Interview: The Blaze Velluto Collection

Blaze Velluto

Anybody who loves popular music – which pretty much includes you if you’ve taken time to open and read this article – often has a collection of all time favorite songs that remain ever-eternal with you.  Songs you loved as a kid, songs that molded your musical tastes, songs that provoke memories – good or bad – we all have a few of these locked away in our cerebral cortex. And while we may hear something right now and consider it our favorite song of all time, be honest, and ask yourself if you are likely to feel that way five, ten, twenty years from now.  Do you really still have that love and adoration for some 90s one-hit-wonder here in 2020?  Okay, so we just alienated the boy-bands fan clubs, but joking aside, you see my point – where we all encounter a song so special that it ultimately becomes part of our DNA for life, and we’ll defend that song to the bitter end.  Suddenly, some of the boy-band loving brigade don’t feel so bad now, and that’s okay, it’s really okay!

Released back in January, I only recently heard the single “Fish Mountain, Part II” by The Blaze Velluto Collection (TBVC) on one of my favorite satellite radio channels, and found myself instinctively cranking up the volume.  But this was more than some catchy new tune; this was pure, unadulterated joy blasting from my speakers.  Positively upbeat and impossible to ignore, “Fish Mountain, Part II” has the vintage charms of late 1960s folk (hippie movement, anyone), served up with a generous portion of psychedelic flavor on the side.  As a huge fan of The Sheepdogs and Kacy & Clayton, it is no secret that I am drawn to bands who are making retro music cool again, and having played this single heavily over the last few weeks, I’m only too happy to add this Quebec City, QC, ensemble to my list. 

I heard that you wanna ride with us / Well I’d advise you baby to take the other bus / Won’t be climbing Fish Mountain in these times / We’re too busy,” recites Blaze, backed by some outstanding harmonies and an assortment of instrumental treats throughout the full 4:43 run time.  This is just a great piece of musical escapism, which makes it pretty fitting at this time to share with you one of my all-time favorite tunes: the classic Norman Greenbaum hit, “Spirit In The Sky,” has been with me for as long as I can remember, and always transports me to a musical happy-place each and every time I hear it (which, coincidentally, often springs to mind when I hear “Feeling Good” by The Sheepdogs – those guitar intros are so similar).  And while “Fish Mountain, Part II” has only delighted my senses for a few weeks, both tracks bring an onslaught of goosebumps with ease.  Like long lost cousins, both tunes may be separated by half a century, but share so many similarities in sound, style, and most importantly, my personal feel-good department, that if you were to ask me if I feel the same about this song in five, ten, twenty years, I’m betting that the answer shall remain a resounding ‘Yes.’

Following their independent 2018 debut album, “Weatherman,” TBVC plan to release their sophomore “We Are Sunshine” album hopefully later this year – an album that I am excited about and cannot wait to hear, and encourage everybody to check this band out.  We are incredibly grateful to Blaze Velluto, who welcomed an opportunity to discuss his music with us, and allowed us a peek into his own musical tastes, experiences and plans for the band.

Thanks to the inclusion of dedicated Canadian music channels on satellite radio, I have just now discovered your music, and love your sound and direction.  Please share with us a little history about the origins of the band and the music you perform.

In 2009, I started playing with Call Me Poupée, with whom I could finally get on the twisted side of music.  They helped me expand my musical field and fortify my confidence to start my own thing.  Although I have always written, I was never ready to share my music.  Blaze Velluto was born from a collection of songs written between 2008-2015, mostly revolving around the peaks and abysses of relationships, hence the first ouvrage, “Weatherman.”  Finding a devoted musician, engineer, and friend in Guillaume Chiasson, we both stepped on a recording journey that lasted about a year.  Experimentation could have been our motto, starring an old National electric guitar, a Oahu amp and a Shure Sm-53, his mystical Tascam 388 was there to record it all.  Just to top it off, I had to bring in around a dozen people who were in some way connected to those songs.  Early 2017 had finally treated me to my first vinyl record.

When I first heard “Fish Mountain, Part II” a few weeks ago, this was a tune that stopped me absolutely dead in my tracks. The radio was background music to accompany me during my work day (currently working remotely from home), but once this one aired, I set my work aside and cranked up the volume.  My initial thought was ‘cool 60s psyche-folk.’  How would you describe this one, and where did the concept originate?

