Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records and TVD at CMJ 2013: The Velcro Lewis Group

Last week we hipped you to the Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records and The Vinyl District’s CMJ Showcase happening on October 17th at Union Pool featuring artists Prince Rupert’s Drops, Coke Weed, Worthless, and bringing the night home are the funk rock occultists from Chicago, Velcro Lewis Group who are also celebrating the release of their LP Open the Sky, out today, October 15th on Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records.

The Velcro Lewis Group is a force and led by blind frontman, Velcro Lewis/Andrew J. Slater–along with 5-octave range, singing drummer Hawk Colman, soul-injected guitarist Travers Gauntt, groove-hammering bassist Halden Spoonwood, and sonic menace Lawrence Peters on electric washboard and bass vocals.

We chatted up the hot buttered soul of Velcro Lewis in advance of Thursday night and we’ll journey into their incredible new album, discuss their ass-kicking, future funk sounds from the stage to the recording room, and naturally, vinyl collections. All aboard the spaceship Impala.

The next VLG album, Open the Sky arrives October 15th on, ahem, BBIB Records! The album encompasses bluesy funk rock tracks like “Bernadette,” to an almost 16 minute psych burner on the B side, “Occulus Of The Winged Man.” Talk a bit about the sonic journey from A to B?

“Open The Sky” is a very personal album and deals with content familiar to everyone. We sequenced the album as if it were a journey. “Bernadette” is about escaping reoccurring trouble, fighting it off, and successfully moving on.

“Eagle Momma” takes your newfound confidence to task. You start off chasing after unobtainable ideas, then failing, as we’re all prone to do. By the end you have found yourself in a deep, dark pit screaming to warn others not to go through the same shit.

In “No Dream,” your own neurosis and baggage get the best of you. You’re now finding it hard to shake anything off what’s happened. You’re second-guessing everything. You’re delusional and hallucinating until you clean up and accept who you are.

Things are looking good and you get an invitation to a party. You go, thinking it will cheer you up, but no. Some psychedelic scrub doses your snack! You accidentally pour someone’s cocaine onto an air hockey table and turn it on. You get shoved out the door and left on the dirty street. That’s the last track on Side A,“They’re Having A Party.”

For “Inside My Cloud,” you then make a conscious decision to hide from view. You take off and those who try to follow are left behind. It is the only thing you can do after ruining everyone’s party.

We finish with “Occulus Of The Winged Man,” continuing the upward flight—you are rushed with everything you’ve ever felt all at once, like a life-spanning flashback on your death-bed. You are about to experience your final transformation. The whole thing is spiritual and clear and embracing and enlightening. Jupiter And The Beyond.

To see VLG live is an EXPERIENCE, one not soon forgotten. Say some words on your live shows?

Let’s think of it like this: onstage, I am the host and the rest of the guys are the ones I brought to fuck the party up. People lose their inhibitions. They dance, make out, participate in heavy petting, and have a great time. We have come to accept that our fans are freaks, not in a sideshow sense, but in a Betty Davis way. They move and shout and drink. In Chicago you have all kinds of people at our shows. It’s a conclave of naturally free people and we take full advantage of that.

How do you keep the live vibe maintained in the recording room?

In the studio, we track the songs as live as we can. We overdub vocals and other elements but the drums, washboard, bass, and guitar are all done at the same time. We play in the same room, no separation. Eye contact, sweat, and movement—it’s all incredibly important when capturing the energy and guts of our live shows.

Trav and I spent 30 hours a week in the studio working on this. I was finishing school and he was working full-time. We had full control. There were no communication issues with an engineer, no studio time clock, no worry about money. That freedom is what made this record possible. We could pay attention to every sound and every performance. We prepared “Occulus Of The Winged Man” to be hand mixed. Lawrence, Trav, and I huddled over the mixer and performed the mix live.

The three of us moved faders and pots as the composition dictated. I controlled the reverb and tape delays as well. It was executed like Clinton had done with “Free You Mind…” or Sly & Robbie did with “The Dub Factor.” It was intense but fun. If we had mixed every song like that the record would have been a total mess, over psychedlicized and hackneyed. You have to have some control over your excess.

Would you name one or two records you had growing up that impacted you, perhaps profoundly?

Easily; Hot Buttered Soul by Isaac Hayes…man. The heaviest album released in 1969

This was my Dad’s record and I still have his copy. I never tire of it. Each time I listen I hear something new, like Isaac’s medallions and chains rattling in his vocal mic when he is banging the piano.

The mix is incredibly psychedelic. The volume swells in and out and the panning moves slowly from left to right and back again. Everything is gradual and patient. The band is heavier than anyone I can cite these days. Those guys jam with a discipline that every band today should study. The rhythm section of the Bar-Kays was unstoppable. When we recorded “Bernadette” we used this record as the foundation.

Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath; “Hey. Dad, this is like Cream, but actual blues music.”

What are your vinyl collections looking like these days?

Travers and Lawrence each have an intense collection. Lawrence is the king of obscure country and post-punk while Trav’s funk and jazz records are worth killing for. They’ve both got amazing psych records, things I’ve never heard of. They don’t sweat taking them out of the poly bags, either. The three of us DJ regularly around Chicago so most of our vinyl purchases are centered on what we play at the club.

Halden’s collection is eclectic, but he meticulously organizes his records. He tells me the only new record he has been playing all year is the latest Bob Dylan LP. Last time I was over he played were all those mid-80s SST records like Wurm, Zoog’s Rift, Meat Puppets, etc.

I honestly only listen to funk, soul, classic rap, and Kraftwerk these days. My parlor floor is covered with stacks of Wilson Pickett and Whoodini records. I try to justify buying a ton of older records as history lessons for my son, which he doesn’t care about what-so-ever.

He will one day! So what’s next for you guys?

Since we now have our own studio, Frogg Mountain, there’s no reason to waste time talking about recording. We just do it.

We have another record that could be finished in a matter of weeks if we didn’t have day jobs. We’re calling it “Comets and Country Grass” and should have it completed in December. Some of these songs are currently part of our live set.

If VLG transformed into a mythical creature, what would that be?

Hawk has stated in the past that should this ever happen, then the band would be transformed into the Nemean Lion—a gigantic lion whose skin was impervious to weapons. It was strangled by Heracles as the first of his 12 labors. You can’t stop it with swords or arrows.

It’s more of a matter of time for when this will happen, rather than if…

Pick up a copy of Open the Sky right here and be sure to catch Velcro Lewis Group live at Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records + The Vinyl District’s CMJ Showcase, October 17th at Union Pool, Brooklyn, NY. RSVP here!

The Velcro Lewis Group Official | Facebook | Twitter

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