When The Velveteers members Demi Demitro, Baby Pottersmith and Jonny Fig pulled up to El Club, a hip, all-ages venue in downtown Detroit, they didn’t expect anyone to recognize them. They were there for soundcheck at the first show of a national tour supporting Des Rocs. While the three singles that had been released from their upcoming debut album had generated some buzz in the press, none of it felt real yet.
“Most of the last two years we’ve just been doing the same thing we always do, which is the three of us practicing music alone in a tiny garage,” Pottersmith tells BandWagon. “It seemed like people were kind of interested. I couldn’t really process it beyond that, because we were still so isolated.”
As soon as they stepped out of the tour van that day, the illusion of isolation was shattered. Maybe shattered is the wrong word. A fan, sporting Adidas flip flops, a Johnny Cash t-shirt and playing air guitar on a squash racket, was pacing outside of the venue and screaming the lyrics to their lead single “Charmer And The Snake.”
“Look in my eyes – hypnotise – mesmerize me. You think you’re the charmer, but you’re really the snake.”
Less than two weeks later, the band dropped the rest of Nightmare Daydream, a sprawling 12-song LP that they recorded during the pandemic with producer Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. The album sees the band mostly sticking to their unconventional approach — two drummers (Pottersmith and Fig) with Demitro on baritone electric guitar and vocals. While layers of synth and synth bass permeate the new tracks, their use is sparse and heavy hitting.
“Having the three of us as the only members of the band really pushes us to get creative,” Demitro said.
The result is a deliciously sinister hard rock album that is reminiscent of work from The Dead Weather or All Them Witches, without sounding too much like either of them. Demitro’s clear, powerful voice soars over heavy grooves, Pottersmith delivers understated beats that often take a melodic turn and Fig amplifies each song with a rotating cast of rhythm instruments and percussion.
Though The Velveteers have been writing and releasing music DIY-style for years, none of the band’s former material made it onto the album.
“I didn’t really feel like any of the older stuff that I had written was representative of what I wanted the future to be for the band. I didn’t feel like I had reached the point of writing something I thought we should release,” Demitro explained with characteristic humility.
Yet the seed for Nightmare Daydream was planted early. In 2018, Demitro wrote the title track and played it on acoustic guitar for Pottersmith, as she puts it: “in some field.”
“She told me, ‘I really think our first album should come from the same vibe as this song.’ When I heard it, I knew exactly what she was talking about,” Pottersmith said.
Over the next two years, Demitro, as always, wrote voraciously. But only a select few tunes fit the tone that was set by the song “Nightmare Daydream.” Then, as fate would have it, in the midst of the pandemic, Dan Auerbach watched one of the band’s YouTube videos and fell in love.
With Auerbach on board, it was finally time to pull the trigger on the project. But making this album would also mean the end of an era. When Demitro and Pottersmith started The Velveteers as young teens, they spent hours a day locked in Demitro’s grandmother’s garage, writing and practicing. A couple of years later, they added Jonny to the mix and started practicing in his parent’s garage. The band had always enjoyed an insular constellation and complete creative control over everything they made.
“We really know what we want and how we want things to sound,” Demitro said. “We were a little cautious of letting a producer into our world and handing over our trust.”
Nonetheless, they packed up their instruments and headed to Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound recording studio in Nashville. Once they got there, any fears evaporated. Auerbach was warm and welcoming. He wanted to help get the band’s unique energy into the recording, just the same as they did.
“We’ve learned over the past year that collaborating is such a useful tool,” Demitro said. “It helps you grow and might lead you to a place you might not have gone otherwise.”
As The Velveteers continue to tour the nation on Nightmare Daydream, building a fan-base as unique and even unexpected as their music, the one place they can definitely expect to go is far. The trio will return home to Colorado for a show at the Gothic Theatre this month – perhaps the last chance to see them “before they were big,” though by the look of things, it might already be too late.