Since forming in 2005, the Velcro Lewis Group have played apocalyptic party music that melds funk, soul, psychedelic rock, garage punk, metal, and more. Their lyrics have occasionally incorporated a social or political message, but it’s usually been veiled or coded in an attempt to prevent it from becoming instantly dated—that is, until their new album, Amnesia Haze. “There’s a time where you feel like you need to preach and lay it all out,” says synth player and occasional vocalist Andy Slater (formerly known as Velcro Lewis), who cofounded the seven-piece group. “Other times you find a more creative way to say it, or present it more artistically so it doesn’t lose its meaning over time.”
Once Trump was declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election, the time to preach had definitely arrived. The Velcro Lewis Group entered the studio two days later. “I just felt doomed,” Slater says. “I guess I still feel doomed. The result of the election crafted [the political message] into being straight out there; there’s no way to misread it.”
Those sessions produced two of the five songs on Amnesia Haze—the two that provide its rebellious heart. “It’s overtly political, for the first time ever,” Slater says. On “Patriarchal Reptile” (originally released to coincide with the Women’s Marches in January 2017) theremin player Alison Hunger speaks a ferocious truth to the misogynist in chief over high-octane noise, and on “Free” the band invoke the revolutionary spirit of funk classics like the Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion” while addressing Black Lives Matter and exploring what freedom means in a chaotic, often violent world.
Even at their most serious minded, though, the Velcro Lewis Group are still fun. Amnesia Haze sounds like a good time from the first beats and grooves of opening track “Castles Will Fall,” which showcases the vocal prowess of front man Hawk Colman—his bandmates like to claim he has a five-octave range. Until last year, Colman played drums while singing, but he’s now exclusively the group’s lead vocalist—Josh Barnett drummed on Amnesia Haze, and Izzy Price took over behind the kit this year. “With his voice, Hawk could sing something like, ‘Baby, I’m going to love you until the cows come home,’ and you wouldn’t think it’s dumb. If I sang it, you’d turn the radio off,” Slater says. “Now he’s able to get his Yma Sumac out as well as his Rob Halford, without the extra strain of driving the bus in the back.”
Amnesia Haze comes out Friday via Safety Meeting Records, and tonight the band host a listening party at Cafe Mustache. They also play at the Hideout on Sunday, October 8, headlining a stacked bill that also includes Ono, Blacker Face, Mr. Forefinger, Lorene Bouboushian, and DJ Sit-Ups—the show is part of the wedding celebration of Whitney Allen and Mark Fragassi, both of the band Toupee. The Velcro Lewis Group also open for Nik Turner’s Hawkwind at Reggie’s Rock Club on October 23.