With bold, fuzzy guitars, rich organ flourishes and a penchant for creating lush, hooky melodies, LA’s The Velvet Starlings are steeped in a sepia-toned tea. It’s not shocking that a modern garage rock band might draw inspiration from the vibrant British Invasion of the 1960s, but this group—comprised of guitarist/organist Christian Gisborne, bassist Hudson Poling, and drummer Foster Boling—boasts a fresh, modern twist that reverberates with blood-pumping vim and vigor (sometimes youth is not wasted on the young after all).
This dynamic, garage-rock energy promises to explode on the band’s forthcoming debut album, Technicolour Shakedown, which drops September 29 via Sound x 3 Records, with a vinyl release courtesy of LA’s Kitten Robot Records. I recently had a chance to prod frontman/guitarist Grisborne’s brain on the making of the new album, turning 18 during the pandemic, and his never-ending love for Lego (he even made a video starring his awesome collection). Obviously, this is going to be fun. Let’s get into it, shall we?
Tell me about your Lego passion! What are you working on, and what interests you about them?
Ayy! I’ve always been into Lego as long as I can remember. It’s just one of those things all kids get into at some point in their life or another. But when I was like 4, I saw Jack White’s “Fell in love with a girl” music video, and it totally changed the game for me. It was the first time I was exposed to bare-bones garage rock, and because it was Lego, and I was 4, I was all for it.
What was the writing process like for the new album, Technicolour Shakedown, and what were the themes/ideas you found coming through?
Well, we actually made a record titled Pacific Standard Time (our sophomore LP) during COVID, but due to the fact that no one could tour, it didn’t make sense to release it. So, we made Technicolour Shakedown (our debut LP) in my living room! PST has a lot of political overtones throughout, but we wanted a record that was about having fun, rocking out and nothing more! This record came from the feeling we experienced when we wanted to wait in a line and go see our favorite bands live—but couldn’t … haha.
Tell me about how your current bandmates have added to and brought new life to your project.
Well, Foster and Hudson are actually brothers so they are like the ultimate rhythm section. They grew up playing together since they were super young. What’s funny is we met at a Cage the Elephant show, and we got to talking and realized they know all the bass/drum parts to every Cage, Jack White, The Who songs–and I knew all the chords and keys. It just kinda worked out, and here we are!
This might be a weird question, but what is a normal day in your life like?
All over the place … it ranges from going to see our favorite bands live, demoing up new tunes, chilling with Foster and Hudson watching Inbetweeners at their house in San Clemente, nerding out hard about whatever movie Marvel puts out next, or playing a show in some random backyard. And school, of course, school …
Tell me about your third single off the new album, “She Said.” The video is super cool and even features your Lego collection, which is totally hilarious.
This song is about a party that never really happened in reality. More of a “what could/would/should” have been happening during 2020 if coronavirus wasn’t a thing. As for the music video, I really wanted to have the whole band in it, but it was at the height of social distancing. So, I turned to my lego collection for help, and we ended up using Lego Minifigure versions of ourselves in place of us.
The video surprisingly didn’t take me toooooo long because the way I work is sort of a shooting/editing simultaneously—and in doing that, I realized that most animation (especially back in the day) is a combination of shooting and looping shots. For example, as for, like, a drum stick hitting a snare—you’d record it once and loop it seven more times and match it to the timing of the song. If I’d not realized that when I did, I probably would’ve spent a year on it …
How does it feel to be the age you are and dealing with a COVID-19 way of life? To be turning 18 during this time must be difficult, as so many turning points in life come around 18. You mentioned getting your driver’s license, for instance. What advice to have for young creatives trying to get through it? How do you stay hopeful?
I’m very hopeful. Live Nation has had some of its best sales in recent times because people have been away from live music for so long. And on a smaller scale, there’s an awesome scene in O.C., L.A., S.D., all over SoCal, and I’m sure all over the U.S. and the world of live music coming back. I still see things getting canceled for huge bands, and there probably won’t be too many bands from across the pond coming here till 2022—but it’s definitely on its way back, and even if Delta takes over, and it all goes back, we still have YouTube! Haha. I spent so many days watching KEXP sessions and random live videos in quarantine …
How have you balanced booking shows with safety, and what has the response been? Do you feel you are able to create the same excitement, or is it somewhat weird? I imagine both!
Well, they’re requiring vaccination cards at most shows now, so I think people feel pretty safe. Most shows have mask policies (up until the band starts, haha). Although I just went to see Thee Oh Sees in San Francisco, and not only did everyone have their mask on the entire time, but it was heavily enforced by the security.
Tell us about your partnership with Kitten Robot, the label that’s going to put out the new vinyl.
Ah! Josie Cotton and Bruce Duff from Kitten Robot came to see us at our last show before coronavirus in downtown L.A., and since then, we’ve been super excited about working with Kitten Robot. They’re freakin awesome! Such a wicked roster of bands, and it’s the first time we’ve ever put out our music on vinyl, so we’re wayyyy hyped.
If you could have a live show with a handful of musicians living or dead, who would be on the lineup?
Dead: The Beatles, The Who, The Doors
Alive: King Gizzard, Sleater Kinney, Thee Oh Sees
Wow! Sounds like a real party.
Well, the dead ones ’cause like, they are LEGENDS. The gods of rock. And then the alive ones ’cause, I mean, The King Gizzard dudes are probably helllllla fun to hang out with. And then SK cause they’re just so epic, and Carrie would probably say all sorts of funny stuff at the show. Oh Sees ’cause at this hypothetical festival, I’m sure the audience will wanna mosh—and John Dwyer will always make sure to have a 20 song set of pure high energy.
What accomplishments are you most proud of as a band? I know you have had quite a few!
Well, we’ve toured internationally; we got accepted to SXSW official (and then COVID happened, HA); we’ve been played on BBC, KROQ, SiriusXM, etc.
What are your goals for your album and the future of the band?
For Technicolour Shakedown, we’re just super psyched for people to hear it, even more hyped about the fact that it’s gonna be on vinyl. And even better, colored vinyl—via Kitten Robot Records. As for future of the band, we’re just gonna keep doing what we’re doing, playing shows and having fun doing it!