Thursday, October 22, 2015

Interview with the band: Van Halst

Canadian Gothic Metal band Van Halst recently released their first song and have announced in March 2016 they'll be releasing their debut album "World of Make Believe." The band recently sat down with me for a quick chat about music, inspiration and tour plans!

Hello, how are you? Would you mind introducing yourself?

Hey,we are great thanks. We are Van Halst, a Canadian hard rock/metal band based out of Toronto, ON.

You recently released your first song Save Me would you mind talking about that a little bit? What made you choose to focus it about religion?

Kami: When I was doing my Sociology degree I took a couple courses on religion in society and religious cults. So many people have been killed in the name of religion and are continuing to be killed in the name of Religion. I am an atheist, and throughout my life I have come across people that  judge me for the fact that I wasn’t baptized and never went to church. That’s where the idea of “Save Me” started. I wanted to talk about how judgmental religion can be and how if you don’t believe in their system and celestial hierarchy that somehow you’re a bad person who will be damned. It’s just my opinion, but I think if you’re a good person then you’re a good person and we don’t necessarily need to go to a church to prove that.

Scott: It's a polarizing subject to take on but we both strongly feel that these archaic ideas have no place in a society that wishes to evolve..religion in my opinion is the root of much of the world's racism, bigotry and female oppression..It's does more bad then's just that simple for us.

Brett: "Save Me" aims to address the negative aspects of religious extremists, and how extremists force their beliefs onto others without letting them think for themselves.

Next year will also see the release of your first album World of Make Believe, what other subjects will you cover on?

Kami: The album speaks to a variety of issues. Some songs talk about poverty and more specifically, youth homelessness. This is an issue I am really passionate about there is no reason that a child should ever be in a homeless situation. We also talk about feminism, victim blaming, domestic violence and social stigma on the album. We do have some love songs and songs about empowerment on there as well. The album as a whole gives an honest reflection of society and some of the systemic issues that the world faces.

The album will be supported with a full North American tour is that correct? Where are you hoping to take Van Halst to?

Yes, Van Halst will be touring across Canada from BC to Ontario. We’re going to be appearing on some festivals through Canada and booking additional shows throughout the summer. We also plan to head to California for some showcases in the fall.

In the coming weeks youll also be playing a couple shows around Toronto, will your set be all songs off the new album?

Yes, the set that we will be playing is all new original material off the new album. We want to feature “Save Me” and get people excited about the new album. We also throw in some fun covers for the crowd as well.

What are the plans for the band between now and the official release of the album? Any more shows coming up youre album to announce or hint at?

For now we’re playing alot in Toronto. We have a Halloween show on Oct 30th at the Coalition Bar and another showcase with some awesome touring bands on November 15th at the Rockpile.
We’re also recording some fun videos for Halloween and Christmas, something different that we think our fans will really like.
We are also going to release another single at the end of January.

How did the band come together? Was it hard to find other people with the same thoughts on social justice?

Kami: Well Ive know Scott Greene (guitar/writing) since I was 12. He was in another band and I used to sneak into the bar to see them with my mom. He was such a great mentor to me when I was growing up. He gave me advise about other bands I was in and once day we just decided to start writing together. Honestly hes like my big brother and we started this project together.

Throughout 2013/2014 Scott and I wrote the material for World of Make Believe and in early 2015 drummer, Brett Seaton, was added to the group. Scott was the recording engineer on another project that Brett was working on and mentioned his amazing drum skills at a meeting we had. I asked him if he would be interested in playing on the Van Halst record. After a couple meetings and performances Brett joined the Van Halst project full-time.

In June 2015, I studied at the Musicians Institutes summer program where I Strathon J. Bajowsky. Upon our return to Canada, Strath became the second guitarist added to the Van Halst line-up. 

Filling in on bass is Brendan McMillan, who I met in Toronto via Canadas Music Incubator.

We all share similar ideas in regards to the social justice content. I am really the activist of the group and I do a lot of public speaking and teaching about social justice issues but it was pretty easy meeting people that agreed with the injustices out there.

What was it liking being in the studio for the first time with everyone else? Did everything go smoothly or were there small conflicts?

