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The Velvet Teen Coming To Stritch With First New LP In Nearly A Decade: ‘All Is Illusory’

In Music
'Illusory' Potpourri: On their new album, ‘All Is Illusory,’ Santa Rosa trio, The Velvet Teen, paste together sonic scraps in a chamber-pop pastiche.

'Illusory' Potpourri: On their new album, ‘All Is Illusory,’ Santa Rosa trio, The Velvet Teen, paste together sonic scraps in a chamber-pop pastiche.

Judah Nagler  doesn’t like to repeat himself. In an effort to keep things fresh, the founder and frontman of the Santa Rosa-based baroque-indie-pop trio, The Velvet Teen, says he once wrote a song on a left-handed guitar—which he played upside-down and right-handed—Dick Dale-style.

“I personally get bored hearing a band do the same album over and over again or the same song over and over again,” Nagler explains, speaking from his band’s tour bus, which is making its way from Santa Fe to Phoenix, and eventually to San Jose, where The Velvet Teen is set to play Café Stritch this Thursday. “One of my personal goals is to not repeat what I’m doing—or as a band what we’re doing—as much as possible. If I can find ways to confuse myself or get back to a beginner’s mind, that helps me with my own part of it.”

While fans of The Velvet Teen may not be able to pick out Nagler’s flipped guitar fingering, most should be able to hear the major shifts the band has gone through on each of its full-length albums. From the straight-ahead arrangements of 2002’s Out of the Fierce Parade, on to the slow, no-guitars-allowed, piano-and-strings plodding on 2004’s Elysium, and then to the glitchy, punked-up progressions on 2006’s Cum Laude!, Nagler and Co. have worked diligently to create a diverse discography.

So it’s no wonder Nagler says he is “very excited” to be on the road behind his band’s brand new LP, All Is Illusory, released at the end of June.

“It’s awesome,” he says of bringing the new music to fans. It’s The Velvet Teen’s first full-length album in nearly a decade. It’s also the first LP since the death of the group’s founding drummer, Logan Whitehurst, who died of brain cancer in December 2006, just six months after the release of Cum Laude!

All Is Illusory isn’t so much a departure from The Velvet Teen’s prior catalogue. Rather, it is a collage—an amalgamation of all the disparate sounds Nagler and his band mates have played with over the years.

The album’s title track, along with the sprawling, nearly 11 minutes of “Taken Over,” are reminiscent of Elysium; while Illusory’s opener, “Sonreo,” recalls the frenetic twitch of “Gyzm Kid” from Cum Laude!; and the straightforward punkyness of “Eclipses” sounds like something that might have come from Fierce Parade.


Nagler says he was happy to have the building blocks already in place this time around. It meant that he didn’t have to master a new instrument—as he did with the piano on Elysium and as he did with electronics on Cum Laude!

“It was cool to have the perspective and not have everything being so completely new, but still trying to do something new with that,” Nagler says, explaining that on All Is Illusory, he was able to take all the disparate sounds and sonic explorations of albums past and throw them into a blender—powered by the athleticism of the band’s drummer, Casey Deitz.

“Playing with Casey has opened up an entirely one of a kind type of world,” Nagler says. “In my mind there is nobody that plays like him.”

If Nagler was responsible for originally shaping the sonic building blocks and Deitz minced them, then the production duo of Steve Choi and Roger Camero deserve a great deal of the credit for helping glue it all back together into the cohesive whole of All Is Illusory. Choi played in Rx Bandits, Camero played in No Motiv—and both, together with Deitz, played in a band called Peace’d Out.

“Steve just has really great ears when it comes to the details of things,” Nagler says, recalling the Illusory recording sessions. “I remember when we were tracking drums, he was listening to the tuning of the toms and making sure things were staying consistent throughout.”

The Velvet Teen play Cafe Stritch on Aug. 20 at 9:30pm. More info.

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