Building a Resistance

Artist: vanA primer
Published: 2004-12-29

Most reporters would jump at the chance to interview Matthew Pearn of vanA primer; he writes his own story in what he tells you. A hybrid of political science and 'vibrating flesh' as he calls his vocals, he and the guys in vanA primer have definitely created a band that is both intellectually stimulated and musically in tune with each other. So, from a stylistic perspective, I think I'll turn the mic over to Matthew, lead vocalist for the hot new band vanA primer and the story book that unfolded one winter's day by the fire.

I started training in music when I was 3, I went to school for eurhythmics, which is teaching through rhythm, so I'd have my little maracas and I couldn't say much but I could sing. My teacher would sing something and I could repeat it verbatim. I'm sure when I was in the womb my parents were playing Hendrix and Dylan on the stereo.

My first real solo was when I was eight at Centennial Hall for 1500 people, I had just joined the Amabile Boys Choir in London, Ontario and I had a solo the next month for a Christmas concert. Nick had played the bag pipes, so he's well winded. Dustin has been creating his own synthesizers since he was about 10; we call him 'Data' from Star Trek because he's just a genius with technology. He went to Berkeley, Graeme went to Trinidad÷we've all been around and have set ourselves up to either succeed or die trying. We've put in so much emotional energy, we have an album out in March 2005, and that's a piece of history for us.

When I was 16 I found out about Jeff Buckley and I've always had a high vocal range, especially being a soprano in the Amabile Boys Choir. He's almost angelic and pristine; he transforms torment into this angelic sound, it's really raw and a great influence on the band. Suffragette City by David Bowie was a tape I got from my dad, I listened to it constantly. Stevie Wonder's Talking Book was also amazing, which was interesting because we grew up in a white middle class neighbourbood. The reason I got into music, when I was 6, I saw Dizzy Gillespie on Sesame Street and realized I wanted to do that, so my parents went out and got me a trumpet, I did that for 4 years. That really helped me out vocally, it taught me how to breathe and I have a lot of lung power because of my training with that. When I quit the choir I picked up the electric guitar and started listening to The Pixies, Nirvana and Jane's Addiction. We were a generation of garage guitarists, I did the whole long hair and flannel thing÷flannel was great, there's nothing bad that you can say about flannel!

How They Met:
I sang for the Amabile Boys Choir for 5 years, if I hadn't sung for them I wouldn't have met the band. The band's old singer Luke sang with me in the choir and I said I was going to Humber for Jazz and Nick was at Humber, so we all ended up getting together and that's how I met everyone. Before I joined they sounded like Phish, very much a jam band.

We wrote the first two or three songs in the first month. One person brings an idea and then we'll just loop the verse and work on our different parts and add or take away what doesn't sound right.

We're a new band, playing since February 2004.We like trying out new material on ourselves first rather than an audience. We're all schooled musicians and have a good sense of what sounds right. We play music for people and want to create some kind of connection, so they get who we are, which is why it's important to fine tune it ourselves first.

Show Stories:
The last show we played was at El Mocambo, we only ended up playing 45 minutes because Nate just wiped out into his amp and lost his capo. He was jumping up and down; we were all completely sober though, I swear! We couldn't play the second last song because Nate needed his capo for it, it was dead silence, and Nate was scrambling to find this capo! So we finished the set with the last song.

The last time we played the 360, my cord was oddly wrapped around the base of my mic stand and then I ended up having it wrapped around my legs somehow and I did a jump and stepped back and pulled down the mic stand which ended up landing on Graeme and all of his guitar pedals and we both start laughing hysterically. Everyone in the audience thought it was just a Jim Morrison rock move!

The Writing Process:
We played a show a couple of days before we wrote 'Turn Your Back on Me', everything was in boxes, but we were all jamming, Nate on a guitar riff and Nick started up on drums. It took us an hour and it was a really catchy song. Sometimes it takes us over two hours and we just end up yelling at each other, 'Our two hours are up, 10 o'clock is our cut off time for the neighbours'! Something's work one day and not another day, it just has to click and then you've got a song.

Performance isn't just about sounded good, you need to fall a little into the drums to make it fun and interesting. Some bands I've seen, they just end up playing the album to a T and that's bland. A band like The Mars Volta for 5 minutes and they'll jam it out live for 25 minutes, those are those rare moments on stage where things just work.

What's vanA primer?
Nate works in a micro-biology lab, vanA primer, is a resistant strand of DNA. We thought it was interesting and looked good, rather a regular band name that started with 'The'. I went to school for political science for two years and Graeme and Nate are both from the States, so we're all concerned about the state of the world. We're not a band on the frontlines at a rally, like Rage Against the Machine, we're a band that tries to reflect what's going on inside of us and will contain political messages because of our concern for what's going on around us. For years I didn't care, but one day I was sitting in Chapters and I read an Ad Busters book and it woke me up to what was going on and I fell in love with politics. I think it's roughly 1.5 million kids in America are on some form of Prozac or Anti-Depressant. We live in this very sedated nation where we work through our daily problems with drugs and other vices in our lives. I respect Michael Moore for creating more of a voice for the left wing and I think more people respond to what's on TV than in a book now so he's made it more relevant and accessible to people today.

Matthew's Support System:
I ground myself in the people around me, I have a very close set of friends and family, my girlfriend and I have been together for 6 years. When I decided to drop out of University and go to music school, my mom said to me, 'It's about time!' and I thought, 'What?!' I thought I was rebelling but they thought it was awesome. My parents and friends have been the people who come out to the shows until 1am, I'm completely blessed.

Touring Plans:
We have friends in a band from Boston that Nate went to school with at Berkley, called Those Who Wait and we're planning on doing a tour with them in May 2005 after we finish the album, in the East coast of the States and then up Quebec and Ontario. We're doing the organization for the Canadian leg and they'll do it for the US portion. We're interested in having someone manage us, dealing with it yourself is great, but having your cell phone ringing when you're trying to write a song can get to you at times, but we're all really driven by our passion for the music so we love it. It's kind of like having a kid, always wondering what's going on; it's the baby that you're always thinking about.

The Canadian Music Community:
I think in Canada we're lucky enough to have this community of people who are actually concerned about music, like with Soul Shine Magazine, if you weren't concerned about music, you wouldn't be talking to bands like us, just starting out. We're the same way as a band, we don't want to be climbing over people for success, we want to be able to help people out and be helped out. Music needs to be accessible, especially on an indie level. Why exist just to serve yourself. In today's world it seems like we're all so disconnected, but by building a community like this, we're inspiring the human connection.

Look for the debut album set to release in March 2005 and catch the guys at Lee's Palace January 6th with Haddonfield and Chasing Dagmara.
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Writer: Lindsay Bloemink

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