Victoria just wasn’t the right town for a band like Velvet Skyline.
They had gone just about as far as they could go in the Texas city’s cover band-filled nightlife, which also boasts of its annual Bootfest, a festival that favored country tunes and old-time rock ‘n’ roll over the introspective confessionalism of a woman-fronted emo-punk band.
When singer Taylor Seerdan was accepted to the University of North Texas in 2017, the band saw it as an opportunity to expand its horizons and made a pact.
“We all told each other that we're only going to move if we all moved up here together,” bassist Nate Martinez remembers. “It was like a family thing.”
So, Seerdan, Martinez and guitarist Hunter Puentes made the 400-mile move north to Denton together to find that there was a much bigger family waiting to accept them.
“It was a complete 180 moving up here,” Seerdan says. “We've found a great support system. In the bands that we know, it's community over competition, which is really nice.”
It was in that community that the band found their drummer Chris Ortiz when the band’s original drummer left the group. Martinez reached out to Ortiz, who was set to play the same show with his band SsleddogsS, and he asked if Ortiz could fill in while the band looked for a new drummer.
“I learned the set and then from there we played the show,” Ortiz remembers. “I was getting my drums off stage and Taylor came up to me and she was like, ‘You want to be a part of the band?’ And I was like, ‘I got to get my shit off. Hold on.’”
“He scared the living crap out of me, by the way,” Seerdan says with a laugh. “He was like, ‘We'll talk about it later,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, no, he doesn't like us.’ I went up to Hunter and Nate and I was like, ‘I don't know if he’ll join, like, I'm really scared.’ He came back after putting stuff away, we asked him again and he was like, ‘Hell, yeah!’”
Ortiz was just the first of many people the band would connect with in Denton’s new guard of young bands creating a welcoming community for women, non-binary and LGBTQ+ musicians.
“Fifty percent of our band is in the LGBT community,” Seerdan explains. “I actually just came out as bisexual publicly to the rest of my family and the rest of the world yesterday [Jan. 11]. We want to just create a safe space where people that live ‘unconventional lifestyles’ feel safe because, I mean, we're here.”
“I'm the other half of that 50 percent in the community,” Ortiz, who identifies as pansexual, adds. “I feel like it's very important for people to see not only strong, queer women that are active in the music scene, but also queer men. You know, that's not my defining quality. I'm a drummer, and I do all this other stuff, too. It's very important that people see that if I can put myself out there, they can put themselves out there too.”
Velvet Skyline made the rounds in North Texas on the back of their 2018 Model Citizen EP, writing and developing the songs that have found a home on the band’s first full-length album, What We Have in Common, which is set to be released Feb. 5 after the second single from that album, “Circles,” goes live on all platforms Jan. 22.
“We've all been through our fair share of shit,” Seerdan says. “This has been a very therapeutic album for us — the writing process, performing it and getting it out there. Our main goal is for people to hear us and know that they're not alone.”
While many bands toss around words like “therapeutic” when referencing their writing process, for Seerdan, it was through recording “Burden” that she found the strength to come out to her parents.
“It's the first song in the album, but it was actually the last song we recorded,” Seerdan says. “And I remember I was singing it and I started to cry like while we were singing it. I was thinking about coming out, and singing these lyrics of ‘I don't want to be a burden’ and ‘I don't want to drag you down.’ … I came out to my parents about a week later because I realized there's no point in feeling this way.”
Just as Seerdan found love and acceptance in Denton’s welcoming community, she found love and acceptance from her parents.
“I'm very, very lucky to have such an amazing support system and have such amazing people,” Seerdan says of her family, her band and the North Texas music community.
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.