It’s a lovely November day in northern Colorado, and I’m sitting in a tiny patch of woods, surrounded by tall trees, blowing brown leaves, and scraggly branches that scratch against the sky. The streets and houses of Lafayette, Colorado are close by, but this spot feels tucked away from the world. I’m sipping mint tea while seated across a small table from Demi Demitro and Baby Pottersmith, two members of Colorado band the Velveteers.
Both Demi and Baby grew up nearby and met in their mid-teens. Almost immediately they began making music together – practicing day after day, writing songs, and performing at local DIY performance spaces, where they could try out new ideas in front of receptive audiences.
Compared to the heavy energy on their knockout debut album Nightmare Daydream, released earlier this fall on Easy Eye Sound, the scene in the woods – the table, the warm tea, the wind through the branches – showed the pair’s quieter, more contemplative side. And that, I learn, is as much a part of who they are as the raw power of songs like “Dark Horse” and “Motel 27.”
The Velveteers also include third bandmember Jonny Fig.
During our conversation, Baby and Demi talked about their creative process, the ‘yin and yang’ of the music on their album, their songwriting session in Nashville, why double drummers, and what it was like meeting and then working with Auerbach.
The Colorado Sound: What is the significance of this patch of woods? How did you discover it?
Baby: Demi and I used to go on a lot of walks, like during breaks from our rehearsals, and we walked past here a lot.
So last year during COVID, everyone was doing live streams, and we wanted to do our own version. So we found a bunch of locations that we get set up and perform live. And we made a video here, where we brought in a power generator and a bunch of keyboards and a tape machine. [It was] for the song “Deep Blue Sea,” it’s on YouTube.
That live stream was all material we knew we didn’t want on the album, but we still liked. What this [location] used to have…we had all these signs up that were the song titles from our album. but they’re gone now. So it’s back to just a friendly neighborhood wood area. The only sign that remains in the first one that says ‘the Velveteers.’
How did you meet?
Demi: We met when we were 14 and 15 and, we met at a show – some show at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. And I had known about Baby cause we would see each other at shows, and oftentimes we’d be the youngest kids there. I always really liked their long hair. I really wanted to be in a band and I was always looking for people my age to jam with.
Had you already been playing music by the point you met?
Demi: I grew up doing performing arts, but I had just gotten into music when I met Baby. At that point I was still kind of figuring it out. Each week we would practice, I would learn something new on the guitar.
Baby: It was cool to watch you, though, like with the limitations you had at the time with your guitar playing. It made you be really creative with your songwriting. Cause if you only knew set number of chords, you use them to their fullest extent.
Demi: That’s true. I wrote a lot of songs with one chord, and I’d have to come up with variations of how I could make it interesting.
Did you have a sound you wanted at this point? Any bands you were inspired by?
Demi: There was a local band called Rose Hill Drive from Boulder, and they inspired us endlessly. We really bonded over that. We were the only two kids listening to rock music that we knew.
Baby: And then beyond that, the DIY scene in Colorado. That’s where we cut our teeth as teenagers, playing shows and meeting fellow musicians.
Demi: There was one called the Forge in Boulder that was very impactful on me. I would go there and play new songs and have a community where I felt I wasn’t going to be judged. And also getting to perform in front of people. It gives you the experience to learn how you want to perform, how you want to talk on stage, and what you want to be as an artist.
Baby: There were Denver DIY shows I’d go to, and I really learned through those [that] you can be a freak on stage and that’s OK. Like, I’d go see a show and the third band would just be a guy a saw and a mic and a distortion pedal. And he would just hit the saw against the mic and everyone would go crazy. And I was like, wow, you can really do anything you want and find an audience for it.
How did the two-drummer concept come about?
Demi: We started out as a two piece. But I had this idea about two drummers. Then we were on tour in the UK, and we had Baby and the other drummer share a kit, and it really made this cool, kind of spaceship type of double drumming. It added a lot of possibilities for us to push ourselves. There’s so much you can do rhythmically. And it really adds a heaviness to our sound.
Are the songs on the album all new? Or did any originate back when you were first playing together?
Demi: The majority are new ones we had written and worked on a couple months before we went into the studio. But I think with writing, for example, “Dark Horse”…I had written that riff when I was probably 19, and it was just sitting in my voice memos on my phone. And one day when we were practicing, I went upstairs into my room and was just messing around on my guitar, and I remembered that riff. And I was like, this riff needs to be on the album. So it’s funny how little things like that end up reappearing.
DAN AUERBACH AND EASY EYE SOUND
When did you first meet Dan?
Demi: We were hanging out one day and noticed on Instagram and Facebook that these guys started following us, and they were all following Easy Eye Sound, and we were like, huh, that’s kind of weird.
Baby: Our social media was small enough at the time to where if we got like six new followers in two hours it was noteworthy.
Demi: And then our manager called us like a couple hours later and said that Dan had seen a video of us online and he really liked it. And he wanted to bring us out to Nashville to meet. At first they just said, like ‘hang out.’ And so we were like, oh, ‘hang out?’ What does that mean?
About two weeks later they flew us out to Nashville. And we were so nervous. I remember riding in the Uber over to the studio, and the big gates opened up and we drove in and then out comes Dan coming down the steps and shakes our hands, and we go inside and just talk about music.
