Van Damsel takes last of three in last of competition

Kamloops locals take home $50,000 in final year of Peak Performance Project

van damsel

The Kamloops band Van Damsel placed third in the PEAK Performance Project. (

After months of performing and networking as part of the PEAK Performance Project, the placing of the top three musicians has finally been announced.

“We’re a little disappointed. We hoped we’d do better than third, but it’s still so great to have made it that far and it’s something we can be really proud of,” said Sebastian Ste Marie, lead singer of Kamloops band Van Damsel.

Their third place finish netted them $50,000 to put towards their music. Van Damsel also entered the competition in 2013, but didn’t break out of the top 20.

“This was our second time in the PEAK, so we were better prepared this time around. It’s an amazing experience. I haven’t heard of anything that’s equivalent, that’s on the same level of resources and what they do towards artist development,” Ste Marie said.

The PEAK Performance project started in 2009 as a seven-year program to foster talent in British Columbia, put on by 102.7 The PEAK radio station and the Music BC Industry Association. The goal of the project was to give emerging artists a boost and provide them with networking opportunities. This was its final year.

Although previous years have had 20 finalists, this year and last have amped up the competition with only 12. All the artists who made the final cut received development funding of $5,000 to “fill the gap or gaps in the artist’s career,” according to the PEAK Performance Project website.

The first part of the project was a boot camp where the musicians were paired up with other artists who are not competing and given the challenge of writing a song on the theme “Hello, Goodbye.” The boot camp ran from Aug. 27 to Sept. 3, and was held in Rockridge Canyon, Princeton. The songs were all recorded in pop-up studios. All of the products of these collaborations are available for free download online on the PEAK Performance Project’s Soundcloud.

“They essentially train you in every aspect of what being a professional musician is, which is amazing because you get to actually network with people who are actually in the industry,” Ste Marie said.

Bed of Stars, from Vancouver, snagged first place, winning $102,700 (a play on the radio station’s frequency) and JP Maurice, out of Victoria, took second place and $75,000. The artists are judged by a panel of industry professionals who factor in their performance in public online voting.

“Of course, it is competitive, and when things are competitive they ultimately just make you better. I think the project has made everybody in it better,” Ste Marie said.

The top three musicians learned their placing after each of them performed in the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver on Nov. 19. “The finale show went well. There was a fairly large crowd who really seemed engaged in what we were doing,” Ste Marie said.

Past winners include Good for Grapes, Rykka, Dear Rouge, Current Swell, Kyprios and We Are the City. Van Damsel was the first and only band from Kamloops to participate.

Although the B.C. chapter is over, another PEAK Performance Project launched last year for Alberta artists, which will continue until 2020. The two competitions unite for the boot camp, but are otherwise independent.

As for Van Damsel, they dropped a new single, “Sophia” on Nov. 20 and will release a self-titled album next year, towards which they will put their winnings.

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