By Angela Norval
Looking at Smooth Velvet perform now, it is hard to believe it all started with guitarist Jay Furnish and a vision.
Smooth Velvet band members now include vocalist Amanda ‘AJ’ Campbell, lead guitarist Jay Furnish, bass guitarist Brett Heyward and Gerard Sorbello on drums.
Their main concept is to deliver a rock, blues, funk and pop fusion vibe with individual sparks to ignite the performance.
AJ has been singing since she was a child, spending a lot of time in musical theatre and soaking up as many MGM movies with her Dad as she could, even singing many an Irish folk tune together with him, too, being from Belfast.
As well as these early influences, AJ has been inspired from a number of different areas and eras, loving all things musical and ’80s and folk/blues orientated music, but at the same time loving the ’70s rock.
For Jay, it is all about good tone and vibe with his influences, especially those of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimi Page, Santana and Eric Johnson.
Although he started his musical career on keyboards, Jay moved onto guitar and then various other instruments after seeing Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock performance on television show RAGE.
Asked to describe his sound, Jay said it was clean, dirty and lead.
“From clean tones for a Fender funky chops, dirty tones for a Marshall raw fuzz buzz and lead tones for smooth overdrive hi-gain Marshall,” he said.
With influences that stem from modern to classic, Gerard continues to love the Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl, Metallica, Powderfinger, Led Zeppelin, John Bohnam, Jeff Porcara and Simon Phillips, and brings an element of that to his performances.
Add to that some very varied experience, having been a part of rock bands, brass bands and stage bands, training in classical piano and singing in choirs.
Bass guitar is something that Brett has always had a feel for, playing since he was 14 years old.
Although he has been in a few bands, including cover brands through to more originals, for Brett it has always seemed more like a hobby; whereas because he has an absolute passion and love for it, he would have preferred to make a career out of it.
Influenced by all kinds of music, mainly hard rock and blues, Brett said that it has helped him bring a lot of variation to his style and adapt to many different playing techniques.
“When it comes to Smooth Velvet, our sound is an expression of our personalities,” he said.
“As a band we must all work together to make it sound whole and dynamic.
“The sound changes with the times and adapts to the emotion of the song.”
Although ever-evolving, Smooth Velvet is a band that plays rock music that ranges from Bruno Mars to Led Zeppelin – playing all the favourites that audiences want to hear when they are out to see a live band and enjoying time with friends.
Performing live is something that every member of the band can agree they love, with Brett saying it was all about watching the reaction on the people’s faces.
“The dancing, the sheer enjoyment; if the people are happy than I am ecstatic and personally that is when I go for it,” he said.
AJ said some of their favourite gigs have been at well-known local, The Club Hotel.
“The staff and management are awesome, patrons are great and always high energy and a lot of fun,” she said.
“More recently, though, we played the Hervey Bay Food ‘n’ Groove event and it was very cool to have over 100 people up doing the Nutbush and enjoying a summer’s evening with their family and friends.”
Smooth Velvet have upcoming gigs on 10 April at M Bar, 1 May at The Club Hotel, 29 May at The Club Hotel and 12 June at Club Bargara.