Music — Brian Vander Ark's Resurrection

Brian Vander Ark’s resurrection at the Brick House in Milford

A personal renovation that wasn’t easy

So whatever happened to The Verve Pipe? You may remember them for their hit song, “The Freshman,” which topped the charts back in 1997. Well, the Michigan-based band still plays shows, although they are no longer on the RCA Record Label. Frontman Brian Vander Ark is now touring with his solo album, Resurrection, across the country in a 1994 Ford Searcher RV. He played the Pasta Loft/Brick House in Milford on Wednesday, August 25.

“I needed solitude more than anything else,” Vander Ark said. “You get so caught up in the tour bus scene, touring with the band and seven people to take care of the crew. I never want to go back to it. You really don’t see the road on the tour bus when you’re in the back playing Playstation. So now I just pull up to the club and plug in.”

On his solo tour, Vander Ark plays songs from Resurrection, some Verve Pipe songs and whatever obscure song the audience screams out. Resurrection, produced in 2004 on the Brash Records label, shows off Brian’s singer-songwriter style, an honesty captured in the lyrics of “Someone Like You.”

“Most of the songs, most of my work comes from heartbreak, be it mine or someone else’s. So it’s relationship songs, relationship stuff. “Someone Like You” is one of the few love songs I’ve ever written. I like to think of the album as a journey, kind of a pilgrimage to figure out how to not write negative songs all the time about relationships. I’ve always made bad choices in relationship, but I’m doing much better with that now.”

Vander Ark is embracing the folksy singer-songwriter vibe he ignored back in the 90s when the Verve Pipe was at the height of their MTV popularity. Now the lyrics are written to be heard, so when Vander Ark sings, he tells a story.

“I grew up with 70’s song writers like Harry Chapin, Nick Drake and James Taylor. They’ve gotten a bad name over the years. I decided to make an album that was an homage to that. I tell a story because the lyrics are so important to me, I try to say exactly what I mean to say. On this album I wanted to be more like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, to be less pretentious and more simple and clear.” 

And in performing these back-to-reality songs, Vander Ark delinates a style that can’t be marred or blurred on the radio. The reinvented true-to-self Vander Ark puts a stop to MTV-made pop stars by actually playing in a definitive style with songs like “Written and Erased.”

“I get tired of all the genres bleeding into each other,” Vander Ark said. “I grew up when country was country and rock was rock, but now music has become so blurred. You take an enormous hook from a rock song and put them in a rap song so that it’s become a homogenized play list. They think everyone likes to hear the same thing—this element has to be here, a hip-hop thing here. I’m trying to work with the whole idea that the lines need to be defined. I’m tired of the melting pot that music has become.”

But Vander Ark’s renovation of self and musical styling was not easy. He had to strip himself of material possessions to realize what was important to him. So once a year, Brain goes through all his belongings and decides to throw them away or give them to someone who needs them. It keeps him grounded.  

“Everything that I own is in my RV—anything that I care about. I enjoy reading and writing. I’m not attached to material things, not anymore. I slapped myself upside the head. I used to drink a lot, but now I’m trying to keep those things from me. It’s a matter of trying to keep myself stripped down from that stuff, depriving my body from things to decide what I really need.”

Finally, Vander Ark has arrived at a place where playing music is fun rather than a duty and the music reflects his feelings rather than a persona.

“It’s cleaning, these songs unloading these feelings. Resurrection is more of therapeutic record for me. It’s all part of the resurrection. At shows, people will scream out songs they like and most of the time I f**k up the lyrics. I’m just a guy. I walk around and say hi to people...I just like to have a good time.”

Vander Ark’s next solo stop is at SUNY in Postdam, NY on August 29. He plays with The Verve Pipe on August 26 at Mercer University Center in Macon, GA. For more information The Verve Pipe, go to www.thevervepipe.com., for Vander Ark go to www.bvamusic.com.

— Seth Hoy [shoy@hippopress.com]

 
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