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Some Velvet Morning

Some Velvet Morning may be new to you, but they’re already familiar to Nancy Sinatra, Paolo Nutini and Razorlight, to mention just a few celebrity names that orbit their world. The famous daughter of the even more legendary 20th century swinger gave them her nod of approval when she heard that they were named after her best-known collaboration with Lee Hazlewood, i.e. the beautiful “Some Velvet Morning”. Nona Hendryx, the pioneering R&B songwriter and member of the 70s soul trio Labelle also once signed them to her label when they were in a previous incarnation.

Intrigued? You will be when you hear how Some Velvet Morning are helping to refresh the way we all acquire music in this brave new digital, file-sharing age. And your interest will be further piqued when you hear their songs, which are helping to reconfigure anthemic, jangling guitar rock, as we know it.

We should introduce the band. Meet Des Lambert (vocals, guitar), not your normal rock front man in that he counts as his heroes Noam Chomsky, Norman Mailer and Cole Porter. When he’s not reinventing the epic rock wheel, he’s a boy wonder engineer for everyone from Razorlight to Paolo Nutini, having also worked alongside the great John Leckie (Radiohead/Muse) amongst others in his time. And yet Des happens to approach rock not as a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist but as someone who acknowledges the R&B savvy of the Neptunes and Timbaland and the pop brilliance of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”.

Then there’s Des’ brother Gavin, who when he’s not laying down simply thrilling bass lines is busy being a maths genius and professional gambler. The final piece of the mad jigsaw that is Some Velvet Morning is Rob Flanagan, drumming powerhouse, who has been creatively working behind the scenes in the world of music publishing. So, successful in their respective fields as they are, why would they want to do this, be in a rock ’n’ roll band? Because, as their manager puts it, “The inner beast wants them to do it.”

Some Velvet Morning, formed by the Lambert brothers from North London, are influenced as much by 80s synth-pop as the guitar melodies and counter-melodies of U2’s The Edge. “A lot of bands start out the ‘art school way’,” says Des, “with a certain purpose. We’re completely the opposite. We just started doing gigs, I could play guitar a bit, and that’s how we went on.” The arrival of Rob, a dexterous and versatile sticks man, was a decisive moment for SVM. “I’m influenced by the classic drummers,” explains the Flanagan from Lincoln. “Ringo, Nick Mason and Mick Fleetwood… the great unsung heroes, so often underrated, but the parts they played on those records are unbelievably good.’ According to Des, Rob learned to play drums from The Beatles’ Abbey Road and tom-tom laden tracks such as “Come Together” – “that album’s in his DNA,” he says.

After recording some demos, and with their band name cleared with Nancy Sinatra (“she was flattered”), they attracted the attention of Nona Hendryx and Vicki Wickham, former manager of Dusty Springfield and producer of 60s pop TV show Ready Steady Go! The pair had launched a label and they wanted Some Velvet Morning on it. So they flew over from the States, met the band, and a deal was inked.

They had some success with their 2007 debut album, Silence Will Kill You, which comprised some punchy, potent pop-rock and was produced by Grammy Award winning Rik Simpson (who notably worked on Coldplay’s Viva La Vida album with Brian Eno) and Mike Pelanconi (Lily Allen, Graham Coxon): the album was nominated for XFM Album of the Year 2007 while a follow-up single, “How To Start A Revolution”, was featured in the international trailer to the Hollywood movie Kick-Ass, a Matthew Vaughn blockbuster starring Nicolas Cage.

“The first album… was us finding our feet,” explains Des. “We didn’t totally know what we were doing, but one thing we always had were the songs. The question was how to dress them up – the production, the arrangement, the aesthetic of the band.” Since then, they released a self-titled EP in 2010 that featured an even more honed and streamlined version of their shimmering, soaring rock sound.

“We consolidated our sound on that EP,” agrees Des. “It was more concise.” Des also notes other influences on the band’s current material such as the pre-”Love Cats” version of The Cure, when Robert Smith et al were mired in the moody, dark rock of Seventeen Seconds, Faith and Pornography. “We were inspired by their rhythmic and aesthetic shadow,” he says, adding that, instead of “chasing quantized perfection” in the studio, they tend to go for a sound that, while not technically immaculate, “really rocks”.

Just prior to the release of the EP, SVM played some memorable gigs including, in the footsteps of The Beatles, a rooftop gig on the PRS for Music building, exactly 40 years after the Fab Four’s farewell Apple performance. Although the police and environmental health tried to shut it down, it was a triumphant affair. They also played shows in America, Asia and Russia, where they were greeted as heroes.

Adept in the studio, exciting live, now all SVM had to crack was how to sell their records. They’re approaching this in a novel way, with My Major Company, who operate via “crowd funding”, a new type of record label system, already successful in France, whereby fans are encouraged to invest in new artists, giving them a say in the future direction of the bands or singers. SVM needed £100,000 to make it work, and they amassed that sum in an astonishing two months. Now, My Major Company have enough funds to launch the band properly, with a new single and album due to come out later in 2011, and investors with a stake in Some Velvet Morning based all over the world, poised to spread the word about their favourite new band.

“It’s a cross between a record company and a social networking site,” considers Des. “The investors can help influence the marketing and promotion of the band, and we share equal power with the people at the label.”

Of course, none of this would work if their songs weren’t strong, and luckily Some Velvet Morning have those in spades. “Don’t Think” is plangent and heartfelt, with echoes of Peter Hook’s trebly bass and U2’s ringing guitars. “Control” is all about control: controlled performances and controlled dynamics as the players reach peak after peak. You can imagine “Gravity” filling the biggest of rock venues, the drums, guitar, bass and vocals given plenty of space to roam. Here as elsewhere, the move from intro to verse to chorus is subtly explosive. On “Resistance” the guitar riff is instantly recognisable, one of those designed to rouse audiences at festivals, while Des’ declamatory tones are clear, never swamped by clatter. Finally, “The River” is the sort of quietly brooding, slow-building affair that gives rock ballads a good name.

Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? Try Some Velvet Morning.