Features Interviews NXNE 2010 Interview: The Blue Van Show Their True Colours

NXNE 2010 Interview: The Blue Van Show Their True Colours

The Blue Van at Mod Club Theatre
The Blue Van
The Mod Club in Toronto, Ontario
June 16, 2010

Interview by: Natalia Buia
Photos by: Michelle Cortese

Although NXNE showcases a variety of local bands, there are some that travel great distances to be a part of the festival and gain new found Canadian fans. Some even have to cross the Atlantic Ocean like the Danish dudes of The Blue Van. They played a good ol’ fashioned rock show at The Mod Club on June 16, to promote their new album Man Up. Backstage, Sticky contributor Natalia Buia had a candid conversation with Allan Villadsen (bass) and Per Jorgenson (drums) about commercial success, band comparisons and manning up.

Sticky: It’s a pleasure meeting you guys. So, I was reading and the story behind your name is quite intriguing. Was it easy for you guys to come up with such a name to make you stand out?

Allan: The story is about the van that picked up the mentally ill in the old days in Denmark. We came up with the name, but it was in Danish. So we had to translate it. A Danish music teacher said "you can’t be named a Danish name if you want to make it in the world."

Per: Before that we had a bunch of names. Then we got this one and we started to have somewhat of a success.

Allan: Well, you weren't in the band before then.

Per: When I joined we got the name, but then we started to gain some sort of success and we couldn't change it again.

Allan: A lot of bands, they take it too serious.

Sticky: You guys don't take yourselves seriously?

Allan: Of course we do, but you have to be able to laugh about yourself if you make a mistake or something. I think our band name says it all.

Sticky: Of course. You guys aren't strangers to Canada. You've been on tour with a Canadian favourite, Hot Hot Heat, years ago. What was your first impression of Toronto?

Allan: The first time we came here was after a long time in America. Going from one coast to another coast in America and suddenly you roll into Canada. It seems much more like Europe compared to America. To me it was positive.

Sticky: Do you get much time to explore cities before or after a show?

Allan: I don’t think we've seen a lot of Toronto but we've been out to some bars. We went down to [Little Italy]. It's pretty cool. There's some cool vintage clothing stores and stuff like that.

Sticky: Talking about your album Man Up, you guys recorded it in a secluded farm?

Allan: No, it was only the pre-production we did.

Per: My grandparents had a barn that they lived in. When we started to write Man Up, me and Allen kind of fixed up the place. Then we stayed there for four weeks doing pre-production on the album. We went into the studio to have it recorded in Denmark and the next half in Hamburg.

Sticky: So why the decision to kind of seclude yourself for a little bit?

Per: At that time me and Allan lived back home with our parents. Soren lived in New York and with his parents. He flew back and forth. So, it just made sense to just live there and take all the time we needed

Allan: And when we lived at our parents' house, we already put out two records. The record company went bankrupt so we didn't have any money on us. Then we had to go back to our parents' and we had to turn the whole table around and make some really good songs that would hit the radio and stuff. So, that's where we had to man up. That's when the title came in.

Sticky: One of the tracks I'm a sucker for is "True", which you guys didn't play tonight! But I really love the melody to it, and I want to know what's more important: the lyrics or the melody?

Per: It depends on who writes the song. If Steffen writes a song, he puts way more effort into the lyric. If Soren writes it, he puts more effort in the melody. We combine it so it's equal.

Sticky: You have that song featured in the iPad commercial ["There Goes My Love"] which I think is funny because to me the song sounds like it's about oral sex. [Allen and Per laugh] A song like that on an iPad commercial is kind of hilarious.

Per: If Steffen was here he'd tell you it's not about oral sex. It's about something else, I don't know what it is.

Allan: To me it's about oral sex, that's what I get out of it.

Sticky: With that song being on a commercial that pretty much everyone has seen, plus other songs on TV shows, I'm sure you guys don't take it as "selling out". Do you guys take it as a way to promote yourselves?

Allan: These days all the record companies don't have any money to put into you, except for U2 or Rolling Stones or Madonna. For us, to make a living so we have time to tour and pay the rent, we have to do things like that. It's also a way to get your music out because they don't want to pay our ads in a radio campaign or anything like that. I don't know if it's a short cut. Maybe it's a short cut.

Sticky: I think that it just puts you out there, otherwise you'd just be a band that no one really knows and no one would buy your records.

Allan: To me if I see a commercial and hear a good song, I'll pay attention to the commercial instead of sitting and reading.

Per: If you asked us five years ago about commercials and our music, we would have had a completely different opinion on it. Five years ago we wouldn't have done it. But times have changed. We don't say yes to everything.

Sticky: What are some offers that you've had that you've said no to?

Per: We were asked to rerecord "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor. It was for a German movie about a gay soccer team. We should have done it actually, it was a great movie.

Sticky: What about being compared to other bands, does it bug you?

Per: Sometimes we get annoyed.

Allan: I think a lot of the reviews from Denmark are calling us retro. Of course we are retro, but compared to a lot of other bands like Muse who are also retro, but they are 80's retro where we are more 70's retro. So sometimes it annoys me.

Sticky: You guys get sick of the word "retro"?

Allan: Yeah. Everybody's retro today.

Sticky: I've read interviews where you guys said you haven't looked up to local bands growing up. Has the Danish music scene evolved since you guys were young?

Allan: It's getting a lot better but where we grew up, there were no other bands. But the bands we did look up to were The Who, Rolling Stones, stuff like that.

Per: Overall the music scene in Denmark is good now.

Allan: Right now there are a lot of [Danish] indie bands that sound like bands from America. There are a lot that sound like Band of Horses.

Sticky: What are some Canadian bands that you are into now?

Per: Just to name some of the Canadian music we like, there's Ron Sexmith and Feist.

Sticky: Yeah she used to play in Broken Social Scene who are also playing NXNE. Are you sticking around for any other shows?

Allan: First we're doing an acoustic thing in Toronto and we have to go to Ottawa tomorrow.

Sticky: What's it like playing an acoustic set?

Per: We're getting better at it, definitely.

Allan: It's like being into something you're not used to. So that's why we're getting nervous.

Sticky: It would be interesting to hear you play your Man Up album unplugged. Aside from music, what else inspires you? Do you follow the World Cup?

Allan: The Denmark team is so bad! I’m so busy I don't have time to watch all the matches.

Per: If one of the smaller countries makes it to the finals, of course we'll root for the underdog.

Allan: Maybe the U.S. They have a good chance. They are like outsiders but they played a really good match. If we see the U.S. they are a huge country and they can easily put a good team together.

Sticky: It's good to know what you're into outside of the music.

Per: We also like books. For me, everything besides poetry.

Allan: I like reading music biographies.

Sticky: Any final words? Anything you’d like to express about Toronto?

Per: I don't like the traffic. Toronto is like a more polite and calm version of New York.

Sticky: We'll put that on the brochure. What about the Toronto babes?

Allan: Danish chicks are hard to beat!

Sticky: Thanks so much for your time guys.

Allan and Per: Thank you.

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