Kami: Scott and I had been in the studio together quite a bit before this project. I had also worked with Phil Anderson before so I knew what to expect from them and they know how to get a great performance out of me. Phil has been an amazing mentor to me throughout my career as well. This was the fist full length album that we had recorded so there was some stress there. I wrote one of the songs on the album ("Ryan’s song") for my husband to say thank-you for being so supportive of my career. That was a really hard song to get down in the studio because it meant so much to me. All the songs are important but this song was for the most important person in my life and that came with a lot of pressure.
We had a lot of really fun times in the studio as well. No conflict at all, we demoed and re-wrote these songs so many times that we all knew exactly what we had to do. We have a great team of professionals so recording went pretty smooth.

Scott: There's always going to be some adversity throughout the recording process..if not, you're not pushing yourself to the limit...we pushed pretty hard on this record. 

Whats your process for writing? How do you know when something feels right to present to the others?

Kami: For this album, myself and Scott Greene (guitar) sat down and wrote 7 out of the 10 songs together. My friend Ed Smith helped me write the last track, Perfect Storm and my sister (Brittney Grabill) and I wrote 2 of the tracks. Basically what would happen is Scott and I would sit down and decide on a tempo and theme for a song. So for Save Me he had an idea for a groovy tune, that was heavy, had some cool drums and talked about Religion. He played around with some riffs until he had the main guitar line that you hear through the intro and the verses. From there I added the melody and the lyrics. Once that was done we just kept re-working the song into something we all really liked.
Scott: Myself and Kami sit together and brainstorm. I'll play some riffs and Kami will tell me if something strikes her..then I'll go with a quick recording. Kami goes home, writes lyrics.. we meet back up in a couple of days and start piecing thugs together..some songs happen fast, others take a little longer to get "found"
Brett: For myself, I always try to write drum parts to compliment what the rest of the band is doing, while at the same time adding something unique, and my own layer to the music. I believe drums aren't meant to be just the beat to a song, but also a lead instrument of its own with something interesting and creative to add to the mix. I often come up with a couple different grooves for song parts, and purpose to the band which groove they like best, that adds the most to the music, without getting carried away and taking away from the integrity of the song.

Save Me has been available on your bandcamp and youre also giving away free downloads on what have you heard from fans so far?

The reviews have been so amazing thus far. We’re super excited that our fans are taking to “Save Me” so well. We’ve been keeping this project pretty quiet so the fact that our song is finally out is an amazing feeling. So far our fans are loving the track.

What artists and bands would you say inspire the way you write and perform?

Kami: When I was younger I was a huge fan of Bon Jovi. I always thought Jon Bon Jovi had such a stellar voice. He was so much fun to watch live and I really liked how their album These Days was a little darker and spoke to what the world is really like.
Now my biggest influences are Shinedown and In This Moment. Brent Smith (Shinedown) is the most amazing vocalist and performer that I have ever come across. I saw them live a few years ago and I don't know what hit me, I was blown away by the band and the connection they have with the audience. Their music is so deep and theyre very socially conscious. I've never been affected the way their music hits me before.
I also draw a lot of influence from Maria Brink and In This Moment. She is one bad ass female vocalist and an amazing songwriter. When I decided to get into a heavier rock/metal sound I really looked at who was the best of the best and Maria Brink is the best. They write about a variety of social justice issues and female empowerment. Her voice is also like nothing that Ive ever heard.

Scott: So many..perhaps too many to list but I will say I'm a big Opeth fan, Dream Theater, Steven Wilson and Black I lean to the progressive metal side but also with an old school vibe..

Brett: I'm a complete prog-head when it comes to drums. Biggest influences being Dream Theater, Rush, Spocks Beard, and Tool.

Last but not least, are there any announcements youd like to make or anything youd like to say to your fans who are reading?

Kami: I’d like to say thank-you for your patience! We worked really hard on this album and we’re really proud of what we’ve created. We’re also hoping that our music entertains and inspires people to help create positive social change in their community.

Scott: I think just a big thank you for the support so far and stay in touch because we're just getting started here!

Brett: Get stoked for 2016, the album will be far worth the wait!

Thank you very much for your time, hope to catch you on the road with your new album World of Make Believe in 2016!

Absolutely, thanks again! 

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