His body writhed and twisted across the carpeted floor, with no apparent concern for rug burns or muddy shoe prints. Marlon Hauser, the dynamic lead singer of Velvet Audio, a Detroit quintet of equally exuberant music-loving kids, brought together this fab five for the sole reason of rocking. And in their case, rocking hard.
[band1]Besides Hauser, Velvet Audio consists of Justin Walker and Ayinde Zuri on guitar, Brandon Weiner on bass and Zenas Jackson on drums.
Velvet Audio is one of those bands that exudes a Detroit hipster vibe, people who are way too cool for the likes of me, and probably even you. Yet, speaking to them in person makes no real claim for that. They’re just people trying to get by and play music for a living– but unlike you and me, they’re much, much cooler.
“I’ve been playing music for a while,” Hauser said. “That’s what I want to do. That’s what everyone else wants to do– especially at this point [in music], good, straightforward, honest artists to say what the hell is happening [in the world.]”
From the looks of it, Velvet Audio has a pretty good start doing just that. The entire band formed in the beginning of 2005 to play shows together after Hauser, Walker and Zuri met and began playing together. They then met Jackson and their former bass player and the spark was there. “It was instant chemistry,” Hauser laughed.
Hauser reluctantly labeled the band as “Detroit rock,” but made a point to say that they don’t have a certain style, since all the members formed from different backgrounds and “morphed into one type.”
For a taste of their kind of music, many comparisons have been made to the legendary hard-rocking Detroit band, MC5. Others look at the band and see a throwback to the days when musicians were definitively kick ass, yet cared about what was going on in the world around them. Whichever way you look at Velvet Audio, you’re sure to make some sort of comparison yourself. “Some say [we sound like] The [Rolling] Stones, Lenny Kravitz, Hendrix, Guided by Voices, even Blue Oyster Cult,” Hauser said.
The main reason you might not be able to subject a band to one certain breed is the fact that many of the good bands of today were listening to Motown, psychedelic funk and war protest anthems, by way of their parent’s 45s and tape decks.
“I had a pretty diverse upbringing,” Hauser said. “My parents were Black Panthers and listened to everything from Miles [Davis], John Lee [Hooker], Coltrane, The Stones. As for the rest of the band, [influences are] classic rock, new wave, early Joy Division, garage, techno, jazz.”
Before Hauser decided to devote his life to the pursuit of rock truth, he was a violin-playing rhythm and blues lover. “I was an R&B singer for a while,” Hauser said. “And then in my freshman year of college, I heard some Hendrix and it was like a switch just turned in my brain. I learned the guitar and began songwriting.”
He took Hendrix’s eccentric stage presence to heart and began his own form of playing to the crowd. Hauser is often seen bare-chested, stretched out on the stage floor belting “Revolution!” while Walker and Zuri peruse the crowd, guitars in tow, and Jackson keeps a weighty beat on drums.
[band3] “Our live show is pretty nuts, spontaneous,” Hauser said. “I guess our live show is better [than on their impending album], but it’s hard to tell.”
One show the band remembers well was their insane take at Dally in the Alley, a mini-Woodstock-type jam near Wayne State University in downtown Detroit during September. “Everyone who’s someone has played it– we headlined a stage,” Hauser said. “We were wasted out of our minds, so we played crazy and the audience wanted three encores. They mobbed us after and we signed autographs.”
That’s the type of performance to expect from Velvet Audio and their turn at one of Detroit’s historic music festivals stamped their place in a long line of bands in Detroit Rock City.
Being a Detroit band has its perks– great venues, big city and diverse fans, to name a few. “There’s a few good places to play and enough creative drive and talent,” Hauser said. “It’s an excellent jump-off point, most of the fans are amazing and cool.” But with great times usually comes a seedy underside that only those deeply involved within it know of.
About the Detroit scene, Hauser said, “I’m a bit jaded against it.” The segregation his parents fought so hard against still takes place in the music scene, according to Hauser. The mostly all-black band has felt the tension of Detroit’s music club, but refuses to let it get in the way.
Songs like “Revolution” are politically charged and represent the social conscious the band portrays.
And how would Hauser like to pose for a Rolling Stones cover, the infamous mecca for any band who wants to be known? “I’d like to pose with a Black Panther in the background behind me and then an American flag tying up my mouth,” Hauser said.
[band2]Velvet Audio mixes the funk and soul of James Brown and Curtis Mayfield and the bluesy rock of Hendrix, all while keeping true to their Detroit heritage with shout-outs to MC5, Stevie Wonder and The Stooges.
The band is scheduled for a number of concerts to tout their upcoming album, which will be available near the end of the summer. The album is produced by Jim Diamond, the White Stripes’ producer, and will feature 14 songs, a much heftier load than their three-song compilation disc that they have available now.
Look for Velvet Audio at a number of Detroit\’s rockin\’ venues: April 22 at Fifth Avenue, May 13 at the Painted Lady, June 10 at the Magic Bag and July 8 at the Masonic Temple. Want to hear a bit of the smooth jams for yourself? Visit their myspace website: www.myspace.com/velvetaudio1. Or just look for that super-cool band hanging out in Detroit making you look bad.