Vancouver's Nicholas Krgovich and Veda Hille Discuss the Importance of a Hyper-Local Music Scene

"Now that we're all as local as possible all the time, the physical proximity — like, whoever's closest — is who we end up working with"

BY Alex HudsonPublished May 17, 2021

When Nicholas Krgovich was 15, the budding musician covered a handful of songs by Vancouver singer-songwriter Veda Hille. He copied his home recordings onto a cassette and shyly handed it to Hille.

More than 20 years later, he did the same thing — only, this time, he upped the ante by secretly recording 16 of her songs for a tribute album, This Spring, due out May 21 on Tin Angel. While Hille typically delivers her songs with cabaret-inspired flair, Krgovich puts his own distinctive spin on the material, performing Hille's folksy poetry in the form of soulful new age ballads with R&B swagger and spacious, ambient electronics.

Exclaim! sat down with both Krgovich and Hille to discuss the project, which has since spun-off into a full-blown collaboration, as Krgovich is currently in the process of producing and arranging Hille's next album. The pair discuss their deep Vancouver roots, their upcoming livestream on release day, and why staying hyper-local is more important than ever since the pandemic. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Nick, why Veda?

Hille: Remember, I'm right here.

Krgovich: I've been finding that I don't do anything with a very clear purpose at all lately. It's more just a feeling that I go off of whenever I do anything. It was an idea that I kind of had in the back of my head, like 10-15 years ago. We were on on tour with No Kids, and [bandmate] Justin [Kellam] was playing one of Veda's records. I was listening to it just like, "Oh! I feel like I could do this one!" And then another song would come up and I would be like, "I could do this!" It was probably sitting in the back of my head for for ages. Last spring, I ended up with tons of time on my hands, like most people, and I just started revisiting her catalogue. I just started thinking about like my teens and 20s more than I have in ages, or ever. The year flipped to a time where, all of a sudden, I'm more curious about my teens and 20s and reflecting on them. And I think Veda's music was a big part of all that. So it was kind of a way to revisit that headspace a little bit and see how I'm different and how I'm similar.

Hille: When the Pasadena Afternoon tape came out, you were like, "Oh, there's a song here, one of yours." And I wrote and I said, "Please be my ambassador! I love this!" And at that point, you had secretly already made this entire record and I didn't know about it. Then you dropped that bomb. And I cried a little at home in my apartment, like we all did every day last year. It was so incredible, because all I ever want is for the music to keep traveling around out there. And this is this is the best ship it's been on in a long time.

Krgovich: I feel like… Oh! There's a skunk! [Points camera towards a skunk on the grass verge next to the road] Can you see it? It's fluffy. Wow. It's healthy-looking.

Hille: Careful, man. Oh, wow! It's massive! They're so cocky.

Are you on West 16th Avenue? Is that where that is?

Krgovich: No, this is Pender. I hope this is going to be redacted. This can't go in there.

Hille: And I'm up on Victoria, so we're like 10 blocks apart. Deep neighbourhood. That's what I've really noticed, too. I was sick a couple of years ago, and I noticed how the people who lived the closest to me were the people who were able to help us out the most when I was ill. And now that we're all as local as possible all the time, the physical proximity — like, whoever's closest — is who we end up working with now. I think this is kind of an exciting element of what's coming. Less international, more super-tight neighbourhood.

Krgovich: I've been feeling more interested in regionalism in general, too, because the whole world seems to be just like a weird smudge of the same thing.

Hille: Totally! The internet killed a lot of the weird bands that developed in isolation, that we know from the old days. That can't happen anymore. Nobody's isolated enough. But maybe we're coming around to that again.

Krgovich: I just feel like Veda's music also has been quite synonymous with just Vancouver, or being distinctly kind of Canadian. When I first heard her music, I was just excited that someone who made music that I loved was from where I was from. So was probably walking down similar streets or in the same weather system as me. When I was like 13, 14, 15, I was like, "This is cool." Because because it really brought the idea that superstars weren't just like a stadium stage or in an arena.

I had a very similar revelation when I was a teenager and got really into the New Pornographers, and then realized that they probably go to the same Long & McQuade or the same Tom Lee Music that I go to. That changed my perspective.

Hille: Alex, are you here in Vancouver?

I moved to Toronto about three years ago, but I was born and raised in Vancouver. I definitely associate Veda's music with Vancouver, because it seemed like whenever I would go to like a theatrical performance or to the Fringe Festival, if there was ever live music, it would always be Veda.

Hille: I've got such a tight corner of the world. It's funny because I'm in one of those phases where I have to rewrite my bio and collect the press and get that package together, which is not my favourite part of the work. I felt like I was a lot more international in the '90s and I was traveling and playing a lot, but really my core press responses been Canadian and very, very Vancouver. I've just got to embrace that and be happy. There's been this push to be international always, and maybe it's maybe it's not the best route. Or it's not the only route, that's for sure.

