Track x Track: Velvet Trip - 'Harmony Blooms'
Ahead of a huge East Coast tour, Sydney-based psych-pop duo’s highly anticipated debut album is finally here and they’ve taken us through it, track by track
Image credit: Jacqui Mitchell
Three years and over 20 demos later, Sydney psychedelic duo Zeppelin Hamilton and Clay Allen AKA Velvet Trip have unveiled their delightfully uplifting album of soaring psychedelic indie-pop soundscapes, Harmony Blooms, while also announcing an East Coast run of shows this March & April.
While the album has been shaped through a pandemic and been worked on across a range of regions and time zones, the origins of Harmony Blooms can be traced back to Hamilton’s time in Europe as he explains “I was exposed to a wide variety of artists and sounds on my travels. I remember seeing acts like Kikagaku Moyo in a London warehouse, Lil Simz at the Berghain and King Krule’s saxophonist at a house party. I learned and wrote a lot in that period. Clay and I eventually reunited in Berlin. It was here that we began discussing the album and the sound we wanted to create when we got home.”
When they got home came an unexpected roadbump, with Zeppelin breaking his hand and thus flipping his creative process on its head, now having to record one-handed on a midi-keyboard. Undeterred, Velvet Trip teamed up with Phan Sjarif (Middle Kids, Birds Of Tokyo) to wade through the demos and begin co-producing the record that would go on to become Harmony Blooms.
Across nine tracks, Velvet Trip’s debut album takes you on an immersive listening journey through a range of atmosphere and sonic landscapes, with its DNA tracing back to the likes of Air, Khruangbin, Tame Impala and Steve Lacey.
To dive deep into Harmony Blooms, Zeppelin was kind enough to tell us the tale behind each track on the record - have a listen and get to know:
I had the privilege of borrowing my dear friend Dan Sultan's 12-string acoustic guitar. He wanted me to get comfortable with it because I would be playing it extensively during our upcoming touring schedule together. Right after that, a second wave of lockdowns hit. I ended up keeping the guitar for about six months which was lucky for me, but unfortunate for Dan. The timing was perfect as I was heavily immersed in George Harrison and Temples, so having that guitar was a blessing to write with.
I brought this song to Clay during a period of significant change in our lives and as we prepared to move into separate homes after living together for a few years. I distinctly remember a beautiful afternoon we spent together in our garage studio, capturing the essence of the shifting tides. Moving On is an ode to that period.
IT'S ONLY HUMAN
This song is an example of tapping into the other realm and letting it just pour out. I didn't know what I was singing about until it was finished and I was asked to explain it to press. When I was tracking the vocals with Phan, I didn't actually have the chorus lyrics or melody, it just kind of happened in a take and we were like, ‘‘Oh yep, that's the chorus… Let's do that again’’.
In retrospect, I was feeling overwhelmed with the global turmoil happening around us, and I was trying really hard to avoid writing about it. I was feeling disillusioned, confused, and saddened by the conflicts I was seeing around me.
"It's Only Human" became a song about forgiveness, compassion, and understanding for one another.The lead guitar line of this song was recorded from my Fender Twin Reverb, straight into my laptop microphone, with my computer positioned on the other side of the room. When Phan heard it, he had no idea how I managed to get that wonky sound and refused to change it.
GET YOU OFF MY MIND
When Velvet Trip first started, my biggest influence was Jimi Hendrix. His artistry and spirit resonated with me more than any other artist ever has. He's always with me when I play. During my travels in Morocco, I found myself in a place called Essaouira. It was a glorious time, sitting atop medinas writing songs in my leather book, smoking hash, playing guitar, and indulging in Tajin.
While there, I stumbled upon a local urban legend that claimed Jimi Hendrix wrote "Castles Made Of Sand," inspired by 'Bordj El Berod,' a castle off the coastline that was engulfed by the sea. This castle would appear and disappear with the ebb and flow of the tide, and I was determined to see it for myself.
Accompanied by my partner and a Japanese traveler named Kento, we ventured out one day to find it. We trekked through the dunes, got consistently lost and I fell in quicksand trying to pat some wild camels. When we finally found it, I climbed on top of the castle peeking out of the sand, and played ‘’Purple Haze’’ in honor of Jimi. The lyric "standing on a castle you can't find" in this song is directly inspired by that experience.
Silly Boy is a tongue-in-cheek jab at viral skits, social media, and 15 Minutes of Fame. I used to make viral internet videos until things got a little out of hand. It took hitchhiking around Australia, a crocodile farm in Darwin, and breaking my foot in Indonesia to call it quits on that part of my life. Fake it till ya make it baby!
