Imagine you’re laying around one day, not really doing much. The phone rings: An unrecognized number. You answer anyway. Dan Auerbach is on the other end. He wants to fly you and your band out to Nashville to hang out. “We didn’t really know what that meant,” says The Velveteers’ lead singer Demi Demitro with a laugh. Two weeks later, that surreal trip cemented a collaboration, and the band recorded their debut Nightmare Daydream at Auerbach’s studio later that year.
A rollicking 12-song trip through the future sound of rock music, The Velveteers merge Queens of the Stone Age with the synth-laden, foreboding sense of Sleep Token, carving other musical monuments up to make their own solid bedrock. But there’s a much-needed pop sensibility there too. “A lot of our influences aren’t actually rock bands. We really love bands like BROCKHAMPTON and I grew up listening to Britney Spears—I love pop music,” says Demitro. “I think we’re at this place in music right now where a lot of genres are completely mixing, and what we wanted to do with this record is include some sounds that were poppier, that you normally wouldn’t find on a rock and roll album.” According to Demitro, this means “synth parts to make it sound a little futuristic.” It’s a study in St. Vincent level genre-blurring which culminates in tracks like ‘Charmer and the Snake,’ which uses it’s synth-bass line to lure you, before slapping you with anthemic distortion. The style is familiar, but the instrumentation is new. By the time the second verse hits, you are reminded of rock’s potential: It doesn’t have to be a stodgy sound that is stuck in the past, it can evolve and expand and return to the endless excitement of its heyday. Nightmare Daydream stands as a blueprint for how to pull this off.
This uniqueness comes from a lineup few bands would even dare, let alone pull off: Two drummers, one singing guitarist. Despite starting as a two-piece, The Velveteers soon evolved into something much more interesting. “Adding the double drummers, with just one guitarist, was something that I hadn’t really seen before and I just wanted to see something on stage that was different,” says Dimitro.
Different isn’t the half of it. “Baby [Pottersmith] and Johnny [Fig] have this weird spaceship kind of setup, where it’s double drums, a synth, a guitar and then Baby also plays keyboards sometimes and a drum pad,” says Dimitro. “There’s a lot of room to experiment.”
“There’s just a lot of space,” says Demitro, who sees the setup as freeing instead of limiting. “When we want a really bassy part we’ll do something on the synth, like a note that is just going out for a long time. That gives me the room I want to play a lead part.”
Nightmare Daydream is musically rousing and lyrically bounces between airy-yet-poignant poetry and point-blank prose, creating a contrast as jarring as the guitar tone. “It felt at the time like my life one day would be like a dream, and then the next day, it would feel like a nightmare. I was really playing with my mental health and hearing voices in my head, so it was based on this surrealist theme,” she says.
Demitro recalls the lyrics from the haunting ‘Father of Lies’: “I have the devil whispering in my ear, telling me all the things he knows I want to hear.” An album standout, it seamlessly mixes the eerie with the personal. “That was a metaphor that I have these two voices that are telling me all these things, that it knows I want to hear but I know I shouldn’t be doing.” This sets the stage for what’s to come: The tension between right and wrong, acoustic and electric all reverberate in the valley created by these two poles.
But ultimately, Nightmare Daydream leaves you with a sense of hope. Hope for Demitro, hope for the future, and mostly hope for rock and roll. “There’s this misconception that rock music is dead, and that it’s this thing of the past,” says Demitro. “When people think of rock and roll, they think of a band from the 70s or the 60s, and what we really wanted to do is make a rock album that was not of the past, but of the future.”
Nightmare Daydream is available now.