With a packed show at Bottom of the Hill a few days ago to send them off, Santa Rosa’s The Velvet Teen are now on a nationwide headlining tour. It’s a bit of a rebirth for founding member Judah Nagler. Original drummer Logan Whitehurst, who left the band after being diagnosed with brain cancer in 2004, passed away from the illness late last year. After a final tour behind the band’s most recent album, longtime bassist/vocalist Josh Staples announced he was leaving the group to pursue his band The New Trust. While the band’s new tour represents a certain amount of new beginnings, new musical beginnings are nothing new for this always-evolving group.
While there’s a consistent pop element throughout all of their releases, The Velvet Teen have built a reputation for unpredictability, as each album has presented listeners with a radically new sonic approach. After two EPs which mixed electronic sounds with spacey indie pop, the band received a ton of attention for their debut full length Out of the Fierce Parade. That album included harder indie rock tunes alongside more symphonic pop pieces, a dichotomy neatly represented above by “Radiapathy” and “Caspian Can Wait”.
That symphonic sound was more fully developed on 2004’s Elysium, an album of more sophisticated orchestral pieces driven by keyboard and piano sounds, beautiful horn and string arrangements and, most surprisingly, absolutely no guitars. After Fierce Parade‘s success, some fans seemed a little puzzled by the album, acknowledged by the band as an experiment in a singular direction. Losing guitars didn’t mean losing intensity, though, as the band sense for equally emotive vocals and layered soundscapes created powerful moments on the record and live.
Flash forward two years and The Velvet Teen released their next full length work, Cum Laude, another sonic departure, as the band returned to shorter, frenetic songs dominated by layers of synths and electronic sounds. With the band’s signature catchy, emotive vocals and intimate personal narratives buried beneath, the music takes the lead and the songs are dense enough to require numerous repeat listens to really appreciate.
For this tour, The Velvet Teen consists of Nagler, guitarist Matthew Izen (also of Santa Rosa’s Polar Bears and formerly of The New Trust), and drummer Casey Deitz, who has recorded and toured with the band since Whitehurst left the group. Rumor has it that the band is working on a new album as well. Seeing them live might be the only way to guess where this creative band is heading next.
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about new music in cities.