A few months ago we featured the video for The Veldt’s “Sanctified”, and have followed their rise to dominance ever since. And that includes their stage-sharing antics with the likes of The Brian Jonestown Massacre in May. So now we thought it time to get a glimpse at the method behind the madness with this exclusive interview with Danny Chavis, one of the masterminds of all that is The Veldt.
Who is The Veldt and what kind of music do you make? What do you do?
The Veldt is my brother Daniel Chavis and myself, Danny Chavis, as well as Hayato Nakao and Marvin Levi. Also sometimes Frank Olson.
I am the main guitarist and songwriter we tend to make everything together give or take what comes first.
Our history is sort of a long story but let just say history has away of coming back to a sound that was abandoned in the late 90’s under a negative label that was called shoegaze by a lazy journalist back then. Now we are seeing that this sound is back now in the 21st century. We happened to come out of that scene in a back door kind of way.
Our vision is simple – to make music the way we feel and share it with the public. I think the time is now or it has always really been our time, so we will seize the moment and give it our best, both spiritually and soulfully.
Can you tell us about your current release?
The Shocking Fuzz of your Electric Fur is a 5-song EP of our latest music. We have been developing the new songs for a year or so and now ready for it’s release; it’s a combination of recreated Drake tracks set to our own sound. It’s based on the possibility of alien life on other planets and also based on the sexual desire of a woman’s body hair set to music. Our label is putting this to vinyl, and so has pushed the release date back to April 8 now.
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What other releases do you have lined up in 2016? Can you tell us about that? Will you have anything else on the go this year that you can speak about?
We have the ‘Resurrection Hymns’ LP coming out in the fall. It will be a distinctive presentation of our music over the past few years while we were less ‘public’ than we are today. The electronics have somewhat taken on a major part of what we do.
Hayato and I are deep in the midst of making soundscapes put in song format. I’m sure the record after this will be a little more out there in space. It’s a black hole if you must. One must look at the sound as going on forever and ever like radio waves travel through space and time – soul music in space, and it just doesn’t stop there.
Please tell me briefly what these songs and artists mean to you? How exactly did they influence you?
Thank you. These artists knew no compromise and saw to it that their music was a part of who they are and where they wanted to get to. And for some of them, the mere idea of being different made it hard for them, but they never gave up and that is what these songs mean to me.
How did you originally start getting into music?
My grandfather liked the blues. And spending time with the burn-outs in the smoking court in high school – that’s how I first heard of Jimi Hendrix and it took off from there. Then my granddad bought Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ and I got hooked. He was way ahead of his time.
You must’ve come across a lot of bands in your time. Can you name a few faves, who you think deserve more credit?
Cocteau Twins, A.R. Kane, Wolfgang Press
What was the best live gig that you’ve played as an artist?
The ones where we opened for the Jesus and Mary Chain and also Cocteau Twins.
What are you listening to these days?
Pol pol vah, Alice Coltrane, Flying Saucer Attack, Arthur Lee and Love, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spacemen 3, Isaac Hayes, A.R. Kane, Ummagma, and Miles Davis. Also a lot of deep south trap music – I like to keep it crunk you know…
How did your mini-tour with The Brian Jonestown Massacre go? And you also visited Canada recently I understand. Any plans to gig or tour in support of your new releases in the near future? What might we expect?
Oh yes, we had a really great string of gigs locally in NYC in March, a tour of Eastern Canada in April and then three East Coast dates with The Brian Jonestown Massacre in May! We’d like to come back to Canada again – we were really happy with the reception we got there in all the cities we visited. We have a few dates lined up for July, including the Portland Psych Fest and another one we’re really looking forward to is the Liverpool Psych Fest in September, with some other touring thereabouts to follow.
The most immediate concert we have coming up is in New York – likely our last one there for a while – with American Anymen and A Deer A Horse. That will be on July 16th at (Le) Poisson Rouge in New York City. I encourage people to buy their tickets in advance HERE.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.
Yeah, that’s cool.
About The Veldt
Identical twins Daniel and Danny Chavis may originally hail from Raleigh/ Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but they have been East Village residents for the past 28 years. They are also co-founders of the groundbreaking band The Veldt, who lifted their band’s name from a Ray Bradbury science fiction story. Musically reared in the church and juke-joints of their native southern state, the twins have been performing since they were children, listening to music that included gospel, Motown and Pink Floyd. They now make music, together with bassist/programmer Hayato Nakao, returning to their roots with the release of The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation Mixtape EP.
The first single is the emotionally wrought Sanctified, a ballad that perfectly captures the lush sound of Danny’s screeching guitars and decibel-breaking distortion, along with Daniel’s soulful wail and Hayato Nakao’s deep bass grooves and guitar feedback, the track serves as the perfect re-introduction to this dynamic band. The title The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur was borrowed from an E.E. Cummings poem. Its raging sound was influenced equally by the emotional soul of Marvin Gaye, free jazz warriors Sun Ra and Pharaoh Sanders, various Drake hip-hop tracks, and their own fertile electric imagination.
In their early days, the Chavis brothers making a name for themselves playing throughout the south at a time when fellow southerners REM and Superchunk were securing major label deals. As more black rock bands (Living Colour, 24/7 Spyz) began selling records and gigging throughout the world, The Veldt was courted by various labels, including IRS Records and Capitol.
Initially signed to Capitol Records in 1989, The Veldt embarked on a musical journey that changed their lives. Soon, they were in the studio with dream-gaze guru Robin Guthrie working on their initial recordings, playing American concert halls with Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain, and recording Marigolds with Lincoln Fong (Moose).
The Veldt were a sensation from the start as they became a part of a movement of innovators who came of musical age at a time when rhythmic rebels were reflective, gritty and wild. Their sound inspired future generations of alternative artists, including TV On the Radio.
They switched labels and Mercury Records released Afrodisiac in 1994, produced by Ray Shulman (The Sundays, Bjork, Sugarcubes). Their single Soul in a Jar was an underground hit.
As the brothers moved to expand their musical language, fusing more electronics into their soundscape, they retired the “Veldt” name and, for various reasons, began recording and touring under the name Apollo Heights. In 1999, the Chavis brothers met bassist Hayato Nakao, who would become their permanent partner. Their music was loud, exploring color, space, sensuality and beat driven melodies with rhythmic and dynamic tension. Daniel’s falsetto vocals cast a contrast upon the wall of sound created by Danny’s heavy rock dreamscape guitar and Hayato’s pounding and licentious beats.
Although The Veldt had signed to two major labels after leaving Mercury Records in 1995, the brothers decided to remain indie and self-released their 2008 album White Music for Black People. “The major labels were always trying to get us to change our sound, our look or both,” Daniel laughs. “But, we had no interest in being the next Lenny Kravitz or Tony! Toni! Toné! Unfortunately, not everyone shared our vision. We weren’t trying to be rock stars, we just want to play our music and pay our rent.”
Apart from Robin Guthrie and A.R. Kane, they have collaborated with TV On The Radio, Mos Def and Lady Miss Kier (Deee-Lite), and have shared the stage with My Bloody Valentine, The Pixies, Echo & The Bunnymen, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Manic Street Preachers, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Oasis, Living Colour and TV on the Radio, among others.
Feature photo credit Howie Kittelson.