Interview: Velvet Trip on broken hands, Harmony Blooms and iconic venues

Velvet Trip

Sydney-based psychedelic duo Velvet Trip have recently released their debut album, Harmony Blooms. The album found its genesis when the duo met up in Berlin, taking in the sounds around them. Their approach to creating the album took a substantial deviation when they both had significant hand injuries. 

I caught up with lead singer Zeppelin Hamilton and drummer Clayton Allen to discuss the album’s making, their involvement in the production and their upcoming album tour.

Hi guys, let’s dive into the album. When did you start working on Harmony Blooms?

Zeppelin: Well, I guess writing was around 2020, no, earlier than that – 2018/2019 – it’s been a few years with Covid. I turned 30 this year, but I’d say technically I’ve just turned 27. In a way there was nothing we could do about it. We were locked down – there wasn’t as much pressure. So we got to sit on it for a bit

Lyrically, plenty is going on. It has a really positive feel to it. Was that a focus for you?

Zepp: Absolutely. I wanted to project some positivity. If I was going to be locked in a bedroom, in an echo chamber of thoughts, they might as well be positive thoughts. Try and think about positive things instead of simmering away on the negative stuff that was already there.  Clay and I had personal stuff going on. It was a much more constructive exercise to vocalise positivity and that’s why it came across that way.

I think the first song, “Moving on”, with the refrain ‘we’re moving onto something better now’ opens it up nicely for the album.

Zepp: precisely that – thanks for listening

(laughs) – it’s a good listen! Did you have a sonic reference in mind when you started working on the  album?

Clayton: We decided on  a shift in sound from the first EP. Moving into a more psychy, poppy style.

Zepp: There was a moment there from the earlier stuff where we were so into improvisation and jamming, trying to capture the moment. We were pretty chill in our live approach, so chill to the point where we’d rely on instinct. For us it was exciting to be a bit wild and not know where things were going to go. Trusting our musicianship and developing our relationship with each other. That was a really important early stage. With this record we wanted to be more concise and think about the structure, and expand on our sonic expression.

I was listening to bands like Temples, which are an indie psych band from the UK. Tame Impala was a big influence on what can be achieved with synthesisers. This album is more reserved with the guitar approach. I think also with the drums, they are more concise.

Clay: yeah, for sure.

Zepp: Clay and I were in Berlin at the same time, and we met up and were looking forward to capturing this new sound when we got home. I was staying with my friend Jules who was playing with a band called Parcels, a disco pop band. They are really stacked with beautiful harmonies, and that was really inspiring.  We wanted to expand on what we could achieve

There are indeed some beautiful harmonies in this record. Did you enjoy Berlin ?

Clay: I did – I feel we were there a good time of year. The weather was really good, there were people out and about. It wasn’t the depths of winter. I feel that we got a good understanding of hte place.

Zepp: I got to Berlin, and I literally had no money. I had about 400 euros in my account. I met up with Clay on the first couple of days. We both found suits that we couldn’t say no to. It was 300 euros and I bought it, leaving me 100 Euros for the rest of the month. And it was lucky I was staying at my friend’s place, and I was sleeping in his bed, and his manager’s bed, who was away in Croatia doing a yoga retreat. All I could afford was a kebab every day. My whole vibe was trying to find the cheapest shawarma I could – I found the 1.5 €  shawarma.

I’d have one a day. I’d sit in the park, hungry, with my guitar. And I had a broken hand as well, so I couldn’t play too much. I’d sit there watching people play frisbee. It got pretty dire at one point, getting into the bottle collection game. For long necks, you get 30 euro cents. You’ve got to be pretty quick, though; it’s competitive.

I saw Little Simz play at the Berghain, which was great.

Velvet Trip

It’s an iconic venue – it’s not easy to get in …

Yeah – it was a little different from the weekend mayhem – it was a Wednesday night. I was there with friends, which helped. I wasn’t the lone Australian stoned bottle-collecting man trying to get in.

I don’t know if I’m really into clubs like that. Though when I’m there – I’m all in. For some people. It’s their whole life there. We don’t really have that sort of stuff in Australia

Busting your hand must have changed the shape of the album, I’m guessing…

Zepp: For sure, we both had hand stuff going on – Clay was having problems too ..

Clay: We both did – yeah – it was a lot of time away form our instruments, which was kind of scary – there was some syncronicity going on there, not a good thing

Did it affect the way you composed your songs?

