Dan Shears and his Velveteen Orchestra started out as just Dan, who, after realising that if he didn’t have music he didn’t have anything, formed his own label, Strawbychka Recordings and assembled a live band of mandolins, ukeleles and accordians to realise his art.  Having been compared vocally to Muse’s Matt Bellamy and the darker side of Nick Cave, I was intrigued to find out more about one of London’s more unique artists outwith the indie zeitgeist.

Your music has been described as “Folk-Noir”. What does that mean to you?
I wanted to make music that accessed the visual style of writing and planted images in the head of the listener. I’m a big fan of the darker side of pop music; Radiohead, Doves, Nick Cave and any British invasion bands of the 1960s. I used to listen to Franki Valli and loved the vocal harmonies. I love film scores and music to the moving image. Traditional pop songs dont have these visual points. It could be described as a little self indulgent but I think it’s interesting. I love the layers and textures of Morricone and Elfman.

Why did you choose to start your own label?
It’s very difficult to get attention in the music industry if you don’t fit into what’s hip. I wanted to create a loud sound to shout over the top of the “indie zeitgeist”.  I had just come out of a horrible abusive relationship and had no home or job.  I used my dole money to make this record.  I thought if I don’t have this, I don’t have anything.

What makes up the Velveteen Orchestra?                                                     Well, initially it was just me playing everything on the record but then I got musicians to play live with. We have accordian, cello, violin, piano, trumpet, mandolin, ukelele, guitars, and a mash up of a ukelele and mandolin called a ‘mando-uke’ with nylon strings. I love stringed instruments and I loved how Johnny Marr made his guitar sound like an orchestra weaving in and out, creating an atmosphere on every Smith’s song.

After supporting Charlene Soraia, who would you like to be supporting next?
I have a list of things that I would like to do in my career. Sharing a stage with the Doves is definitely one of them. We share similar interests; we both like The Smiths and trying to make music interesting. It’s about so much more than just writing a good song that crops up on Capitol Radio 40 years later.

What is next for Dan Shears?
My debut EP is released on the 24th September then we’ll be doing some UK shows. I’m currently rehearsing with the full band which is strange because I’ve been playing myself for the last year. I hope to write an album next year. Id like to play more gigs up north and I’ve never been to Ireland.  I’d also love to go back to Switzerland to play and to Russia as I think they would get the Russian folk references that I use a lot. The main track on the EP is called “In The Shadows Of Better Men” and that’s been the most fun to play as a full band so far.

“Against A Sea Of Troubles” by Dan Shears is available on 24th September 2012.

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