked up all these weird light boxes and big tubes and went back to the warehouse, and we all hand-painted them, and we built a hallway and had these lights. Honestly, there were a lot of people who volunteered their time into it. It was so much fun, especially being involved on the acting side and the music side and building. It was something we were all passionate about.
TSO: It would be cool if you could finish the stories of the other songs.
Deena: Now that we’re working on songs for our full-length, I’m hoping we can create a story out of that and do something more extensive.
TSO: Is there an act on this tour that you were stoked to get to meet?
Deena: Obviously Skillet is more in the vein of what we do with the rock scene — we have a little more electronic pop to us — but that’s been really encouraging to see other women take the stage boldly and have such a history behind them. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them and seeing them perform every night. Family Force 5 is just so energetic and fun and has us come out on stage with them during “Cray Button.” It’s been awesome to go out and be crazy with them. Also, everyone has been incredible, super-talented. I love going out and seeing Franny. Blanca was a huge surprise, because nobody knew what her music would sound like, and it’s so urban and has really phat beats and her voice pierces through the whole audience.
TSO: Has the reception been good for you guys?
Deena: I think so. We’re signing for about an hour after the shows, and it’s really great to have that many people wanting to hang out with us afterwards, so I’m grateful.
TSO: Any behind-the-scenes stories that people might like to hear?
Deena: My first night going out on “Cray Button” for Family Force 5, they have us wear these crazy jumpsuits, which is hilarious, and we carry these giant balloons, which are pretty much as big as me. I don’t know how I ended up being the first person to go up, but I had it in front of me and a guitar tech, Xanadu, was rounding the corner and slammed into me, and I flew backwards. I still had the balloon, so I didn’t know how to get up! I had one hand up and finally Kyle grabbed me and pushed me out because they were all waiting for us to come onto the stage.
TSO: Somebody had to push the button!
Deena: I was blocking the roadway! At least there was stage behind me. I was afraid I was going to fall off. I was a little disheveled. Unfortunately, nobody got that on slow mo video.
TSO: Jacob showed us his back injury video.
Deena: Yeah, so we’re not allowed to do flips anymore.
TSO: I love that they made a rule! No more flips, kids. And avoid Crouton. Who’s the most enthusiastic on the tour?
Deena: Everyone’s pretty chill behind stage compared to their stage personas. The About A Mile guys, even at midnight after the show on the bus (we share a bus with them), they’re off-the-wall. Always full of energy. Lucas is the calm brother, but Levi and Adam are nuts all the time.
The 2015 Winter Jam Tour Spectacular features Skillet, Jeremy Camp, Francesca Battistelli, Building 429, Family Force 5, NewSong, for KING & COUNTRY, speaker Tony Nolan and a Pre-Jam Party with Blanca, About A Mile and VERIDIA. The tour continues through the end of March, with no tickets required, only $10 at the door. Visit www.jamtour.com for more info and a full list of dates and cities.