VELMA & THE HAPPY CAMPERS:
Released / TBA
Recorded in / Gainesville
Sounds like / Abner Jay
Inspiration/ Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, The Breeders
Key tracks / “Hell,” “Work Related Incident”
Where to get it / Bandcamp or Floating Skull Tapes
Upcoming Shows / TBA
It’s a college-town cliché that everyone is always coming, going or inbetween. But it’s equally true of real life that nothing is certain. Permatemp, the upcoming album from A.J. Herring’s usually one-man band Velma and the Happy Campers, seeks to explore the galaxy-brain realization that the only permanent thing about life is its impermanence.
Herring began making music under the moniker Velma and the Happy Campers in 2009. As is typical of the lo-fi genre, music became Herring’s outlet to express his grievances with the mundanity of life. The project has followed him from Marianna to Gainesville and from a stint in air conditioning school to a job as an elementary school teacher. Permatemp came about because of previously permanent things becoming temporary.
This theme is apparent from the opening song, “Temporary,” which tonally kicks off the album with fast-paced guitar strumming. “Can’t you see,” Herring intones on the chorus, “that life is so temporary.”
Permatemp layers guitar-strumming over a loop of cassette tapes and audio recordings of found noise, a departure from Herring’s previous efforts that imbue the album with havoc. To create this background cacophony, Herring recorded anywhere he could — in a storage unit, his bathroom and multiple restaurants.
“I’m constantly getting inspired by weird chaos and sadness,” Herring said.
“Work Related Incident” is the best use of these recordings. Snippets of a conversation support the lyrics, which express a deep malaise with daily routines: “Blood on this building/ Outside the ‘burbs/ I hope I die/ Before I get to work,” Herring nasally sings. Then, as a guitar starts to play, a male voice shouts “Turn it on!” And the guitar swells. The effect is frustration and relief. •
By Natalia Galicza.
Released / 2018
Recorded in / Gainesville
Inspiration / Come, These Immortal Souls, Swirlies
Key tracks / Pegasus, No Flag
Where to get it / Bandcamp
Upcoming shows / February 20th (Gainesville, FL)
Push play on “Pegasus,” the first track on Stella Splendens first self-titled release, and you will be hit with a wall of emotional noise. Surging, crunchy guitar lines are punctuated by crashing cymbals.
Leela Corman, Lexi Braun, Cory Young and Conor Mitchell — that is, Stella Splendens — are loud, and they want you to know it. The band got together last year when Corman and Young got together to write songs and sought out bass player Mitchell and drummer Braun to create rhythm.
“There are two cliches in rock ’n’ roll: heroin abuse and not being able to find a drummer,” Corman said.
From fake blood to belly dancing, from glitter to cage bras, there is nothing this band hasn’t dipped into. They get inspiration from alternative rock bands but simultaneously enjoy covering songs by artists like These Immortal Souls. They try not to let their creativity get stunted by trying to stick too closely to one specific sound.
The band’s synergy is palpable at live shows. The guitar, heavy bass-lines and old-school drums wind together with the lilting siren call of Corman’s voice. “We come together to finish everything, and I feel like that’s where we get our sound from,” Braun said.
You can hear how the individual talents of the band members come together in “Video,” the last track on the release. A solitary, yearning guitar riff opens the track, and is then joined by the percussive taps of drumsticks. Corman’s voice drips in reverb as she sings the opening lyrics, “You talk about the past/like it’s some piece of trash/you refuse to throw away/we do this every day.”
The electric guitar exaggerates and the drums build as all the parts of the song swell at the chorus, then drop out completely. There’s a moment of silence, and, coming from a band known for its high volume, it’s easily the most powerful part of the song.
“Lost sight of the view,” Corman sings in the repetition that serves as the final track’s chorus, “and what it could do for you.” •
By Josephine Fuller.
Editor’s note: The print version of this story included an inaccurate quote. It has been updated here to what the band actually said.
Released / October 28, 2018
Recorded in / Estudios Noviembre
Sounds like / Your favorite punk band meets traditional Latin Music
Inspiration / Afro-Caribbean music, Kin Chago
Key Tracks / “Afrontar”, “Resignar”, “Magia Infinita”
Where to get it / Bandcamp
Upcoming Shows / February 7th (Gainesville, FL), February 18th (Allston, MA)
M agia Infinita, the title of The Zeta’s latest release, translates to “unlimited magic.” The Venezuelan avant-punk group recorded the album in one take two years ago during a live session in Mexico City. With energy and rawness that saturates every lyric, riff and melody, the record truly captures, in their words, “the human part” of music.
“We feel that sometimes when overproducing things, you lose a lot in the process,” said Gabriel Duque, who plays bass. “We composed this record just for the experience.”
Magia Infinita was originally intended to be one full song, but the record was later split into six tracks that put sound to frustration and homesickness, emotions shared by Duque and his fellow band members, Juan Chi (singer), Juan Gonzalez and Daniel Hernandez (guitar player).
All four band members immigrated from Venezuela to the United States, so home plays an important role in their process. Each song is infused with cacophony and reminders of the band’s cultural roots, like the tapping of a tambora before heavy guitars begin in “Sufrir,” which translates to “suffer.”
“We really wanted to try to express what we were living as immigrants in the moment,” Duque said. “There are many [immigrants] over the world, and we just want everyone to know that they are not alone, and it’s okay to feel like this.”
The Zeta started experimenting with sound in 2003 in Puerto La Cruz, a port city in Venezuela with mountains on one side and beaches with translucent water on the other. There, Chi and Hernandez started the project when they were 12 years old as a way to share their passion and, of course, have a good time.
In the years since, The Zeta has traveled around the world to share their sound and do-it-yourself spirit. To them, DIY simply means believing in yourself and doing the things that you love without anyone’s approval.
“We’re just trying to bring some culture, express ourselves, and create this big group of friends,” Duque said. “I hope it keeps getting bigger and bigger.” •
By Alex De Luca.