Smile, It’s Velouria

Velouria perform tonight at Parkside Cafe.

Velouria perform tonight at Parkside Cafe.

I remember seeing Velouria for the first time at one of this past summer’s BMR Jams, a contest held by Birmingham Mountain Radio to give local artists the chance to win a recording session and airplay on the station. Velouria was playing in the finals and their subtle, yet gripping two songs earned them a victory. None of the members were over the age of 18.

The recording yielded a single (“Speak”) as well as a debut EP (Smile Until It Hurts), garnering a fan base in the city’s biggest tastemakers such as BMR’s Scott Register, Jason Hamric and Substrate Radio and B-Metro. The band, originally an acoustic duo of singer/songwriter/guitarist Michael Harp and vocalist Deanna Medina, expanded to include bassist Stephen Willis and drummer John Denton and produced a record of frenetic indie rock that draws you in and shakes you to the core. The songwriting is striking and shows that only more good things are ahead for this Birmingham group.

Chris K. Davidson for You Hear This?: So you guys met a high school talent show?

Michael Harp: She [points to Medina] and I met at a Mountain Brook High School talent show and started playing music together. At first, we were a Civil Wars-type knockoff. The songs we were writing were kind of good; it just felt empty. You can only do so much with an acoustic guitar and two vocalists. We got a drummer who we later replaced. From there, it evolved into a sound that we liked a lot better.

YHT?: So the name is based off a Pixies song?

MH: Yes, it is the name of a Pixies song. I’ve been into them since the 7th grade. My favorite movie was Fight Club. “Where Is My Mind?” was the last song. In junior high, I listened to the Pixies all the time. I feel like I’ve moved on things that sound like what we’re going for.

YHT?: The songs are well-developed considering your age. Have any of you been in bands before?

Stephen Mills: I have. I’m not from Birmingham, but I lived in Gadsden. Michael and I met when we were 11 and I played in bands around that area since I was 13 or 14.

MH: He was in a reverb indie band from Gadsden. I was in a local band called Juice. We were a cover band, but we had our stuff. It definitely helped me learn a lot about being in a band and recording.

YHT?: So you recorded the single, “Speak” and then just decided to go ahead and record the EP?

MH: We had the EP written before we recorded the single, but it was different because we didn’t have a drummer. Everything we had was written for an acoustic guitar and two vocals; the entire EP was written on an acoustic. It’s so weird to think about it now because the electric guitar with the reverb and delay is such a big part of the EP. We got John as our drummer. We recorded with him two weeks later. The single was through the BMR Jam contest and we got to record it with Les Nuby. It was such a good experience that we decided to record the rest of the EP with him. We are going to record the new album with him. Daniel Farris, who moved back to Birmingham from Los Angeles, worked on the first St. Vincent, so we’re going to be working with him. It’s a good place to record. It’s comfortable and he never rushes people. He’s always willing to give creative input, and it’s always good because he’s such a great musician himself.

YHT?: Any possible release date for the new album?

MH: Probably summer. We’re recording again in January. We’re starting our first round; we don’t have a name for the record, but we have the first two or three songs that we are going to knock out in a day or two. Within the next few months, we’re going to keep going back in there and record as we write. Right now, we’ve stopped booking to focus on writing. What I like about our music is that it seems to reach a lot of different people. We get a great response at the Forge as well as Parkside Cafe and the Bottletree. All of these different audiences seem to get something out of what we’re doing.

YHT?: So how are the new songs different?

MH: The latest song we’ve written is a lot more shoegaze; it’s a lot faster like Sonic Youth. We’re also thinking about a My Bloody Valentine; they’re like my idols right now, but I don’t want to disrespect the gods by messing it up. I think what we’ve been writing parallels what we’ve been listening to. When we were writing for the first EP, I was listening to a lot of Manchester Orchestra, and Pixies and American Football. For this new one, it’s been a lot of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. We’ve been going to a lot of punk shows and listening to shoegaze and punk, so the music definitely reflects that. I’m happy about it. It’s different than the EP, but it’s still the same band. The songs are a lot more fleshed out, more of a mature sound. Not to say that the EP was immature, but there’s an obvious progression.

YHT?: And how long have you been a band?

MH: The base of it has been around since February, so it hasn’t been long. Birmingham has been incredible to us. From Birmingham Mountain Radio and Substrate Radio to all the guys at the Forge and Bottletree, we haven’t dealt with any negative feedback from the city. Everyone has been helping us out so much. I’m very glad we’re from Birmingham. They’re so supportive.

Velouria will play with From Constant  at Parkside Cafe in Avondale. The 21-and-up show kicks off at 9 p.m. The band will releasing a new single within the month. Be sure to keep up on their Facebook page. 

About Chris K. Davidson

Chris K. Davidson is a contributing writer for You Hear This. He has written for Birmingham Box Set, AL.com, among others.