The Velveteers, a three-piece rock band from Boulder, draw inspiration from a wide list of icons. They channel T. Rex's glam-rock flair, Tim Burton's fairy-tale lyricism, and the White Stripes' love for black, white, red and things that come in threes.
But the group has another icon, one rarely cited in rock and roll
“Do you know how respectable Colonel Sanders is?” exclaims drummer Adrian Pottersmith, who waxes enthusiastically about the poultry purveyor.
Known as the inventor of the “secret recipe,” Colonel Sanders built a fried-chicken empire. But after he sold the company, he became critical of KFC’s new management, claiming that his recipe had been bastardized in order to cut costs. Pottersmith is moved by Sanders's dedication to the purity of his vision and his willingness to speak his mind when greed derailed it.
And Pottersmith's not the only bandmate to have a strong connection to the colonel. Both frontwoman Demi Demitro and her brother, second percussionist John Demitro, have a connection through their father, Nick Demitro.
As a child, Nick was a traveling carnival worker. Colonel Sanders saw him at one of the carnival’s exhibitions. Bothered by the boy's painful-looking chapped lips, the colonel gave him a red toy fire truck to lift his spirits. This memory stuck with Nick, and he passed the story down to his children, along with other less pleasant memories.
"He saw people die on the rides," Demi says. "He's seen a lot of crazy things."
While her father’s grim tales may have contributed to Demi’s love of the macabre, she’s unsure. “I honestly have no idea where my love for the macabre comes from. I've always been super into creepy things.”
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Channeling creepiness is an integral part of her creative process. While musing in a graveyard, she penned songs for the Velveteers' first, self-titled EP with haunting names such as “Death Hex,” “Bloody Little Secrets” and “Eyes Tell Lies.”
“I got lots of inspiration from not only sitting in graveyards, but also by how the trees looked against the skyline, or the fog in the early morning floating past the tombstones,” Demi recalls. “I'm very visual when it comes to songwriting, and when I hear sounds, it not only comes in the form of music and lyrics, but also with strong, vivid visions.”
From these fantasies, the Velveteers have conjured their world — with little help from the outside. Save for a photo shoot with Sierra Voss, aka VOSSLING, the bandmembers have written their own songs, booked their own tours and shows, and produced their own recordings, music videos and concert posters. They even sealing-wax invitations that they mail to select fans before upcoming performances.
"You have so much more control," says Pottersmith. "You can just get really weird with it, and not have to rely on someone who doesn't know your music or your sound or what you're going for."
“We want our shows to be more of an event and less of a concert where you show up, get a beer and watch the band play,” adds Demi. “We want them to be a whole experience.”
On stage, Demi commands attention. From her wild, curly locks that she tosses as she strums to her large guitar that rumbles in a lower-than-usual pitch, she makes an immediate and lasting impression.
Behind her sit John and Pottersmith. Conjoined like a two-headed monster, they share one mega drum set cobbled together out of two separate kits. Although the original setup was conceived to help the two play tightly with one another and reduce the overbearing volume of double sets of cymbals, the band has embraced the arrangement. Now John plays without a hi-hat, sharing one set of cymbals with Pottersmith to the right and arranging his keyboard and slide guitar to the left.
"We get to be right by each other and be able to lock in with what the other drummer is doing," says John. "And it also just happens to look really cool, like one giant mirror image. So it's a happy accident."
John first met Pottersmith in late 2014, when they were both too young to frequent 21-and-up venues and instead found community in Boulder's underground DIY spaces. John introduced Pottersmith to Demi in hopes that the two would play well together. They immediately hit it off and started the Velveteers as a duo. Later, the two had a falling out, and John took Pottersmith's place. But Demi and Pottersmith eventually made amends, and they all joined together to form a rock-and-roll trinity.
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After that, they're headed back to the studio.
"We're sitting on a lot of material," says John. Raw tapes, recorded entirely in analog at Denver's Silo Sound Studios, capture the experience that the Velveteers aim to deliver in concerts.
“It feels like it's alive," says Pottersmith. "Like the music is physically alive."
The Velveteers play at 8 p.m. Saturday, August 31, at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets are $15 to $18 at bluebirdtheater.net.