Interview by Tony Cannella
Hailing from Canada, Van Halst is a genre defying band. There is a lot of musical ground covered on their latest album “World of Make Believe”. The band is comprised of Kami Van Halst (vocals), Scott Greene (guitar), Brett Seaton (Drums) and Brendan McMillan (bass). Recently Kami Van Halst was kind enough to talk to us about the band that bears her name.
Hi Kami. First of all thank you for speaking to Femme Metal. How are things going in the world of Van Halst?
There going really good. We’ve got some exciting things coming up and we’re eager to share them.
Your new album, “World of Make Believe” will be released March 4th. What can you tell us about it?
It’s going to have 10-tracks on the album. Each song is very different from the others. We really wanted to give everybody an album that they could listen to from start-to-finish and not get ear fatigue. Each song has a very unique sound to the others, talks about different issues, something new that we were feeling and needed to say. We’re really excited to get it out there.
A lot of the lyrics on “World of Make Believe” seem very socially relevant. Can you talk about where you were coming from lyrically when you were writing the record?
We tackle a few different issues such as youth homelessness, poverty, rape, victim blaming and religion, just to name a few. It really kind of stemmed from me doing my sociology degree at the University of Alberta and being put into some great volunteer opportunities to work with (like) marginalized youth and people that were in prison and victims of certain crimes. It really inspired me to give them a voice and be able to tell their story and raise awareness about issues that people don’t necessarily talk about in the public eye.
Is it important to you to write lyrics that have meaning?
I think it’s something that sets us apart. There are a couple of songs that are written a little more general or from a first person perspective but I think it’s important for musicians and people that are in the public eye to talk about these issues. It’s something that inspires me and when you’re inspired I find it easier to write lyrics that might be a little more in depth than maybe your average party rock songs.
“Ryan’s Song” is a song that stood out for me. Can you talk about that one lyrically?
I wrote “Ryan’s Song” for my husband – his name’s Ryan, go figure (laughs). I’ve been with him a really long time – nine years now – and he just sticks with me through my musical journey and never lets up. When I feel kind of exhausted or maybe less motivated than I should he pulls me up and got me out of a pretty dark place so I just wanted to thank him by writing this song.
Another one that I really like is “Save Me”. What are the lyrics to that one about?
“Save Me” we wrote about religion, kind of religious extremists and some of the horrible things that are done in the name of religion. In this day-and-age you can’t live in that archaic view anymore. There is a lot of judgement with some religions that I’ve found and we really, really wanted to talk about that.
You also shot a video for “Save Me”. What can you say about that?
We shot it in Toronto at a chapel. It was at coalition music here in Toronto and their building used to be – I think it was a boarding house for nuns or something along those lines – and they have a big chapel and we thought, what a better place to shoot a video about religion than in an actual chapel. We didn’t think a church would let us come in and shoot a video for this particular song so the chapel just worked out great. Being that it’s our first video with this band we really just wanted to showcase the members and have a good live-esq kind of video.
What can you tell us about the song “World of Make Believe”?
That for me was just an important track, talking about equality and that’s actually how it became the title of the album. We titled the album last after we had all the songs. That one stood out because other people have a world of make believe fantasy that maybe something more along the lines of Alice in Wonderland and for me and the rest of the band, our world of make believe, our fantasy world is just about being equal and that’s really harder to get, so that’s kind of where the idea for that song and the whole album as a concept kind of came from.
Can you talk a little about the recording process for “World of Make Believe”?
We recorded it at Power Sound studios in Edmonton, Alberta. We had a great time. We were fortunate to get some grant funding’s for this album. We didn’t have a lot of time to record with our schedule, kind of, you know, you go in and we hashed everything out in the pre-production phase and had a lot of fun workshopping the drums, because we had just brought on our drummer and he was learning the songs while we were recording them and he kind of put his own flavor on there and did a fantastic job. I went in for a couple of weeks and tracked the vocals which was kind of a painstaking process and an amazing process. It’s very demanding and very emotionally taxing to go in there and deliver this performance but we persevered, wrapped it up in a nice little bow and I think got the whole album tracked in about 3-4 weeks, which was kind of neat for us.
How did this current incarnation of Van Halst come together?
We kind of have a unique story. Me and Scott (Greene) the guitarist have known each other forever probably since I was 12 – so, more than half my life. After a string of failed bands he just said, “Hey, let’s do something ourselves” and it was a solo project at the time, just for myself. When we started getting heavier and heavier we realized we needed to find a drummer that could really master the double kick and work hard. Scott‘s a producer as well and he was tracking a solo project for somebody else where Brett (Seaton) our drummer was playing and Scott came to me and said “Hey, I found this drummer, he’s amazing, he really young”. Brett just turned 20 so he’s the baby of the group and I hired him on to do a show with us that we had coming up. He works so hard and he’s so undeniably talented, so easy to work with so I asked if he wanted to be in the project full-time and he jumped on. We were offered a mentorship in Toronto with coalition music and at the time we didn’t have a bass player – we had some generous friends filling in and they introduced me to Brendon (McMillan) who used to play with My Darkest Days. I hired him for a couple of gigs and he just fit like a glove. There’s the four Van Halst members.
Do you have any touring plans in the works?
There’s a few things booked in Western Canada for the end of March and throughout the month of April. We’re going to go back to Edmonton for our CD release, we’re doing a metal festival in Calgary at the end of April. Everything else is currently in the process of being booked. We’re looking at some festival offers in Eastern Canada and right now it’s kind of all TBA (laughs).
Are there any bands that you would love to tour with, if you had your choice?
If I could have my dream tour line-up – I would love to tour with In This Moment. They’re a huge inspiration to me, I love Maria Brink, and I think that I would learn so much. Motionless in White is another band that I love and would be so fun to play with. Shinedown is my favorite that would be another one. I even think it’d fun if we toured with Alice Cooper – something like would be great. He’s been an inspiration for me since I was kid, so that would be super fun. Any kind of band that stands for something, that’s theatric and just kind of outside the norm, I think we’d have a good time with.
How would you describe the music of Van Halst for anyone who hasn’t heard the band?
I tend to say it’s kind of a hard rock/metal fusion. We weren’t really going for anything specific when we were writing the album, we just kind of picked elements from Goth Rock, from Hard Rock, from Symphonic Metal, from a variety of genres and kind of created our own little thing of whatever it happens to be.
We come to the end of this interview Kami. Thank you so much for doing this. To wrap things up do you have any final words for our readers?
I’d like to thank them for checking out our music. We really hope that they like it and it kind of inspires them to think about life in general and maybe ways that they can help out the less fortunate in any small capacity, or just develop further critical thinking skills about situations. We really hope that you dig our music and we’re going to keep making it. Reach out to us on Facebook and our web site. We’re going to keep going.