Welcome to the Digital Deli. It is here where you will consume some scrumptious jazz-rock served up by the one and only Velvet Flesh. On the menu today, the band’s eclectic self-titled debut EP, six diverse songs that easily navigate between genres without any knowledge or warning. Generally speaking, each track is jazzy and upbeat and sounds nothing like any other band you listen to. That’s because each of this group’s members member possesses widely eclectic musical tastes, from ‘70s Japanese fusion, free jazz, power metal, ‘80s synth pop, and the work of contemporary American composer John Zorn.
The reason we mentioned the Digital Deli is because it’s the name given by Velvet Flesh to their recording space, the location where the EP took shape. Commenting on the writing and recording process, the band said, “This record is the result of years of writing, eating and good times in the Digital Deli. Most of the material was recorded in 2017 and was forgotten until quarantine afforded us the time to put the pieces together. These songs were written with no particular audience in mind and were intended exclusively as ambient music for the Deli while we worked on cutting the thinnest slice of prosciutto. They came together like any good sandwich. Every so often we would throw on another slice of meat or sauce just to see what would happen. ‘Let’s throw one of (drummer) Gabe’s (Bitti) FOOP songs into the middle of this song.’ Ok. ‘Let’s try to sing backing vocals like Def Leppard here.’ Sure. ‘Let’s try to write a romantic, ‘80s pop song.’ Why not.”
Aside from acting as the drummer for Velvet Flesh, Bitti is also a member of Hamilton, Ontario’s The Beach Bats, as is Velvet Flesh bassist Tony Doni. The beginnings of Velvet Flesh go back to 2016 when Doni and guitarist Giorgio Velvetto decided to collaborate, and then were soon joined by Bitti which made them a trio. They began working on a debut but as the process went on, they realized that their sound was missing some flair which resulted in the addition of keyboardist, backing vocalist Concetta in 2018. Part of what has helped the members forge a close personal and musical relationship has been their shared love of cold cuts, oysters and 1980s sports cars. It may be an unusual combination of tastes to have in common, but every band needs to bond over something, right?
To offer further comment and insight on their self-titled debut EP, Velvet Flesh has joined us today to answer a few questions about the unusual recording process, rediscovering the songs that make up the record recently, and how they represent Velvet Flesh as a band.
The songs that compose your self-titled debut were originally written in 2017 but then were shelved until now. What was the reason why these songs were forgotten about? Did you just not like them very much at the time?
“The songs needed some time to cure in the cantina along with the salami and cacciatore. The taste just wasn’t there. We loved the songs, but our busy schedules never lined up to wrap things up nicely or quickly. We all work in meat so the days and nights can be long with odd hours. The songs were never forgotten about and we always loved them. It just takes four years for this music to taste right.”
It wasn’t until recently that you decided to revisit these tracks. What makes now a good time to release these as opposed to 2017?
“We simply had more time to finish them with the world being shut down for a few months. Since we started these tracks, I have recorded albums with other bands and built up a more detailed understanding of audio engineering. I was able to polish off the tunes a little better than I would have in 2017. Turns out mixing is a lot like making sausages.”
Take us through the process of how you rediscovered the songs and then made the decision to release an album. How exactly did this all take place?
“We always intended to release these tracks as an album. We had been performing live more often through 2019 and the addition of (keyboardist) Concetta to our live sound brought things together. The songs were always hanging in the cellar, getting tastier as time went on. Taking such extended breaks away from working on them made sure that we never ended up hating them. New ideas would form in the time spent away and I would open the session files to add little inflections of this or that. Getting time off in April allowed us to go in and finish the mixing, mastering and plan the release. It will be the first release on Buono Guano Records.”
Do you feel less pressure in terms of how the album will be received by fans considering the fact that you haven’t been pouring your heart and soul into them for months or years?
“We don’t really care if anyone likes it. It is music that can be difficult to like.”
How do you feel the songs on the album represent you as a band? Would you say that this is your “sound” or do you see the band evolving as you move forward into your next phase of music?
“The songs represent our musical interests from ‘80s synthpop to thrash, jazz fusion and alternative rock. It is difficult to pin down what the ‘sound’ is. That’s the listener’s job. Fans will recognize a few of these songs from performances as instrumentals so they are already an evolution of what we can do as a band. Moving forward, we will continue to experiment with the unique flavours we have cultivated with this release.”