Spirit Sessions:
Kicking out the jams with The Van

Sitting down with the iconic Danish rock band The Van, formerly known as ‘The Blue Van,’ to hear about their history and what lead them to reinvent their sound under a newer, shorter, name.

Published: March 7, 2018
Words: J.Scott Stratton
Photographs: Frederik Engell-Trampe
Artist Link: The Van

Nothing speaks quite as loudly as watching four artists, who have worked together for two decades, practice their craft.

All you can do is watch. There is a level of professionalism and intimacy between the artists that just can’t be understood by outside eyes, and that adds to the allure. You can see the history. You can see the unspoken connection between the artists as they interact with each other. You can feel the want to be a part of that understanding. But you never will. All you can do is watch.

This was the feeling that I had while working with the artists/musicians Steffen Westmark (guitar/vocals), Søren Christensen (keys), Allan Villadsen (bass), and Per Jørgensen (drums/vocals)…..A.K.A. The Van.

The time that these four Danish men have spent together behind their instruments shows in how they interact with each other and how they perform. They have experienced the ebbs and flows of the music industry. They’ve felt the pressures of rising stardom, creative plateauing, and declining interest, and it has shaped how they work and create.

I have spent a lot of time sitting behind a camera talking with artists and individuals as they nervously try to ignore the camera. The pressure of the little back box, with a giant glass eye, staring right back at them and recording every move they make – it often shows. Hell, even I become uncomfortable when I step in front of the device I am usually behind.

I never felt that with The Van, though, and the camera certainly did not capture it. Whether it be the countless interviews they have done in the past or the undeniable connection between the four artists, there never seemed to be a moment whether the pressure of the camera affected them.

The Spirit Session shoot started off as they always do, with all of us arriving at Copenhagen Distillery at 8:00 in the morning. This particular session was the first time that we set up a shoot for a full live band, and none of us knew what to expect from the sound and the aesthetics.

That nervousness was quickly put to rest as the boys from The Van promptly got to work – setting up their gear, testing and adjusting the sound to fit the space, and doing so with an ease of a well-oiled machine.

The first half of the day was spent recording the two newest songs, “The Rose of Jericho” and “You’re Not Fine.” The band has wholly abandoned the works they created during their time under the moniker ‘The Blue Van’ and started completely from scratch with a whole new stable of songs.

Both the tracks mentioned above have this classic 1960’s sound that you might expect to hear dripping out of a Nuggets album.

There is term referred to as playing “In the Pocket”, most commonly used in the music nerd industry, which refers to the relationship between the bassist and the drummer. When the two are playing In the Pocket, it means that they’ve created this solid backline groove that will always keep the momentum of the song moving forward. If you listen to bands like Television, The Rolling Stones or AC/DC, you’ll find the drums and bass are almost facetious, but yet they are solid and unwavering and allow the rest of the band to experiment and play.

This is a trait that defines a great rock band, and this is what I experienced with The Van. The dynamic between Villadsen (bass) and Jørgensen (drums) – with Christensen (keys) working as a secondary underlying rhythm – gave space for Westmark to bring out the full power of guitar at just the right moment.

It is undeniable the boys in The Van are talented musicians. But coupling that talent with a rich history of collaboration, and a will to reinvent themselves, has led to the birth, or re-birth, of a truly great Danish rock and roll band.

It made the Spirit Session not only a joy to film, but a wonder to experience.

Hear more Spirit Sessions tracks from The Van, and many other artists, just wiggle your finger over the logo.