Homemade, but not lo-fi, Veelee turns two | Music Feature | Indy Week
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Homemade, but not lo-fi, Veelee turns two 

Veelee, performing at Duke Coffeehouse during the 2009 Troika Music Festival

Photo by Jeremy M. Lange

Veelee, performing at Duke Coffeehouse during the 2009 Troika Music Festival

Two years ago at the small Chapel Hill club Nightlight, Veelee played its first show. The new two-piece of Matthew Park and Ginger Wagg gave away homemade keychains that read, "I was at the first Veelee show 2.13.09."

Two months later, when the two-piece played Duo-Fest III in Durham, Veelee met maybe the most enthusiastic response of any act on the 15-band bill. That was only show No. 3. Veelee has played 65 shows, including well-attended sets at Hopscotch Music Festival, a handful of tours, a summer spot at TRKfest and a spot on WUNC's The State of Things. Steadily, they've become one of the Triangle's most exciting young bands, making those keepsakes seem like a rather prescient move.

Veelee celebrates two years of live shows this Sunday, Feb. 13, with a headlining spot at Kings. In a way, it's Veelee weekend on Martin Street: Though they'll play only once, Veelee is also featured on a cassingle (that's right: a cassette single) released by DiggUp Tapes, who take over the venue on Thursday and Friday. Area favorites like Whatever Brains, Lonnie Walker and Birds of Avalon each have cuts on the DiggUp Tapes' set, putting the band's contribution, "Bruises Easily," in good company.

Like Veelee's story, "Bruises Easily" is one of steady, patient growth. Textures and melodies build gradually. Drums and a guitar loop drive it along for nearly three minutes before the closely harmonizing vocals arrive. It's pensive and clear, but not for long, eventually erupting into a noise free-for-all. That is, having built a solid foundation, Veelee gains the listener's trust and is able to take the song where it pleases.

"We are not subscribing to a formula," says drummer and singer Wagg, "so whatever the song wants to be, we're kind of following it. It's like, 'OK, this song is doing this, so we're going to go with it."

Lately, the going's been pretty good for Veelee: The band's patient growth has brought it to a level with notable, established locals. And, like in the new single, that steady build seems sensible, almost trustworthy. For example, the green vinyl edition of the duo's debut LP, The Future Sight, has nearly sold out since its release last October. They opened a sold-out Love Language show late last year, and in March, they'll go on first at Cat's Cradle, opening for Merge Records founders and indie rock idols Superchunk, who are headlining.

The record itself is a minimalist but expansive offering in a compact 29-minute package. At a time when many studio albums are purposefully lo-fi or muted, The Future Sight is a homemade album with a clean, organized quality. "The Three Sides thing sort of had a low-budget kind of sound," says multi-instrumentalist Park of the band's debut EP. "But I wanted The Future Sight to be way more sophisticated and more grown-up. Just because we recorded at home, automatically it shouldn't fall to, 'Oh, it's lo-fi.' I think our record's pretty hi-fi."

The Future Sight was painstakingly recorded over a year or so in the couple's last two houses. (Their romantic relationship largely parallels their time together as a band.) The leases overlapped and the band "lucked into" paying double rent, as Park wryly puts it. The pair moved into Carrboro, and Track and Field Studio's Nick Petersen wired the empty Chatham County house where Three Sides was made for recording. What followed was maybe a year—the band didn't keep track—of working on the record when the members had time. The busy couple, whose work schedules seem variable and scattershot, made it a point to be patient with the developing songs that would comprise this record. They didn't want to force their songs down any stylistic pigeonhole. The recording process wasn't without stress, though; Park describes his obsession with detail as "maniacal." But Wagg suggests that recording at home allowed the songs time and space to gradually develop.

"We try to maximize our studio time by doing the things that we can't do live and we want to create an atmosphere inside the record," Park says. "I don't think we ever set out to sound like anything."

With simple melodies layered in ebbing washes of sound and vocals tending toward mantra-like repetition, many of the songs take on a dreamlike quality. Veelee's undercurrent of cyclic phrases—loops or a simple drone from keyboards—can be fairly hypnotic. Park references Lungfish, Beach House, Low or the unchanging bass line in Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams," as sharing this sonic quality. He celebrates unhurried simplicity in music—and it's these examples' uncluttered compositions he finds so appealing.

Says Wagg, "Most of [the loops] are pretty short, between 10 and 20 seconds, so that repetition creates a certain feel and I think repetition is a dreamscape-y kind of quality. You're experiencing it over and over again. You know the reoccurring dreams you might have—like the running-forever dream and you never get anywhere. The quality of having something, having a line in the song that never changes, that's dreamy in a way."

That stillness and patience—also essential to a healthy relationship—remain one of Veelee's central strengths, even as their path as a band gets better and busier.

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