Brisbane’s music scene is unlike any other in Australia. The bands are a family. They interlock with each other and regardless of genre or musical background each member lands on a revolving carousel collaborating or joining other bands.
And then there’s Velociraptor, a structurally coherent 12-piece garage-pop outfit which breaks the rules and doesn’t look back. With a new single, tour and album on the way, it’s all uphill for these prehistoric rompers. The group’s frontman Jeremy Neale got on the line with his crispy, acclaimed sense of humour, to chat with Blank’s Jake Wilton.
“Ramona is probably the most literal songwriting I’ve ever done,” Jeremy said, speaking about their giant new single. “It was fresh after a breakup, hanging out with the ex, who is now basically my best friend, which is a beautiful thing … the fresh times of trying to be friends straight after the breakup. So we went to see a movie, and this is how literal the song is, [Ramona I told you / I can’t sit next to you in the cinema when you’re texting other guys] and I could see her always checking her phone to text this other guy. And that destroyed me because I still had feelings for her.”
Beyond the dexterity and humorous, “It sounds like you’re interviewing R2-D2,” side to Jeremy, there’s a human underneath it all. Yes, musicians are humans too. The upcoming, and supposedly self-titled, first official Velociraptor LP due for release in July, following on from 2012’s mini-album The World Warriors, doesn’t just dwell on past relationships.
“On the new ‘Raptor album there’ll be a couple of songs referencing my bitterness at being working-class, not that I’m always bitter about that! Sometimes the song will relate moreso to existence and how hard that can be… But most of the time it’s about love. You’re right, you got me.”
“The overriding theme of the album is… I mean, you can still party to it, but there’s a phase of sadness running through the record as well. I refer to that as late ‘80s Ramones stuff where it’s really sad but you can still move to it. It also feels right to run it self-titled because there may not be another record after this… Who knows?”
Velociraptor isn’t the only project Jeremy is fronting. He also has his own solo project, which could be said to have also existed around the time of the dinosaurs. Both outfits have similarities, touching on ‘60s garage pop and the swaggering style of Elvis Presley meets Jack White. Yet while Jeremy sees the two bands cross-connected, he notes some factors that make them as entirely different beats.
“I think I let go of the reins a bit more with the ‘Raptors stuff. Even though I’ll pen them the same way, I’ll still write in weird hours of the morning or maybe on an acoustic guitar or just free ball the melodies while I’m driving. I think the finished product and where they end is very different because there’s so many people in the band to add it to.”
“Last week we had Shane [Parsons] come in, I mean he’s been a ‘Raptor since the beginning but also he’s the guitarist from DZ Deathrays. He’s spent the last 4-5 years being a guitar boss, so he’s such a weapon to have in the studio. He takes stuff so far away from where you thought it would end up, it’s brilliant.”
“With the solo thing, it wouldn’t matter if I produced a song that was like a sample beat and keyboard line with my vocals. Whereas there is an expectation with ‘Raptors, as a band, that it’s going to sound like a gang, at some point. It’s like conscientiously keeping things within a parameter. But again, a lot of it is letting go of that in this one and just trying to make a record.”
“We’ve got some songs that are quite straight down the line and only sound like they’ve got two guitars and a keyboard on it. Yet, for some reason, at two points within a song, there’s probably 8 people doing a gang vocal track. There’s a spectrum from where we can take it from, going from quite minimal to huge, and it’s knowing when to pull that in and pull it out.”
“I never cross-promote the two, so I try and take them as two separate entities. I think, at least, half of the people who are into each one, independently, probably know that I’m in the other one. I kind of run each project seasonally because I can’t stop writing and releasing music – I get really antsy if I haven’t released anything in a couple of months.”
“The solo EP came out in November of last year and now this ‘Raptor record will come out in July. By the time that cycle is finished, it will be late September, early October and I’ll put out a new solo single. They balance each other out but it also means I can keep purposely writing for something in the background at all times.”
Although Jeremy is an unstoppable writing presence, he claims that having the two projects under his belt allows him, and his audience, to stay fresh and not overdo it. In an already over-filled market, especially Brisbane, it’s easy for punters to become overwhelmed with music variety.
“It’s tough because, as a songwriter, you’re inclined to write a lot of music. Yet as a particular artist in a particular form, there’s only so much music you can put out before people stop caring because there’s nothing special anymore. You can put out a single every 2 months or so, but in that time you might have written 5 songs that you want the world to hear but they can’t hear them. So how can you release those without people saying they’re sick of hearing about this artist? Maybe give those people an option without ruining the branding that’s associated with songwriting.”
The remarkable thing about Velociraptor is, as Jeremy pointed out, the 12-strong gang of members moving through minimal instrumentation to exploding guitar riffs. It’s also in the live show, where the majority of the members show their claws, that Velociraptor bring their furious garage riffs to life and differ themselves from Jeremy’s solo outing.
“The biggest critique of the band is that, ‘Oh, there’s, what, fifteen members in the band but it only sounds like there’s four people.’ That’s because it has to be looked at moreso as there’s a gang from which we’re choosing people from for each adventure. So with the live show, it’s always going to be different from our recorded work – we’re consciously aware of that and that’s something that we like. You’ll get a totally different experience out of the live show, and that’s important. If you have a CD and the band replicates the CD live, you might as well have saved your money and stayed at home. The CD has to give you something that you can enjoy on your own, either on headphones or you can dance around in your room to it.”
“With the band, we’ve been playing the same set for the last four moths or so. During the solo shows, though, I can ride through it with banter as well. It acts as the introspective part of the show – the before and after segments of a Seinfeld episode, that’s how I see it. With ‘Raptors, it’s tough because we’ve only been a touring band for about a year now – we’ve played Brisbane maybe four times or so over that year but haven’t done any shows out of the city. In a lot of ways it will be fresh, because of the songs, and the energy will be high, as always.”
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Ramona is out now via Dot Dash / Remote Control and you can expect Velociraptor’s debut album in July. And you can watch the shiny new clip for the single on YouTube.