"I recently was lucky enough to sit down and chat with Josh Staples of The Velvet Teen and ask him a few questions about himself, his band, touring, and his favorite jokes. So if you want to know what is brown and has holes, I suggest you read this interview." The Velvet Teen is currently finishing up recording a new mini-LP entitled Elysium for Slowdance Records. Look for it this July.
So letâs start off with your name and what you play.
Iâm Josh, and I play bass.
And you guys are from . . .
Santa Rosa, California, which is up just north of San Francisco. About an hour north.
Who were you biggest influences growing up, musically?
For me personally, it was probably Prince first and foremost, and The Cure once I turned like thirteen.
Are you going to see The Cure at Coachella?
I hope to! My wife is actually doing merch for Death Cab, and they are playing it, so hopefully I will be able to go down and visit.
Is there any music that you are looking forward to that is coming out in 2004?
Oh yeah. There certainly is. Let me think . . . there is The Cure box set that just came out, it is not new music, but it is the whole b-side thing. The new Engine Down record is coming out, thatâs really exciting. We also have a lot of friends that are in bands that are doing a lot of great music like Polar Bears from Santa Rosa have a record coming out, End Transmission from Minneapolis have a new record, and The Ghost record thatâs coming out. I actually got to hear that when I was in Chicago, and itâs pretty awesome.
The next question is about the bandâs side projects. I know you are in The New Trust, and Judah is in Atair, and Logan has his project Logan Whitehurst and the Junior Science Club, so I guess my question for you is, is there anything for The New Trust we can look forward to seeing?
Well we have our record that we put out ourselves. And we are recording again in March, just a few songs, and we are going to be doing just a few songs every time we have a chance. And then put that together as a full length. In the meantime, Slowdance is going to be putting out The New Trust record in July officially.
Are you (The New Trust) going to be touring at all soon?
Yeah, we will be touring in the summer. In the meantime we brought Michael, the guitar player with us as our merch guy.
And for the other guys, how is their solo stuff going. Has Judah even released any of his work yet?
No, it is not out yet. It is near completion, but we kind of interrupted it with our new record which we recorded entirely on our own, which is pretty consuming. But as soon as that is done, his next project is to finish his solo record. So, yeah, it is very near done!
The next question is about the future release of The Velvet Teen. Do you have anything you want to say about that?
Sure, oh yeah, it is also almost complete. Itâs in the mixing stages. Itâs called Elysium, itâs a seven song record, which was supposed to be an ep originally, and it expanded into an idea we had a couple of years ago. We were writing all these new piano songs, and we were talking about doing just a piano based record, with just about no guitars and then doing a rock record right after it. But we realized it may be too much work, and too much money to spend. When we started to put out an ep we figured why donât we do a piano ep. So thereâs barely any guitars on it. Itâs seven songs, mostly piano songs with strings. Bass, drums, piano, and some strings.
You guys recently got back from Japan. How was that, and what was the hardest part, and what was the best part of being overseas.
Japan was excellent. Japan was the best tour we have ever been on, for sure. It was amazing. Not to discredit any of the US tours we have done, which have been all awesome for us because of the bands we have been with, but just being in some place we have never been before itâs really awesome. As far as the hardest thing . . . it really wasnât very hard at all. They really run a tight ship over there as far as shows go. They start pretty early and they have people that set up everything, and it is very professional and the sound guys are great. We had a sound check ever night which was ridiculous, we donât so anything like that over here, we barely do sound checks. It was just excellent. It was a great tour.
Did you have a good following there?
Yeah we had a decent following there.
Iâve heard that there are some bands that a lot of kids in Japan really pick up on, and you guys seem to be one of them.
Yeah, we have a great label over there that only has two records out. They put out our record and Cursiveâs record. So yeah, they really concentrated on pushing our record. It was great, and the best thing was probably everyone there helping us and making sure we got around okay. And the food was great, all of Japan was great.
Do you have a favorite place to play or city you always look forward to playing, because you know it is always going to be an amazing show when you play there?
Well there is our home town which is always great. We just do the best there it seems. Um, there is a lot, there is becoming a lot. Whenever we play Portland it is really fun. We played L.A. recently with these guys, and it was really great. There are a couple nice cities in Florida. We played Orlando, which was great. It is getting to be more and more fun . . . and the shows are usually pretty good. It is a pleasure to be out on tour and watch that happen.
What is your biggest fear as a band?
