Meet the Velvet Futon Club, your second place Farmers Ball winners

In a non-pandemic year, a band wouldn’t drive up from Dallas to compete in Farmers Ball. This year’s Minecraft, virtual format allowed Keller Welton, a student at the University of Kansas, to enter his hometown band. 

The Velvet Futon Club did more than just participate in Farmers Ball, they came in second place! 

Meet the band: 

Keller Welton- guitar, 

Kate Walker- Vocals 

JO Chappel-Drums

Sammy Levinson-Drums

Owen Kisner- Bass

How did you meet? In high school?

Sammy: Yeah, our school, Parish Episcopal School, has this program called “Essential Standards,” where it’s basically like, oh, you’re not into jazz music? Oh, you’re not really into contemporary music? Well, here’s a place where you can play like new music and more … Do more like rock performances.

*Kate joins the meeting and introduces herself*

Kate: I’m 18 and I like Gorillas.

So I’m gathering you most of you are still in high school senior year close to graduating here? 

Sammy: J.O. Kate, and I are all juniors and Owen is a sophomore. 

So how long have you all been a band together? When did it start?

Keller: Alright, kind of started over the summer of 2020. I’d been thinking about it for a while and I already had like most of the songs written. But I just collected the goons in the summer before we recorded and then woodsheded it until we recorded.

When did you get to record?

Keller: We recorded in August 2020. Right before I moved in, actually. 

So what was it like? I mean, you started a band during a pandemic.

Keller:It was kind of hard to get everyone together at first, people were overly worried about the virus at the time. The studio was probably the harder part where we had to plan everything out, according to COVID stuff. Like, he didn’t want to have bands back to back, wanting to like let the studio clear out or something, disinfect and stuff.

But we haven’t played shows yet. So like, it’s got it’s kind of hard having released music, but nobody knows. Because we’re not playing in shows.

Kate: I remember, like, whenever you’re asking for like, help on like lyric or whenever, the pandemic was going on, you were just sitting outside on like the bench with the guitar. Also, like whenever we went over to Sammy’s house and all that. 

Sammy: Yeah, on of our first rehearsals was maybe like, I’d say a couple months after the band was formed mainly because the pandemic started right around the time Keller was asking us like, “hey, do y’all want to do this?” And so we managed to have a practice with me Owen, and Keller and we all kind of just jammed out charted out some songs really kind of started putting stuff together. And now our practices have moved to J.O.’s shed where his drum kit is. It’s called “the Shed”

Keller: yeah we call it the Shed because it’s a shed.

Is that where you recorded for Farmers Ball? Like your video?

Keller: No, we recorded the video at this place called Tomcast studios, which is also where we recorded our album.

Tell me about your album. What’s the name of it?

Keller: It’s a self titled, um, it’s on Spotify. 

How’s the band hanging in there? You’re all separated from each other. What have you all been doing to kind of stay connected while Keller’s away from everyone and you know, the hassle of school and everything happening?

Keller: I’ve been sending them videos of ideas I have. And I trust that they’ll tell me if it’s sh*t. 

Owen: We’ve been kind of collaborating from far away. We have a group chat where we send all our things and whenever Keller comes into town we’ll practice as much as we can.

Kate: Yeah, I’ve been like doing lyric work on my own. After hearing Keller’s guitar riffs, I just kind of make bars and stuff. I have one song that Lord helped me find the chords for it, so that I can get Keller to play it because I really liked the idea, but I don’t know how to get it down.

How often Keller are you able to kind of make it down to Dallas to see everyone?

Keller: I’ve only been down once this semester to record the video with them. But I’m gonna be back all summer, and we’re gonna be playing shows probably as much as we can. And then hopefully, by the time like August rolls around, we’ll be able to get everybody up to Kansas to do the KJHK videos and maybe play some shows up here. 

Do you have shows lined up for the summer?

Keller: I’m talking to a couple bands about opening. A lot of them, like, a lot of these bands hit me up and be like, “Hey, we got a show in two weeks you can you guys make it?” And I’m obviously like, well, no. But thank you.

