Interview: Van Susans

28th April - The Relentless Garage, Islington.

Before seeing the lovely members of Pop/Folk/Indie band, Van Susans, perform live last Saturday, I went to meet them for a little chat. Here's what they told me..

Rob – drums, Olly – vocals & guitar, Olly G – keyboard, Hollie – violin, Ed – lead guitar, Tim – Bass.

Me: Where did you get your name from?

Olly: Me and Rob used to be in a band called Man Vs. Blender, pretty terrible name, and we used to have a mate called Dan Susans – Rob’s best mate – but sadly a week before his 18th birthday he was killed in a motorbike accident. So when me and Rob reformed the band, we wanted to commemorate Dan, pay tribute to him.

Me: Being a six-piece, that’s quite a lot of parts to handle and write – are any of you musically trained?

Band: It varies really.

Hollie: I’m actually classically trained, I went to the Royal College Of Music and I’ve got a degree in Classical Performance. I came across these boys when they were advertising for a violinist, so I thought I’d try something different.

Me: Excellent! Did you ever think you’d be doing something like this?

Hollie: Well, I thought I’d go down the London Symphony Orchestra route, that kind of thing. I mean, I love classical music, but it’s never really been my passion. I just enjoy playing and having a good time – it’s very different to classical performances where you go on stage and everyone is silent. This is much more fun!

Ed: I’m doing a music degree at the moment, but we’re all self-taught musicians really.

Olly: Yeah, I used to play the saxophone and piano, but I didn’t really get on with the whole grade system, so I just picked up a guitar. It’s less formal..

Olly: But when we formed the band, we decided that we wanted it to be a piano based band, ‘cause we’re really influenced by bands like Death Cab For Cutie and Jacks Mannequin, you know, more melodic bands like that.

Me: (to Hollie) Do you think your classical training influences the rest of the band musically?

Hollie: Well, I haven’t really had a chance to get my teeth into the music properly yet, ‘cause when I joined, the band had already written most of the album. So when I came along it was straight into the studio really.

Olly G: There’s definitely some classical influences in there though – our next single, ‘Fireworks’ has a piano hook inspired by Rachmaninoff and all that stuff…haha. Sounds nothing like it though, haha…

Me: So you’re all from the Bromley area (except Hollie who is Scottish), and there seems to be quite a scene there with the likes of Keston Cobblers Club and Red Roulettes…are you all friends?

Band: yeah, we went to school with Red Roulettes…

Olly: Yeah, and it was probably Keston Cobblers Club that helped us get signed to their label, Beetnik Geek Records. When I was doing solo stuff, I contacted them and they really liked my vocals but we don’t really work with solo artists…so that’s where the band started from I guess. It was literally the first ever gig we put on as a full band that we got signed by BGR – they came to watch the gig and loved it.

Me: What kind of role do BGR play for the band?

Olly: It’s mostly all our promotional stuff…they get all our music up on iTunes and all the digital outlets, you know. They’re really good at plugging us and getting our songs onto the radio and do all the nitty-gritty stuff like the PPL and PRS…they’re great.

Me: So do they have any musical/creative control over the band?

Olly: No, that’s all still down to us, really. They’re good for second opinions or a second ear on a song, especially when you’ve been playing and listening to something for so long. They also good from a commercial aspect giving their thoughts on what should be the single etc..

Me: What’s you recording and songwriting process like?

Olly: Well we try and meet up to rehearse as much as possible, even if we’re just hanging out…it’ll just kind of happen really. We’ll just play around with stuff. Sometimes we have to sit down and say, ‘right, we need to write a song today’, ‘cause it can get so busy sometimes, we need to make sure we make time for it.

Me: I noticed you’re playing at LeeFest, Biggin Hill, have you got any others lined up?

Ed: Yeah, we’re playing at IPO festival(International Pop Overthrow), which is at the Cavern Club In Liverpool..

Olly: And there’s also a London equivalent, which is at the Bull And Gate, so that will be cool! Yeah, we’re just trying to get around as much as possible; we’ve got a few in the pipeline.

Me: Excellent. Does Alex (manager) book all your gigs, or is it a bit of a free for all?

Olly G: Well, we wouldn’t be here tonight if it wasn’t for Alex.

Olly: Haha, yeah. This one we’ll give him. We kind of share the load really.

Me: So what are the dates for your forthcoming releases?

Olly: The album is available from May 28th, and the new single, Fireworks, is out May 14th. We’re actually shooting the music video for it (which they’ve now done), so that’s very exciting!

Me: And lastly, what can we expect from the new album, Paused In The Moment?

Olly: Lots of explosions!

Me: Will it be the same kind of direction as previous stuff?

Olly G: We’ve taken a step forward, I think we’re matured a lot. It’s got something for everyone – It can make you laugh, make you cry, make you dance….you know. Quite diverse.

Great, Thank you, guys. Good luck with everything!

Fireworks is now available on Amazon.