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Swiss Invasion

Interview with all-girls indie rock trio The Velvet Two Stripes

| Vienna

Zurich based trio The Velvet Two Stripes could be the next big indie thing with their energetic 1960ies style psychedelic blues and glam rock. After releasing their first EP the three girls are on a club tour in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. We met them before their gig at Waves festival in Vienna.

The Velvet Two Stripes could really be the next indie rock surprise success. Their band name already evokes connotations of two iconic bands: "Velvet Underground" and the "White Stripes". This was pure coincidence, the trio consisting of Sophie Diggelmann (main vocals, guitar, percussion), Stella Diggelmann (main guitar, vocals) and Franka Mock (bass, vocals, additional keys and percussion) insists. But the two groups would actually be a good point of reference to describe their music. Their sexy tunes, catchy blues rock guitar riffs and driving grooves have the raw energy and glamorous coolness of famous rock groups of the late 1960ies.

Supernatural from the Velvet Two Stripes' first EP of the same name.

It all started when sisters Sofia and Stella met fellow student Franka at music school in St. Gallen, which seems like the least likely place to expect a cool garage band. "There is a indie music scene in St. Gallen. But it is tiny", the girls say. The three founded a rock band and started writing songs and playing small club gigs in Switzerland.

Back to the 1960s.

Although they also like contemporary acts like Belgian garage rock duo Black Box Revelation and Jack Whites all star band The Dead Weather the trio was mostly inspired by the 1960s. Groups like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and generally music from the 1960ies and 1970ies were a big inspiration for us, the three say. "The music of that era was much more authentic and raw, and not so perfect as today", Franka says. "Back then to record a song a band went to the studio and played it three times and it was okay", Sophie adds. Today music is often mostly the result of the editing process in the studio, she says. They also generally love the attitude and lifestyle of the 1960s and 1970s. "Sometimes we think we are born in the wrong decade", the band says.

Their songs actually sound very much like the music played in Swinging Londons' club scene of that era. Except that it's not Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix banging out sexy guitar riffs, but three charismatic young girls with a surprisingly self confident and cool stage attitude. Which is not only an advantage, the trio says. Being a woman you have to work harder to be respected as a musician. "We constantly have to fight against the prejudice that we are only successful because we are woman", Sophie says.

Electronic beats plus raw guitars, one chord, and the truth

As they had no drummer they soon started to use synthetic drum grooves instead, which became an interesting counterpoint to their raw guitar riffs and an integral part of their sound. The basic groove comes from the drum computer, with Sophie and Franka often banging timpani grooves out of a big floor tom as a supplement. Which also happens to look very cool on stage during live shows. "We are generally open for taking a drummer on board", they say. "Playing with electronic beats is great fun, but it's not very convenient for jam sessions. A real drummer would also add to the live feeling during gigs. But on the other hand we want our beats to be very basic. A drummer playing virtuoso fills and drum breaks all the time would do more harm than good", they explain.

Swinging London reloaded: The trio Velvet Two Stripes brings back the glamour and coolness of 1960s and 1970s rock.

Song ideas mostly emerge during long jam sessions, they say. "We just jam around in our rehearsal room. Sometimes we jam for one hour over a riff and suddenly a song emerges". Unlike 99 percent of all pop and rock music their song structures are mostly not based on chord changes. While even punk rock bands need at least "three chords and the truth", the Velvet Two Stripes manage to do great tunes with one chord only. Its their virtuoso bass and guitar riffs which shape their catchy songs. "If we used chord changes it would be my job to play the chords. And I don't like playing chords. It's much more interesting to play riffs", Stella explains. Playing based on riffs also makes the songs more interesting, Franka says. This modal approach greatly adds to the 1960s flavor of their music, as many psychedelic rock groups of that era used to jam endlessly over single-chord riffs or drones.

First EP released, first album in the pipeline

After a couple of small gigs in Switzerland the trio was discovered and signed by Berlin based indie label Snowhite. "This was a real surprise and pure luck", the girls say. The label stumbled upon the band by browsing through a list of fellow musicians of another Swiss group. "Then everything went on surprisingly fast", the three say. They soon produced their first EP Supernatural, released in 2012. Recording the EP was a new experience and very different from their usual live attitude. "In the studio we had to record everything at least three times, doing alternate versions of riffs etc. for the production"

Currently the Velvet Two Stripes have moved to Zurich and are already working on their first album which can be expected in 2014. "Zurich is a good place for musicians with lots of clubs and a big music scene", they say. The forthcoming album is planned to contain songs from the EP as well as new material. It is not decided yet but possibly there will also be a vinyl edition of the album. Which would make much sense as their music already sounds like from the golden age of iconic Vinyl records.

Interview: Michael Mikolasek

The Velvet Two Stripes' digital-only EP "Supernatural" is available on iTunes and Amazon. Tour dates are announced on their band website

Photo: © Velvet Two Stripes/Snowhite