These guys are basically the Death of the early ’90s.
In Detroit in the early ’70s, there was all kinds of amazing things going on, musically-speaking. One one hand, you had the Stooges and you had the MC5. You also had Alice Cooper if that was you’re thing (and I’ve got a soft spot for some of the early Alice Cooper Band stuff). At the other end of the spectrum, you had P-Funk. P-Funk. Let it sink in. This site isn’t called Can You Get To That? for no reason. There was another band whose sound might’ve appealed to fans of all these areas of the Dee-troit musical landscape (OK, maybe not Alice Cooper)….a bit of Stooges/MC5 grit, smooth, soulful Parliaments-esque vocals and blistering Eddie Hazel-aping guitar work. But they were called Death, the were black, and they were crossing into white-boy rock land. And they were a few years ahead of the curve, too. They were a punk rock band before ‘punk rock’ was really a term, and they wouldn’t change their name to something other than ‘Death’. So nobody wanted to touch them.
Fast forward to the early ’90s, in South Carolina. Small but vibrant music scene. Perhaps you’ve heard of Superchunk. And you might’ve recently seen the name The Veldt being bandied around on a few sites – they’re a soul-influenced shoegazing band who’ve existed intermittently since about 1986, and like Death, they were/are a group of black guys treading a line somewhere between a ‘white’ sound and a ‘black’ sound. This happens now….kinda hipster-friendly R&B like The Weeknd and Frank Ocean comes to mind. But that wasn’t the case two decades ago. The Veldt certainly had more of a heyday than Death did, releasing several records in the ’90s, including one on a major label, Mercury, and working with people like Robin Guthrie from the Cocteau Twins and touring with noise pioneers The Jesus and Mary Chain, college-rock heroes The Smithereens and many others. But they faced many of the same problems Death did. Like difficult record companies suggesting that they’d be more marketable if they tried to be more like Lenny Kravitz (where other similarly shoegazy bands more or less had free reign over what they did) – a dickish but not too far-fetched suggestion to make. Singer Danny Chavis’ voice is pretty soulful and very different to what you might expect given how the rest of the band sounds and probably would suit retro soul stuff very well. But it’s dickish nonetheless. Nice to see them being remembered.
Lots of gems by this band. Hope they come to Aus sometime.