Um . . . hmm, our biggest fear as a band. There is always the fear of people not liking what you are doing at the moment, maybe preferring something older, or something they are more familiar with. I am trying to think of something specific to us as a band. But I guess we have just the normal fears that bands have. Like playing with bands that make you look bad (laughs), but is always really fun to play with really great bands that make you look bad too. I guess just probably the usual stuff. As far as our band is concerned just, we try to stay concisions about doing different things every time we make a record, if that makes sense? Well maybe my biggest fear for this band is we have been touring with the same record for two years. And we havenât done too much since then. The fear I have just with the last year of touring is I hope that people arenât sick of hearing our songs, the same songs. But we squeeze a couple new ones in there. I mean, I think we just have the normal fears bands have.
If you could change on thing about The Velvet Teen, what would it be?
Weâd get better equipment. We would have more stuff that worked all the time instead of getting worked on all the time. That would be the first thing I would change.
Where do you find your biggest inspiration for your music?
I think it is mostly from our friends, and the people that come to our shows. Thatâs probably the most inspiring thing keeps us doing it. That combined with just the desire to keep doing new and different music. Just whatever drives us to make songs, and the inspiration to keep doing it is the two guys I am playing with, they are two great, awesome guys to make music with, and being on tour with all these great bands, and kids coming out. All these things combined make for great inspiration.
Do you have a favorite place to eat while you are on the road?
There are definitely favorite places to eat. We had so much great food in Japan, and so much great food in L.A. It is rare that we actually have time to go eat at those places. It is usually just the gas station snacks.
What do you do to pass time when you are on the road?
We listen to a lot of music. Judah has a computer so he is actually mixing the record while we are on tour. We read a lot too.
What is one of the craziest experiences you can remember from touring, or any off color stories?
Oh yeah, thereâs plenty. We had a really great show in Mertyl Beach, and we played in the back of a record store in this weird little concrete room. It was a very low budget show, and one kid just got completely naked. All he was wearing was his shoes and his baseball cap. And his friend took off his belt off his pants and was just beating him with it. We ended up hanging out with those kids all night after that. It was really fun.
If you were not playing music, and The Velvet Teen did not exist, what can you see yourself doing?
If I didnât have music at all?
Iâd probably be . . . oh no. Well I would probably be doing some design. I do some design now too. I canât imagine. A lot of the time what desires me to make music and make records has a lot to do with the design and I really like the whole idea of it, so maybe Iâd help other people make records.
Do you have a best memory as a band, as a whole?
Iâd say probably this last Japanese tour was one the best things we could have done as a band. Just because weâd taken so long to make a record, and we had toured the US so much, it was really nice to get out and let go of the control. We didnât have to drive anywhere, we didnât have to do anything except play the shows and hang out a lot. So that was really fun. Itâs probably the best memory we have had lately. There are so many though. We are always making new memories.
If you could make a line up of your idea tour, including yourself, who would you play with, dead or alive, broken up or together, anyone?
Hmmm, it would have to be probably . . . The Cure would be in there, Iâm sure. Iâve been touring for so long, I canât think of anything except realistic context. A realistic context for us would be Death Cab, Cursive, Engine Down, Minus the Bear, and us. That would be a realistic great tour.
Do you feel you music has evolved since the beginning of The Velvet Teen?
Definitely. I think it has gotten a little more specific in its content, and its direction. Out of The Fierce Parade, the first record that we did, was kind of all over the map, where we had slow songs, fast songs, rock songs . . . I think now we are kind of focusing on certain facets of that. Like what we are working on now is a completely low key piano record. So I think we are just focusing on certain areas and doing all we can with those. We are a little more focused, and know what we can do instead of just doing a regular guitar, bass, drums record.
So, what are your favorite movies? I know it is hard to pick one, but can you name a few?
Iâd say probably Millers Crossing by the Collins brothers. Also Bottle Rocket. There are plenty of movies. There is a series of movies that came out recently called Tthe Cray Masters Cycle, it is five movies done over eight years. They are absolutely amazing. There is no dialogue in any of them. They are outrageously beautiful. Very arty, but great movies. Pretty in Pink is probably on of my favorite movies of all time too.
And, what is your favorite joke, like a corny joke?
Well, what can you print in this magazine? Can it be dirty?
Haha, yeah that is fine.
Well if you are looking for a dumb joke, my favorite dumb joke is; what is brown and has holes in it? Swiss shit.
And the dirty one is; what is the best thing about having sex with 28 year olds? There are twenty of them.
Aww, that is like one of those Michael Jackson jokes.
Yeah it is pretty terrible. It is so wrong- but funny.
Okay, so the last question. If your band could have one wish that would come true, what would it be?
Um. If we had one wish, Iâd say, coming from me, Iâd say to continue to do this comfortably for a living. Get along all the time, and just play great shows for as long as we can until we decide not to. Until weâre content rather than tired.
Thanks so much to Josh for taking the time to do this interview with me. He is a genuinely great guy, and for all of you who read this, be sure to check out The Velvet Teen. I assure you, you will not be let down.