Dan would study things in meticulous detail, being able to recite chunks of dialogue from film and television, or statistics from football matches that happened before he was even born.   Before his ambition to make music emerged during his teens, Dan’s obsession had been football.  He would invent entire football clubs, name the players, design their emblems and strips and place them in leagues and tournaments where he would log all the scores.  He had played competitive football since the age of six but despite trials with several London clubs his dream of becoming a professional footballer did not come to fruition.  As a toddler Dan had been seriously ill with meningococcal meningitis, lost a large percentage of his body weight and hadn’t been expected to survive.  “I still use it as an excuse for why I’m so thin now but I don’t know how much longer I can keep attributing the blame to something that happened when I was two” he jokes.

 

When Dan moved to a secondary school in Bromley he experienced the British class system for the first time and found it fascinating to meet people who seemingly had no knowledge or experience of the world he had known up to that point.  He excelled academically, particularly in English and Drama.  In one of his English lessons Dan delivered a presentation about the music of the 1970s which culminated in him singing a Black Sabbath song.  As a result of that he was invited to be the vocalist in a covers band.  Dan then began to teach himself guitar on borrowed instruments and developed his playing skills with his innate attention to detail.  On his sixteenth birthday he was rewarded with a guitar of his own and started his own band.  Named Coma as a reference to his childhood illness, the band entered and won a music industry competition.  This encouraged Dan to push on further with his music and the gigs grew bigger but the band played their last show in the Spring of 2007.

 

Dan moved to Brighton and began to study for a music degree at Sussex University where he continued to write songs and perform under the name Petrushka, a favourite fairy tale character of Dan’s when he was a little boy.  He was inspired by and empathised with the protagonist who displayed characteristics that might be associated with the archetypal villain.  Dan’s love of the dark and fantastical writing of authors such as Angela Carter and Franz Kafka and the mood and imagery created by film directors such as Stanley Kubrick and Tim Burton infused with his admiration for artists like Jeff Buckley and The Smiths and folk music from around Europe and the US.  From this elixir emerged the sound of ‘Dan Shears and the Velveteen Orkestra’.  Work began on what was to become ‘The Eternal Mystery of the Human Heart’.  The budget was modest and Dan funded the recordings doing various jobs such as fitting carpets, varnishing wooden barrels and digging up Christmas trees.  He felt inspired by the idea of assembling an orchestra essentially from the street.  The notion of rich, epic, orchestral and almost operatic sounds being created by a group of working class musicians with more than a touch of venom and snarl felt very liberating to Dan.  In the Spring of 2010 he sent copies of the finished EP to a handful of independent record shops across the UK and they quickly sold out.