In pursuit of “The Best of Everything”

What Van Damsel’s new album says about the band

We are all capable of greatness, but few of us are able to lunge out and take the leap. What separates the everyday from the extraordinary, what propels people beyond mediocrity? 
Local indie-pop foursome Van Damsel’s new LP “The Best of Everything” addresses the age-old question of success and how to obtain it.

“Wanting the best of everything is being human. No one grows up dreaming of mediocrity,” frontman Sebastien Ste Marie said.

Sometimes having no backup plan, no “plan B,” is the only plan. Not allowing yourself to think about the possibility of failure is a method of staying motivated and focused on the ultimate goal.

Matthew Barron on drums for Van Damsel. (Kim Anderson/The Omega)

Matthew Barron on drums for Van Damsel. (Kim Anderson/The Omega)

“What happens if we don’t get to quit our jobs? What happens if we don’t get to be musicians full time? I don’t know. I don’t want to think about that,” Ste Marie said.

“Everyone defines their own success and defines their own goals. We’ve set ours high. The value and fulfillment comes through the process, the journey,” said drummer Matthew Barron.

Over the last year, Van Damsel took a small hiatus from playing in Kamloops. The last time they hit the stage here was at Cactus Jacks (before the stage renovations) with Vancouver group Bear Mountain. They’ve spent that time off focusing on their new album and on the business aspect of the music industry, an area that doesn’t come naturally to all artists.

“When you go into it, you think you just have to play music and write songs and that’s all you have to do. You think that you just have to record it and put it on the Internet and it’ll spread. But that’s not how it works,” Ste Marie said.

Van Damsel recently participated in the famed Peak Performance project. In doing so, they gained invaluable experience in the business aspect of the industry. They realized that networking with fans and other artists is a huge part of staying relevant.

Mentorship from Our Lady Peace drummer Jeremy Taggart has been an invaluable asset to the group.

“Jeremy Taggart is a huge part of our team. There was this opportunity put on by the CIRAA (Canadian Independent Recording Artists Association). They do a mentorship program, where you apply and they have mentors who know music. Luckily, we were chosen by Jeremy. The program was supposed to last three months, but he’s like no, I’m in it with you guys,” Barron said.

Taggart gives his unabashed feedback on their music and direction. He also offers the experience and stories of a seasoned professional with years in the music industry under his belt.

The group splits most of the management tasks amongst themselves and has also hired a promoter. The most challenging task has been scheduling and booking shows for their upcoming tour.

Lead singer Sebastien Ste Marie on stage. (Kim Anderson/The Omega)

Lead singer Sebastien Ste Marie on stage. (Kim Anderson/The Omega)

In May they are setting off on a cross-Canada tour, starting in Quebec. This tour could be the “make or break” moment for Van Damsel since they haven’t ventured much further than B.C. with their music.

“By playing live and touring, you can make someone who is just a listener into a fan, and you can make a fan into a super fan,” Barron said.

Playing live is a unique opportunity to reach ears that would have otherwise never been exposed to their music. Van Damsel has been together since 2010 with a static line up of Richard Bregoliss on guitar/backing vocals, Sebastien Ste Marie on vocals/guitar/synths, Matthew Rennehan on bass/backing vocals and Matthew Barron on drums/backing vocals. Over that time, they have developed a cohesive relationship amongst themselves. “It’s a relationship. You’re going to have arguments regardless. We’ve been together for a long time. There aren’t just two of us, we are four guys who are pretty bullheaded at times. There’s no way around it,” said bassist Matt Rennehan.

The creative differences that are bound to happen are solved with a majority rules system. However, if a band member is adamant on including a certain element in a song, compromises can always be made.

Getting established and branching out is always the most difficult developmental stage for a group. As long as Van Damsel stays focused on their goals and holds onto their vehement motivation, the future looks bright for the Kamloops foursome.

Keeping the hunger and drive for success, for the best of everything, is absolutely integral for this young band.

“We will never feel like we are on top, because we will always want more,” Rennehan said.