Nick, you covered a few of Veda's songs on a tape where you were 15. What do you remember of those of those early early versions of Vedas music you did?

Krgovich: I distinctly have a visual image of us rehearsing in my parents' living room. It was late at night in the fall. I think it was just blustery and dark already. It was 5 p.m. or something like that. That music was always so vibe-y to me, so I just felt very excited and wide-open about covering something like that. The drummer was the only drummer I knew. He was 12 years old and really good. My piano teacher's violin-playing daughter was also there. It was just the three of us. It was so weird. I think I was into that band the Dirty Three at the time, which was kind of a similar setup. It just felt really special and rich.

Hille: I suppose we should dig that up and let people hear it. Yeah, I remember it not being embarrassing. I remember being great. Do you have a copy?

Krgovich: I looked recently in the summer when I was going through some boxes, and I didn't find it. But I didn't look hard as I could have. I was still taking piano lessons still at the time. My piano teacher signed me up for some sort of competition in a church basement or whatever. Everyone went up and played pieces, and I played those songs just by myself without the drums and the violin. And then at the end of the thing, the adjudicator stood up and was like, "We had a great surprise!" I was like, "What's this great surprise all about?' And she just went off about what I did. She'd never heard any of that music. I didn't play with any sheet music; I didn't notate it or anything. I was just vibing hard, as a 15-year-old, with that music.

Hille: I love that so much. If the teenagers are on your side, you know something's going on.

Krgovich: Yeah, but I think I was a freak.

Hille: Well, I still think of you as a teenager, so I hope that that's good.

Veda, have you ever covered one of Nick's songs?

Hille: I am, for the first time, covering Nick songs for our show on May 21. So that's gonna be our little schtick, is that he's gonna play mine and I'm playing his, which is so fun. So I'm in the middle of learning them now. Some of them are so familiar, obviously, because my husband was in Nick's band for so many years. And so there was a long time where I went to all the shows. But then I haven't listened to the later stuff as much as I might have, I'm confessing now. So it's really great to be diving in there and hearing all this stuff. You just hear things in a totally different way when you try to play them yourself. I'm trying to find the ones that I feel like I can put my own little stamp on.

Nick, have many people covered your music before?

Krgovich: I've gotten emails or DMs from people that have covered things and thrown them up on SoundCloud and stuff like that. Nothing significant that I can think of. Madeline Kenney did one recently, maybe a year or two ago? I think it's kind of an unusual practice to cover contemporary artists. That hasn't really happened with any regularity I think since like the '50s, where everyone played everyone else's songs that were still on the hit parade, because people just wanted to hear what was in the Top 10. I do feel like it is kind of funny and radical to play your friend's songs, or songs that are floating around right now.

Hille: I think artists often want the audience to already know the song and to be surprised at what you've done with it, or to be cashed cashing in on a familiarity. I love that that's not really what's going on here at all. I love that this is the first time many people will hear these songs.

Krgovich: Also, I didn't really think about how I was going to approach any of them, I just made them. It was just all like kind of for fun and first-thought-best-thought. I don't even remember what I was doing most of the time, but I'm happy with how it all turned out. So I think it was coming from a place that feels real.

Aside from the show next month, what are you guys working on, either individually or together?

Hille: Nick's making my next record! It's so amazing. I love This Spring so much, and I got to go and sing one song for the album, which is the song "This Spring," that closes the record. Nick asked me to sing it. I was went over to his house at a time when we were allowed to do that and sang in his kitchen on headphones. And it was so free and I felt like I sang totally different than I have in years. I've been writing songs for the last couple years, and a lot of them in pandemic times. I was saying to Nick, "I'm all ready. As soon as COVID's done and I can get a band in the studio and I'll make a big record." And then he said, "Send it over to me." So I sent him a few things to hear, and he just started making the record! It's the best! So that hopefully will come out later this year, I think. It's being mixed right now. It's almost done before This Spring even comes out.

Krgovich: One of the gifts of being at something for a long time is that you can just loosen up. It's the same as giving less effs when you're an adult. You feel less precious about your vision, and more trusting, or open to new, random experiences. Also, I've grown accustomed to making records on a pretty modest scale lately. I'm using a 2011 Airbook and the fan's like bzzz every time I turn it on, but I feel like I'm making stuff that sounds okay. It was just fun to run Veda's songs through my mail a little bit and see what happened, and then rope in a lot of my friends to play on it. It flowed naturally out of the This Spring thing. So now I've basically spent the last year and a half fully in the Hille-verse.

Hille: Sorry and thanks, sorry and thanks.

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