Interview: Van Damsel explain why they won’t stop pushing themselves creatively

Dec 19 2017, 10:04 pm

Van Damsel is sitting on their bus, in a place in between Saskatoon and Calgary, heading back to B.C. to wrap up their tour. For the moment, all they can see is farmland, lushly green due to the season, whizzing past their window. The vision is an exceedingly appropriate thing to describe when it comes to the Kamloops-based alternative pop-rock band — driving forward is defining of both the high speed pace of their journey and the core of their artistic philosophy.

With members previously cutting their teeth in metal and indie rock bands, Van Damsel came of age as they started playing with a broader range of pop influences (appropriately experimental, as a band who takes their name from a Dillinger Escape Plan song). They released two EPs, 2012’s Say Hello To Your Mother and 2013’s The Sunshine, Girl, before landing a spot on the prestigious BC Peak Performance Project and nabbing themselves the $50,000 third prize in 2015. The desire to continually challenge themselves, says lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Sebastien Ste Marie, comes from a pure love of the craft. 

“It’s super important,” he maintains. “It’s essential. We haven’t lost it yet and I hope we never do, but having that creative urge just spurring you on to just make art is essential to being in a band and essential to being in a great band. We want to be a great band.”

Indeed, it’s an urgency that also weaves its way through Van Damsel’s recently released self-titled debut full length. Largely, especially on songs like “Sophia” with lyrics that state the group will always “keep on trying to be,” the album is about compelling oneself to take the next step in all aspects of life. Their fundamental need to be creative is emphasized sonically, too, through an even more diverse layering of sounds than the band has previously toyed with, adding in electronic, hip hop, and rock and roll arrangements to their foundation of metal and indie rock. It was a progression that happened both naturally and consciously over the course of the album’s three-year writing and recording process, as eclectic influences like Phoenix, electronic producer Peter Robinson, and Kanye West seeped into their work. It’s a final result they’re tremendously proud of, but, Ste Marie insists, they’re not quite satisfied with themselves yet.

“We wanted to do something that we’d never done before that was better than anything we’ve ever done, but [it’s] sort of a paradox in that the grass is always greener,” Ste Marie says. “You might be striving for the best, but you can never achieve it. We are pleased with this current project, but we know that there’s something better out there that we haven’t made yet and that’s going to be the next project and it probably won’t be our best yet either. There’s always something that’s going to be better. We accept that, but at the same time, we’re still always going to strive to be the best.”

As such, Van Damsel is already looking ahead and working on material for their next effort — something, Ste Marie reveals, that promises to be even more experimental and grand. “We always want to be creating,” he says. “We always want to be making art, trying out different things, experimenting — being artists, essentially.”

Van Damsel

When: May 28, 2016

Where: Media Club – 695 Cambie Street

Tickets: Available online

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