Velveteers frontwoman Demi Demitro reflects on the band’s debut EP, their roots, and what’s on the horizon for this young duo who are already making their mark on the scene.
The only way to get to the stage at the Hi-Dive, a small punk rock venue on South Broadway in Denver, is through the crowd. There’s no door or curtain onstage where the musicians emerge from, dressed in black, wearing leather and ivory boots. Instead, they’re reminded of the tightness, the body heat, precariously shaking drinks, and shallow breaths of the crowd before they come onstage. This didn’t stop The Velveteers from making a grand entrance to their release show for their debut EP on February 9th.
Instead of simply getting onstage, setting up, and starting their set, the band, fronted by Demi Demitro on vocals and guitar, carried in rhythm by her brother John, and aided by their third drummer and relatively new addition Noah Shomberg (who also plays with The Yawpers), set their gear in place and stepped back into the crowd only to confidently re-emerge onto the stage like three rock stars playing the O2 Academy.
This infectious, rock‘n’roll bravado isn’t something the band picked up along the way. It’s been there since the start. Their intense, convicted aesthetic and sonic identity has already brought on huge accomplishments for a band their age. They’ve toured the UK with Deap Valley, playing to massive crowds, played motorcycle festivals in Joshua Tree with sound by Hutch, Queens of the Stone Age’s longtime sound engineer, and they’ve had vinyl pressed of their newest album at the Third Man Records factory in Detroit. Each of these accomplishments spawned from their time spent as a centerpiece in the Colorado and Midwestern DIY scenes.
“Some of our favorite shows we’ve ever played have been at DIY venues. The people in that scene are really genuine, they’re not trying to rip you off, and they’re there to listen. What they do [for younger bands] is important, because I know it shaped who I am as a musician,” frontwoman Demi Demitro said over tea at the Yellow Deli, one of her favorite Boulder haunts.
There’s an energy to seeing The Velveteers play. Onstage, the band occupies a tangent world of pointed shoes, glitter jackets, bones, and candles. It’s like hair metal if it were born out of Dracula or The Nightmare Before Christmas instead of big hair, zebra print, and leather pants.
“A lot of the inspiration we have for our band comes from places other than music. I’m really inspired by Tim Burton, Walt Disney, and Andy Warhol. The Walt Disney version of Snow White has this gothic-ness to it, and that’s something that really inspired our album,” she said.
The theatrics of these non-musical influences leave a lasting impression. The band’s merch table looks like a séance just took place, adorned with candles and skulls. The face of the band’s new album shows them with blacked out eyes and upside down crosses on their foreheads. Demitro even claimed that a chunk of the album was written in a graveyard.
“When [the song ‘Death Hex’] came out, I had all these Wiccans and Pagans following me around asking me if I was a witch. It’s a metaphor-- I don’t really mean it,” she said, laughing.
The immediate fear with a band like The Velveteers is that they’re all show. One listen to their debut self-titled EP sends that assumption into the dust. Finding a loud, irresistible, and cryptic balance between the spacious grit of Queens of the Stone Age, the pummeling, percussive thunder of The White Stripes and The Dead Weather, and the sheer lightening of Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the band has crafted a presence built on their own unique visual bravado guided by thundering, melodic songs that aren’t easily forgotten.
The EP, recorded mostly live and to tape at Silo Sound Studios in Denver, CO over the past year opens with “Just Like The Weather,” a driving, aggressive cut that places Demi’s tectonic, rhythm-heavy guitar playing and vast vocal range to the forefront, as the band occupies a musical storm that viciously encircles you until the words have found a way into your veins. The band’s songs have a habit of doing this, often effortlessly. They’re written with emotional sincerity and performed with bombastic assertion.
“When I write, it’s almost like being in a daze. [Sometimes it feels like] I’m not really there when I’m writing, which is this magical feeling. I got that feeling with every song on the album,” Demitro said.
“Anastasia Sings” is another song that takes you for a ride. With a piercing scream kicking things off, the track features some of the band’s most dynamic guitar playing yet, which reaches a jagged crescendo following the chorus.
“[That’s] another one of my favorite tracks [on the album]. That one was really inspired by Iggy Pop, ‘cause I had seen him live with the Post Pop Depression band,” Demitro said.
The band doesn’t lock themselves into a specific sound, though. In similar fashion to their haunting, non-album single “This Love Lasted,” “Darling Beloved” takes the album in a cryptically stripped-back direction.
“I did ‘Darling Beloved’ in one take. Vocals, guitar, everything. That song is really special to us, because it was completely in the moment. One of my favorite parts of going into the studio is when stuff like that happens, and in no way will you ever be able to recreate it,” she continued.
The stripped-back, horrorshow “Darling Beloved” and it’s stylistic sibling “This Love Lasted” aren’t currently fixtures in the band’s live set. Instead, their performances rely on roaring guitar, clamorous drums, and a fuzz that hits you right in the chest. The band doesn’t use a bass player, so Demi Demitro’s guitar playing has evolved into a versatile and rhythmic barrage that covers the low end, high end, and everything in between. The band is a sound to be reckoned with live; they pull the audience straight into their world of dark, irresistible magnetism.
In promotion of their debut, the band recently embarked on a two-week national tour in promotion of the record, have more dates in the works for the rest of the year, and are also set to play an unofficial showcase at SXSW in Austin, TX this March. Listening to their album and seeing them live leaves the impression that this is what the band was working towards all along: a sold-out release show for a triumphant debut record, a national tour (with many more shows to come), and a spot at one of the most popular musical festivals in the nation. Despite all appearances and affirmations of success, this is only the beginning for this band, and if their start is any indication, what’s to follow will be all whirlwind, heat, and flash.
Keep up with The Velveteers here.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.