If you were to just see the name, you might expect the Velocity Gospel to be some sort of speed metal gospel choir which, don't get us wrong, sounds awesome. But if you ask the man behind it all (and he has been asked many times before), you'd find that's not the case.
Emmanuel Canete says the name pulling his one-man psychedelic, indie-pop style together instead derives from a bizarre literary influence in Steve Aylett’s novel of the same name.
“Within the mythos of the book, there exists a cult, the Velocity Gospel — religious zealots that spend their days and nights doing everything possible to build large catapults. They use these devices to launch themselves as fast and as high as they can into the sky in the hopes of becoming closer to God. Of course, they fall to the ground and suffer tremendous physical trauma. Nonetheless, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start the process all over again,” Canete explains.
He likens this to the Greek mythology of Sisyphus, who is eternally condemned to roll a boulder up a hill, only to have it fall back down right before reaching the top.
“As an artist who has always struggled to maintain artistic integrity while striving to achieve commercial success, struggle and finding meaning and validation in the process rather than the end result has always been my focus,” he adds.
Canete remembers his first days playing live music. He'd stagger out of a bar at the break of dawn, rushing to make it on time to his freshman year first period class. Several years after putting in his time with local bands (most notably with Stone Scent and Caution Automatic), Canete released his current one-man project’s debut album, Truth in Prose and Stories.
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“I flew out to a friend’s studio in L.A. and recorded the bulk of what would become Truth in Prose and Stories... The album was released January of 2015, and I went on the road in support of it the following month."
Canete is following up the debut album this year with a new EP titled The Black Tower. He says a major difference in this release stems from its production, which Canete had sole managerial power over at his EJC Studios.
“I feel since there wasn't the constant clock-watching I had experienced when going into a studio-for-hire, I was able to hone down the songs and not have to compromise because of financial constraints in that respect,” he says.
Rotten Box Films’ Carlos Jose Laylle directed an accompanying music video for the EP’s single, “Don’t Look… It Won’t Hurt.”
“He, my wife, Jennie, and I spent most of the first meeting eating food and talking about movies and videos we were in to. It was very much like old friends getting together to shoot the shit."
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Canete says most of the EP’s songs delve into his relationship with a man he considers to be his mentor and only father figure: Clark Douglas Burris. The late Burris is remembered for establishing the Miami Beach Senior High School Rock Ensemble, having impacted the lives of many students like Canete who went on to pursue music. Canete’s bond with Burris goes deeper, as he lived and took care of him on and off again from the age of 13 until his mid 20s. Burris was battling multiple sclerosis and passed at the age of 73 earlier this year.
Canete relives one of his memories with Burris on the track “Meet You Back at Marycrest.” The song recalls a time when he traveled to upstate New York with Burris in 1992. Their journey through the countryside eventually led them to the Marycrest convent, which then put them on a hunt (with the help of a couple nuns) to find the area’s ever-elusive Black Tower from Burris’ childhood memories. It took a lengthy hike through the woods and its treacherous paths, but they finally came across it.
“At long last, not far in the distance, there was an impossibly tall structure — no color in particular. Burris yelled, ‘There it is, the Black Tower!’ And he smiled that million-dollar smile that I still miss to the very marrow of my bones... Months after we had gotten back home, we received a thick manila envelope in the mail from Marycrest. They had enclosed one of the pictures they had taken of us with them along with a rosary and a five-page handwritten letter detailing how profoundly beautiful an experience it had been for them meeting us and taking that journey together."
An EP release/video premiere party will be held at Kill Your Idol tonight, July 8. The music video will also screen at O Cinema’s “I’m Not Gonna Move to L.A.” series next month.
Cheap Miami Records presents: The Velocity Gospel’s Album and Music Video Release Party with Freaks and Ghosts and MekroniuM. Friday, July 8, at Kill Your Idol, 222 Espanola Way, Miami Beach; 305-672-1852. Admission is free; ages 21 and up.