Hi Dan, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’m well thank you. Although I recently pulled a muscle in my right tit, I can feel a knot in it and can’t keep massaging it because people keep giving me funny looks on the tube.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Dressed Up In Sables”?
I think it quite typifies our sound, which is why we chose it from the album as the first single. It’s dark, dramatic and carnival-esque. Our album is a little heavier than we have sounded before so I suppose ‘Dressed Up in Sables’ kind of announces that to people.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
I think life and my perception of it have inspired this particular song. We all have our demons with which we battle, I decided to personify my own in a song. As an artist, I sometimes feel I owe something to my demons for the creative outpourings they inspire… it is rather a confusing reality to be faced with. The lyrics read like a kind of fairy tale filled with imagery with opposed connotations. I think I was rather inspired by Angela Carter for that.
Can you tell us more about the upcoming video?
The video was directed by Jamie Williams, who I went to school with, and was shot in various locations in South London, including the pub that I currently live above. We had this idea where we wanted to dress as clowns and asked friends if they knew anyone that could teach us some magic tricks for the video. It turned out that one of my oldest friends shared a house with one of the country’s top magicians who also performed as an evil clown. It was just too perfect. We asked another good friend and costume designer to help us with the clown’s outfits and another to help with the make up and everything seemed to be in place. The clown footage was originally shot for a video for a song that was never released. We recorded a 3rd EP which was stolen and we never got to put it out. Luckily, there was nothing song specific in there and I actually think it works better with this track than the one it was originally intended for.
The single comes off your new album Shadow and Whimsy – what’s the story behind the title?
I think it’s actually pinched from a line from The League of Gentlemen, a comic horror that just seems to typify what has informed me in my life. I have pretty much built my personality on my comic heroes rather than my musical ones. I think I have always wanted an audience in whatever I’ve done, but the type of show I put on in life is rather different to the one when I’m singing. I am always looking to make jokes or get a laugh somehow, that is until I pick up a guitar and start singing. Music gives me the opportunity to be the serious, sad and troubled person I feel a little scared to let out anywhere else. Comedy and tragedy are, after all, two sides of the same coin.
How was the recording and writing process?
Recording has been an absolute joy. We recorded our album in the Oxfordshire countryside with Richard Neuberg who has been wonderful to work with. I think only one of the songs (Hook in Your Head) was written in the studio, the rest were mostly written at home in the early hours of the morning.
Does London play a role in your music?
I suppose it does but I think a lot of what we do is quite haggard and antiquated in it’s presentation so it’s maybe more of a Dickensian London that we project? I don’t often make modern references or try to capture the zeitgeist, I think I’m interested by broader, perhaps weightier themes than that. It would feel a little out of place to be singing about texting or facebook with orchestral instruments in accompaniment. I was born and have lived in London for pretty much entire life so I would think it must have had an influence in some way.
What novels get to inspire the lyrics on this album?
I think I’ve mentioned Angela Carter’s influence, her twisting of traditional fairy tales gripped me when I was at school and I loved so much about her work. The bold imagery and use dark themes and references to gothic literature appealed to me greatly and still do. There are also quite a lot of Shakespearean and Biblical references in the lyrics. Henry V is often a reference point for me.
Would the whole album deal with mania and depression and what aspects would be focusing on?
There are quite a few dark themes on this album. Mania and depression are certainly two main ones but there’s also quite a lot about revenge, almost as though it’s being spoken by a tormented horror movie villain. There’s aspects of guilt, love, lust, desperation, fear… it’s a real treat for the neurotic.
Any plans to hit the road?
We will see, maybe there will be some news on that soon?
Sun 12th LONDON – Kings Cross – The Acoustic Folk Highway @ The Harrison 10pm
Tues 14th LONDON – Alley Cat Tottenham Court Road 8pm
Fri 17TH LONDON – Lost Horizons Folk Club, Leyton
What else is happening next in Dan Shears & The Velveteen Orkestra’s world?
I think the plan is to put out another two singles before the album is released so we will be busy getting everything ready for that.
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