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Robert Vandeven - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 20 / 10 / 2009

Robert Vandeven - Interview


Robert Vandeven was co-founder and one of the front men in 80s cult act, the Lucy Show. John Clarkson speaks to the Canadian-born, but London-based singer-songwriter about 'Lost Days', which is both his debut solo album and first new record in thirteen years

‘Lost Days’ is the debut solo album and first new record in thirteen years from the Calgary-born and now South London-based singer-songwriter and musician, Robert Vandeven. Vandeven was the co-founder and one of the front men in the 80s cult act, the Lucy Show. The Lucy Show was formed in 1983 by Vandeven (vocals, bass) and his friend and fellow singer-songwriter Mark Bandola (vocals, guitar) out of the ashes of their previous band, Midnite Movie. Both Bandola and Vandeven had played together in bands since their high school days in Canada, first of all in bedroom projects. They formed Midnite Movie when Vandeven moved to London, a year after Bandola had already settled there, in 1979. The Lucy Show , which also featured Peter Barraclough (guitars) and Brian Hudpeth (drums),toured with REM, and released two critically acclaimed albums, ‘...undone’ (1985), and ‘Mania’ (1986), both of which went to number one in the CMJ charts in America. After the Lucy Show broke up at the beginning of 1988 as a result of two record label deals having gone wrong for them in quick succession, Vandeven played with several bands including the Spheres and Tenfoot and Tidal, before forming Zero Zero, with whom he released a single album, ‘Ava’, in 1996. “The honest truth is that life just got in the way,” he says, talking to Pennyblackmusic about ‘Lost Days’ and his extended absence from recording music. “I have been making a living as much as anything else. I run my own design firm and that’s taken up most of my energies. I love making music and I still tried to do things here and there, but I wasn’t getting anywhere with it. I eventually decided to take two months off to make the album. It took four months in the end, but that worked. It really needed me to do that and to say, ‘I am not going to do anything else during that period other than make music'. That sparked things off for me again.” While ‘undone...’ was a brooding post-punk record that drew the Lucy Show comparisons with other bands of the era such as the Cure, the Comsat Angels and Joy Division, and ‘Mania’ was an upbeat 60s-influenced power pop record, ‘Ava’, which was named in tribute to the actress Ava Gardner, was in contrast again essentially an art rock project. ‘Lost Days’ features guest appearances from Mark Bandola and Peter Barraclough, as well as Darius Keeler and Danny Griffiths from the London-based band Archive, and finds Vandeven even after all these years once again expanding out into new musical territory. Hazy and pastoral in sound, its dominant instrument is the keyboards,while all three of Vandeven’s other albums have been guitar-based. Although some numbers such as the opening two tracks, ‘Cloud Number Nine’ and ‘Baby, You’re a Star’ have psychedelic undertones, songs such as the mournful ‘Ships’ and the thoughtful title track have a reverberating trip hop edge. ‘I Thought I Saw You’ meanwhile has a sixties folk sound and ‘Last Night in Spain’, with its stabbing and rattling keyboards, has an element of an abstract jazz piece. An elegiac and beautiful love song, ‘Now’s the Time’, lifts the mood of the album at the end, but the overall tone of the album is largely melancholic, implicative of time wasted and something imperative having been lost. “There was most definitely a feeling of lost time away from making music while I was recording ‘Lost Days’”, says Vandeven. “The feeling from writing and recording music again was overwhelming and very satisfying and it made me think about that lost time. I immediately felt at home again like I was in the right place doing the thing I was always meant to be doing.” “I was inspired to write again by meeting Archive whose passion for their music and the seriousness with which they treated it stirred me back into music in general. The song ‘Lost Days’ was the first I wrote and recorded and was directly a reaction to having met them. It's about rock and roll coming back around to knock on my door again and there's a lot of trepidation in there. In fact it's me probably trying to talk myself out of it. So the lost days in that song are directly opposite to the lost days away from making music. It's about being deep into the music again and the lifestyle that often goes along with that.” Other songs on the album tell of romances having gone wrong, and relationships having floundered and become distant. Despite the melancholy of its material, Vandeven’s mood, however, was increasingly exultant as the sessions on ‘Lost Days’ progressed. “I was so up and inspired to be making music again,” he reflects. “While I was making it I realized that these were precious days and I was very lucky to be able to be in a position where I could take months out to do it. It was something I discussed with my partner before I went back into it and without her support it never would have happened.” “I think there was a lot of catching up to do with my past and a lot of the songs are reflective of it. There seemed to be issues I needed to address and things I needed to say that I could only say through the music. But through that there was a healing process that occurred and through most of it I felt very warm towards people and my life around me in general. I was feeling really upbeat and had much more empathy then I would normally in day to day life. Becoming isolated and totally wrapped up in the music was a rarefied place to be and it was a very intense time. You become allowed to sit apart from everything else for a while.” The album was recorded during the day in Vandeven’s own studio and written at night. The bulk of the eleven songs were new, with only a few having been started work on before the sessions began “I would do it like a day job, eight hours a day,” he laughs. “Then in the evening, I’d be writing. I think there are maybe two, three tracks that are older, but even those have been largely rearranged.” “Getting away from a prominent guitar sound was intentional,” he continues. “I wanted this album to sound and feel different from my past. I think this was very important to how the songs developed. If I was going to go back into the music it would have to be very different somehow.” Vandeven is now hoping to put a band together to play some dates to promote ‘Lost Days’ which is being released in digital format only through his own Mosquito Media label. He has also begun work on a second solo album, which he says consists of songs that are more buoyant in mood. “It has been like a rebirth,” he concludes. “And that’s how it ended up feeling for me. I have no regrets making ‘Lost Days’ or getting back into the music. In fact for me it's one of the most important things I've done in my life.” The Lucy Show’s career has also recently gone through a revival. ‘Mania’ was re-released in 2005 by a Minneapolis-based label Words On Music. Words On Music will follow this by releasing a re-mastered version of ‘...undone’ shortly, and then ‘Remembrances’, a 20 track collection of out-takes and rarities, next summer. For Robert Vandeven, there has never been a busier or a better time for his music.

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Robert Vandeven - Interview

Robert Vandeven - Interview

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