I never intended to be so hands-on in producing the album. This song was the first track that I fumbled into when I realised I wanted to give it a crack. Upon returning to Australia from Europe, I purchased a laptop and started experimenting with GarageBand. Unfortunately, my hand was completely wrecked from a skateboarding accident, and months of traveling without proper physiotherapy made playing the guitar impossible.
Undeterred, I put together a demo by playing one-handed on a MIDI keyboard and recording my vocals directly into the laptop. Naturally, my enthusiasm and frustration led me to invest in a range of microphones, upgrade to Logic, and become obsessed with producing. What began as a means to ease my situation ended up becoming the title track of our debut album. ‘HARMONY BLOOMS’ was an experiment for myself and permission to take a leap of faith in a new direction.
This song has seen some shit and has taken so many different forms, but finally found its place! We even tried to record it on the first EP, but it didn't make the cut. I re-demoed it around 7 times using different chord progressions, lyric changes, there were some weird midi-panflutes happening at one point. In the final block of tracking the album, I flew Sinj to Sydney to record keys on the record because we were previously tracking through Zoom. We ended up tracking the acoustic guitar and piano together in a single take and it clicked, finally feeling right… Though it was still missing something.
When I asked my friend and Incredible Wiradjuri poet, Jazz Money, to write a poem for this song, she sent me a voice memo within 5 minutes. I took a little recording set up over to her house and set up a makeshift booth with blankets and mattresses to capture her voice. There were no edits, no changes… It was just as she first spoke it to me (she kept telling me that I listen to music too loud, to turn her headphones down, and warned me I’d go deaf if I’m not careful).
It was important for me to have her voice and spirit in this song after collaborating on various projects together. We have both connected deeply with one another on our shared Wiradjuri lineage and it was an honour to create this together. This song is about connection to Country in your spirit, despite not being physically on Country.
HONEST I DO
Honest I Do is an intimate conversation with your lover as you try to work through your relationship issues. I wasn’t sure how Phan and Clay were going to respond to this track, as it’s a definite curveball from the rest of the record. At the time I was listening to a lot of Steve Lacey and Diangelo, so I think I was channeling that energy on this one. I just kept thinking, ‘’Psychedelic RnB’’.
It has become one of my favorite songs to play live and whilst on tour with Parcels, we kept having people asking ‘‘what was that cover?!’’.
I was experimenting with different methods to find inspiration at one point in the writing process. I had some books laying around in the garage including Jim Morrison's Poetry, The Wind Up Bird Chronicles, and some other random stuff. I would put my headphones on, play the instrumentals and flick through the book. Stopping at words that evoked or jumped out at me, I made a word bank, constructed sentences, and wrote some songs using this method.
‘Electric Dreams’ is a euphoric dream-state collage.
I'LL FOLLOW YOU
When I arrived in Berlin I had 400 euros in my account. Coincidentally, Clay was also in Berlin at the same time, and one day we stumbled into a vintage suit shop. Clay and I shopping together is historically problematic because we end up egging each other on to buy things we can't afford, this time it was these amazing suits. I ended up spending 300 Euros on the suit and had to get through the rest of the month with 100 Euros in my account before flying home to Australia.
Luckily the Parcels family generously let me stay between their homes whilst they worked on Live Vol.1. Everyday, I would go down to Gorlitzer Park with my leather diary and the one shawarma I could afford, watch people play frisbee and scribble lyrics into my book. I wrote this song on Julsey’s piano one evening and it's about being deeply and utterly in love, despite all odds.
- Zeppelin Hamilton (Velvet Trip), February 2024
Velvet Trip's new album Harmony Blooms is out now
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 11 | TWILIGHT AT TARONGA, SYDNEY • GADIGAL
SUPPORTING JOHN BUTLER TRIO
FRIDAY MARCH 15 | STRANDED BAR, BRISBANE • MEANJIN
SATURDAY MARCH 16 | MARY’S UNDERGROUND, SYDNEY • GADIGAL
FRIDAY MARCH 22 | CROWN & ANCHOR, ADELAIDE • KAURNA
SATURDAY MARCH 23 | THE WORKERS CLUB, MELBOURNE • WURUNDJERI
FRIDAY MARCH 29 & SATURDAY MARCH 30 | BLUESFEST, BYRON BAY • BUNDJALUNG
THURSDAY APRIL 4 | HAMILTON STATION HOTEL, NEWCASTLE • AWABAKAL
FRIDAY APRIL 5 | LA LA LA’S, WOLLONGONG • DHARAWAL
SATURDAY APRIL 6 | AVALON RSL, AVALON • GURINGAI
SUNDAY APRIL 7 | SUMMERSALT FESTIVAL, BRIBIE ISLAND • KABI KABI
SUPPORTING OCEAN ALLEY