Canadian audiences are getting their first chance to see Denmark’s The Blue Van in several years.
Tonight (Thursday) and tomorrow, they’re hitting two Toronto venues – the Brooklynn Bar and Neutral Lounge, respectively.
If The Blue Van keyboardist/guitarist Søren Christensen had his way, we would have much greater access to the band, which released its debut album, the ‘60s-throwback rock/R&B record The Art of Rolling, in 2005.
“It’s a challenge financially (to tour North America) because you have to travel to the other end of the world,” he said in a recent interview from New York. The band had recently landed in New York City from their home in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“The gear situation, the visa situation with America is part of the challenge,” he continued. “Unfortunately we don’t get to do this as often as we’d like to. We just bought visas for the whole year now, so hopefully we’ll get to come over her a couple times while this visa is still good.”
Christensen and his bandmates — Steffen Westmark (vocals and guitar), Allan Villadsen (bass) and Per Jørgensen (drums and vocals) – actually made a nice discovery shortly after landing in the U.S. The music gear they had ditched about five years prior in a New York storage space was all still intact, and the band quickly sorted out that it all still works.
The boys in The Blue Van are touring in support of their fifth record, Would You Change Your Life?, released in Canada two weeks ago.
Christensen laughed when it was suggested to him that if a listener heard the group’s debut record and their new record back to back, they wouldn’t believe it was the same band. While The Blue Van started out playing scrappy, organ-heavy, late-‘60s style British rock, they’ve evolved over the years to blend a modern electronic sound with their power chord crunch.
“(We’re) the same four guys that have played together since we were 12 years old,” he said. “We’ve lived through many changes of trends and fashions, and we’ve changed ourselves. We grew up together. We keep getting into new things and keep discovering new music. I don’t see why we shouldn’t be allowed to follow whatever we’re into instead of making the same record over and over again.”
Christensen said the band’s last two records, Man Up (2008) and Love Shot (2010), were “very produced,” but they went a different direction on Would You Change Your Life?
“With this album, we wanted to be a little more organic again like we were on our first two albums,” he explained. “So we did a lot more stuff live in the studio this time than we had been doing on the last two albums. Less layers and more live stuff, more grit.”
The Blue Van feels at home in front of North American audiences. While Christensen said European audiences are more pop-ccentric in their tastes, he said North American crowds “love their extended guitar solos. It’s definitely our kind of people.”
In the world of rock n’ roll, it’s pretty common to see band members in just about any group change over time. A member or two will leave, “or the drummer will combust,” Christensen chimes in, but The Blue Van have been the same four guys for their entire decade-long run.
“I think the secret is that when we started out, we were in this small community, just a small village, so we didn’t really have a choice — there was only one drummer and one bass player,” Christensen said. “So you couldn’t really switch around a lot, so we just got used to being together and hanging out. So it’s more like a brotherhood now. It’s always been the four of us, it’s never been an issue.”
He’s hoping this current tour of the U.S. and Canada will lead to some business connections in addition to new fans. While The Blue Van isn’t necessarily seeking a record label, they would like to find some touring support.
Since it’s been years since the band last played North America, they are eager to see what kind of demand there is for their tunes. It doesn’t feel like a new beginning, Christensen said, but like the band is simply “moving on.”
“In a way, pulling the gear out of the storage space that we left and locked it into five years ago, it just feels like another day in show business,” he said. “It just feels like we’re moving on.”
The Blue Van will head back overseas after this tour, and they’re lining up some European festival dates for the summer.
Eric Lewis is a news reporter in Moncton, New Brunswick who contributes features to MusicNerd. He still can’t get enough of The Blue Van’s debut record, The Art of Rolling, and he’s jealous of the good folks in Toronto who gets to see the band live this week.