“Even though we didn’t win, we didn’t lose”

Van Damsel falls short in the Peak Performance Project, but sees value in experience

Courtney Dickson, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω

In the midst of the Peak Performance Project, guitarist Richard Bregoliss was married.  Photo courtesy Robert Sympatico.

In the midst of the Peak Performance Project, guitarist Richard Bregoliss was married. Photo courtesy Robert Sympatico.

After five months of hard work and anticipation, the top 20 bands of the Peak Performance Project finally announced the top prize winners on Nov. 5. Sadly, Kamloops hopefuls Van Damsel did not make the cut.

The top three will continue the competition with a performance at the Commodore Ballroom on Nov. 21. They all hail from Vancouver. Rykka, Hannah Epperson and BESTiE are all about to compete for $102,700. Regardless of how that last performance goes, all three will walk away with a hefty cash prize.

All 20 acts had to submit a report detailing their business plans, should they win the top prize. They also had to summarize their experiences with the project’s challenges, and the project as a whole. Van Damsel handed in 60 pages, explaining what went well and what could have gone better. In particular, lead singer Sebastien Ste Marie said they could have seen better results for the charity challenge, and their viral video should have received more views.

Although they didn’t win any money in the Peak Performance Project, the group did win some money from The Shore – Vancouver’s alternative music station. Every month, The Shore gives $10,000 to their favourite up and coming B.C. artist. The prize money from this radio station is equal to what they would have received if they had come in fourth place in the Peak Performance Project.

And even if they didn’t win in a fiscal sense, the skills and knowledge they gained from boot camp and their peers has been invaluable.

“The Peak has given us good training,” Ste Marie said. “Even though we didn’t win, we didn’t lose.”

Ste Marie said the band learned the value of social media and connecting with their audience during the project. Each member of Van Damsel has been responsible for some aspect of managing their online presence, and Ste Marie said he recognized what a huge benefit interacting with followers can be for a musician.

“It’s so powerful,” he said. “You need to have a story because you’re a business essentially. You need an image, good songs and good presence with the media.”

Social media proved useful when the Peak Performance Project top five were being announced. Ste Marie was in class during the time of the announcement, making it impossible to listen. However, thanks to Twitter he was able to monitor the results.

The project also gave Van Damsel the opportunity to connect with fellow musicians. Ste Marie said they became very close with Abbottsford’s Oh No! Yoko and bunked with fifth-place winners Willhorse during boot camp.

“We were friends with everybody. Most musicians aren’t dicks,” Ste Marie said.

Though the project is over and they didn’t do as well as they had planned, Van Damsel still has high hopes to become an internationally recognized band.

Over the next few months, while Ste Marie finishes his honours degree, the band will be focusing on writing new music and recording, rather than playing too many shows. Ever since they became an up-and-coming B.C. band, people have been calling them asking for the guys to play in pubs, but they really want to focus on song-writing.

“We want to make better songs,” Ste Marie said, “We’ve been stuck on the same songs for five months.”

That said, they do have a show coming up on Dec. 4 at the Blue Grotto with Daniel Wesley.

They still plan to release a full-length album in the spring. Ste Marie said he wants to write a world-class song that connects with a broader audience, one that has the potential to become a global success.