Dan Shears & The Velveteen Orkestra is fairly new to the music scene. They just wrapped up recording their debut album, Shadow & Whimsy, and have launched a PledgeMusic campaign to bring the production process to fruition. Their first single, “Dressed Up In Sables”, comes out tomorrow, and it’s phenomenal. The music video is shot like a motion picture, bringing the musical theater-esque feel of the song to the audience in a whole new way. It’s indie/folk music with a twist, with an interesting commentary on manic depression to really get the conversation started. We’re entranced, and we can’t wait for the rest of the album.
We got to speak with Dan Shears himself about the band, their process, and his fondness for Edward Scissorhands. Check it out!
If you could introduce yourself to our audience in any way possible, how would you do so?
If we had an infinite budget then I would find some way to embed our faces into people’s subconscious so that we would appear in a series of visions and dreams. Thunder storms with lightning that spells out the band’s name in the sky and our faces appearing in the clouds. Then we would reveal ourselves as the mystery headliners at Glastonbury where suddenly, everyone in the audience recognizes us from their dreams and believes they have been led to our music by intervention by an unknown deity that may or may not be God. Failing that… a great big live show with explosions and lasers ought to do the trick.
When did you decide to pursue music as a career?
I joined my first band when I was about 12 or 13. Some mates from school and I learned a few Beatles and Kinks songs and played at school concerts. I think even then I felt as though I’d found the thing I wanted to do.
Please, tell us the origin story of “Dan Shears & The Velveteen Orkestra”.
We all came together through a mutual love of various types of dark folk music and Americana. Some of us come from formal, classical backgrounds whereas others are more accustomed to playing loud rock gigs. That mix is key to our band because our sound and presentation is all about being an orchestra from the gutter. “Street Urchin Opera” I think we’ve called it before. That is kind of what the name ‘The Velveteen Orkestra’ is a reference to as well. Velveteen is a fairly inexpensive material made to look like something, which is very expensive and a sign of elegance and sophistication. There is a ragged (and jagged) edge to our elegance, though. A venom and snarl in it’s delivery which, we hope, puts us across as both animal yet noble; brutal yet passionate; bold yet fragile.
You do have quite the vocal range! Were you classically trained at all, in that respect?
No, I have never had any classical training, I don’t even think I sang in the choir at school. I learned by singing along to records mostly.
Your debut single “Dressed Up in Sables” is striking. A little bit of country twang, a definite nod to Gogol Bordello, and very entrancing. What inspired that song?
I like how a lot of folk and country music can sound quite celebratory whilst still consisting of darker melodies or lyrics. The song is about mania and depression but we’ve tried to make it sound anthemic and carnivalesque to compliment the lyrics which describe a rather dystopian, apocalyptic vision.
Do you have any fun anecdotes from the recording studio?
Most of our time in the studio is spent arsing about trying to make each other laugh. In between takes we often talk to each other as though we’re football managers. Phrases like “This time, give it some fuckin’ ‘ELMET” are commonplace. There’s lots of genital based humour in our recording process… it’s essential. There’s a lyric in one of the songs on the album, “Now awake my sleeping sword of war”. It’s a reference to Henry V, however, it often inspires Richard (Neuberg) our producer from grabbing a long and pendulous piece of rubber from his desk and waving it between his legs. I’m hoping we can film some behind the scenes footage so you all can see it… it’s quite something.
What’s your favorite Tim Burton film and why? (Sorry, we had to.)
My favourite is probably Edward Scissorhands for many reasons, it marked a number of firsts for me. It was the first film where I can remember extrapolating some kind of ideology that I agreed with. There’s a scene where Edward is asked what he would do if he found a suitcase full of money and after being given a list of possibilities, Edward says that he would give it to his loved ones. Morally, I suppose that would be wrong but I loved the thought of loved ones being put ahead of anything. I love the imagery and the fantasy based in a real life setting. It’s like a modern day fairy tale with comedy, tragedy and love above all things.
What’s up next for you guys?
We have our debut album, which is called Shadow & Whimsy, that we’ll be releasing in due course but before then we want to put out a couple more singles. There will be more revealed very soon. We are really proud of the album and can’t wait to get it finished and get it out.
The single “Dressed Up In Sables” is available July 8th. Contribute to their PledgeMusic campaign to get your own copy of their upcoming album, and many more fun things.