Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen... The Van Orsdels

About a week back when I was dropping off some of my guitars to get fixed at Guitar Center, I ran into an old friend of mine, who just so happens to be the drummer for the band The Van Orsdels. I asked if he would care to do an interview for his band, to which he said sure, and after exchanging emails and sending him the questions, I took a look at my inbox, and noticed that I got a response from the group's singer (George Van Orsdel...AKA: GVO for all continuity purposes of this here blog interview) with the answers provided to the questions I sent. So without any further ado, here's the interview with The Van Orsdels...

PS: Cite your musical influences, as well as the band’s influences in general, for us.

GVO: As a band, we are influenced by such bands as The Nekromantix, Mad Sin, The Misfits, and musical styles ranging from psychobilly, punk, surf, metal. Our music definitely runs the gamut. It comes from the fact that each band member comes from a different musical background. I (George) come from a punk/psychobilly background, stuff like The Misfits, Social Distortion, The Damned, and a lot of psychobilly, whereas Rich comes from a metal background, with personal influences like Tool and Mike Patton projects. Orlando comes from a rock background with heavy training in jazz guitar from the likes of Django Reinhardt, and also a lot of classic rock stuff. Steve comes from a rockabilly and punk and hardcore background. Each of us bring a little something different to the table, and in the end it all works out beautifully.

PS: Can you describe the line up for me…like for example, what instrument does each band member play, etc.?

GVO: I am the singer, I have been with the band since the beginning (I started the band along with the original guitarist Todd), Rich plays drums and has been with the band about four years now, off and on. Steve plays the upright bass and he's been in the band now for about a year and a half and our newest member and guitarist Orlando, has only been with the band a couple of months, but has already brought a lot to the table.

PS: And as a follow up to that question...how well would you say that the band works together when it comes to rehearsal, presentation, coming up with new material, etc. as opposed to other bands that you’ve been in before?

GVO: I think we all work very well together. Each member does a great job coming up with their respective parts. Rich and Steve always manage to come up with great drum and bass parts. Orlando has already shown that he is very good at writing music. I think the line-up we have now is strong, and it seems that we are well on our way to writing a whole new batch of songs for our next CD.


PS: Where does the name The Van Orsdels come from and what does it mean?

GVO: There are many stories and explanations to where the name came from. I remember reading about William Wesley Van Orsdel, a reverend who started a church in Montana back in the late 1800's. Apparently years later the church became abandoned and there were rumors it was haunted. The story fascinated me and I thought the name Van Orsdel sounded cool and at the same time sounded spooky, like some old European doctor, like Victor Von Frankenstein or something. Also, there is a Van Orsdel Cemetery in Louisiana, which adds to the dark aspect of it.

PS: Also, would you say that The Ramones influenced your band to use sibling stage names for the act altogether? (i.e. Hoggin’ Dick Van Orsdel, Orlando Van Orsdel, Satch “the Bruiser” Van Orsdel, George Van Orsdel, etc.)

GVO: I would definitely say The Ramones influenced us in the sense that we all use the same last name as stage names. It's not only a nod to The Ramones, but to me it's always represented a sense of unity in the band, something I feel is very important. To me, being in a band is likened to a family or marriage. There is a sense of unity, a bond. I am a HUGE Ramones fan, going back to when I was a kid.

PS: Can you explain what the genre of Pyschobilly entails exactly?

GVO: Well, psychobilly basically started by combining the sensibilities and fashion of 1950's era rockabilly, with the raw energy and aggression of punk rock. The Cramps, as much as they will deny being a part of the psychobilly genre are actually considered the originators of psychobilly, but The Meteors are probably considered the first band to call themselves true psychobilly. The scene has definitely grown in the past twenty years worldwide, with internationally known bands such as Mad Sin, Demented Are Go, Nekromantix, Tiger Army, and many others.

PS: How many members are in the band and how many have there been to date?

GVO: The Van Orsdels consists of four members. As far as past members go, we've been through our share of band members and line-up changes. I think all in all we have had a total of about twelve members in six and a half years; including the current members.

PS: What would you say are the central themes behind your songs?

GVO: I am the main lyricist, and since I have always been a huge fan of horror and monster movies, my lyrics tend to lean toward those central themes, although we do have many songs that were written on life experiences or people I've known, or friends who have died. Psychobilly music usually lends itself to dark images of zombies, monsters, etc, so some of our music also leans towards those topics.

PS: Which song do you consider your favorite and could you tell us why?

GVO: Personally, I like "Shallow Grave" because it's a fun song to play, very melodic, but also because it was written about a friend of mine who passed away.

