INTERVIEW: chatting with indie rockers The Vanns in vans!
They’re the boys from Wollongong who cleave indie-rock earworms, charming their way into your ears and possibly your neighbour’s soul. Thrusting sparkling hooks amongst an array of raucous guitars and dreamy vocals, there’s a whole lot to love about The Vanns, and the latter-half of 2019 sits poised to catapult them further into solidifying themselves as one of the striking forces in the Aussie rock sphere.
Recently signing with 123 Music (a joint venture between Sony Music and 123 Agency), The Vanns have recently unveiled their brand new tune ‘Mother’, hinting at a dynamic advancement simmering away on the horizon as the rockin’ quartet head towards the release of their forthcoming debut album. But to celebrate the new release, we grabbed The Vanns axe-man Cameron Little (and briefly frontman Jimmy Vann) to chat mothers, Wollongong and thoughts on the ongoing “surf rock” label frequently throw their way. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hi Cam, how's it going? I believe I may be speaking to The Vanns today - in a van!
CAMERON LITTLE: Yeah, yeah, we're in the van, we're headed to Melbourne at the moment!
TIANA: An awesome coincidence. I'm stoked to be chatting to you guys today, I've actually managed to catch you guys live twice already this year, and am loving it! The Vanns seem to be having a killer year so far, is there anything you can't do?!
CAM: There's lots we can't do (laughs). We can make music, Jim surfs, but other than that.....(laughs).
TIANA: Well it's been a bit of a whirlwind of late for you, obviously you've unveiled your new track 'Mother', you've signed with 123 Music, plus a bunch of live shows. Has there been a personal highlight with all of this awesomeness going on lately, or are you just sitting in the thick of it at the moment?
CAM: Probably just putting music out because it's been so long since we'd done it! We made this upcoming album last year, it was complete. And then we put a song out in August, so this is the first time we've put anything out in months. So it's a relief more than anything, it's good!
TIANA: Let's chat 'Mother' actually, it was premiered on triple j's Good Nights and offered a glimpse into the upcoming album album. Now, I've read you guys speak in your press release about how the upcoming album has a bit of an overarching theme, the whole relationships/break-up thing...can you give us a bit more of an insight into 'Mother' specifically and how it fits in amongst the rest of the album?
CAM: So, Mother's not really like a love song as much as the other ones, but it is about relationships. Jim (Jim Vann - The Vanns frontman) and Oscar Dawson kinda started writing the tune, and wrote the majority of it. I actually have Jim here...Jim started writing the song, so I feel like I should let him talk about the concept.
TIANA: Jim can jump in!
CAM: Jim, jump in!
JIM VANN: Hello! I'm here! So the overall theme...yeah as Cam said, it's not really about love and relationships, it's more about a close friend and kind of drifting apart in a way. But you still wanna be there for that person and they feel the same, but I guess it doesn't happen as often as it used to. And, I dunno, you still share that relationship together, but things drift apart and that's totally fine. And just the whole relationship between a mother in the song, and also brother. But brother meaning someone close to you that you call a brother, like for myself with the rest of the lads in the band. And that kind of mother figure that's a bit more loving and caring.
CAM: We've been asked, or I've been asked if it's about my mum. It's not at all about Karen Little.
TIANA: It's not! Ok, that's good to establish that officially.
CAM: Yeah, she's on the cover art and the song's called Mother so I totally get it.
TIANA: And you mentioned it earlier, but you guys teamed up for the new material with Oscar Dawson and Chris Collins, and you've spoken about how Oscar fit in like a fifth member of the band...how did that collaboration come to be with Oscar?
CAM: Jim and I went down for a week to Melbourne...I think this was even at the end of 2017? Yeah, it was! It was a long time ago. And we just did a bunch of writing sessions and we did one with Oscar. We didn't actually write a song, but we just hung out and we were like "this guy's cool!" and hopefully he might think we were somewhat cool. Or at least cool enough to produce our album! So then we just asked him, and he was like: "yep!". And it was real, real easy.
TIANA: What a dream! If only everything in life was that easy!
CAM: Yeah, exactly! Everyone needs an Oscar Dawson! Everyone. But then if life was that easy, there wouldn't be any songs.
TIANA: Yeah true, actually. Dammit! I retract my statement. Now the new track also potentially gives a bit of an introduction to The Vann's new drummer Andrew (Andrew Banovich)...
CAM: So, Bano, our drummer Andrew, he didn't play drums on the album because it was recorded and finished in July last year. But he's definitely playing them now live, and we're gonna play it live on a couple of shows we've got coming up. It's cool, and Bano, or Andrew - is a BEAST.
TIANA: Love it! Now, The Vanns obviously have your own little blend of indie-rock, with a heap of snazzy hooks and beats. But that style seems to be something that's followed with you and evolved since the band's really early days. Did The Vanns have a mission statement back then about the kind of band it'd grow up to be? Or has it just naturally evolved?
