Miss Velvet’s “Cincinnati Street”: Idolator Song Premiere & Interview
Australian musician Nick Littlemore isn’t one to rest on his laurels. One-half of dance duo Pnau, Littlemore also launched side projects Empire Of The Sun (with Peter Mayes) and Teenager (with Ladyhawke) in recent years, and now he’s introducing the world to his work with Miss Velvet.
Today Idolator is premiering Miss Velvet’s single “Cincinnati Street.” As for how this New York-based singer came to work with Littlemore, she explains to us, “I was singing at local spots in NYC and a mutual friend gave Nick a video of me performing. As I recall, the video was from The Living Room and I was singing a James Brown cover, ‘It’s A Man’s World.’ He said he was going to be in New York for some time and that we should meet and do something together.”
Others who took part in recording Miss Velvet’s new music include Peter Mayes of Pnau, Henry Haye, Eddie Kramer and Martin Kraft. Give “Cincinnati Street” a play above, and check out our chat with Miss Velvet below.
As far as singing goes, what were you doing in New York before heading out west? MISS VELVET: For many years I have been immersed and surrounded by the music and art worlds. My father was an artist himself as well as a collector, and when I was a little girl my mother was producing avant garde, almost iconoclastic, contemporary interpretations of classical repertoire — in opera, theater and the baroque. I particularly vividly remember two productions of Handel, Messiah and the oratorio Esther in an old deconsecrated synagogue on the Lower East Side. My sister and I would sit in the wings memorizing the choreographed baroque dances and humming sometimes strange dissonant tones. I began my fascination with music by studying voice with one of the great opera sopranos, Constance Hauman, known for her brilliant risk-taking explorative roles as well as her amazing coloratura soprano voice. I auditioned and got selected into musical programs that would allow me to study abroad in places like Italy, eventually moving to Paris for the summers to train with Constance. I found myself exploring many different sounds and styles of music as my voice was developing. My journey in life brought me back to NYC and about a year prior to teaming up with Nick I was collaborating with more pop-leaning producers. I even had a track nearing the top of the Billboard Dance charts at one point. But it wasn’t until I met Nick that I feel I truly found my “home” musically.
What happened when you first got together to collaborate with Nick Littlemore? We met one afternoon and talked all about the ideas of writing just one song or two. An hour later he and I decided that he would produce my first full length album. I told him I wanted to write an album that told a story from lyric to lyric and phrase to phrase — a whole body of work that would capture a specific time in my life, a time when, as a girl, I didn’t understand loss and grieving and the powerful illusions of men and NYC. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this body of work would teach me and guide me into a whole new chapter of my current life. Creating this character, Miss Velvet, has allowed me to freely examine myself and explore everything about that time in my life that I had shut away. It felt as though with Miss Velvet’s persona, I could re-live this exploration, but still be able to come up for air.
Who exactly is Miss Velvet, and how would you describe her/your sound? Miss Velvet sits in a whimsical universe, one that’s raw and somewhere between dream and nightmares. The sound evokes the treasures of the music, cinema, and pop culture of the ’60s and ’70s.
Describe how the song “Cincinnati Street” came about, and what can you tell us about the video? In LA, after days of being lost in other-worldly creative time, Nick and I finally emerged from his small studio in his garden. We had heard something on an old vinyl record that had greatly inspired us and especially this next chapter/song we wanted to put in the album. We sat on this wooden table outside and started working on the lyrics to what would become “Cincinnati Street.” It had this free time feeling: this wild psychedelic trip where the lyrics and the pacing had to match with the reality vs. fantasy of this make–believe street: a street where the struggle between the lure of illusion and the darkness behind it plays out. A “street where reality was a form of fiction, but still had all the haunting illusions of faded dreams and shattered past relationships. We must have sat for hours tapping out the rhythm while I chanted these lyrics.
Is there a full Miss Velvet EP or album release coming in the near future? Yes, there is — very soon…so stay tuned!
Will there be any live shows coming up? My next show is April 24th at Rockwood Music Hall at 10 p.m. A few more NYC shows to follow and then some big, fun ones this summer including Surf Lodge in Montauk and a new place out east called Harbor. Also going to play one of my all-time favorite rooms, The Box, where I debuted Miss Velvet this past winter.
For more information on Miss Velvet, check out her official site.