“Some of the words we were throwing around were ‘warm’ and ‘dirty’… not in a pornish way,” says Lucy Michelle of Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles, when describing the concept behind the band’s upcoming album, which they finally decided to call “Heat.” As someone who is yet to succumb to MP3s and who is mildly revolted every time I hear that a band that I like is releasing a digital-only single or EP, I’ve been quite happy to meet a number of artists recently who still hold the physical LP sacred (Ane Brun, Alcoholic Faith Mission, These United States). Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles seem to have the same idea. Heat is the Minnesota six-pieces’ fourth full-length since 2008, which drops physically this Tuesday, May 29th. “I think it’s like an art piece, so it’s really cool to have our music in that format. It’s so nice to be able to hold it in your hands,” Lucy tells me via her cell phone as she takes a casual, grassy stroll on one of Minnesota’s nicest days of the year thus far (Or so I’m told.)
The Velvet Lapelles came about in 2007 when Lucy began regularly jamming with friends during her time at the University of Minnesota. The band quickly became local favorites. Since then they’ve toured with the likes of The Head and the Heart, Trampled By Turtles, and local heroes Titus Andronicus. In 2011 their sounds were even utilized for an international Macy’s campaign. Their latest work uses a blend of slightly-off-the-beaten-path instrumentation (ukuleles, an accordion, upright bass, cello) to accompany drums and an electric guitar. It fluidly swerves between country, folk, and indie pop and while it’s not a million miles from all of the other “Americana” artists who are currently the best thing in music, it does project almost pure optimism and positivity, something that’s rarely done in this genre without sounding quite cheesy and Ms. Michelle and her Lapelles never even border or saccharine. If you want to preview the band’s current aesthetic, you can download their latest single and album-opener “Just a Kid” for free and check out a recent video here.
Heat is certainly the band’s most developed and interesting to date, something Lucy seems to be more aware of than anyone: “It was so much more thought out in terms of how we wanted it to sound. I liked our sound before, but it was kind of trebly and I feel like now it’s much more full.” Most of the songs found on Heat revolve around being smitten yet the band’s far-from-naive sound renders the tales just sincere as charming. Lucy tells me that her latest album’s inspiration is split between her own personal life and the city of Minnesota.
“I think my life experiences have an effect. I work at a school. I work with kids during the day [as a teacher’s assistant]… Minneapolis is a really funky place to live. It’s a crazy community of artists. It really thrives on the arts and people who support the arts.”
While she loves her Velvet Lapelles deeply, Lucy actually has plans to work on a solo album this year, which will likely be released in December or next January: “I want to be able to direct every single point of it and what it sounds like. I wanted to have that creative power over it.” However, she’s certainly not abandoning the band, who she’s quite excited to spend the rest of 2012 with as well. When I ask her what we can expect from them, she tells me, “Just traveling as much as we can and playing as many shows as possible… We’re coming your way in the fall.”