Velvet Negroni Gets Contemplative on ‘NEON BROWN’
Velvet Negroni, a.k.a. Jeremy Nutzman, is constantly teetering between the negative and the positive. He’s grappled with his share of troubles since his 2017 debut, T.C.O.D., but he’s also made music that cleansed his soul. Case in point: his new album, NEON BROWN. “Making that record just felt clean, good — and right,” he says. It’s an avant-garde R&B record packed with Nutzman’s harmonious, soaring vocals atop hypnotic beats and an experimental electronic pulse.
While Nutzman’s 2017 debut was riddled with fraught feelings — and drug usage, it seems — that album was like the thunderstorm before the rainbow. The singer-songwriter extends his positive new perspective on NEON BROWN — a fresh outlook that comes from sobriety.
Post T.C.O.D., Nutzman swerved away from drugs and those involved in that lifestyle. “T.C.O.D. kind of feels like sitting on the edge of looking out, kind of imagining what I’d like to see out of the world or at least my world,” he says. “This one (NEON BROWN) feels more like sitting further past that edge. I guess my daydreams could be my reality.”
A far cry from the elusive darkness of T.C.O.D., NEON BROWN is a revival. From the optimistic outlook conveyed via “WINE GREEN” (“First time right time, oh my God/This time wonderful on my own”) to the upbeat, dub-infused makeup of “FEEL LET,” the album is a prism shining light on triumph.
“It’s kind of like a chipper look at, ‘Hey, I didn’t ask to be here. I didn’t ask to be born,’” Nutzman says of his new album. “NEON BROWN is a little bit more psychedelic look at our reality now. It’s like yes, the future was yesterday, and it seems like it’s a dystopian one; but also, what if everything could be really OK and everything is not the worst?”
Nutzman grew up in Minnesota as a classically trained musician; he was adopted into a white evangelical Christian family that restricted access to secular music. Upon entering University of Northwestern, Nutzman began to not only read music, but also write. He then became a founding member of the band, Pony Bwoy.
After releasing their second album, när-kə, the duo quickly dissolved. Still, Nutzman tapped into all he had learned in his first band and brought in his penchant for funk-infused R&B blended with emotive rawness. The result? Velvet Negroni.
That project took root when friend and Bon Iver frontman, Justin Vernon, introduced Nutzman’s music to Kanye West in 2018. Vernon played Kids See Ghosts collaborators – West and Kid Cudi – Negroni’s song “Waves” in a studio session, and that song inspired the hook from the album’s opening song, “Feel the Love (feat. Pusha T).” Nutzman went on to score a featured artist credit on “iMi” off Bon Iver’s latest album, i,i — a pretty welcome boost before the release of his sophomore record this Friday (August 30).
NEON BROWN is just the next step in Nutzman’s artistic evolution; his mindset has shifted since 2017, he says. “When I say ‘shifted’ it’s not like it was over here and then over there, it just shifted over back and forth, like constant,” he explains. “With this album, I’m definitely optimistic, but with this album I’m definitely realistically looking at things.” He laughs. “I guess I’m also a little bit of a pessimist, too.”
(Photo Credit: 4AD)
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