It’s common for bands to aim for top-notch record labels, huge venues and sell out shows. Success in that arena is all fine and dandy, but when artists concentrate on how big they’ll be down the road as opposed to channelling that energy into their current performances to build a fanbase organically, the music can lose some of its authenticity. The musical rat race is of no interest to Dr.Velvet and the Social Drinkers, whose name is inspired by a mixed drink of Black Velvet Whiskey and Dr.Pepper. In fact, founder Ryan Wilcox said he left his prior band Giving Chase partially due to the growing intensity of fame. His original concept for Dr.Velvet was to present an ever-shifting line up with no long-term commitment – as Ryan puts it, “the one night stand of bands.” Or at least, that was the plan. But there are always those nights that are just so wonderful you have to call the next morning, and when Ryan jammed with Ghoul the Hectic Clownie and Daniel Felice he knew there was something there.
Ghoul Hectic (a.k.a. Robert Clownie Jr.) became the first permanent band member after chatting with Ryan at a party. They realized that years earlier, Ghoul had seen Ryan perform in a small venue in Texas and in quick succession he was invited to jam with Dr.Velvet. With Ghoul’s insanely fast and energetic drumming it was obvious that no one would be able to replace him anytime soon. Plus, it’s not often you can say that your drummer is a clown.
Next up was Daniel Felice. Ryan and Daniel had lived in the same house, dubbed the Careful Cabin, for a while, and he loved watching Dr.Velvet perform. It was a style that he grew up listening to – 1990 style skate-punk with an East Coast edge – and he patiently waited a year for Ryan to offer up the bassist spot, and in the end it was the common musical ground that did it; they bonded over nearly identical iPod contents, and once Ryan heard that Daniel’s spot-on bass playing that was it. True to the original ethos of the project, other members that have floated through, but for the last two years Ryan, Daniel and Ghoul Hectic have acted as Dr.Velvets’ core lineup.
All three jumped into music as children and have been supported by their families throughout their journeys. When Ghoul was merely five years old his dad bought him a bass so he could play in his band. At seven he got a piano, but neither instrument seemed to fit. When Ghoul finally got a drum set it was obvious he could keep a beat so he kept with it. Ryan began playing drums in elementary school and picked up bass in ninth grade. At fifteen he used the skills learned in a jazz theory class to teach himself guitar. Daniel, too, was fifteen when he had a magical moment with a bass guitar and truly fell in love with the craft, after youthful forays into piano and trumpet. That each has a rich, multi-instrumentalist history speaks to the fact that they’re more than just punks.
Ryan is the main songwriter of the trio but Daniel and Ghoul contribute the parts for their own instruments. The songs come and go, and with no methodical way of obtaining lyrics. Ryan sometimes has to rush to a notepad to make sure he doesn’t forget anything. They are inspired, not only by each other, but by some great purveyors of rock and punk. That includes Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Replacements, and NOFX as well as iconic labels like Epitaph, Hell Cat and Fat Records. Ryan even finds inspiration in Jon Steinbeck’s’ novel Canary Row.
Dr.Velvet have recorded three albums and look forward to their fourth seeing release this August. They’ve taken their contagiously energetic live shows to venues all across America and have even played in Europe. The band sees their performances as a party and considers themselves hosts charged with making sure everyone has an amazing time, making the crowd “forget about their 9 to 5.” And they do just that with incredible beats, liquid bass, quick guitar and punk rock edge. But they also have an official award to prove the lengths they’ll go to for a good time – they are the literally drinking champions of the world (or, at least of Hilentrop, Germany) and have received a trophy and certificate to honor that achievement. Their new EP drops online mid-August, but we’ve got an exclusive preview below! Give it a listen and get your own party started.
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