I read something today that encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and write a story for my readers (that’s right, you) in first person. It was a blog on Brian VanderArk’s website where the lead singer, principal songwriter and founder (with his brother, Brad) of the band Verve Pipe talks about the excesses that followed his newfound fame and how he later stepped outside of his comfort zone and released a kid’s album. It’s a good read. If you’re interested, click here.
As an MSU alum, I was kicking around East Lansing in the early nineties when bands like Water for the Pool and Verve Pipe were playing local music venues and fraternity parties. I was over the moon when Verve Pipe hit it big with “Freshmen” in 1997. By that time, I’d been living on the West Coast for two years and, like many people my age, was a huge consumer of alternative rock. Anyone who had a heartbeat in the nineties likely heard the song. It reached number five on US Billboard’s Hot 100 back when stuff like that really mattered (since we relied on the radio for our music and they played the songs that industry rags told them to).
In “Proustian madeleine” fashion, hearing a DJ announce “Verve Pipe” on the radio catapulted me back to college (fond memories, indeed) and has continued to do so throughout the years.
When I read recently that Verve Pipe would be headlining “October on Ottawa,” a street festival of music which will be held outside Social House, 25 Ottawa Ave, this coming Saturday Oct. 15, the ole memory was jogged again and I decided to reach out.
“People can expect a very lively, energetic show,” said VanderArk, noting that whatever the weather brings, they’ll deal with it and put on an equally entertaining show rain or shine. “It’s always an issue in Michigan. It could be August and you wouldn’t know what the weather is going to be like.”
How true. I instantly liked the guy and was pleasantly surprised to find VanderArk lives here in Grand Rapids. Not just May through October, but year-round!
“Grand Rapids has grown exponentially in the last 20 years. With new food, great restaurants opening up, great breweries, it has anything I could ever want,” he said.
That’s a huge endorsement from a guy who’s toured extensively for 25 years and I couldn’t agree more.
“There’s nothing about the snow that bothers me,” said VanderArk.
I don’t share his enthusiasm for the snow, but he explained why.
“I lock myself up and write,” he said and made a joke likening himself to the character in the Stephen King penned, Stanley Kubrick film, “The Shining,” and that broke the ice.
Speaking of ice, the last line of the band’s classic hit: “We fell through the ice when we tried not to slip” is a doozy and probably one of the best punctuation marks at the end of a song, ever. The rest of Freshman is gut-wrenching and soulful, both lyrically and with a melody that ebbs and flows and crescendos in all the right places.
The band’s latest album features lyrics, vocals and musical themes that are easily on par with, if not better than, any the band has released previously.
“We feel like the album that we just released is the best one,” said VanderArk. He collaborated with vocalist and songwriter Channing Lee, whose soft pleasing voice accentuates songs like “Found” with bold Simon & Garfunkel-esque harmonies (it’s a compliment) and a profound wrap-up at the end of the last verse: “Anything worth finding is never easily found and anything worth capturing is never easily bound.”
The new album is aptly named. Its relatable, poetic lyrics that exude humility and vulnerability are combined with music that moves the soul through melodic threads and signature vocals that build.
The album features nine new tracks from the band.
“Forever Reaching,” is pure poetry and probably my favorite from “Threads” lyrically-speaking. “It’s just a thread of crimson that binds us. Wrapped in red it always reminds us,” it begins. The words go on to say, “We’re the same for so many reasons. Nothing’s changed except for the seasons.”
“First Fire of the Winter,” is a song about when autumn leaves (yes, you read that right), featuring stark, yet excellent VanderArk vocals juxtaposed with poetry that paints a virtual picture.
“Love will find you again,” falls under the category of music that just makes you feel good.
“The Witching Hour,” appropriately, has a haunting melody with an interesting time signature and lyrics reminiscent of the plot of a psychological thriller.
Like many of VanderArk’s songs, trying to discern meaning from the puzzling prose can leave you guessing, but the tunes deliver when they resolve, and ultimately provide all of the answers musically.
VanderArk promised Verve Pipe will perform popular favorites as well as some tracks from the latest album, which they recorded in Rockford.
Verve Pipe will go on stage at about 8 or 9 o’clock p.m.,VanderArk said. They are just one of five bands that will perform under 275 feet of tent. The lineup includes Melophobix, Kari Lynch Band, Blue Jay Bridge, DJ Jay Vee and Vinylicious.There will be beverages, food and dancing from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets are $40. Ticket price includes a drink ticket and all-day entry for those 21 and up. Use promo code, Vinyl, for $5 off tickets until Friday night. Buy tickets here.