You note Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, and Paul Simon among your influences, yet critics have cited the band for channeling the likes of Prince and Stevie Wonder. Given such diverse influences, how would you describe your music? I understand you consider the 5-string bass to be the “backbone” of the band’s sound.
Because this question is so hard to ask any band, we try to leave it open for audiences to make that decision for us. All the artists that have inspired us, like Pearl Jam, David Gray, Paul Simon, etc., created music that was easy for audiences to relate to certain aspects of their everyday lives. The bass and the drums always need to be the supporting backbone of any good band in order for the melody and the harmonies to soar louder and become clearer for the listener to hear. We’re very honored to be compared to the likes of Prince and Stevie Wonder. There isn’t a single person out there who doesn’t know a Stevie Wonder hook or melody. If you think about it, Stevie had the best drum and bass section in town. He’s not gonna be playing with no punks. (laughs)
Right now, you’re in the midst of your second U.S. tour. What do you enjoy most about playing over the border? And have you noticed any differences between Canadian and U.S. audiences?
More than anything, we love playing music for new people. While being on the road we try and understand the new markets we’re entering, by seeing what songs they connect to. Plus, our overall knowledge increases about the music business, and more importantly, ourselves. We’ve met some amazing people in the States, and we ain’t done yet.
Any funny stories from the road that you can share?
Here’s a nice little ditty. We played a show in this beautiful little town called St. Andrews, New Brunswick. After the show, I stayed at a friend’s place while the other guys slept over at this guy’s place who lived right above the venue. The party got a little out of hand with drugs and booze, so the guys call me up telling me that they’re thinking of heading back to Fredericton to catch some sleep. It was already 3:30 a.m., and it’s dangerous to drive the highways of Canada that late at night, with all the deer and moose that roam the highways. So, I asked my friend if it was cool if my boys could sleep over. She was cool with it, but forgot to mention this to her landlord. Long story short, we got woken up at 8:30 in the morning by a very angry lady yelling at us to get out of her house or she’ll call the cops. Got back to Fredericton at 10 a.m. all broken and I haven’t been able to reach my friend ever since.
It’s been written that the band offers “..a staunch dedication to strong, clever musicianship with grasping hooks, tasteful improvisation and three-part harmonies…” Would you say that improvisation is an important element of your live shows?
When we were first starting out, improv was an essential component in our growth as a band. From those lessons earlier in our career, we took the things that we felt worked for us and incorporated it into our sound that exists today. When it comes to the live aspect of the show, we still like to give the crowd something they’ve never seen before. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be challenging ourselves and our audiences.
Let’s get a bit of Vanderpark history… how did the four of you initially meet?
Marcus, Dave and I have all known each other since we were kids and we’ve all been playing music together since grade 7. Vanderpark initially started as a band of three cities — Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal — because we were all still attending University at the time. We would do three-day mini-tours within those three cities, being able to just practice the day before the show to make sure we didn’t suck. (laughs) Once we were all done with school, we were finally able to practice more than once a week together in the same city. We started our plans of broadening our horizons to other demographics within Canada. Hanaya joined us about 2 years ago through our old keyboard player. He instantly added an amazing dynamic to the band and he was just as excited about the music as we were. We haven’t stopped since.
Where does the band’s name come from?
A good friend’s mother’s maiden name is Vanderpark, which is Dutch for “In the Park.” Plus, Marcus, Dave and I all grew up next to a huge park that we used to all hang out in when we were young.
I understand that some of you were entirely self-taught, while others studied music in school. Does this difference in your backgrounds ever become apparent in your work together as a band?
We all come from very different backgrounds, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. It makes our creative juices flow, plus it keeps the music fun for all of us. We try to incorporate all of our own individual experiences into the sound that we create today. The end products people receive are albums that explain the trials and tribulations we’ve faced within our lives.
Tell us about your current album, “Cherish Yesterday.” Why should TWRY readers check it out?
“Cherish Yesterday” is a very important step in our musical careers and in our lives. A bunch of us were going through some really tough times, and we wanted to share this with all of our listeners. Whenever I listen to an album, the real good ones always seem to relate to the matters and situations pertaining to my life at that moment. This album is just that. It’s about love, loss and understanding. You will indubitably be surprised.
How were the recording sessions for this album different from your earlier work? Were there any lessons that you learned making your last full-length album (2005’s “All Your Hands”) that impacted the way you went about things this time?
“All Your Hands” was a completely different experience than “Cherish Yesterday.” We recorded “All Your Hands” live off the floor within a week’s time, which is an accomplishment, to say the least. The great thing about “Cherish Yesterday” is that we spent nine months crafting these tunes. It was a great learning experience and it was a whole whackload of fun.
“Cherish Yesterday” is in rotation at a growing number of college stations – would you say that a primary goal of the band right now is cultivating relationships with college radio?
The great thing about U.S. college radio, compared to Canadian radio, is that people still listen to it. It’s been one of the best resources in getting our name out to listeners all across the country. In a sense, our goal still remains the same. Get the music out there to as many people as possible, and show them why we love it so much. It’s the same thing, but more intense.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry?
It’s exciting and scary at the same time. For an independent band, the internet is an excellent resource to get your name out there, but at the same time, it is single-handedly killing the industry. People are very careless and have no respect for the artists that have invested a ton of money to create the music you love. Don’t get me wrong, I download music just as much as the next guy, but if I respect the artist and the music they create, I will gladly purchase their music. Download live music, support artists and purchase their music.
What’s the overall plan for Vanderpark in 2008?
Work hard, rock harder.