As Mitch Joel (great name) writes, getting lost in YouTube is “one of my favourite past times and guilty pleasures”. It doesn’t matter who you are, we all fall victim to the pull of the video site from time to time – whether you’re procrastinating, unable to sleep or brain dead, you’ll always make time for a wholesome yet painfully irrelevant YouTube video. Your dissertation is due? NO THANKS, why not watch this video of a tiny monkey on a fluffy pig? You’ve got an article to write? I know your pain all too well but here’s some fat people falling over to angry acid house music. Maybe you’re awake and frustrated at 4am? Don’t worry, even pop deity Sarah Harding makes mistakes sometimes.
About a year ago, during a rather shameful browse of YouTube (the word Stooshe got used a lot), I came across this black and white video of a female led band covering Black Heart which is, genuinely, a great song. Not an easy song either but one which they absolutely nailed – the singer’s voice is rich and thick, versatile and distinctive. The band come together to form a harmony driven, nu-wave, slow jam doo wop kind of vibe which is rife with playfulness and personality. This was, and remains to be, the best cover of that song I’ve ever heard and so I decided to cut my YouTube binge short to find out a bit more about Velvet Stream.
Mati, Issac, Freddy, Dan and Ant are the North London five piece who were one of MTV’s UK Top 20 unsigned acts in 2012. They’ve been around for a while now, having released a video for “Selfish Mind” in 2011 from their first EP Thumbs and Toes. Young and creative, their talent shone through with “The Honeymoon Period“, a song which acted as a perfect follow up to “Selfish Mind”. At the time of discovery, Velvet Stream had a mere three videos uploaded to their YouTube and, as a victim of the “overplay until the song is ruined” habit, I shied away in a hope that new songs would pop up over the coming months. Thank God I did.
Just before Halloween came this tantalising gem. “Be My Weirdo” is packed with witty, tongue in cheek lyrics, clever hooks and takes its inspiration from 60s music, most notably from The Ronettes 1963 hit “Be My Baby” which is sampled in the chorus. With previous doses of account inactivity and radio silence, the band followed up with the high energy “High School Teacher“, another nu-wave pop wonder which wouldn’t be out of place playing over the credits of an 80s rom-com. Not one to break a good habit, Velvet Stream swiftly uploaded a live version of their latest song (and rumoured next single) “Bitch” which, through its electric execution, bitter lyrics, battle cries and piercings wails, adds another realm to the typical break up song.
After a successful David Bowie cover shone a spotlight upon the band and having been featured on his official website and Twitter, Velvet Stream showcased a more emotional and vulnerable side to their song writing in the form of “Don’t Believe In Love” and “Fools May Change“, two tyrannically beautiful tracks. Both packed with full, warm melodies and the wonderfully controlled vocals of Mati, switching from a heady falsetto to a melismatic vibrato flawlessly, it was inspiring to see the band take a new direction after all of their “new age fun with a vintage feel”. Just as fans were settling down to digest the new music, the band began a countdown to the premiere of their video and, sure enough, it was “Bitch”. With the polished version available for the world to hear, it was a pleasant surprise to realise the studio hadn’t taken anything away from the song – the concise production and sprinkles of professional glitter echo the bands original and ongoing sound as well as their intended direction.
Meanwhile, all the time we spent twiddling our thumbs, waiting for new songs and videos, Velvet Stream had been in the studio, recording new versions of their YouTube hits and uploading them to SoundCloud. Safe to say, I had a field day after that discovery. They’d been tweeting and Facebooking fans non-stop, touring around London and playing festivals all over the country. “Bitch”, with its rather uncouth name, received healthy airplay across UK radio stations and strengthened the bands support. Then came a delightful version of Will.I.Am’s “Bang Bang” after its release and feature on The Voice which boasted the spectrum of talents within the group from perfectly layered harmonies to the inclusion of a hearty brass instrument and plenty of cowbell.
Earlier this month, the band revealed the video for their newest single “Superman” – another trademark Velvet Stream song jammed with thoughtful lyrics, playful melodies, proud vocals and an underlying moral. You may have been lucky enough to catch it live after the band bagged themselves a slot at this year’s Bestival where their performance was met with a great response. And that’s about as far as I can take you guys. These 900 words don’t do the band justice – following their journey is packed with excitement, fun, emotion, intrigue and hope. Velvet Stream are undeniably relevant in 2013 and yet they stand out from the crowd. The future is looking very promising for these guys so jump on the bandwagon before it undoubtedly gets too crowded.