An Interview with Vandaveer

Vandaveer came to our attention just a few weeks ago. We wish it were sooner.

Vandaveer is Mark Charles Heidinger and Rose Guerin and, technically, you can call it Folk. But listen to just a song or two and you’ll quickly realize you’re dealing with much more. The duo’s perfectly complimentary melodies disguise Heidinger’s purposeful message in his songs. It’s direct. And the music can very easily stir something inside. It’s powerful and deliberate – there’s no holding back.

You’re going to hear a lot about this band in the coming years. If I sound impressed, that’s because I am. And I haven’t even seen them live yet.

But I will, and so should you. They play Monday, November 23 at Schuba’s in Chicago. Meet me there. Get your tickets here.

Mark was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk with us this weekend. Vandaveer is a touring machine, we caught them in transit, quite literally – Mark was parking their car somewhere in Spokane, Washington when I called. A big thanks to Mark and Vandaveer for talking with us and answering what was probably too many questions.

vandaveerSC: Why folk music? Does it have something to do with hailing from Kentucky?

MCH: Kind of indirectly. My Dad gave his guitar when I was a teenager, and it happened to be an acoustic guitar. I was in a rock band forever. [Mark has been in bands such as The Apparitions and These United States] I think you just write whatever kind of songs come to you, and if they end up being folk songs, they end up being folk songs; if they end up being rock songs they’re rock songs. I think everything you write is a result of your upbringing in an indirect way and in some ways a very direct way. Rose grew up in a very musical family with a lot of traditional folk music in her upbringing.

SC: You seem a little atypical folk. It’s a little dark – is there a reason behind that?

MCH: Maybe … I’m not sure if I know what the reason is. I think a lot has to do with what you personally like to listen to. I like to listen to stuff that I suppose falls on the darker side of things; Nick Cave, that sort of thing. I suppose some of that is a byproduct of your natural inclination to things. I don’t feel like we have dark personalities, but from a songwriting perspective that’s just some of the content I find most appealing.

SC: You guys spend a lot of time in Paris. Does that influence your style?

MCH: Possibly indirectly, but the time in France has been relatively recent. I would say in some ways, I’m sure. But the experience of traveling in Europe definitely has an influence on us – a positive one for the most part.

SC: How does it differ than what you’re familiar with?

MCH: It’s quite different. For one, we do the whole thing by train.
I think various cultures have tendencies to want to explore other cultures. With American music, there has to be a receptive audience in a lot of parts of Europe for something. It’s something that they don’t necessarily get every day.

SC: Where does “Vandaveer” come from?

MCH: It’s a family name, my great grandfather’s middle name, his mother’s maiden name. It’s one of those names passed down from generation to generation on my Dad’s side of the family. It seemed like it made good sense to attach to a musical project.

SC: The song, “A Mighty Leviathan of Old” – it has an upbeat feel to it, but in the video it looks like … you hit a clown with your car? What’s behind that video? [Video below]

MCH: The filmmakers in France put together the script with kind of surreal feel to it. It’s not a literal translation of the song or anything like that. My type of music videos are those not trying to tell you a story directly tied to the song, but as a complimentary story. We didn’t write the script, but we loved the idea when we saw it.

SC: Do you have a planned direction for Vandaveer?

MCH: I think there probably is a place we’re trying to get to … I just don’t know where it is yet. We’re going to start working on a new record on this tour. I’ve got a batch of songs that are going to make up the bulk of that album. But at the end of the day I just want it to be something that I find interesting, that engages me long enough to complete the record. Then you hope it actually can resonate with people who want to listen to it. I don’t know where that place is, but I think you know it when you get there – you don’t exactly have a map or a GPS coordinate.

SC: Are there people out there you’d like to share stages with?

MCH: Sure, lots and lots of people. What we always hope for is to share stages with people who are genuinely good people and fun to hang out with, and whose music we appreciate. But there are a thousand people who fall into that category. There is always your short list of people. But those are usually titans – the Tom Waits of the world, Neal Young, and those kind of people.

SC: You never know, right?

MCH: [laughs] Yeah right! Well, you never know. But it’s best not to hold your breath waiting for something like that to happen.

SC: Did you grow up thinking you’d be a musician on tour?

MCH: I don’t know exactly when I realized I wanted to do this. I guess the more you pluck away at a guitar and write songs, the more time you spend singing them and booking shows. Then shows become weekends full of shows, then weekends become tours. It’s sort of a natural, haphazard progression, I guess.

SC: What can we expect to see in Chicago next week?

MCH: You’ll see a lot of foot-stomping and banging away on the guitar and hopefully two healthy people singing into the microphone as best we can. And hopefully a decent audience to hear it. I love Chicago, and Schuba’s is a great room. Very excited to be back.

Again, thanks to Vandaveer, and please come see their set at Schuba’s on Monday, November 23. In the meantime, check out that clown video, “A Mighty Leviathan of Old,” below. And below that are Vandaveer’s current tour dates.


Nov 15 2009 8:00P Empyrean Coffeehouse Spokane, Washington
Nov 16 2009 8:00P The Great Pacific Pendleton, Oregon
Nov 17 2009 8:00P The Reef Boise, Idaho
Nov 19 2009 8:00P Why Sound Logan, Utah
Nov 20 2009 8:00P Walnut Room Denver, Colorado
Nov 21 2009 9:00P George’s (@ Boulder Theater) Boulder, Colorado
Nov 22 2009 8:00P The Slowdown Omaha, Nebraska
Nov 23 2009 8:00P Schubas Chicago, Illinois
Nov 24 2009 8:00P Bishop Bar Bloomington, Indiana
Nov 25 2009 8:00P Southgate House Newport, Kentucky
Nov 27 2009 8:00P Natasha’s Lexington, Kentucky
Nov 28 2009 8:00P The Basement Nashville, Tennessee
Nov 29 2009 7:30P The Water Heater Roanoke, Virginia

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