Jeremy Neale, frontman of Velociraptor – a band with enough members they could give up music and successfully invade a small European nation, possibly Belgium – was recently a speaker at a music conference aimed at young people looking to get into the music business. What kind of lessons could the musicians of tomorrow learn from Velociraptor? What mistakes have they made that others should avoid? “Probably everything the band’s ever done,” Neale says.
“It’s hard to say. Velociraptor’s a unique example because I guess a lot of people might write off the recorded works but then they’ll see us live and have a really good time.” He impersonates a potential audience member, reacting to their music: “‘It’s really different, I thought they were clean and polished and I really enjoyed the rambunctiousness of the live show,’ or whatever. It’s like we always have to attack at two angles, which means touring has to be a thing we do, but touring is such an expensive thing for us to do. It’s a financial pitfall, but it’s also essential. I can’t use Velociraptor as a way to tell people what to do except maybe not to form a gigantic band.”
There are advantages to having a platoon-sized band, though, and one is having a lot of different viewpoints on each song. When it came to recording their self-titled debut, following on from their 2012 mini-album The World Warriors, having a throng of opinions pushed them in a different direction. “When everything was just, like, three power chords and drums and vocals on a demo, the initial vibe, what it was aiming towards, was a very ’80s Ramones ‘Pet Sematary’ vibe,” Neale says. “But once they were taken to the studio and once everyone did their thing to them we got in the studio mindset, which was like, ‘Let’s play with this and see what happens.’ I think things got quite far removed in a way. But it was good, it was interesting. What could have been a very straight-up record has now got peaks and dips.”
A song like ‘Leeches’ is either one of the peaks or one of the dips, depending on how you look at it. Though surrounded by upbeat Kinksy garage-pop, it finds Neale in a baritone, lamenting broken people. Echoing vocals from several of the other boys in Velociraptor form a wall of man behind him, singing: “All the lovers you have doomed / And the leeches fill the room, the room.” Uncharacteristically, it sounds like a bad trip. “I think ‘Leeches’ is everybody’s favourite song on the record actually. We probably would have done an album like that – if we did another release it would be very much down that path. It’s fun to do a variety of stuff, I think.”
Immediately after ‘Leeches’ comes ‘One Last Serenade’, opening with Neale and guest vocalist Sweetie Zamora from Bloods singing, “It’s OK, it’s OK,” – which is exactly what you need to hear at that point. An old-fashioned pop duet complete with plenty of “ooh ooh ooh”, it’s a romantic turn. Neale has wanted to put Zamora on a Velociraptor song ever since they shared the stage with Bloods while both bands were supporting DZ Deathrays. “We met them then, and they’re top people. Then we listened to their stuff in the van and just loved Sweetie’s voice. She had that song on the Golden Fang EP that Bloods did called ‘Into My Arms’ which, gosh, her voice is out of control. Gotta put that on a record.”
One of the last songs written for the album was ‘Sneakers’, which turned out to be its finale, with Neale begging for one more chance. It feels like a conclusion to all their songs about girls, showing these cycles of love and loss are never going to end but just repeat in new configurations. It’s the song that plays over the credits as our hero runs off after his love interest once again, singing: “I put my sneakers on, I leave the house in a rush.”
“I wrote that line because I always run late for everything,” says Neale. “I just figured a lot of people would do the same thing. I’m that guy that just gets distracted by a million things and then doesn’t leave until right on the exact time if I had an optimum trip it would take me to get somewhere. If it was a 25-minute drive I wouldn’t put traffic in the equation, I’m just like, ‘Yeah, I’ll leave 25 minutes before’ and there’s always something and you get there 15 minutes late. It’s the song for the ADD kid in all of us.”
There’s a touch of the ADD kid in Neale, who performs solo as well as in Tiger Beams, Lovely Legs and Running Gun Sound, each an outlet for a different style. While Velociraptor started out loud and loose, as their gloriously ramshackle live show still proves, their recordings have become more like melancholy Merseybeat pop. “When the band started, no-one had responsibilities, everybody didn’t have to do anything. Now everyone’s gotta work full-time to survive, it’s why maybe it’s more mature. It’s got a bit sadder, it’s got a bit more real-world heaviness to it in parts because that’s what real life is I guess. It’s not just a drunken party. But sometimes it can be.”
Velociraptor out Friday August 22 through Dot Dash / Remote Control. Catch the many members of Velociraptor live along with Bloods, Spookyland and Paul Conrad on Friday August 22 at Newtown Social Club, tickets available online.