PS: To date how many albums, demos, singles, etc. has your band released...and are you working on any new material at the moment?

GVO: We have our full length CD, Miami Morgue Riot! which was released on Crazy Love Records, a psychobilly label based in Germany. Then there's our debut seven-song CD, titled Ain't Life A Drag? as well as a CD of outtakes, demos, and previously unreleased tracks called Leftovers. We are also featured on the SoFla Records compilation CD entitled SoFla, So Good, So What? as well as a Cleopatra Records Psychobilly Christmas CD, where we recorded a cover version of "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" which was a lot of fun to do. At the moment, we are in the process of writing material for our next CD. Things are moving pretty good and we're hoping that towards the end of this year we can start recording it for an early 2010 release, hopefully sooner.

PS: Could you share with us your opinion on the local music scene here in Florida...like, where it fails or where it actually works?

GVO: I think the psychobilly scene in Florida isn't as strong as I would personally like it to be, but I think that is partly because a lot of people aren't familiar with the genre, or haven't been exposed to it. We do get a lot of support from the punk crowds, because our music definitely lends itself to a punk feel. The punk rock crowds have been incredibly supportive of us, and have helped us along, as well as the die-hard psychobilly fans around the state. I think the one thing the Florida music scene can benefit from is working together as a whole instead of trying topple each other over. Many times have I seen bands try to sabotage other bands, and in the end all it does it hurt the scene. We are all here trying to accomplish the same thing, to improve the South Florida music, and show the rest of the nation that we have a lot of great bands and music to offer.

PS: What in your opinion, do you think attributes to a band’s success?

GVO: I feel that hard work and determination goes a long way. Dedication and responsibility as well. I have been in many bands and have played with many musicians and I have noticed the ones who work hard and dedicate themselves to their art are the ones who go further. The Van Orsdels have been around six and a half years, and in that time we have hit more than our fair share of road bumps. We have dealt with things that would've normally destroyed a band, but I have been determined to make this band succeed. I feel this band still has much to offer musically, and so we continue forward.

PS: Do you think that local bands can actually start making something happening to change the music landscape down here in Florida, or do you think it relies more upon support from the industry as a whole?

GVO: I think bands need help on both levels. Bands can definitely make a difference by getting exposure, playing shows, getting their name out there, work together. At the same time, as is the case in South Florida, a lot of the venues aren't willing to work with the local bands to get shows. Many venues won't bother giving local bands the time of day, and in turn the local bands and scene suffers because they don't have anywhere to play. Venues like Churchills Pub in Miami has always been very supportive of the local scene, but there are still many places, especially in Broward County, who don't bother with the local scene, they would rather book nation acts and charge $20 per ticket. That doesn't help the local bands or scene at all. I think the local music industry has to recognize and support the local acts, they need to try harder.

PS: Do you think that social networking sites help a great deal in promoting the band, or do The Van Orsdels rely more upon live settings to do that?

GVO: Absolutely! Sites like MySpace have definitely been good to us. It's a great way of getting exposure, and it's a great way of sharing your music, informing fans of upcoming shows, etc. I have always been a strong believer in promoting, and I never pass up the opportunity to go to a show and hand out flyers for upcoming shows, but that only gets you so far. I think sites like MySpace can get you exposure on a greater level, more so than just handing out fliers at a local show. Not only on a local level, but internationally. We have fans all over the world, thanks to the widespread exposure we've gotten through MySpace, and our official website.

PS: Describe what performing on stage is like for you as a musician...

GVO: For me, it's one of the greatest feelings. I have been performing in bands over half my life, and it's the one thing I can't do without. It's such a rush to be onstage. And I love it, whether it's playing for a crowd of 20 or 200, it's still an amazing feeling. It truly is my drug. I'm sure the guys in the band share my feelings.

PS: Where do you see your music headed towards in say the next couple of years?

GVO: I think we still have a lot to offer. As I mentioned, we're working on a whole new batch of songs, as well as other projects. We have some music that will be featured in an upcoming horror movie, so I would definitely like to explore that avenue some more. I would also like to see our horizon broaden, try new things, new sounds in our music. I am very excited about what the future holds for The Van Orsdels.

PS: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. This is P.S. Elliott (AKA: Dr. Gonzo XXVII), reporting for the disassociated press, that is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.  If you haven't checked out The Van Osdels Site yet, do yourself a favor and check it out! And if you're on MySpace, be sure to add them as a friend so you can catch them at their next scheduled live appearance!

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