A bass amp found in the dumpster, some ‘70s rock influence and a bond created through multitudes of laughter are just a few elements that make up the Athens-based band Velvet Green.
Velvet Green came together as a band last summer but got its big break with its performance at the Athens Halloween Block Party in fall 2018. Since then, the band has booked countless gigs at The Union Bar and Grill and various house shows. Velvet Green is a relatively young band, comprised of high school students and freshmen at Ohio University. But the members have proven their youth doesn’t hinder their talent.
The band describes its sound as “junk funk.” Harper Reese, a senior at Athens High School and a guitarist in Velvet Green, said the “junk” came from the fact that the members are all relatively inexperienced and describe their equipment as “total crap.”
“I had a bad guitar for a while, but I just got a new one,” Reese said. “Our music is kind of like funk but with some rock influence.”
The band is heavily influenced by artists like Steely Dan and The Meters. With their sounds in the back of the band members’ heads, they started writing and performing their own songs. Velvet Green has started to branch out and find its own sound, but lyrics are something it plans to work on more in the future.
“It’s easy to not care about lyrics when all you’re doing is playing out, because people don’t hear the lyrics unless you’re playing an acoustic set,” Reese said. “But when you’re at a house party, no one really cares about the lyrical content.”
Velvet Green plays mostly at house shows for the exposure, but the money made from shows, the band puts toward new equipment.
“We bought a drum set with some money we’ve made, but we’re saving it up right now because we’re not sure what to buy,” Reese said. “But studio time is probably what we’ll put it toward in the future.”
As a young band, some may not think the members of Velvet Green are mature or capable enough to play quality music. But Velvet Green has been treated with nothing but respect from peers and musicians alike.
“It’s definitely nice; adults responding to us as musicians instead of simply judging us based on age,” Reese said. “I assumed we weren’t very good just because of how young we were, but we’ve gotten a lot of validity.”
The band has received significant praise for its sound from musicians of various music genres.
“Any guy can come and say how much they like our set,” Reese said. “But having another musician coming up and telling you that you’re good, you know they’re being truthful.”
Because she’s able to relax and not feel the pressures of performances she would expect at serious venues, Cora Fitch, a junior at Athens High School and the band’s vocalist, doesn’t typically stress too much. But when Velvet Green get the chance to play at The Union, its gigs need to be more thought out.
“Some performances, depending on the vibe, are way easier to experiment with our music, like at a house party,” Fitch said. “It’s also easier to do sets there because it’s way less nerve-wracking for me. Everyone is just drunk and having a good time.”
To balance playing in a band and keeping up with school, Fitch joked that she just doesn’t sleep.
When it comes to preparing with and prioritizing the band, Shea Benezra, an OU freshman studying political science and the band’s drummer, usually finds himself putting the band first.
“I don’t think it’s that difficult, because we generally play on weekends,” Benezra said. “Even without a whole lot of practice I think we’re decent, and people should still come to see us.”
Back home in Brooklyn, New York, Benezra’s school didn’t have much of a music scene, so coming to Athens and joining Velvet Green was something his parents were willing to fully support. All of the family members of the band have shown support for Velvet Green through future endeavors the band is working on as well.
“We’re building a cabin that we’re going to turn into a studio,” Benezra said. “Another bandmate and I are gonna live in it next year, so we’re not even living on campus.”
Velvet Green has big plans and is hoping to potentially book some gigs in New York where Benezra is from, but nothing is set in stone. For now, the band is focusing on sharing its sound with Athens and the surrounding area, cracking inside jokes along the way.
To Mitch Spring, a senior at Athens High School and the bassist, being part of the band is just another excuse for him to hang out with his best friends.
“We get to play music and perform together, so it’s always fun,” Spring said.