Daniel Chavis and The Veldt Show Us How It’s Done…Again
By Sound Check
March 11, 2011
Chapel Hill, North Carolina was the site of a vibrant, alternative music scene in the late 80’s/early 90’s. While many of the bands had a unique sound and style, one band set themselves apart with regards to their own style, sound and look. The Veldt was a (predominantly) Black rock band whose sound lent itself to a three way tug of war between Prince, Echo and the Bunnymen and Jimi Hendrix. The band amassed a strong following in the south, released an EP entitled Marigolds and was signed to Mercury Records where they released their debut disc Afrodisiac. As quickly as the band was signed, their luck seemed to sour. The group put out a few more discs before disbanding. Now in 2011, the original lineup is back and they are ready to throw their hats into the indie rock ring once again. While in New York, Daniel Chavis chatted with me to let me know what the Veldt have been up to and what we can expect from them now.
Daniel Chavis and The Veldt Show Us How It’s Done…Again
Words David Carr
David Carr: Take me back to the late 80’s and tell me how the Veldt formed.
Daniel Chavis: Me and friend of mine, Robert Jackson (who passed away) jammed in a band called the Psycho Daisies. We played small gigs in the hardcore scene. We were playing with bands like Corrosion of Conformity and Neon Christ. We were playing in the punk scene and that band kind of morphed into The Veldt.
David Carr: The Veldt had a big following regionally and then got signed during a pivotal time in the alternative music scene. What were some of the high points for the band?
Daniel Chavis: The time before we got signed to the major label was the high point for the band! We actually had a tour bus supporting the Marigolds EP. We got to open for The Pixies, Lush, The Church, The Jesus and Mary Chain and we toured with The Cocteau Twins. To be honest, being on a major label was a headache for us and the music industry in general, left a bad taste in our mouths!
David Carr: How so?
Daniel Chavis: We were an indie band. We had our own vision of what the band was about. The record company just wasn’t listening. We didn’t want our picture on the cover; we had these ideas about the art work and they had their own plans. The Cocteau Twins wanted to take us on tour in Europe but the label wanted us to stay in the US.
David Carr: When/how did the wheels fall between the band and the label?
Daniel Chavis: After The tour with the Cocteau Twins, the label put us on tour with The Smithereens. We lost our manager and I was on the phone with someone from the label and they were telling me that they were on the verge of dropping us. I said fine, do it! We were dropped and we had some tough times for a while. We had a reputation for being a difficult band. We released two more records, Universe Boat on Yesha Recordings and Love At First Hate on our own imprint. We just kept being told the same thing; we were too tough a band to market.
David Carr: Do you think that attitude still persists today?
Daniel Chavis: Someone figured out how to market TV On The Radio and they have done well! In a lot of ways we were the TV On The Radio of the south back in the day! I think nowadays you have some nerdy looking kid in glasses dictating what is cool or popular or trendy. When we first started doing this we wanted everyone to enjoy our music. We were bringing a mix of people both Black and White to our shows and we were the only ones in Chapel Hill doing that at the time.
David Carr: You and your brother Danny formed Apollo Heights after The Veldt. Describe how Apollo Heights differs from The Veldt?
Daniel Chavis: The Veldt never really broke up. Apollo Heights was just a side project while we took a thirteen year break! HA! Apollo Heights was basically the direction we were headed in. It’s a bit more electronica/trip-hop. If you listen to the interludes on our albums you can hear that we were already experimenting with a more electronic sound.
David Carr: Being a Black rock band from the south, I have to assume that race was an issue. Was this the case?
Daniel Chavis: Race was definitely an issue. No matter where we played in the south it was the same thing. We would get asked if we were a reggae band, if we were a funk band, if we were an r&b band; people who had never heard us would say,” if you like Living Colour you will love these guys!” We didn’t/don’t sound a thing like Living Colour! Yes race was an issue but you can’t state the obvious because then people say you are whining!
David Carr: Was there any camaraderie between you guys and the handful of Black rock bands that were around at the time?
Daniel Chavis: Definitely! 24-7 Spyz took us out on our first proper tour. Their record company wanted to sign us and Jimi Hazel wanted to produce our record. Living Colour was really good to us. So was Fishbone. I remember when we opened for them and one of the guys in Fishbone said we sounded like a Black version of The Cure! I’ll never forget that. There were only a handful of us out there but we were getting it done and that made for some exciting times!
David Carr: You have played the Afro-Punk festival with Apollo Heights. What do you think of the scene?
Daniel Chavis: Well like any click, there are some real people in it and there are some snobby people in it. The Afro-Punk scene to me is like the Black Rock Coalition of the 21st century. The kids in the movement have an idea of what punk/alternative is all about but they don’t really know a whole lot of the history, from what I have seen…it is cool to see more black kids into rock.
David Carr: What can we expect from the newly reunited Veldt?
Daniel Chavis: We have a lot of music to share with folks. We have a new disc coming out called Chop Fallen. The music is a little more goth. We already have some live shows lined up.
David Carr: What motivated the reunion?
Daniel Chavis: We just felt the time was finally right for our brand of music. We were a bit ahead of our time when we first started but now kids seem to be into our style of music. So far the response in the south, regarding our reunion has been amazing! We hope we can go further than we did way back when.
The time might be right for a band that was clearly ahead of its time! Be on the lookout for new music and a possible tour from The Veldt in 2011.