But we’re starting to plan shows in like June, I’ve been talking to a couple of people about getting a DIY show together, like, at someone’s house, or like some other cool place. Those are gonna happen. I want to be playing like, smaller venues, big, like, local crowds, stuff like that. 

So what about the future of the band? Some of you talked about going on college visits and whatnot. So if you end up kind of dispersed all over the country, what do you see as the future for Velvet Futon Club?

Keller: There’s a couple ways around it. We’re all going to be coming back to Dallas when we can. Our families still live there, and I’ll probably be back every summer. So if we have to; if we can only work in the summer, then that’s what we can do, and that’s fine. As long as we can get a release out and play some shows. I’m happy. 

The beautiful thing about bigger bands like this, is that you can just … when I moved up, my intention was to find people in town, that could be like a Kansas version of the Velvet Futon Club, so I can still play my songs. And I’m gonna try to get these guys up here when I can, but it’s kind of like everyone’s in the Velvet Futon Club, it’s kind of wherever we are.

Kate: You’re going to replace us Keller?!

Sammy: I think even if we can’t necessarily be working together weekly, I really like that I can trust this group of people to continue to practice and play their instruments, because I know they’re all incredibly talented with that.

Kate: Even if we don’t end up staying in the band together, I think we will still probably end up like collabing and just still keeping in touch because I think we’re all friends. 

J.O.: We recorded all this music together. It’s not like any of that’s going to go to waste anytime soon. We could be spread across the entire world. And I’d still be playing “Middleman.”

Keller: I’m getting a house next semester, and I’m going to set up a home studio. So when I’m living here, like most of the time, I can just have them come up, record some tracks and send it back down.

Sammy: With technology and things nowadays, it’s super easy to get your own part recorded and just send it off to someone who can mix it. I feel like as we formed this band at this time, it’s such… it makes things so much easier, especially if we’re super distanced like I think, it just makes me so much easier. And I feel like we’re very lucky to have that.

COVID has made a lot of people more apt to do things in a virtual setting, you know, doing virtual interviews like this. So I think that kind of worked in your favor.

Keller: I don’t think we would have even been able to compete in the Farmers Ball, if not for COVID. So, okay, it’s kind of worked out so well for us.

J.O. and Sammy, you both play drums right?  So what is it like having two drummers in the band? I feel like that’s not something we see very often.

Keller: Chaos. 

J.O.: it gives you a lot more freedom. Because if you want something like… we have, the punk song, the first song that we submitted for KJHK. Originally, in the album recording, that’s just me. But when we did it for the live session, we put both of us on it, and we just experimented with it more. So, depending on who’s on what track, the track is going to have a different feel, or where you’re both on the same track, we can do some, you know, crazy Grateful Dead sh*t. 

Sammy: One of my favorite things about it is that if you want to go off for a measure or two, you always kind of have that other drummer keeping this solid beat in the background. That’s what I really like. 

Like J.O. said I think one of my favorite things about having two drummers is the fact that it’s not just a mesh of noise. We both are able to really understand this back and forth between us. And I think that we play really well together.

Having a group so big and especially with having two drummers, you have to have that kind of mutual respect for all of each other in order to make it work. You definitely seem to have that figured out, which is awesome to hear. 

Keller: Honestly, it’s just listening to the Grateful Dead. It’s literally that’s all it takes.

Any lasting thoughts you want to share?

Keller: I’m just happy to be here. The same kind of thing that I got going with these guys. I’m trying to get going up here. Like there’s so many talented people that I’ve met. And you can’t really be have a band in a dorm. So it has just put all of my creativity on hold. So once we’re getting this house, I think we’re gonna have like a crazy Lawrence music scene going.

I hope people listen to our music. But at the end of the day, it’s I think it’s for us. I don’t really care if people listen to me. I think it’s cool, we just hit 1000 listens on our song middleman, and that’s crazy. I never, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen 1000 people in one room. I mean, so if it goes somewhere, it goes somewhere. But if it doesn’t, I mean, it’s no loss to me. I had fun doing it.

Owen: Speak for yourself dude, I want to be a rockstar.

KJHK 90.7 FM