Words by Jemah Finn.
EP release date (TICK)
2016 tour plans (TICK)
New management deal info (TICK)
Insight into life on the road (TICK)
Yep, this interview with VanderAa has it all. Brothers, Aaron and Levi Vanderaa did not hesitate to unleash stacks of breaking band news for us here at FINNs. If you love this earthy, charismatic duo as much as we do, you will love this interview!
I dialled the number of one half of the Darwin duo, Aaron, nervously anticipating how the call would go down. Would he be keen for a chat? Would I ask the wrong questions? But all my nerves disappeared when Aaron answered the phone, just as bubbly as he appears on stage.
I had seen this talented duo at Splendour in the Grass, and knew they were energetic, but I didn’t expect to have a conversation that lasted 20 minutes and covered everything! Super friendly and willing to chat, Aaron filled me in on literally every aspect of the boy’s musical journey!
What you need to know is that there are some massive things happening for the boys in 2016! They lads told me that they just picked up a management deal in Melbourne with Wicks Studios and with that comes some exciting opportunities. with unlimited access to the recording studio, the boys let me know that they “will be recording our EP in February and it’s not official yet but around April it will be released!”
Aaron also let me in on their tour plans for 2016, which includes their first international tour in Europe for three months. The boys guaranteed me that there is no need for us Adelaidian’s to stress, they will be in our “neck of the woods” at the end of next year!
Exciting stuff is happening for these boys, and I definitely suggest you keep an eye on them!
Full interview is below…
I guess the first thing I want to know is, when did you realise music was your thing?
Um at a really early age actually. When we were younger, our mum introduced us to all different kinds of stuff. So we did ballroom dancing, basketball and then guitar came up. I think we were about nine and ten or something ridiculous like that and we just fell in love with it. It just grew and grew until we were basically obsessed with it. The more we did it, the more we rehearsed and did gigs, we sort of realised we could make a career out of it and eventually built our lives around it really.
So you grew up in Darwin right?
Yep that is correct, born and bred Darwin boys.
Did that impact your music much? Like the type of music you listened to or created?
Yes! Darwin has its own little bubble going on up there. It’s very unique. There’s all sorts of stuff that isn’t really influenced by the metropolitan areas. Like in Melbourne and Sydney there are endless bands which I guess you can go out and get influenced by. Which is kind of good and bad, um but for Darwin you don’t have that. So it’s very isolated, but in a way it has its benefits because it creates this kind of bubble of unique styles. There were no walls for us, like no one telling us what to do and it was entirely up to our imaginations, which was a blessing for us. But in saying that, I still think it’s really important to understand your competition too and what else is out there, so since we’ve left Darwin we have grown and gained so much which has helped influence our sound after being able to see what else is around Australia. But to start off with, Darwin was really good for us.
That’s interesting because I was going to say your music’s very unique, but there’s a couple of your songs that I thought there was definitely a kind of john butler vibe going on, would they be some of your influences?
Yeah, um… so in Darwin I guess our influences are very broad. And it ranges from the classics. We do definitely have that earthy kind of john butler vibe, but I wouldn’t say it came directly came from the music we listen to. I kind of think it’s just like our personalities shining through. A lot of our inspiration actually came from early rock and roll. Like you know, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Johnny Cash all that classic kind of stuff and that earthy vibe I think is all just a part of the Australian culture. And our personalities are very chilled out, earthy kind of dudes so that kind of ran through our music. But that classic rock is what our parents brought us up on and from there we’ve been on our own musical adventures. And we are also influenced by some of that new stuff like sticky fingers and boy and bear too. There’s some pretty cool stuff coming out of Australia at this point in time.
And you guys are some of it! You guys definitely still maintain your own originality though which I love.
That’s the Darwin coming out of us!
I remember when I saw you guys at splendour I was thinking that I wished you had your own big stage, coz I tell you what, and you were up there. Just as good as some of the headliners!
That’s coming I reckon! We can feel it building, like we can feel it within our social media, the reactions around us and even just playing on stage, um because we have been on the road for the last four years and we can just see from the crowd’s responses the turnaround which is so exciting for us! It’s good to feel the momentum building!
That’s kind of a good segway into my next question, you’ve played over 300 live shows in the last couple of years which is bloody massive, what’s that been like?
Oh well hell of a ride. My brother and I live in the back of our van too, so it’s very gypsy lifestyle. We feel so blessed to do what we do, and that combined with the purpose of travelling Australia to perform our music is just the dream. It is actually a dream come true. Before we left Darwin, we did a little family road trip (with our parents who are huge supporters of what we do), to far north Queensland. It just started as a family trip and it turned to 12 or 13 gigs and that’s when we got a taste for it and thought we want to make a life out of it. So it took us about two years in Darwin to save up for our van and um we did it. We set ourselves up to be able to cruise around Australia playing our music!
“My brother and I live in the back of our van, it’s a very gypsy like lifestyle.”
Well my next question was going to be, is it just you two packing up a van and heading off, but you basically answered that! But I would really like to know, is there any bad parts coz it sounds pretty fantastic!
