Jesse Keenan

Interview by: Nate Bailey
Photos by: Tom Bastian

Veronica is a melodic rock band from Pennsylvania. They have a new full length out on The Militia Group. This interview took place with the talented, handsome, and breather of fire Jesse Keenan. He plays the keys.

Nate: Tell me a little bit about the evolution of the it got started and how you got involved.

Jesse: Veronica grew out of the rotting corpse of the legendary alterno-band "Velvet Temple." I had nothing to do with that band. Founding members Jay and Ian are the only remnants of that era. Dave, Ryan, and I joined in summer/fall of 2000. I had met most of the guys through my previous band, Pink Daffodils. Although I played guitar and bass, Veronica wanted synth, and I wanted to learn.
Ryan was the most recent addition. I knew Ryan from his previous band, Empty Set, and suggested him to the guys, well aware of his extraordinary ability and good looks.

Nate: You guys have a new CD that just came out, where did you record, who produced the album and are you happy with the outcome?

Jesse: We recorded it at Mountainside Studios in the Poconos. Veronica had done stuff there before, and knew the engineer, Rich Resigno, pretty well. He did a great job, I think, of making it sound good. So I'm happy with the outcome, but I'm already tired of the songs.

Nate: Are there any plans for a tour this summer or this fall?

Jesse: We did a mini tour to and from Cornerstone, and hopefully a bigger tour in the fall, once our full length has been out for a while.

Nate: Who is Veronica, and why did the band get named after her?

Jesse: Veronica is the name of an onion and pepper pizza we ate in Boise, Idaho one summer. It was so delicious that we decided to name the band after it.

Nate: You have recently signed with the Militia Group. How has it been being on the label so far?

Jesse: It's been real cool thus far. It is almost like an agreement among friends, but at the same time, it's fully professional. A good balance. Chad and Rory are great dudes.

Nate: You were in a pretty serious accident a few years ago...tell me about that. What lessons did you learn from it, and how did it effect who you are and your role in Veronica?

Jesse: Umm... A car hit me. I don't really feel like getting into the details. I broke both my legs and was in a wheel chair for about two months. I could give cliché lines about how I learned about the value of life and all and I did experience all those things and learn those lessons. But in a practical sense, I learned that, because life is so fragile and fleeting, we (I) need to make the most of this short life. I hate to waste time. Not that I always need to be doing something, but I try to use my time wisely, so that I will not regret anything later. And in a sense you owe it to the world to be what you were meant to be. If you are an artist, a musician, a poet, a designer; you need to realize your potential. To hold it back is selfish, and in some sense, I want to become all that I'm meant to be.

Nate: Within the band, who writes the music and the lyrics? Is it a group process, or individualized?

Jesse: Well, things are still new, so it's hard to say what is the standard. Most of the new songs we're writing are almost completely by Jay or I. Then we present them to the band and adjusted them. But a couple of songs were written collectively, and while this is harder, I think it reflects the band's style better. Jay, Ian, or I usually write the lyrics.

Nate: What kinds of shows has Veronica been playing? Do you primarily play to any certain audience?

Jesse: We've been bouncing between youth group/Christian type shows and club/bar shows. I think we're aiming for a more general audience, but a lot of our friends and fans have roots in the Christian scene.

Nate: You have some interesting musical tastes, particularly your interest in Norwegian death metal. What bands are your favorite, and how does your interest come out in the music of Veronica? Is there chance of a metal cover album?

Jesse: Well, the myth of my expansive Scandinavian black metal knowledge is mostly a lie, propagated by some of the members of the Tonga Room Death Incident. I did however grow up in love with old Christian metal, such as Mortification, Vengeance, Tourniquet, The Crucified, and Betrayal. They were the main influences on Pink Daffodils. I'm constantly impressed with Scandinavian hardcore and metal these days: Extol, Selfmindead, Silence the Foe, Blindside. In terms of Veronica, I guess you could say I'm expressing my repressed feminine side through this music. I still love heavy stuff, and don't be surprised if one day you find me involved musically in it again.

Nate: Does Veronica play for any certain purpose, or is it just a bunch of guys playing in a band for fun?

Jesse: This answer would probably get five different answers from us, so I'll give my version. The bible says do everything unto the Lord. Whether I'm writing a metal praise song, a pop love song, or cleaning a toilet, I'm doing for the glory of God. So to say that I play to praise God and spread the gospel is redundant, because that is the goal of my whole life, everything I do. So take it how you like, I love Jesus, and I play cheesy love songs.

Nate: Describe your dream Veronica tour.

Jesse: Every show would be with SideWalk Slam, and we would never leave southern Illinois.

Nate: Where did you go to school and what did you study?

Veronica: I graduated from East Stroudsburg University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in fine arts, with a concentration in music.

Nate: If Veronica were The Outsiders, who would be Ponyboy, Johnny, Sodapop etc. ?

Jesse: I never saw the movie. But Dave would definitely be Charlie Sheen, and Ian would be whatever guy was always talking to the girls (* Interviewers note: Sodapop)

Nate: Didn't you go on tour with Squad Five-0? When and for how long did that take place and what was it like?

Jesse: I personally went on tour with Squad (not Veronica). They are good friends of mine, so I did the merch for their summer '00 tour, for a chance to travel the country. It was only a couple of weeks, but I got to see nearly all of the U.S. It was quite amazing. and incredibly fun as well.

Nate: Recently, more and more people from the Sofa Records family and the Philly scene are getting more recent exposure (Huntingtons, Element101, One:21, Speedy Delivery, Pink Daffodils) either in their band, or in new bands (i.e. One:21 and Speedy Delivery members in Squad Five-0 etc). What was the old scene like and why has all this talent continued to be involved with such great bands?

Jesse: Well, Philly is the best city in the world, so it's to be expected...please, don't make me reminisce. '96-'97. The shows were great, everyone had fun, and everyone hung out all the time. We had this awesome family. We still do in a lot of ways. Just now its not centered on Friday nights at the basement or the Break-Thru. It was more than good musicians that's not what has perpetuated, it's the fun and passion that we learned in those days. Someday we'll put out a retrospective CD, complete with location maps and a family tree.

Nate: Why is Fazoli's a great place to eat?

Jesse: Breadsticks.

Nate: Why are you continually involved in music and the independent music scene? What is it that keeps you interested?

Jesse: You could probably guess some of my reasons. I've said that I'm compelled to produce something worthwhile, artistically, and more than that, I want to see others do the same. Particularly the kids who are just getting involved. I want to be an encouragement to them so the "scene" has constant forward motion. I love to see the 13-year-olds playing MxPx covers, because in five or six years, it will be them writing the groundbreaking new songs.

Nate: What does the next year hold for Veronica?

Jesse: I don't believe in fortune telling.

Nate: Where can the readers find out more about the band?


Nate: Any closing comments?

Jesse: If you got this far, I doubt you want to hear any more.

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