They took us into this back room where it was darkly lit with one lamp, and Dan had a cigar in his hand. I remember sitting next to him while we were all talking and like being like, whoa, that’s Dan Auerbach.
Baby: And then he’s like, ‘let me show you the studio.’ And he handed me some drum sticks and he goes, ‘do you want to go look at that drum kit?’ And it was Patrick Carney’s kit. And I sat down, and instantly forgot everything I’d ever learned. I hit the snare, and then I put the sticks back down and walked away.
Demi: [But] they were all super nice and not intimidating at all when you actually sit down and talk with them.
Baby: And there are photos of Richard Swift on the wall. It was this piano player who was friends with Dan, who we’d really Demi and I, and Johnny had really gotten into. And so it was really far out to be looking at a photo of him at the studio.
Demi: We were only there for literally a day. We flew back and our manager was like, ‘I’m pretty sure they want to sign you guys.’ And so right when that happened is when COVID hit, and we were like, oh, well, I hope this doesn’t change anything.
COVID aside, were you even prepared to record at that point? Did you have the songs ready?
Demi: We had a ton of songs, but we didn’t think we had an album.
Baby: And also, when we met Dan and went to the studio, we were in the midst of a transitional period. Our other member had just left, who was our other drummer. And one of the things Dan was really into was the double drum thing. And we just lucked out that the first person that we thought of like trying it out with was Johnny.
Demi: When the three of us started playing together, it really started to feel like this was the right thing. Everything happened during this really weird time in the world, but during that time is when we learned to all play together and be a band.
Baby: It kind of felt like we were like, like what the banner felt like when Demi and I first started playing together. All we would do was practice and work on songs. It kind of brought that feeling back of like new beginnings and excitement. Even though we had this looming album we had to record, it felt like the number one reason we were doing this is because we love the jam. It was fun to learn our dynamic.
THE RECORDING SESSION
So when did you finally record and go to Nashville for the session?
Demi: We finally went out in November [of 2020]. And by that point we felt pretty ready [to record]. We had a lot of things that were set in stone that we knew exactly how we wanted everything to sound. I think it’s really important when you’re doing something and know what you want.
But then also something really cool that we did in Nashville is we did songwriting sessions with Dan and other Nashville writers he would bring in. We would sit around a table and just write. And that pushed us out of our comfort zone. Writing can be a very intimate thing. And when you’re in a writing session, you’re allowing someone else to come into your world. And I think that pushed us. The two songs on the album that came out of that writing session were “Charmer and the Snake” and “Bless Your Little Heart.”
[For “Charmer and the Snake”], I remember I came in with that riff – it was just this really slinky riff. And then Baby had this whole book of like weird poems, and one of the lines in that book was something about a charmer and a snake. And I was like, ‘yeah, you think you’re the charmer, but you’re really the snake.’ It just painted this interesting picture in my head.
Baby: [The songwriting session] just flowed naturally. It was cool to see like Dan or Angelo Petraglia, who was the other person who cowrote “Charmer” with us, they would throw out a rhyme idea, and then others were like, ‘no that’s no good.’ And there was like no judgment. There were so many things everyone said that were not it. They were just saying what came to mind. So it was cool to learn from that and be like, ‘oh, I’ll just say whatever comes and no one’s going to really judge.’
And how was Dan in the studio? Was he listening and giving you feedback each day?
Demi: Dan was in the studio the whole time with us, except one time when he had to drive his kids to school. He was super involved, but also at the same time he wasn’t overbearing. He really wanted to let us be who we are. That was really special.
And he had so many interesting perspectives that were really valuable to us, things we wouldn’t have thought of or right him saying like, ‘no, that’s the take. You don’t need to do any more vocal takes.’ Because I could be in there for a month doing vocal takes over and over.
Baby: He could see the beauty in things that the artist can’t see. Like, we had all these demos of the songs that we wanted to record. And he’d be listening to that with the engineer. And we told them, ‘oh, we don’t want it to sound like our demo. We want it to sound better.’ But they were like, ‘no, your demo sounds like you guys. It’s cool, the rawness of your demo.’ So that would affect how they recorded the song.
YIN AND YANG
Some songs are heavy, others less so. Was there any kind of overall theme for the album that you had in mind?
Demi: The themes on the album are kind of based off yin and yang, the dueling energies of really beautiful things and really dark things. Over the last couple of years I had been writing a lot of sad, but really beautiful songs that are on the other end of the spectrum compared to the heaviness. And that’s something I really love about our band, that we include that. Because if we were just a rock band that played only heavy songs, it would be kind of limiting.
Baby: We recorded two or three other songs for the album in Nashville that were soft, pretty ballads that just didn’t end up on the record. We’re hoping to release those soon. But with that yin and yang thing, we wanted it to feel like up and down, but we also didn’t want our preconceptions to get in the way of what the album just naturally was going to become. It just felt better with the track list we had, leaning more on the heavier songs, and having a sprinkle of softer songs in there.
Demi: What we wanted to do with this album was just transport people into our world. That’s one of my favorite things when I listened to an album, is just kind of being able to dive into the world of that album. And we just really wanted to create our own.
The Colorado Sound Presents the Velveteers at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins, Colo. on Saturday, April 16. They also perform Friday, April 15 at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colo. Their album Nightmare Daydream is available now.