The Veldt took the stage Sunday night at Palace Theatre in Saint Paul, Minnesota before Phantogram closed out the opening weekend festivities. Swirling, swelling, stupefying instrumentation from the guitars of The Veldt warmed the Palace up prior to the main event. It was after the main event when I met up with Danny, pictured above with the doubleneck guitar on the left, to discuss his time with the band and learn about the long ride that eventually led them to Saint Paul.
Mike Sprandel: When you guys were starting out, with the sound that you had, who were some of the contemporaries who were around you guys and played into your style a bit?
Danny Chavis: Well, when we first started playing there was the Cocteau Twins, back in 1989 and we did a whole tour with them in ’90. Then the Jesus & Mary Chain, Pixies and we were playing with most of our contemporaries at that time. We were lucky, we were lucky you know not many black bands were doing that, man. We’re a “black”, so called “black rock band”, now you have afropunk and other things sort of like that but I don’t think it has the history…and you know, we’re not reliant on our color. We know we’re black, you know I’m black, so I mean close your eyes and hear the music. That’s all I can think about, and if I suck, I suck! Tell me, you know man? Don’t stick in what color I am, like “hey man you’re really good…”
MS: For a ______, none of that right?
DC: Yeah, and you know we like a lot of contemporary stuff like trap music. I don’t know if you heard tonight, we used a lot of 808’s
MS: Oh yeah, I did notice that when he [motioning to drummer Marvin Levi] wasn’t playing
Marvin Levi: Milly Rock rhymes with Willy Stargell
DC: No it doesn’t.
ML: Yes it does.
MS: [To Marvin] What is the deal with your toms?
ML: They’re rims, they’re called Purecussion and they’re just rims. They’re from the late ’80’s and I have a whole kit and they’re just easy to carry around. How’d they sound?
MS: They sounded great, I was shocked. I was like “what is this?”
ML: They’re tension rims, so it’s just a top tom. There are kits, if you play.
MS: I play electronic because I, you know, don’t want to wake people up.
ML: True, but if you want to throw some triggers on there, on the rims.
MS: So what did you guys think of the venue? You’re, like, the 5th band to step on stage.
DC: Beautiful, beautiful venue, I heard we’re one of the newer bands to play here.
MS: Yeah, it opened on Friday. It had been closed for 40 years.
DC: Oh, wow, that feels great!
MS: I know, it opened up in 1916 and we’re back here now tonight.
DC: Man, I feel privileged. When we were here last time we played at First Avenue. It’s a privilege. Phantogram is really cool, man. They’re turning us on to a lot of new kids, a younger crowd and a lot of kids are getting into shoegaze. A lot of “millennials”, so called, are getting into that and they’re getting into the sound that they missed coming up and I feel pretty good to give it to them. A lot of those bands aren’t around anymore. You know the Cocteau Twins aren’t around anymore, you know a lot of those bands. You know Ride, Lush came back then went back home. Cocteau Twins are not coming around. I can’t remember some of the others, but when we came up there were a lot of them around. It was an uphill battle because there were a lot more interviews about what color we were than the music and we felt like didn’t have a chance to really get that out, because it was such a racial thing, you know what I’m saying? We thought we were like the other bands but we were quickly reminded that we weren’t like them by people who were close minded. But now, to get our here and play, man, to people like y’all. The Phantogram crowd is different than the crowd we play to, a younger crowd. But I’ve been doing my research and noticing that a lot of young kids, like I said, are getting into shoegaze music. I think it’s great!
MS: Well I got into Phantogram because on their first album they had some post-rock type instrumentation and I thought “this is sweet” and now I’m here and you’re here and it all kind of came full circle, you know?
DC: Yeah, right! I was happy, I was a little nervous about it, because you know young kids at the end of the day I’m giving them something to draw on. And my man here, he played with us like 20 years ago Alex Cox [bass], one of the original members of the band. We got him back here, we bought some beer and he came right back to play. [laughs]
MS: How did you guys end up teaming up with Phantogram? How did that all play out?
DC: Hanging out with them in New York and shit. I mean, Josh came to my house years ago with a friend of mine and we hung around, “Hey man, why don’t we play together?” He’s cool, he’s a cool dude!
MS: How about any contemporary bands that you’re enjoying?
DC: The Brian Jonestown Massacre, I like the Black Angels, I like Mahogany. There’s a lot of bands out there right now, you know, a lot of shoegaze bands. And they’re good.
MS: I know that there’s one band, they don’t want to be called shoegaze…
DC: I know.
MS: They’re from Texas, they’re called This Will Destroy You. They’re more on the rock end…
DC: So are we.
MS: Not that you’re not! But they’re instrumental, they’re maybe a little bit more noisy and a little bit less melodic than you guys are
DC: Well that term was a negative term when it first came out. My friend Lincoln was in a band called Moose and they’d talk about “What kind of shoes are you wearing?” and that’s where it started associating and it was a negative term. Then it became a genre, so I remember when it was a bad thing to be called that. I remember when it wasn’t called anything, it was called “alternative”.
MS: Everything’s alternative
DC: Yeah, so here we are. Hey… how was it when Prince died?