The beginnings of Velocity Girl were as a college indy band called the Gotterdammacrats. Founded in 1988 in the area around Silver Spring, MD by two of the future
permanent members of the band, Archie Moore (guitar and vocals) and Kelly
Riles (bass). The pair joined with John Barnett (guitar) and Berny Grindel (drums) to form the group. Barnett's membership was short lived, and left soon after the band was formed. The band took on an addition vocalist, Bridget Cross in 1989 and changed its name to an B-Side of a Primal Scream single - Velocity Girl.
Velocity Girl changed drummers in late 1990, with Jim Spellman joining the band, and added (again) a second guitarist - Brian Nelson. The band then switched female leads with Sarah Shannon replacing Cross who went her own separate way. This finalized the lineup of the band until they finally went their separate ways.
and when I said I couldn't see
you told everything but the truth
could it be all that bad
to forget about my favorite thing
"My Forgotten Favorite" - Six Song EP
The band released a series of 7-inch singles on local label Slumberland (which was co-founded by band member Archie Moore), but their first "major" release was a six song EP for Slumberland. This EP contained a song known simply as "My Forgotten Favorite", which became tremendously popular on college radio station. This single caught the attention of the Seattle based Sub Pop label, known for its grunge acts. Velocity Girl's lo-fi pop was a stark contrast to the label's other clients sound.
And she doesn't even know
just how beautiful she is
And she doesn't even see
Just how beautiful she is -
"Audrey's Eyes" - Copacetic
After signing with Sub Pop, Velocity Girl released their first full length album in 1993. This CD, Copacetic, again featured a very lo-fi sound with Sarah's voice often being obscured by the music. The album produced a number of popular singles in the indy scene (including my favorite Velocity Girl song "Audrey's Eyes", a great song about a crush from the past), and became the labels second largest selling album. This changed Sub Pop's image forever. The album is a great mix of simple poppy tunes, and more soulful songs. The band almost uses the vocals as another
instrument, with it not taking a prominent role in most of the tracks.
Don't you feel like you might
Do much better in a different light?
Without the meanings people seem to hide,
In every corner, passage of your mind.
"What You Left Behind" - Simpatico
The band returned with another full length album in 1994 called Simpatico!. This
album had a very different sound to it, and more prominently featured Sarah's and Archie's voices rather than placing them in the shadow of the music. This album was even more successful than their first, producing the only song that non fans might be acquainted with - Sorry Again, which was used in a Volkswagen
advertisement. I also hear the opening for the song used in sport highlights from time to time. Archie's voice is used a little more frequently on Simpatico as compared to Copacetic. A good example of this is in "What You Left Behind", where he and Sarah alternate verses, and join in together for the chorus.
Well there's nothing to see,
There's nothing to be.
Just as sure as your smile,
I'll be gone for a while.
Nothing to say,
No reason to stay.
Just as sure as the past,
Nothing good ever lasts.
"Nothing" - Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts
The third and final album, Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts saw a nearly complete move away from their early work. The 1996 album feels very produced, and lacks a lot of the
energy and creativity that the others had. It has the feeling that it was specifically created for a mainstream audience, and loses some of what made the band's fans fall in love with. Still there are a number of good tracks on the CD.
Particularly Nothing, and Gilded Stars. The album did not perform as well as the previous two and in October 1996, after a
farewell tour the band went their separate ways.
After breaking up, a subset of the band (Sarah, Kelly, and Jim), founded the short lived Starry Eyes, while Archie went on to form the Heartworms. They (Starry Eyes) only released a single, 4 track self-titled EP, and did a minor tour. Starry Eyes had the same feel that the Simpatico version of Velocity Girl had, with some of the same "noise" feeling that's in Copacetic (Both Radio! and Disappear sound like like they could have of of Simpatico, for example). Their EP is hard to find, but well worth it for any fan. The band broke up soon after their tour - Sarah had moved to Seattle while still part of Velocity Girl, and the rest of the band was on the east coast. She decided that the distance made the success of the band too difficult.
But whenever he's around,
The sun is gonna shine -
So what if it's a yellow tinted daydream?
"Marvel" - Esteraho
After Starry Eyes went their separate ways, Sarah started a solo career - and released a 5 track EP, Esteraho, which tried to keep a sound similar to Velocity Girl, and more recently a self-titled album released by the Casa Recording Company which has a much different sound to it. It's a very different feeling album, the voice is
familiar, but the style is such a marked difference from Velocity Girl/Starry Eyes, that something about it doesn't sound quite right.
Velocity Girl recently (Summer 2002) reunited to play in a concert to benefit their original vocalist, Bridget Cross. They have played a few shows in the Washington, DC area since their
Apparently the band is having fun, and according to member Archie Moore (from the indiepop mailing list, have already done some recording for a new album (probably an EP).
Getting Started with Velocity Girl
Built to last,
we made it out of Marzipan.
It's kind of sweet,
but not enough
to dull the bad taste.
"Marzipan" - Sorry Again B-Side
Overall, I feel their best album is their second - Simpatico!. Although it's probably not as strong as Copacetic, it is the easiest way to get
aquatinted with the band. Almost every track on the CD is fun to listen to, especially "Sorry Again" and "There's Only One Thing Left to Say".
Copacetic, also is a fine way to listen to the band. It has a very "college" feel to it, and caught me
off guard the first time I listened to it - I could barely hear the singing on the first track behind all the music. After a few listens the album really grew on me, and became one that I still
regularly listen to almost 10 years after its release. Pop Loser and Audrey's Eyes are the two easiest to listen to and like from this album, but Crazy Town is another
excellent song. The style of the album is something that most listeners may not be
acquainted with, may not find appealing at first. But the album does merit multiple listens to see if the style matches your personal tastes. For me, the thing that keeps me listening to the same CD's after is the combination of happy music and fun lyrics.
Final Line Up
Information from All Music Guide, Sub Pop's website, Album Liner Notes, and the IndiePop Mailing list