CAM: It's just naturally evolved, yeah. I mean, the band used to be a three piece as well, so it used to be just guitar, bass and drums. I can't really speak for them back then because I wasn't in the band at the time (laughs). But it was kinda restricted in that way? And we used to get called "surf rock" a lot, but I don't think this album that we've got coming out is surf rock at all. So it'll be interesting to see if people still refer to us as surf rock.
TIANA: I feel like a lot of people, especially if bands have long hair and some reverb on the guitars, they instantly whack that label on it!
CAM: Yeah, maybe we should all shave our heads?!
THE VANNS//pic by Mello
TIANA: You guys are all Wollongong boys I believe, and you've obviously put in your fair share of hard yards along the way with shows and touring...how do you perceive Wollongong in terms of a creative stomping ground? Do you feel like it's got it "going on", music industry-wise?
CAM: Yeah, it's real cool! There's heaps of good Wollongong bands that just keep popping up. Obviously we had Rad Bar, which was a really cool venue that just shut down last Sunday.
TIANA: Yes, I'm devastated! I loved that place! RIP Rad Bar.
CAM: It was such a weird, cool venue! But hopefully another venue comes along like that, or something like that. But Wollongong as a place to live...I lived there for a couple of years, and I'd probably move back there. It's awesome.
TIANA: One thing I found interesting about you guys when I caught your show at the Factory Theatre in Sydney earlier this year...you have this really fascinating pull across all ages. At one point I felt like I was a parent waiting to pick up my kids from a high school dance with all the underage makeout sessions in the corner...
CAM: Yeah, we were told about that! Apparently a lot of people planned it as, like, their date night?! I didn't see anything...
TIANA: It was ah-mazing! But then as I walked through the crowd, there was actually such a diverse mix of age groups that were there. Do you guys notice this, do you feel from an insider's perspective like The Vanns music spans this wider sort of audience?
CAM: I guess we don't really make it with a target demographic in mind or anything, we just kind of make it and whoever connects with it will connect. I will say though, all-ages shows are always the most rowdy ones! It could be one o'clock in the afternoon, but they just go nuts! It's pretty fun.
TIANA: I'm pretty sure I accidentally caught a few really aggressive corner makeout sessions during your set on video, I'll have to hunt that down.
CAM: Just the fact that people are messaging like "oh yeah, do you wanna kiss at The Vanns show on Saturday?"....
TIANA: The Vanns: bringing people together!
CAM: Bringing people together! Yes! (laughs).
THE VANNS//pic from The Vanns Instagram
TIANA: Speaking of live shows, you guys have obviously played along some pretty epic bands along the way, including Catfish and the Bottlemen, Ocean Alley etc...but do you guys have a bucket list band you'd love to play alongside in the near future? Or are you just taking it as it comes?
CAM: Yeah, just kind of taking it as it comes. But Parcels would be cool! We are very different to them, so maybe that'd be cool! They're the best.
TIANA: Yes! They're amazing, I am very on-board with this. We need to try to make this happen.
CAM: Yes, let's try to make that happen. Just make sure we go on before them (laughs).
TIANA: Ok now to nearly wrap things up: hypothetically, The Vanns are stranded on a desert island. What other band would you want to be stranded with and why?
CAM: The Jimi Hendrix Experience would be cool. Or no, actually: Zac Brown Band. Because Zac Brown also makes wine and owns some barbecue restaurants and stuff. Not that he'd bring that along, but also - there's a lot of them! There's like seven people in that band, so the more people, the more labour intensive it is.
TIANA: In honour of your new track Mother: what's the one piece of advice your mum gave you as a kid that you grew up to realise she was right about?
CAM: Don't become a musician. Yeah. Yeah! I'll say that. She never said that, but let's just go with that (laughs).
TIANA: Fair. It sounds like something a mum would probably say. And finally, are there any deep, dark secrets you can reveal about what's next for The Vanns beyond this next run of shows?
CAM: Yeah, there'll be new music coming out, another single. And then the album will come out and we'll just kind of try to get in front of everyone and play it live, which we're excited for because it's been a long time coming.
TIANA: The Vanns take over the world! I'm here for it. Well, thank you so much for your time, I can't wait to hear more tunes. I hope that the road trip is quick and painless to Melbourne, hope you've got some tunes ready to roll to get you through!
CAM: We do, we do! We've got seven hours to go.
TIANA: Excellent, I will leave you to it, thanks for chatting!
CAM: Thank you, Tiana. Have a good day!
THE VANNS ARE CURRENTLY TRAIPSING AROUND IN THEIR VAN, TOURING THEIR BRAND NEW SINGLE 'MOTHER', HITTING UP MELBOURNE THIS WEEKEND, WITH SYDNEY TO FOLLOW NEXT WEEKEND.
TICKET INFO BELOW, AND FOR MORE VANNS INFO, HEAD HERE.
THE VANNS 'MOTHER' TOUR DATES
Sunday 30th June - Grace Darling Basement, Melbourne - TICKETS
Sunday 7th July - Valve Bar, Sydney - TICKETS
BY TIANA SPETER