From High School Hallways to the Halloween Stage: Speakeasy Talks with Young and Rising Band Velvet Green

Athens-based band Velvet Green, consisting of Cora Fitch (vocals), Sam Debatin (guitar), Harper Reese (guitar), Leam McSteen (keyboard), Mitch Spring (bass), and Shea Benezra (drums) don’t sound like most bands. When asked to describe their sound, the band members all offered different answers. At first, “angsty, young funk” seemed to sum up their sound pretty well. Another description was “ripe, textured, and thick.” But then they expanded these thoughts by saying, “Bad sounds in a very bad environment, but make it good. And with spirit.”

This description of a unique sound makes sense when Velvet Green reveals their influences. Each member shouted out their own personal influencers, including musicians like the Talking Heads, Joni Mitchell, Vulfpeck and The Meters. Guitarist Sam Debatin explains, “Basically, we like to grab and take.” Cora Fitch, lead singer for Velvet Green, notes how the band’s Spotify playlists are “so weird.”

The band of young musicians, with their youngest member at 17 and their oldest at 19, has already found immense success, which is especially impressive considering that they formed a little over 2 months ago. All of the musicians are from Athens except for the drummer, Shea Benezra, who is from Brooklyn.

“For me, I was really excited to find a group of people who had the same music interests as I did. New York has a very expansive and diverse music scene, but its almost too big to get an opportunity to find musicians to play with,” says Benezra. “Because they already knew the music scene so well in Athens, it was much more accessible and close-knit.”

Velvet Green was named after a Jethro Tull song, but it wasn’t the band’s first idea. In fact, they have a backlog of over 200 bands names that they brainstormed together. A few are more creative than others, like Armchair Arm Hair, Swingset Nation, and Third Dimension Squid. Some are influenced by humor, like Dad Bod and Lick My Dad. Velvet Green had so many ideas for a band name,they even considered changing their name every day.

After deciding to go with Velvet Green, the band started to create songs together. Since they are so new to the scene, they have just three original songs that they currently perform. Their favorite original song to perform together is called “Real Lizard.” The song-writing process behind this piece was a very collaborative experience.

When asked who wrote the song, Velvet Green said that everyone had a hand in writing it. There was an original version of the song that three band members wrote together, and then they remade it together as a whole band. Fitch says, “We killed it and then brought it back. We Frankensteined it.”

Liam McSteen, keyboardist for Velvet Green, compares the songwriting process to Build-A-Bear. Liam says, “We had a teddy bear, we cut him open, took all the fluff out and then refilled it with new fluff. Same teddy bear, just with heavier fluff.”

Velvet Green has already played at The Union, several house shows, and even had the opportunity to perform at Ohio University’s infamous Halloween block party.

Recently they were asked by Capital University in Columbus to record some of their music. “We are starting to figure out our actual sound more while we’re in the studio,” Benezra says. “We can actually hear what we sound like instead of just live recordings.”

Velvet Green clearly has chemistry, considering the overflow of inside jokes and laughter exchanged during the interview. They mention how they all love each other and get along well. These deep friendships are evident when they perform, which is one of the reasons that their performances stand out.

The band will be playing November 1 at the Union for Benefest, and January 18 at the Union. Currently they are in the process of writing new songs and developing their style. “We’ve gotten so much better with each show,” Benezra says. “Each show feels better than the previous one becasue we get so much more comfortable playing with each other live.”

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