By David Cotner 08/07/2014
When was the last time you went down the rabbit hole? When was the last time you found a space to dig deep and then luxuriated in the weirdness of the dark place in which you discovered yourself? In case you’re open to finding yourself momentarily disoriented, we present The Velveteen. The band — drummer Chris Coyle, keyboard-and-melodica wizard Aaron Levitz, the mysterious leporine trumpet-and-guitar playing of the mute six-foot-tall rabbit that is Baron Von Velveteen, and producer Daniel Flores — bring to Ventura the kind of strangeness not seen since the days of carnival sideshows rolling into town after a long journey across the country. Baron Von Velveteen, the bass player for goth/steampunk merchant Cirque Noir for the past five years, had more songs than his fluffy little bunny ears knew what to do with, so he started The Velveteen. He gathered his band of cuddly musical mutants and set his sights on Bombay on the Fourth of July. Fireworks were inevitable. Producer Flores divulges, “It was a packed house, and everyone thought the Baron was going to DJ, but there are some great bands here in town, so they decided to start life as a tribute band to Angie’s Curse.” Slipping further down that hole, they were billed as Angie’s Curse even as they emerged onstage as the cover band that looked absolutely nothing like what fans expected to see. A riddle wrapped in a mystery covered with fur.
The real Angie’s Curse showed up and immediately loved what they’d done. “We’re all about fun,” Flores clarifies, to which Levitz adds, “We’re creating a world and inviting you into it.” To that particular living end, the singer is the puppet Fum. Fum was created by local artist Claire Flores, who also manipulates the manikin. The endgame, while focused on fun, is an ambitious one. “We want to elevate the creative potential of the music scene here in Ventura. I want to do something completely different, to bring a theatrical, avant-garde spontaneity to the music scene here in town,” Flores says. Performing all of the sound effects through music sequencing of Ableton Live also helps them think of unconventional ways to structure everything from songs to how those songs are presented, visually as well as aurally. Think soundscapes painted by an LSD-tainted Helen Keller and you’ll get the general gist. Ultimately, Fum will be accompanied by other puppets under construction now, puppets named (wait for it) Fee, Fi and Fo. Each puppet will be paired with a fearless and/or shameless to-be-determined guest singer from other like-minded bands in Ventura. “We want to work with as many musicians and artists as we can with this project,” Flores promises, “I think that makes us better artists. It really inspires us to create. Collaboration is, I think, what inspires us most.”
“We’re pulling in visuals from all over the community,” says Levitz, a nod to the unique multimedia cast of The Velveteen. Although local venues have not historically lent themselves to projections other than those of the fiscal variety, the band is planning new uses for old spaces like the Hong Kong Inn and Bombay. So why rabbits? “That’s a good question!” Flores laughs. “It goes back to the fun of it all. It’s just so ridiculous and out there. The Baron gets such a fantastic response from the audience. I think it really helps that he doesn’t speak. People are really drawn to him because all he does is give hugs and wave.” The reaction has been, so far, overwhelmingly positive — as most bunny-related cultural phenomena are wont to be. “We’re very connected to the cosplay community as well, and the comic culture here in Ventura. I think that element of fantasy is really important to what we do. I mean, our songs are about robots and vampires.”
The Velveteen will perform at the Pride Festival on Aug. 23, Bombay Bar on Sept. 12 and beginning Sept. 5, they will perform every first Friday at Hong Kong Inn.