Van Damsel not in distress

How Kamloops’ own Van Damsel is working to be the next big thing

Courtney Dickson, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω

Wondering who those guys were that opened for Mother Mother at Tunes Against Tuition? Their lead singer is a student at TRU, and the drummer and guitar player are recent TRU grads.

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Emerging alternative group Van Damsel is representing Kamloops in the Peak Performance Project. Popular Vancouver radio station The Peak teamed up with Music BC in an attempt to foster budding British Columbian musicians. From hundreds of applicants, Van Damsel was chosen to be in the top 20 and complete a series of challenges to qualify for the top prize of $100,000 and the chance to play at Vancouver’s famous Commodore Ballroom. Past qualifiers for the project include The Boom Booms, Current Swell and Said the Whale.

Approximately three weeks ago, the band returned from boot camp in Vancouver. There, they went through intense training with fellow musicians and industry professionals, including vocalist Ryan Guldemond of Mother Mother.

“We were basically trained on everything to do professionally,” said Sebastien Ste Marie, lead singer of Van Damsel. After returning from the training, the guys were exhausted, but looking forward to the rest of the competition.

The bands have to complete five challenges: a performance, a charity challenge, a merchandise challenge, a media challenge and a viral video challenge.

Van Damsel’s performance is on Sept. 26 at Fortune Sound Club in Vancouver.

For the charity challenge (their favourite part of the competition), the guys chose to sponsor Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kamloops.

“It’s a mentorship program,” Ste Marie said. “Ultimately during this project we’re being mentored to be better, and we see the positive impact that it has had, not only on an individual level but on a social level.”

To generate donations, they are holding a dinner and acoustic show featuring their lead singer at Sports Central Lounge on Sept. 25, the night before their big Vancouver performance. Tickets to the dinner are $20.

They are also playing a show with Kelowna’s Fields of Green (who have participated in the Peak Performance Project previously) and Kamloops’ Earthea at the Sagebrush Theatre on Sept. 29 for only $15.

Part of the proceeds from their merchandise sales will also go towards Big Brothers Big Sisters.

The viral video challenge has indeed been a struggle for the group. They originally created a video mocking the royal baby hubbub, with Ste Marie dressing up as the infant prince. Sadly, their camera, laptop and SD card were all stolen from their vehicle and they lost all of the footage.

They decided to start from scratch with a new idea. They created a mock of popular TV show Intervention and acted as themselves trying to deal with a band-mate addicted to steroids. Though Ste Marie said most other bands submitted music videos for this challenge, they wanted to do something unique and unexpected.

“I was initially thinking we should have done something with kittens or puppies,” Ste Marie said, due to the fact that cat videos are most popular on the Internet, and an important aspect of this challenge is how many views the video receives.

Van Damsel will be playing at The Sagebrush Theatre on Sept. 29. Tickets are $15 and all proceeds will go to charity. Photo courtesy Mikael Finley Photography

Van Damsel will be playing at The Sagebrush Theatre on Sept. 29. Tickets are $15 and all proceeds will go to charity. Photo courtesy Mikael Finley Photography

The final report for the Peak Performance Project is due on Oct. 25, and from there the judges will choose the top five performers. Shortly after, the judges will announce the top three, who will each win a cash prize and play at Commodore Ballroom.

On top of the project, Van Damsel is getting set to release an EP on Oct. 1 called The Sunshine, Girl. They also have plans to release a full-length album and tour in 2014. And on top of that, Ste Marie still has a degree to complete.

He’s in his final year of a bachelor’s degree, majoring in psychology. Though he’s passionate about pursuing a musical career, Ste Marie loves psychology and is open to the idea of doing a master’s degree someday.

“I want to have both options open,” he said.

Van Damsel has been together for close to three years and all four members graduated from NorKam Secondary School. Though they are Kamloops boys at heart, they’ve created quite a following in Kelowna.

“We do really well in Kelowna,” Ste Marie said, “People seem to like us there. Our presence there almost matches our presence in Kamloops.”

Ste Marie said that because of the genre being produced in Kelowna, Van Damsel seemed to fit right in with the city’s music scene. However, they love playing wherever they can.

“We’ve played some strange areas,” he said, “We played Harrison Hot Springs for this geriatric enthusiastic crowd. I mean enthusiastic in their lawn chairs, but they were still shakin’.”


Check out Van Damsel’s viral video entry to the 2013 Peak Performance Project: