Velvet Elevator interview
Velvet Elevator from Wollongong, Australia recently released a heavy psychedelic album Prīncipium. It’s been one of my favorites for awhile now.
Who’s in Velvet Elevator and what do you all play? Have you all made any changes to the lineup since you started or is this the original lineup?
Angus: Velvet Elevator is: Geordie Timmins (Drums & Percussion), Ben Mercer (Bass Guitar) & Myself, Angus (Electric Guitar & Synthesisers). This has been the bands lineup since late 2017.
Before then we were still called Velvet Elevator but I guess we were in a weird Proto stage were we were still figuring out our sound. Along with this we had a lot of members coming and going, on good terms fortunately, but availability was a struggle for some of these members. Sometimes we do have previous members fill in at shows which is fun.
What does the name “Velvet Elevator” refer to in the context of the band name?
When songwriting we try to focus a lot on building landscapes and producing songs with lots of ups and downs. The overall aim for most songs is to “Elevate” someones consciousness or imagination when listening. I can’t quite remember the significance of “Velvet” but it’s a nice fabric!
A lot of people ask if our name has anything to do with The Velvet Underground & The 13th Floor Elevators. Both incredible bands but Velvet Elevator does not have any relevance to these bands.
Can you share some further details how your latest album Prīncipium was recorded and released?
Prīncipium was recorded over two days in a steaming hot shed in the middle of summer in Stanwell Park, NSW. The album was recorded by our good friend/singer of the great Australian band The Pinheads, Jez Player. The majority of the tracks on the album were recorded 100% live.
We really wanted to capture the raw energy of the songs along with the unique improvisations in the tracks “Children of the Sun II” & “The Blood Moon Prophecy”.
The album was initially released on the 24th of August in Australia by Oracle Records and in the UK and Europe by Cardinal Fuzz Records.
I first heard about your band when European edition was released on Cardinal Fuzz, which is a wonderful label from UK. Dave is always releasing the coolest stuff from psychedelic underground.
Yes! I was pretty flattered when Dave asked us if we would be interested in releasing a European edition through Cardinal Fuzz. I looked at some of their previous releases and came across some bands I have enjoyed for some time e.g. The Cosmic Dead & Kikagaku Moyo. Working with Dave on this release was extremely easy, I couldn’t thank him more for what he’s done for us.
You have two studio guests on the record; Luke Player and Martin Naylor.
I’ve always been about records having a sentimental value to them. So when recording Prīncipium I asked Luke and Martin if they would be interested in taking part.
Luke is the brother of Jez who recorded the album. He spent both days in the shed with us while we were recording. On the second day when I was laying down Sitar overdubs on “Children of the Sun II” Luke suggested a Tanpura would be a good accompaniment. The dubs are mixed pretty far back but you can hear Luke playing Tanpura, somewhat sounding like wind chimes in the distance at the start of the track. Luke also did all the artwork for the record!
Martin speaks the “Revelation 6:12” verse leading into “The Blood Moon Prophecy”. Martin is a bit of an iconic figure in Wollongong. I first met him back in 2015 at the local music venue, Rad Bar. He is a small 60 year old man with a heart of gold who can party harder than anyone in town haha… After getting to know Martin I really wanted him to be part of this album, so I figured “Revelation 6:12” would be the perfect spot for him to feature. Subsequently he has named himself “The Druid” and has been performing live with us on odd occasions.
So, is there a certain concept behind Prīncipium?
Yes. The whole album was focused roughly on the Revelation chapter of the bible. The two closing tracks of Prīncipium, (“Revelation 6:12”, “The Blood Moon Prophecy”) tell the story of the Blood Moon which is traditionally a series of apocalyptic beliefs appearing in the bible. So basically Prīncipium is the beginning of the end, leading to being re-born into Samsara and taking on new life.
What would you say influenced you the most? Have influences changed during the years?
I’d say my biggest influences would be Hawkwind, Black Sabbath, Neil Young, Grateful Dead & Sleep. It definitely changed over the years, I’ve become more into early German electronic & ambient music such as Tangerine Dream & Popol Vuh. Also a lot of heavier “Doom” & “Drone” acts such as Yob and Earth.
What’s the songwriting process with Velvet Elevator like?
For Prīncipium the songwriting process was very quick as a lot of the songs were built off improvisation. We would record every jam and somewhat pick and choose where different sections would take place to give us a rough idea on the layout of the song when we recorded it. Although, this has changed slightly for new content. We have been taking a much more focused and conceptual approach to songwriting while still incorporating jams and improvisation in the mix.
Were you in any other bands in the past?
I personally have not been in any other bands but Ben and Geordie have. Before Geordie started drumming for Velvet Elevator he was part of the melodic-hardcore band Stepson and Ben used to play bass in an awesome band called Nuns.
How would you describe the local scene where you are at? Are you very involved in the local scene?
The scene in Wollongong is pretty diverse. The surf rock and grunge scenes are very strong. It is a small town though and none of the bands really care if they’re playing with a band that is a completely different genre to them. Everyone loves music and supports each other, it’s a beautiful town. Wollongong is also home to the stoner rock legends, Tumbleweed. It’s great being able to see them play so often. We also love playing in Melbourne, some of the bands we have played with down there have been so incredible!
Some bands I would recommend checking out are: The Pinheads, Totty, Pseudo Mind Hive, Jack Harlon & The Dead Crows and Shroud.
Who are some of your personal favourite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?
Samsara Blues Experiment, L.A. Witch, Los Tones, Totty, Pseudo Mind Hive, The Pinheads, the list could go on. There are so many great bands in Australia!
In your dreams, who are you on tour with?
Opening for Hawkwind and Black Sabbath across the world. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Hawkwind still trip like they did in the 70’s too. What an experience that’d be.
What are some future plans?
We are currently putting together our second album. I can’t say at this stage when it will be out but I’m very happy with how it’s all coming together so far. We are also hoping to come over to the UK & Europe in the not too distant future. Some of the music coming out in these parts is incredible!
Do you have anything else going on right now as far as music goes? Are there any bands or side projects that I missed?
Our main focus is Velvet Elevator at this point. None of us really have any other bands we play in but Ben has just started an awesome psych band with his brother called Joyce Silence. I would definitely keep an eye out for them in the future!
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
My all time favourites would have to be:
Amon Düül II – Yeti
Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence – Oar
Sleep – Holy Mountain
Hawkwind – In Search of Space
Earth – The Bees Made Honey In The Lions Skull
Popol Vuh – Aguirre
Black Sabbath – Master Of Reality
Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Kadavar & High On Fire. A new album I would recommend checking out is Pseudo Mind Hive’s From Elsewhere.
– Klemen Breznikar
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