My Interview with Brian Vander Ark

Originally posted on UTBGeek in April 2015

My very first UTB post was about a band that I have loved since high school, The Verve Pipe. It was well received, and the lead singer/songwriter graciously agreed to a follow-up interview. The post was lost when UTB Geek was dissolved last year. So, in honor of me seeing them live tomorrow, I wanted to share the interview here again. Enjoy!

The Verve Pipe has been around for quite some time, yet you have remained a beautiful secret. What can you tell me (and my readers) about The Verve Pipe’s story so far? There’s no secret, really. We just write and write and write. We all want to be better songwriters. We don’t try to follow the trends. We keep it simple and try to be as honest as we can. If something seems forced, we stop doing it. Being older now, and having an impatience for nonsense helps as well. Nonsense as in jumping through hoops to get attention. It’s more rewarding to seep into someone’s mind.

How does your artistic voice guide your choices in composing and writing music? I’ve gotten to a place in my life where I know what pleases my ear, and why. It’s much easier to get to that place faster. Instead of struggling to find the right chord, I can now hear it in my head and translate it easily. I couldn’t do that as a young musician. Now that I can get to that place faster, I can spend more time experimenting with sounds and phrasing. That begets growth as an artist.

Your music evokes powerful images as your storytelling style of songwriting comes through. Did you tell all the stories that you intended in Overboard, or are there stories that you left untold?
I would love to tell a real love story. That’s the challenge. Everyone love story has been written, every love song sung, it seems. To write a new one? Completely original that is still true to myself and my sound, would be glorious.

The music of your newest release, Overboard, has a continuously dark theme. Was this an intentional choice? Not initially, but yes, once we saw the direction it was headed, we decided to embrace it. We’ve been doing a lot of kid’s music lately – it made sense that if we were going to go back into the adult themes, that it be dark. The artwork exacerbated the darkness as well. If it was a jolly looking cover, people may not have felt the same way. Everything sounds dark when you are looking at a girl drowning in black water.

Regarding Overboard, what lyric, or if that is too myopic – what song, has the deepest personal meaning for you? Can you explain? I think that I’m Going To Bury You has the most meaning to me. The idea that a poor man, left behind by the girl in high school who he fumbled around with, is very side. We all move on, and he couldn’t. That felt like me as a metaphor for something else. I’m not sure what, but the song really gives me the creeps still.

Your response to my previous article mentioned an appreciation of the attention I gave to your lyrics. In that article, I shared a few chosen lyrical phrases from your work. I think the one that continues to strike me is from “Carry On”: “It’s abundantly clear: I’m another one, mired in the meanwhile.” What lyrical phrases continue to speak to you, either from your own work or others’? “She could see me for the first time” is a line from Overboard that I’m proud of. It says alot about the charade we play. I’m also partial to ’those blackbirds waiting for the slip of your tongue” in Hit and Run.

Let’s switch gears for a moment and discuss your children’s music. Creating such effervescent and vibrant music seems therapeutic. What was your favorite part of being in that scene with crowds of children and their parents? Mostly, I get a thrill out of pleasing the parents. Creating music that they want to listen to is the key. Parents have the control over the stereo in the care if a parent is sick to death of hearing the Wiggles, they’ll put us on. Most of our lyrical references are from our childhood – so there are inside jokes everywhere. It’s like in Shrek 2 when Puss In Boots gets caught by the cops, and a plastic bag of catnip falls out of his pocket – he says “it’s not mine”. That’s the kind of joke that you can get away with.

You are, by far, one of my favorite “best kept secrets” of current music, and now I am sharing your artistry with my readers. For what bands or artists do you think we should be watching on the horizon? That’s nice of you to say – thank you. I really don’t know any current bands. I don’t listen much – sorry.

I am a believer that music can be used to enhance any moment or improve any emotion. Can you share with us a short playlist of your go-to songs for different moments in your life when you turn to music to help? I can give you songs that are mood changers for me. If I’m feeling a certain way, and want to feel a different way, these songs clean the slate:

Fast as You Can – Fiona Apple
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John
Bandages – Hot Hot Heat
Burn Burn – Neko Vega
Mockingbird – Grant Lee Buffalo
Anything by The Shins is a site that celebrates the geeky side of life: comics, games, books, movies, gadgets, tech, etc. Everyone has a little geek in them. What are your geek loves (besides music, of course)? Socks – mostly argyle. I love great socks.

I could keep asking questions all day, but let’s wind down. We began with the past, tell us about the present and the future. What plans do The Verve Pipe have in the works, and what would you like to accomplish with them to broaden their musical footprint? A kid’s version of The Wall is being worked on, to be released soon, I hope. A rock EP of 5 or 6 new songs as well. A book about the rise and fall, and one hit wonderland.

Thank you again for answering my questions for the readers at I am, first, a fan, and I’m incredibly humbled that you would spend time with us. Thank you for all the beauty and artistry you weave into your music. It is appreciated beyond any words an article can express. Any final notes to leave with our readers? Don’t believe everything you hear. Sage advice from my grandmother, that rings true today.

Once again, I’d offer my thanks to Brian and The Verve Pipe for this opportunity they gave me a few years ago. I leave you with one of the songs mentioned above:

Erica Davis

Erica is a BlackBerry fanatic, supporter, and uses BlackBerry devices exclusively. She likes to connect the dots, fit the pieces together, and showcase the overshadowed... oh, and she likes cookies.