In space, a "double star" is created when two stars circle each other and appear close to one another when seen from Earth. In Dallas, when two music scene stars circle each other through collaboration, that union is called "Velvet Dos." The band name refers to the collaborative project of established musicians Taylor Rea, of Zhora, and Silas Nello.
The duo started collaborating over quarantine and debuted their single “Lonesome” last Thursday as the first release in their dynamic partnership.
“Good collaborations happen when everything just moves organically,” Rea says.
“I believe I asked Taylor initially if she had any interest in doing some backup vocal work on some of my newest solo stuff, right?” Nello asks while turning toward Rea, “and then you pitched the idea of a collaborative side project … I think?”
“Yup,” Rea responds. “I told Silas that I was looking to start a new project inspired by Roy Orbison and he said he wanted to be a part of it.”
And the stars began circling. They flew first around Orbison, then swung deeper to circle other shared enigmatic influences ranging from "overcast skies with light peeking through," "drum and bass EDM," "melancholy" and David Lynch.
Rea explains that their shared mish-mash of musical and aesthetic influence is a form of productive chaos that serves to keep things fresh.
“I’m not looking to be one sound," she says. "Especially with having to create over the internet, we’re just trying to figure it out as we go.”
In addition to influencing the band name Velvet Dos with his movie Blue Velvet — a film that echoes Nello and Rea's refusal to be boxed into a genre — Lynch also served as a bit of a lynchpin for “Lonesome.”
“When we were working on the music for it, I sort of just kept playing all those bizarre surrealism scenes from Lynch’s work and that sort of set the soundtrack,” Nello says of the single. “When Taylor initially sent me the first vocal melody idea, it made me think I was driving down the California coast at night and [it] became the mood in my head.”
“I instantly loved it," Rae says, jumping in. "I had the lyrics originally written for another song … but they worked perfectly with the melody.”
The song's simplicity makes it almost a mantra. It's a mournful vibe echoing lost love, describing the sight of an ex-lover's tail lights driving away, which is then mimicked in the song's ever-pervasive, driving drums and production.
All of the collaboration for Velvet Dos was done digitally; the two musicians didn’t even meet until it came time to film a video for their first single.
“I think we’d probably been in the same room as each other over the years but we’ve never actually met, so it was a completely new experience for me creatively,” Nello says of Rea. “And the video was all Taylor’s idea, and she handled the majority of the creating, directing, and editing with it, et cetera. She did a fantastic job.”
“We did that shit together,” Rea corrects, not to have Nello distract from the collaborative aspect of their newfound partnership.
“I just did my best James Dean impression, that’s all,” Nello quickly adds.
Rea insists: “We’re both involved in everything. ... We’re always talking via messenger on ideas and sound.”
“It’s definitely a 50-50 partnership,” Nello says, “and we’re sort of on the opposite spectrum of each other for what we do with our own solo projects, so meeting in the middle and creating from both of those artistic avenues is a breath of fresh air.”
“And I feel I have complete creative freedom in this project," Rae adds while nodding her head. "Silas is an excellent composer, and he helps me sonically piece the musical puzzle together.”
The group's primary concern as songwriters, Nello says, was "to create with zero ego." When he has an idea, he sends it off to Rea, who fills the creative gaps, and vice versa.
“Where I lack, Silas comes in and brings his skills to the song," Rea says, "and if it doesn't work we don't cancel it completely but [we won’t] dwell or sit on it for too long.”
Velvet Dos is an intriguing collaboration. The musicians are from different corners of Dallas’ musical landscape: Rea is an electro-pop singer and Nello a folk-rock-blues troubadour, but after being battle-tested in those corners, the stars have gravitated to a sort of middle ground, each carrying with them the debris from the spaces they’ve explored. As these two continue to interact, exchange, and intertwine their sensibilities, Dallas gets to take a front row seat and stargaze at the pairing.
Listen to "Lonesome" below:
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.