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The Velvet Monkeys

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Biography

Velvet Monkeys is an American rock band currently based in New York City, formed in 1980.

Velvet Monkeys is the longest running of New York musician Don Fleming’s many rock ‘n’ roll projects. Formed in 1980 from the ashes of Williamsburg, Virginia’s new wave rockers Citizen 23, the band relocated to Washington, DC at the right time to become darlings of the local art-punk scene, along with other post-punkers such as Egoslavia, Bob Boilen’s Tiny Desk Unit, Chalk Circle, and The Insect Surfers.

The band was originally formed as a three-piece combo that included prominent use of a Roland Dr. Rhythm drum machine, which gave them a Europunk sound more akin to Echo & the Bunnymen or OMD than their local counterparts in the Washington, DC scene. This line-up included Fleming on vocals and guitar, girlfriend Elaine Barnes on vocals and synthesizer/organ, and bassist Steven Soles. In 1982, the drum machine was quietly replaced with drummer Jay Spiegel a.k.a. The Rummager and the band moved from Euro-wave pop toward a more rock-oriented guitar-meets-synth post-punk wash.

The band released a cassette EP, an album, and appeared on several compilations before undergoing personnel changes in the mid-1980s that found them with a radically different sound than their electro-pop origins. Ousting all but Spiegel and himself, in 1985 Fleming brought on guitarist Malcolm Riviera of D.C.’s Grand Mal and bassist Rob Kennedy, formerly of D.C.’s The Chumps, and more recently NYC’s The Workdogs.

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