Written by: Matt Sloan
It’s good to have The Veldt back.
Led by identical twins Danny and Daniel Chavis, the North Carolina outfit has returned after an extensive hiatus and they’ve never sounded better.
Falling somewhere between The Sound and My Bloody Valentine, The Veldt play moody and inspired post-punk that coats some of the catchiest songs you’ll ever hear in layers of fuzz-drenched brilliance.
The band’s first release in almost twenty years is The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation and they’re on tour to support it now.
Stereo Embers talks to Danny Chavis of The Veldt.
Stereo Embers Magazine: The Veldt’s music has been receiving a lot of praise lately, underlining such aspects of your music typically non-existent elsewhere – like Daniel’s soulful falsetto and the fact that you combine beats with shoegaze and R&B / soul music. Can you tell us something about your early influences and how you initially all came together to make music?
Danny Chavis: Well, my brother Daniel was in an R&B group called Isis with a bunch of older dudes on the south side and I had a makeshift gospel band. We’d go down to see the local gospel act play here in downtown Raleigh at a place called the Raleigh Safety Club, which was kind of a juke joint for gospel acts. A lot of these things had a very huge influence on us, between me playing gospel and him playing R&B at the time. So the band at that time eventually was comprised of myself and Robert Jackson (god rest his soul) on keyboards with my brother on bass and a drum machine. Our first show was opening for hardcore band COC out of Raleigh, NC at an early hardcore punk show.
SEM: What is your current lineup?
DC: It’s been pretty steady since then. We are myself (guitar), Daniel Chavis (vocals, guitar), Hayato Nakao (bass) and Marvin Levi (drums). We’re often joined live by Frank Olson (guitar).
SEM: You’ve played with a lot of bands: My Bloody Valentine, The Pixies, Echo & The Bunnymen, Cocteau Twins, Manic Street Preachers, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Oasis, Living Colour and TV on the Radio.
DC: Well actually, we never played with MBV, but I’d have to say from the others bands that they all stood out because I saw it was the music of the future. I felt it in my soul – that’s why we never stopped.
SEM: You previously collaborated with TV On The Radio, Mos Def and Lady Miss Kier (Deee-Lite). Have you been collaborating with anybody more recently?
DC: Rudy Tambala from A.R.Kane produced “And It’s You” on our new EP and Andrew Prinz from Mahogany played guitar and recently made a remix for “One Day Out of Life.” Marie Cochrane contributed vocals. Robin Guthrie enters the picture again on production for several tracks on our forthcoming album and Creation Records’ legend Joe Foster also produced a brilliant mix there. We are always trying out new stuff with new people.
SEM: What was it like working with Robin Guthrie?
DC: Working with Robin Guthrie was a great experience–I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I know we go on about him, but I think people underestimate the quality of his new work. In general, I think folks that look just at his Cocteau Twins discography are missing out, given that he has so much music in him. I learned a lot about guitar layering and feeling from him, which is only scratching the surface of what it is to feel the sound. It means much more than pedals at some point.
SEM: When you were on major record labels like Capitol and Mercury, they tried to confine you to a certain image and sound. You also went on to self-release your 2008 album White Music for Black People. What are some pros and cons of signing to a major label vs the DIY culture?
DC: They deemed us difficult because they claimed they didn’t know what to do with us, so they stopped doing everything and eventually they let us go–you see, we know all the ins and outs of racial profiling on stage and off and we know that it’s commercially easy to market a white act as opposed to a black group with this sound. It’s just the truth–plain and simple. We were deemed difficult because we had a vision that they didn’t agree with and we stuck to it. We all play music to enjoy ourselves and to share with people. We are not curing cancer here – we all know all of this is subjective and try not to take ourselves too seriously, but, at the same time, enjoy what we do. As for our album White Music for Black People, it was OK – it didn’t get out to many people and we may re-release it again. It was easy because we didn’t have anyone breathing down our necks.
SEM: How has the media and listeners’ response changed over the last twenty years? Do you find that The Veldt is finally getting the recognition you deserve now compared to the early 90’s?
DC: It’s great now – because of the net we can get to a lot of people we may not have otherwise been able to reach. There will always be some people that like it and some that won’t, just like 30 years ago. The mission here is to do what we have been doing. We never cared for cliques or scenes, which I guess made us unpopular in some circles to the dismay of whatever trend or hip thing happening at the time–much like what occurred with Anton Newcombe from The Brian Jonestown Massacre. He stuck to the music he believed in and look at him now. You really just have to let people do their thing and get on with it. This is I really something I admire about him. We think a lot of what is happening right now is down to excellent work by our publicist Shauna at Shameless Promotion PR. She got us up to Canada for a tour there earlier this year, which got the ball rolling on a lot of things and led to some pretty rad national and international press coverage for us, too.
SEM: You recently toured with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, didn’t you?
DC: Yeah, we did some east coast dates with them and it was brilliant. They are like brothers for us and we will always look forward to any opportunities to work with them or even just hang out in the future. It seems we really understand and respect each other in many awesome ways.
SEM: Your band and upcoming album names are taken from influential poets and writers (The Veldt a short story written by Ray Bradbury and “The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur” a line from an E.E. Cummings’ poem). Do you have a close affinity towards Bradbury and Cummings? Which literary figures are your favorites?
DC: Cummings is kind of like the sound he makes.. his words are ambient and beautiful and very descriptive and passionate, yet appealing to the most common situations to paint the most vivid pictures Rod Mckuen is also a writer of this caliber as well–for example: “Cats have it all – admiration, an endless sleep, and company only when they want it.”
SEM: What albums have you been listening to lately?
DC: Of course, there is Cocteau Twins, A.R.Kane, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Ummagma, as well as Popol Vuh, Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Flying Saucer Attack, Pharoah Sanders, The Trance of Seven Colors (Maallem Mahmoud Ganiah)… Tangerine Dream, Stevie Wonder, The Jesus and Mary Chain.
SEM: Where can people find your latest EP?
DC: It’s out on vinyl through a very cool Manchester-based boutique label called Leonard Skully Records – you can order it here. We also have it digitally and are accepting pre-orders for CDs at our bandcamp site:
SEM: What are some things you have in the pipeline in the next half year?
DC: It’s hard to plan so far ahead, but we do know of some things. Lots more shows. Really looking forward to touring central Canada again in early September with Your 33 Black Angels and we have two big festivals happening in Europe that month – September 10 is the Reverence Festival in Portugal and September 23 we have the Liverpool Psych Fest to look forward to. Hoping to tour more around Europe in between and following those dates. We’ll also soon be releasing a new video for “One Day Out of Life,” which was produced and filmed by the super multi-talented designer NiiLartey De Osu and starring Mani De Osu. It’s beautiful. Hoping to share other videos soon enough too. My crystal ball has expired.