Zepp: Big time. I couldn’t play guitar, I could play bass, but I ended up learning piano. I can mash some stuff out. I was writing on MIDI keyboard. It launched us into a new approach for the better. It changed the trajectory in which we approach our writing. Before we were heavily reliant on other people; producers and engineers in the songwriting. Because there is only so much you can do, you write a song, go the studio and the producer helps you pull sounds.

But the relationship with music production, is so different these days. Clay and I both have home studios. We can make music at home. The first step was a keyboard and I had GarageBand, and was making dumb songs on there, then I got some microphones and Logic. Then Clay and I got more interactive, you can hear the song as it gets formed. The way we were writing from that point  changed.

As hard as it was, it looks like it has given you many new options

Zepp: Absolutely – we are both into the production now, and Clay even more so than me.

Clay: I think once you go there, it’s a rabbit hole. There is so much, it’s so expansive,and never ending. I’ve been totally hooked into the music production and recording. Earlier we were relying on drums and guitars in a room, and now it’s starting on keyboards and full microphones setup. We can record whatever we want. It’s a totally different approach.

Zepp: And I think also the writing as well has changed. Sometimes when you are in a jam capacity, and what feels good, doesn’t always translate to sounding great when you record it. So you need to restructure it. But when you get to listen to it as your are writing it, then you can be more intentional with tones etc. The flipside to that is the challenge to find a way to keep that human feeling in the music. We have a more hands-on and thoughtful approach to our writing than just going in and seeing what happens.

And you had Phan Sjarif (Middle Kids, Bird Of Tokyo) working with you on the album. How did that go?

Clay: Yeah – Phan is amazing. I felt like he was a big part of what we achieved in terms of production and maixing. He has his own sound, and is a creative mixer and producer. He had a big part of the end product for sure.

Zepp: He is such a talent and apleasure to work ith. We’ve worked with him on a plethora of projects, and we definitely owe a lot to Phan for his support network, and he is really good at what he does. He mixed the record, and we co-produced it with him. Phan and I were on zoom calls at 3am, cause he was in the UK for a couple of months. He was in his sisters daughters room with shitty headphones and a little pair of speakers mixing away. We weren’t sure how it was going to come out in the end, and to pull that off like he did, then it was pretty amazing. He was a weapon. Shoutout Phan!

You’ve kicked off the tour – it must be great to be playing these songs live

Clay: Absolutely. We’ve had one show, supporting John Butler – at the Zoo – that was awesome. Beautiful weather, and what a venue!  We were playing at sunset, the crowd was full by the time we played. We played really well. It was a great way to start.

Zepp: Our parents were there – it was great. It’s one of those special gigs in terms of iconic venues – in Sydney – there’s the Zoo and the Opera House – pretty special. We’re still riding that.

We can’t wait for the rest of the tour. Brisbane and Sydney next weekend. Then Adelaide and Melbourne. Then we have four shows in a row at Wollongong, Avalon, then Summersalt festival with Ocean Alley, Hockey Dad and a few others at Bribie Island.

Clay: … and Bluesfest will be a highligjht

Zepp: Clay and I also play with Dan Sultan – so we’ll be playing 4 of the 5 days at Bluesfest. I grew up in Byron, so it’ll be a triumphant return, hopefully (laughs).  It’ll be nice to go back and hopefully we play the best we can and people enjoy what we do.

Thanks guys. Have fun with the tour. 


Velvet Trip Harmony Blooms Album Tour

Tickets to all shows available HERE

Friday March 15 | Stranded Bar, Brisbane / Meanjin
Saturday March 16 | Mar’y Underground Sydney / Gadigal
Friday March22 | Crown & Anchor, Adelaide / Kaurna
Saturday March 23 | The Workers Club, Melbourne / Wurundjeri
Friday March 29 & Saturday March 30 | Bluesfest, Byron Bay / Bundjalung
Thursday April 4 | Hamilton Station Hotel, NewcastleEWCASTLE / Awabakal
Friday April 5 | La La La’s, Wollongong / Dharawal
Saturday April 6 | Avalon RSL, Avalon / Guringai
Sunday April 7 | Summersalt Festival, Bribie Island / Kabi Kabi – Supporting Ocean Alley

Harmony Blooms from Velvet Trip is out now – you can buy limited edition vinyl from their website, or stream it from all digital streaming platforms.

You can keep up to date with Velvet Trip on their Website, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube

Photo credit: Bruce Baker

Bruce Baker

Probably riding my bike, taking photos and/or at a gig. Insta: @bruce_a_baker