Apart from the twist of prog, I could describe “Fish Mountain, Part II” as my tribute to what I call Brown Bread Rock n’ Roll.  Late 60’s to early 70’s songwriter type rock, mixing electric guitars with acoustics; think of The Band, and the “Muswell Hillbillies” album from The Kinks.  The storyline is about not having the balls to hit on a girl, and then turning the situation around, saying you don’t need her.

“Fish Mountain, Part II” got under my skin immediately. I love the diversity in instrumentation from your band.  How many musicians form a typical TBVC ensemble, and feel free to introduce some of the key contributors?

Diversity is my answer to boredom; my references are very large and why not put them at play. I’ll write a song and listen to what it needs.  Sometimes it calls for Little Miss Roy’s timbre, sometimes castanets, and sometimes it requires 6 tracks or 33.  Recording usually goes from the guitar, Guillaume on bass (and on the record button) and Jean-Etienne Collin-Marcoux on some form of percussion. My friend Odrée Couture-Bédard is always nearby as well, to whip up some harmonies and play the silver flute.  I have to mention Alex V. Beaulieau for his multi-tasking on the live side of things, and Tonio Morin-Vargas, who led the production of our upcoming album.

You very recently put out a brand new single, “Love You Black.” This is a complete contrast to the upbeat nature of the previous single. Both are connected through a brief shared musical interlude, yet this is a slower, slight somber offering.  What was your inspiration for this single?

I’m a big fan of cinema and most of what I write is in relation with a visual, an odor, or a life experience of some sort.  Sometimes you don’t need words to vehicle what you want to share, music does it well.  In the case of “Love You Black,” I had this lulling, violin melody and an Asianish intro laying about, and along came this flashback memory of me holding this intricate instrument back in my teens at a buddy’s house.  He called it a Chinese violin, which I learned recently was in fact called an erhu.  So that combo just inspired beauty and the need to celebrate it, just a reminder that it’s available. If it seems somber, I think it’s because beauty is frequently hidden under superfluous, superficial, pre-conceived and, finally, hindering concepts we nurture.

Based on the strength of the two singles released this year to date, what should we expect with your upcoming “We Are Sunshine” album, which hopefully remains on course to be released this year?  Of course, like your debut “Weatherman” album, the music collector in me is hoping for a vinyl edition once more.  Is this likely to be an option?

Of course, vinyl is such a beautiful, mechanic medium!  “We Are Sunshine” is ready to print and I’m very excited to share it. I think you should expect a little bit of every season.

I referred to both The Sheepdogs and Kacy & Clayton as examples of current artists tapping into the sounds of past generations.  In your opinion, what is it about music from 50 or so years ago that is seeing a resurgence once again? If you could cite some of your own personal influences, who would they be?

The [artists] have been references, foundations, and have crafted my world since the beginning; I simply connect with the sound.  I like the human, imperfect, feel-good, mystique and somewhat hopeful aspects of it; it’s got this bright light.  [For me], It probably started out with Simon & Garfunkel and Ennio Morricone as a kid, and later in my teens, The Velvet Underground to The Bee Gees, just to mention a few.  Whether the music comes from 50 years ago or 20 minutes ago, or has risen from sadness or sheer love, I just prefer music when it is positively charged.

I’m a big fan of live music, and very intrigued about a TBVC live experience.  Once we move beyond the current pandemic, and return to some sense of normalcy, do you plan to take your music on the road?  If so, how would you best describe your live shows and how many band members get to go out on the road?

TBVC started out as a studio project [where] I just had to get rid of all these songs in my head.  At some point during the recording process, the director of the Festival OFF de Québec heard some session work and asked if I wanted to join the 2016 line-up.  I asked him to give me 2 weeks to gather some players, and although the members have changed over the years, TBVC has mostly been a 5-6 piece band.  Although impossible to replicate every aspect of the records, we play around the mother melodies of each song and try to deliver with the most feel we can.  I have to say that I have a 10 piece fantasy brewing; [at least] as soon as we can, we’ll get back at the live side of things.

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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