Vuk Pavlovic is the charismatic drummer for Velvet Caravan. Having an international background has helped him adapt to the rigors of touring the country with the Caravan, as well as teaching art students and selling realty. Here, he talks about performing with the Caravan, how he got into DJ’ing, local artists he admires, and much more.
What is your earliest memory of drumming?
As cliche as it sounds, banging on pots and pans, when I was about 2, and also coming up with rhythms on pillows with my cousin, at age 11, in my mom’s old apartment in Belgrade, during summer visits.
It’s really rewarding to get out of Savannah at any point, so playing in a different town is a real treat.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Wayne Shorter, John Barry, Prince, Frank Zappa, Fela Kuti, and Allan Holdsworth, for starters.
How did you link up with Velvet Caravan?
Saša Strunjaš, the original guitarist, used to call me to play some percussion when they used to jam at the restaurant, B. Matthews, in Savannah, GA.
I wanted to get on the kids’ level, but I also made sure that they didn’t take advantage of me, since I was quite young as well.
Talk a bit on what it’s like touring with Velvet Caravan …
It’s really rewarding to get out of Savannah at any point, so playing in a different town is a real treat. We usually get along quite well, when we’re out and about. I think it’s interesting for us all to take in a new environment in which we find ourselves.
Do you have any favorite performances with Velvet Caravan?
It’s usually the next performance, when I try to sound better than the previous time. I guess one of the most enjoyable performances was in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve also enjoyed playing at the Jazz Corner in Hilton Head, South Carolina. I guess I normally resonate with the gigs that truly resonate with the audience. It’s all symbiotic. The more they dig what’s going on, the better we sound.
Talk a bit about teaching at the Savannah Arts Academy …
Well, that was a “what now?” phase. I had just come back from Spain, where I taught English, and thought I could take a shot at teaching Spanish in the States. Most of the kids were great, and I could relate to many of them, as I was in their shoes 10 years prior. It was a bit of a challenge to explain the perks of learning a foreign language. I wanted to get on the kids’ level, but I also made sure that they didn’t take advantage of me, since I was quite young as well. Also, dealing with parents, grades and bureaucracy was not fun, by any means. I think a majority of the students asked, “when will we ever need this?” I couldn’t refrain from the truth and let them know that they would have to immerse themselves in a Spanish speaking country. That’s essentially the only way to understand the importance of learning a foreign language.
It was very cool to begin an experience like that with a titan of the music industry.
How did you become a Radio DJ at Savannah State University?
One of my best friends, Michael Foo, had talked about the ambition of doing a radio show. We were hooked up with veteran DJ, Ike Carter, and also Lady Grace. I don’t exactly remember all of the details, but Mike and I were given a 4 hour Sunday night spot. Mike fizzled out after a couple of months, but I persevered for more than half a year after that. It was quite challenging, as I had to program a lot of music every week. Spotify wasn’t a thing at that point, so all of my music was from a CD or LP record. The show was called Transatlantic Radio and I played all sorts of stuff.
As a matter of fact, the very first episode featured the famous music producer Wally Badarou who had worked with The Talking Heads, Grace Jones, Level 42 and Black Uhuru among many others. I actually contacted Wally via Facebook, before airing the show, and he let many of his friends from around the planet know that it was being streamed. It was very cool to begin an experience like that with a titan of the music industry. People from the U.S. to Asia were tuning in.
Is there any Savannah artist or musician you have not collaborated with but have always wanted to?
Not particularly, aside from perhaps Eric Jones. I’ve always valued Eric’s playing and have sat in with him a few times, but we’ve never played a legitimate gig together. It was rewarding to see he, Robert Saunders and Marc Chesanow play an album’s worth of original pieces some months back. I like musicians that know how to be daring, strive to be creative, original, and want to communicate something with their craft.
A dream of mine would be to get into film composing one day.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
In terms of upcoming projects, I’m always writing music. There’s nothing on the imminent horizon, ready to be released, but I’m working on things. I write a lot in the program Logic with a MIDI keyboard. I really love playing pianos and synths, and a dream of mine would be to get into film composing one day.