Rediscovering The Veldt’s Afrodisiac Album by Michael A. Gonzales #SleptOnSoul

Slept on Soul/The Veldt – Afrodisiac LP
By Michael A. Gonzales

Twin brothers Daniel and Danny Chavis, who co-founded their rock band the Veldt in 1987, have shared their varied musical tastes since they were kids dwelling in North Carolina. Raised in Apollo Heights, a subdivision located in Raleigh, both boys sang in a Baptist church choir before becoming wayward teenagers in the early ‘80s. Future lead guitarist Danny began playing along to his granddaddy’s B.B. King records when he was thirteen while singing bro Daniel wailed soul songs in deep-wooded juke joints with the funky cover band Isis, performing funky hits by Slave, Rick James and Prince for a hard drinking audience.

However, with the mutual discovery of “shoegaze,” a sometimes dreamy, other times harsh, style of distorted feedback fueled guitar-laden rock music the boys heard booming from the college station WKNC, they began listening to the genres aural architects My Bloody Valentine, the Cocteau Twins, A.R. Kane and countless others. Loving the delirium and freedom heard in the music guided the brothers towards starting a band together. First calling themselves Psycho Daisies after a Yardbirds jam, they became the Veldt when Daniel recalled the title of a strange Ray Bradbury story he’d read in high school.

“I can remember seeing the name in these thick black letters and it just struck me,” Daniel says thirty-one years after the Veldt played their first gig at a hardcore show in the basement of a local church. “We didn’t call ourselves the Veldt immediately, but over time it eventually changed.”

As the Chavis boys began slipping further into the shoegaze wonderland, they also embraced the digital sampling techniques of Marley Marl and the Bomb Squad. Having joined musical forces with drummer Marvin Levi and bassist Joe Boyle, their music became more spacey and atmospheric. While their East Coast rocker friends from Living Colour and 24-7-Spyz were playing music with a harder edge, the Veldt strived for a sound that was, as critic Simon Reynolds once described A.R. Kane, all about, “daydream and distortion, rapture and ravaged.” However, no matter how avant-garde dada free jazz crazy their music became over the years, the twins always stayed true to their red dirt roots.
The Veldt - Afrodisiac Alternate Album Art
Although the Veldt’s soulfulness could sometimes be hard to hear within the shoegaze trappings of blaring guitars, floods of feedback and a kaleidoscopic collage of eerie electric sounds, the juxtaposition of the band’s spooky auralscapes with Daniel’s splendid voice conjured quick-cut images of post-soul along with those chitlin’ circuit venues where he once crooned like a moonshine gulping Teddy Pendergrass. No matter how futuristic space-age cyberpunk the music became, Daniel’s vocals was the gravity that kept us from floating away completely.

After a few years of practicing, performing and perfecting their sound, the Veldt signed with Capitol Records in 1989. According to a MTV profile of the Veldt on 120 Minutes the following year, the band had “the big time stamped all over them.” During that era they befriended Cocteau Twins aural auteurist/guitarist Robin Guthrie, who was also signed to Capitol Records, and convinced him to produce their debut. Guthrie was also instrumental in getting the Velvet the prized slot as their opening act during the Cocteau’s 1990 “Heaven or Las Vegas” tour.

12696037_10154536764252598_1651463493_n

“Robin became a great friend of ours as well as the band,” Danny says. “He was a big, big influence; I put him up there with Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. Robin had a way of layering guitars that has a complete sound to them that reminded me of soul songs you might hear on the quiet storm. Couldn’t you imagine that sound behind Luther Vandross? To me, a song like ‘Superstar’ has a shoegaze feel to it while Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ is quintessential shoegaze record.”

While the Veldt was on the road and recording material, their label began having internal issues and the group was released from their contracts following an executive shake-up Capitol Records. Luckily, the Veldt were dropped during an era when other left of center musicians of color were being signed to major label deals as with Lenny Kravitz (Virgin) and Eye & I (Epic), so the band was hopeful.

Related Articles