If you stumbled upon the Velcro Lewis Group online, perhaps through their single “Bernadette,” which was featured on an episode of Showtime’s Shameless, and assumed they were a lost relic of a band from 40 years ago chosen by a music director steeped in rock ‘n’ roll gems, it would be hard to blame you.
But listen closer and you realize they could only exist now, after humanity has had adequate time to process what acts like Captain Beefheart, Parliament Funkadelic and CAN accomplished, and then distill that into something new.
Andy Slater is the Velcro Lewis in Velcro Lewis Group. Together with (then drummer, now singer) Hawk Colman, bassist Halden Spoonwood, electric washboard player Lawrence Peters, and two other guitarists, he formed Velcro Lewis Group in 2005. Since then, the band has recruited drummer Josh Barnhart, guitarist Travers Gauntt and thereminist Ali Hunger.
“We had kind of an Americana and garage rock vibe at first and after a while got heavier and more soul and r&b and funk and when Trav joined things got weirder,” Andy said.
Travers’ fondness for vintage fuzz and modulation effects has helped steer the band toward a heavier psychedelic style. Another key ingredient is Ali, who crafts an arsenal of sounds from her Moog Etherwave. Still, despite the band’s seemingly clashing mix of influences, it all comes together in their unmistakeable sound and generally weird aesthetic.
“I always felt like I was in a fortunate space to be around so many cosmic but grounded musicians who offer so many different colors,” Hawk said. “I just kind of ended up at the right place at the right time with the right people.”
That “cosmic connection” has fueled the band’s prolific output. Halden explained how band members used to write their own songs and then practice them together, but today the songwriting is done as a group over a long jam session. The 22-minute epic “Stormbringer is one example — Lewis called it the perfect studio jam that just needed a few guitar and theremin overdubs and was done in about 8 hours.
“A lot of our jams just have that certain magic where everything just works and then the ones that aren’t quite at that level are still good, and we tend to mine those for ideas and start creating songs out of those pieces,” Travers explained. For every ‘Stormbringer,’ there’s five other jams where it’s like ‘oh that’s a cool part; let’s do something with that.'”
Future plans for Velcro Lewis Group include two releases for next year from two labels. One will be a single, and the other will be a full-length on Sweet Lilac, a label started by local obscure music expert Jeremy Cargill that primarily re-releases hard-to-find music from the ’70s.
“His concept behind Sweet Lilac is he wants contemporary bands that gel and work with the stuff that he’s gonna reissue,” Andy said. “So bands that aren’t throwbacks but are doing things in that kind of spirit.”
When asked if the band has a difficult time coordinating shows, practices and studio time as a 7-piece, the band let out a collective groan.
“Hawk’s phone doesn’t get group texts,” Andy said.
They laughed, partly because they expected Andy to name another challenge, like members’ jobs, family and kids, long drives from far-out suburbs or other obstacles. It’s hard enough to coordinate schedules in a three-piece after all, so a maintaining seven-piece is an accomplishment in itself. Still, whether it’s a dedication to their music or some kind of cosmic energy Hawk hints at, something keeps the Velcro Lewis Group together making incredible music.
“It happens every week, like a great sitcom,” Hawk explained.