On the occasion of their mid-April European tour, IDIOTEQ conducted an interview with Helsinki / Brussels based garage punk’n’roll band VAN DAMMES (est. 2013), who were so kind to take the time to provide us with some insights abiut the band and share some thoughts on touring, Finnish music scene and further plans for their work.
VAN DAMMES released their debut, the VD EP, in April 2014, and its successor, Better Than Sex, in February 2015. This brief but loud four-song recording was taped in Helsinki, at the same place where THE RAMONES performed already in the 1970’s. Both releases have gained airplay on American and British punk radio stations as well as on popular Finnish radio stations YleX and Radio Helsinki. They have also been critically acclaimed in American, Australian, British, Canadian, Danish, Dutch, German, Italian, Mexican and Polish reviews. In addition, VAN DAMMES have released a Christmas single, a tribute song to Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai, and their own version of the traditional football chant Olé, Olé, Olé. Currently, VAN DAMMES are preparing their first full-length album which is to be released in 2016.
Catch the band live at Naamat Festival in Muurame, Finland on July 22nd.
Hi guys! Thanks a lot for reaching out and letting us know about VAN DAMMES! You’re fresh off your gig here in Warsaw. My heart bleeds that I couldn’t make it. How was it? Have you felt welcomed?
It was a perfect start for the tour. We played at Chlodna 25 which was cosy as fuck. We played many new songs live for the first time and also a snippet of Polish Boyfriend by T-Love.
Cool. Tell me more about the idea of this trek. How did you choose these stops and how did you book the whole run?
This tour is totally D.I.Y. based. We wanted to play in Central Europe and checked the scene and mapped the possible venues. Afterwards we had some beers and booked the tour.
How do you approach touring in general? What does being on the road mean to you guys? What are the best and worst things about touring?
Touring is super fun. It’s about reaching new audiences and hooking up with old friends. The worst part of touring is that there are always problems with tour vans and we know nothing about cars.
Have you met some cool bands on the road?
Yes we have. It’s always fun to share the stage with punk rock guys no matter where they’re from. Last year we toured for example with our hometown boys NEW DEADLINE as well as with the Aussie studs DUNE RATS. Also on this current tour we will play with bands from for example Canada, U.S.A. and Italy.
Have you played a lot of live gigs before this mini tour? Also, tell us more about VAN DAMMES, your inception and the purpose of the band. Oh, and be sure to clarify how on Earth a Helsinki based band was formed in Brussels :)
Yes, we have played a bunch of gigs in Northern Europe. VAN DAMMES were formed in Brussels because one of us lives there at the moment. The main purpose of our band is to make the music that we really like and have fun.
What made you guys decide on the band name VAN DAMMES? :)
Three years ago we made a pilgrimage to the monument of the martial art master Jean-Claude Van Damme which is located in the outskirts of Brussels. Afterwards we had some beers and formed the band. We can highly recommend visiting this magnificent attraction for everyone.
Fast forward 3 years and you are about to unveil your debut full length, right? What’s the timeline for this record and what can we expect?
Well…We went to the studio at Easter and recorded some serious shit. To be honest we haven’t yet decided whether the outcome is going to be another EP or a full length album or something totally different. However, we will release something great later this year.
How do you see the current state of punk rock music in the backdrop of the digital revolution that’s affecting almost every aspect of our lives these days? How’s the independent music scene in Helsinki?
Well, at least in Helsinki and Finland the punk rock scene is alive and kicking. There are lots of punk rock shows and kick-ass punk rock bands. As far as we know the situation elsewhere in Europe is similar. In our opinion digitalization will never replace the live music action.
What aspects of the Finnish art scene in general have made the biggest impressions on you? Do you draw some inspirations from some strictly Finnish ingredients?
In spite of the fact the Finnish art scene is very vibrant and full of interesting artists there are not that many strictly Finnish elements in our music.
Ok, one more, cause I’m curious. You’ve recently released a music video paying homage to Frank Tower, an urban legend, who has allegedly survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic, RMS Empress of Ireland, and RMS Lusitania :) What made you focus on this particular persona?
Well, because his story is quite legendary. We once visited the sinking site of the RMS Empress of Ireland in Canada. Afterwards we had some beers and wrote the song.
Can we expect more sick videos in the vein of Frank Tower?
Cool! Lastly, what lessons did you learn in your time spent running this band?
We have learned that girls absolutely love punk rock.
Thanks a lot for the quick introduction to VAN DAMMES! Looking forward to seeing you perform in Warsaw next time. Fingers crossed for the upcoming album and more touring.
Yours truly, VAN DAMMES!