Yeah, like anything in life there’s an up and a down. We just did four months solid of touring (including Splendour in the Grass) and that was like 4-5 gigs a weekend for four whole months. It was up and back from sunshine coast to Melbourne twice and a flight to Darwin. And literally after that I just crashed. Levi crashed in the middle of it, he got sick and we had to take a few days off because of that. I managed to hold on but by the end of it I had to take two weeks off. You do have to give yourself time and a rest, you can’t just keep going solid around the clock. It would be like working an 8-5 job with no break, but adding on travelling to that.
But it’s worth it?
Oh totally, I have had the highlight of my life over the past four months. The experiences, I will cherish them for life. It’s all about balance we are finding. You can’t just go and tour forever, but if you just give yourself a break sometimes we can keep it all rolling.
Do you think being brothers makes it easier or harder, touring together for so long?
100% easier! Oh yeah, we have always gotten along so well!
Yeah, you can even just sense the chemistry from your online videos. It looks like you guys have a good time.
Yeah, he is my soulmate! Literally [laughs].
“He (Levi) is my soulmate! Literally!”
How many years apart are you?
Only a year and a half. So yeah we get along so well, it’s always good. Like even when you’re feeling down, you have your bro there. Like when Levi got sick, I was there to do all the driving and vice versa when I crashed, Levi took over and kept the ball rolling. And also, our parents are travellers as well. They have their own rig and support us lots too. We have such a great support network. Like our team is building even more, which is like what I said about the excitement building before. We have a couple of younger crew here in Newcastle that are helping us out here and there. And we actually just picked up a management deal in Melbourne!
“We actually just picked up a management deal in Melbourne!”
Oh wow! Congratulations!
It’s huge! So they are the owners of Wicks Studios which is one of the big recording studios in Melbourne, its right in the heart of Brunswick.
I thought that wouldn’t be far off! When I could contact you directly, I was thinking I would need to contact your managers next time given how big you guys are getting!
Well you never know! I think the tides are turning, 2016 will be massive I think. A part of this management deal means we have unlimited access to these incredible facilities and studio in Melbourne so that’s where we are going in February to record our debut album, which is exciting!
I know you do some secret backyard shows, how do those more low-key intimate shows compare to the bigger scale gigs? Like now that you have that management deal, do you think you will still do those sort of backyard sets?
Yeah well, backyard shows is a kind of new thing for us. It is more of an independent style and I definitely reckon we will keep it up. The beauty of it is that it is an intimate vibe. Like venues are great too, but it’s such a different environment. Indoors, you pay tickets you come in and see us, you know it’s still an incredible time but there’s something about the back year shows which is more like, I dunno there’s a much stronger connection between us and the audience because there’s nothing in between us. Yeah, we organise it and we put it on and the audience comes along and we just share that experience. But in saying that, it’s good to do both. We’ve done shows in the Northern Territory where we’ve played to over 5000 people and that’s crazy, that mind blowing. They are both such great experiences.
Like what you were saying before, it’s a balance!
You went to Byron to produce the keep smiling EP, what is it about Byron that attracted you? I’ve heard of so many artists who travel to Byron to write or record, so what is it about that particular place?
Um, we’ve been going there since we were quiet young. Our aunty lives there so we were already quite familiar with it, even before music. As we hit the road, we found that like your vibe tracks your own tribe, if you know what I mean? Like when we hit Byron, there were people doing similar things, lots of creative types and people making art and it’s like the cultural hub of Australia. And that to us suited us to a tee. We ended up living there for, like 8 months and absolutely loved. Like I honestly think I will grow old there one day. Like, its Byron bay. It’s a pretty incredible spot. There’s something surreal, like something really powerful energy going on here like with the ocean, the land, how green it is, the people and yeah the beauty of it is that its relatively close to areas like the Gold Coast just up the road and Brisbane.
Byron is pretty much perfect, like it’s pretty impossible to be sad in such a magical place.
Yeah! And even better, one of our really good friends from Darwin was doing an audio engineering degree there and got us free studio time there, that in itself was like “whoa it’s meant to be”.
Yeah absolutely! I guess finally, what is next for you guys? And will you be heading to Adelaide any time soon?
So next for us, well next year will be huge actually. We have the management deal and will be recording our EP in February and it’s not official yet but around April it will be released! Ah, so the online to live videos we’ve been doing has been to test out all of our new material in the rawest format we could possibly think of, which is just Levi and I in front of a camera, and we’ve been getting a great response from that. And that’s how we’ve been testing our material out for the upcoming EP. So we will record that and then we are going international!
“We will be recording our EP in February and it’s not official yet but around April it will be released!”
Oh really? Wow!
Yeah, we are doing Europe! In April. That is going to be huge for us. So that’s three months over there. Then we are doing a quick-ish (well actually we are still in the negotiation stages of this but…), trip to Cairns and back. So yeah a far north Queensland run. And then I would say probably, in the latter half of next year Adelaide will definitely be on the cards. Coz well, Adelaide was the first place we went to after Darwin. We went straight down the guts of Australia and went to Adelaide!
“We are doing Europe! In April. That is going to be huge for us.”
Well look, we will claim Adelaide as your second home then [laughs].
Yeah I like that! Well my best friend from high school lives there, my godfather lives there too.
Oh wow, you definitely owe us one then. You are basically obliged!
Yeah! I’m so keen to get back to Adelaide. We really like it there!
Oh good because Adelaide really likes you too!
We are looking forward to it! We will definitely be in your neck of the woods soon!
Follow VanderAa’s journey on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vanderaafanpage/?fref=ts