By Eleni Austin / PHOTO BY MARIJA KANIZAJ
In case you didn’t know, nucleus of Son Of the Velvet Rat (SOtVR) is Georg Altziebler and Heike Binder. A native of Austria, Georg became obsessed with music at an early age, soaking up ‘60s Garage Rock & late ‘70s Punk, as well as the chansons of Jaques Brel and lesser-known American bands like Dead Moon and Green On Red. By the dawn of the 21st century, he had cycled through a series of bands and was in the process of putting SOtVR together when he met Heike, who was concentrating on visual arts at the time. She quickly became an integral part of the band, along with bassist Albrecht Klinger and drummer Muck Willman. In the ensuing years, SOtVR have released a series of well-received and toured the world. By 2015, Georg and Heike began splitting their time between Austria and Joshua Tree. Their ninth studio album, Dorado, took inspiration from their desolate, noirish surroundings. 2018 saw the release of a live effort, Show. Despite the pandemic restrictions, they completed their 10th long-player, Solitary Company, in 2021. The pair are on a short tour which culminates with their annual Furstwurld show. Then they’ll head back to Austria. Recently, I had a chance to catch up with Georg and Heike and they were kind enough to answer a few burning questions.
Eleni: You guys are gearing up for, what’s become an annual show for SOtVR at Furstwurld. Will your set consist songs of your latest album, 2021’s Solitary Company? Or will you be previewing new music?
Georg: “Yes, our set will include songs from Solitary Company and Dorado, which was released in 2017. But we will also play a few brand-new ones that will appear on the forthcoming album. Also, we have a few significant changes and additions to our instrument-list, probably most important being Heike on floor-tom percussion for a number of songs.”
Eleni: I know you split your time between Joshua Tree and your native Austria. What compels you to return to Europe just as the desert cools down, from the triple-digit temperatures?
Heike: “We love the desert and it’s a very inspiring place, but splitting our time between here and Austria somehow feels like the best of both worlds. Also, we are looking forward to playing live in Europe.”
Eleni: Can you tell me what first drew you to the high desert? The arid temperature isn’t for everyone. Does living here inspire your music?
Georg: “I used to think geography doesn’t have any impact on songwriting. But then, the reference to places or landscapes can provide a kind of footing for a song. So, it makes it less ethereal and it seems like people can relate to it more easily. So, yes, the desert definitely influences the songwriting.”
Eleni: I was excited to see Jolie Holland is your special guest for the Furstwurld show. I loved her as part of the band, The Be Good Tanyas, as well as her solo stuff. What prompted you to add her to the bill?
Heike: “We’ve been fans of Jolie’s work for years. We got to know her personally when she was touring through the high desert. We feel honored that she will also sing on a few tracks on our forthcoming album.”
Eleni: I fell in love with you guys on your 2017 album, Dorado, which featured Victoria Williams beatific vocals on the track “Blood Red Shoes.” To me, she is the Doyenne of the High Desert music scene. Have you ever considered collaborating again, or even producing an album of her music?
Georg: “It’s a wonderful memory. Victoria was just so sweet and gracious, and her voice sounds marvelous on Dorado. We’d love to collaborate again in the future. She is definitely the Doyenne of the High Desert music scene and a true legend.”
Eleni: Finally, what’s in store for Son Of The Velvet Rat in 2023?
Heike: “We will release a new album in the Fall of 2023. Right now, we are in the mixing process with Gar Robertson at Red Barn Recorders in Morongo Valley. We feel very confident it’s going to be a great record.”
Eleni: Great, something to look forward to in the coming year. Thanks so much guys, I’m excited to a attend the Furstwurld show.
Georg & Heike: “Thanks Eleni. See you soon!”
(Son Of the Velvet Rat will perform at Furstwurld Gallery/Performing Arts Center on November 4, 2022. Tickets available through www.eventbrite.com/e/son-of-the-velvet-rat-at-furst-wurld-417722458117 Doors open at 6:30pm, Jolie Holland 7:30pm, Son Of The Velvet Rat 8:30pm 8528 Desert Shadows Road, Joshua Tree/Tickets $18. in advance, $25. at the door)