Sydney electro-pop band Van She are at it again. Their second full-length LP, Idea Of Happiness, is about to hit reputable stores on July 6, and its first two singles, "Idea Of Happiness" and "Jamaica" are cracking examples of a young band growing up and truly hitting its stride. The film clip of "Idea Of Happiness," featuring an impossible tall and skinny bloke dancing around wearing nothing but a G-string, is already a certified classic on rage. We recently spoke with synth/guitar player Mikey De Francesco about the aforementioned video, goosebumps, the upcoming Australian tour and the advantages of having built one's own recording studio.
Hey, how are you sir?
Good, good – how are you?
Doing alright, having a nice day. How’s your day so far?
Oh, I had a really late night last night. (Laughs). So my days’ just starting, actually.
Good! So you’re getting pumped up for your tour in July?
Yeah. There’s a lot of rehearsing.
And general planning as well?
Congratulations on the new record! It’s coming out pretty soon (6 July through Modular Records). I saw the video for “Idea Of Happiness” – that’s one hell of a video!
Yeah! What people actually think of it – obviously, we have no idea, but it’s funny … my brother was at work and said to one of his colleagues, “Oh, do you want to watch my brother’s band; they have a new film clip, my brother sent it to me, do you want to check it out?” And my brother started playing it to this guy, and the guys like, “I don’t want to see a guy in a G-string! What is this?” And I’m thinking, Oh, this is what some people think. So I think you like it or you just think it’s weird. We think it’s great – they’re real people in this film, they’re not actors.
Where was it filmed?
It was filmed in Budapest.
Oh, I just walked into my girlfriend’s – I stayed at her house last night – I walked into her lounge for the first time and there’s LEGO pieces everywhere; she bought the Death Star LEGO, and it’s like 10,000 pieces! (Laughs) And there’s pieces everywhere, it’s pretty funny!
So I was going to ask you, philosophically, what do you reckon happiness is? What’s your “idea of happiness”?
What do I think happiness is? That’s a really good question. (Hems and haws a bit) Um …
What makes you happy?
What makes me happy? I suppose … it’s what makes everybody happy; sharing, and being involved with other people. Sharing with other people makes me happy. My cats make me happy.
Well, the first two singles off this record [“Idea Of Happiness” and “Jamaica”] just give off this vibe of happiness and contentedness.
I suppose we wanted to make something that … the goal, the main goal was to make something that would give us goosebumps. We could create something that makes us feel that, and gives us goosebumps. I’m not sure if everybody gets goosebumps; I feel really sorry for people that don’t, and I don’t know what it is, but there are some pieces of music with a combination of certain notes or incorporations that give me shivers, and I think as a band that’s the goal, is to give yourself goosebumps!
Yeah, goosebumps. They don’t happen often enough.
No, they don’t. It’s true though – it’s so weird. I love it! It’s the best, it’s the best feeling.
Now, with this record Idea Of Happiness, you took your time with it, right?
Yep, we built our own studio and we didn’t really have any time restraints of being in the studio with budgets or spending extortionate amounts of money – so if we weren’t feeling [inspired], we’d just get something to eat or just go home! But that was a luxury that we had as we were able to [record] when we felt like it – we weren’t forced, which was really cool. And Modular Records released it – they were there, but they weren’t [saying] “Hurry up, hurry, hurry!”
Yeah, I was going to ask you about Modular Records. Far be it for me to make any assumptions, but they seem like a pretty cool label to be signed to. Is that pretty much true?
Yep, yep, yep. They’re amazing. I don’t think there’s anybody else we felt we’d rather be with; they’re a really good team. Their website’s really cool, they’re really helpful – there’s no other place we’d rather be with, to be honest.
Cool! So you guys had originally met at a nightclub in Sydney, is that right?
Yeah. Well, we were all kind of going to the same place all the time, and we all met each other through mutual friends. Our first gig actually ended up being at that party, which was called Bang Gang. It’s changed venues a few times, but we all met at that club.
One thing about your music that I particularly like is that it has one foot planted firmly in the 80s, whilst the other is firmly entrenched with psychedelic rock. How would you say your sound has evolved since the release of your debut self-titled EP (2005)?
I think we used to have quite a collection of vintage synths and drum machines, and all those sounds, you know – that are on all those records, and I suppose there’s a context that you put those sounds in, but how has the sound evolved? I think we’re a lot more unified as a band, and the first record was a little bit all over the place – it was just a feel-good record!
So tell us a bit about the recording of Idea Of Happiness – you had it mixed in Los Angeles, is that right?
Yeah, by Tony Hoffer, who’d mixed Alphabetical, which is probably my favourite Phoenix record, and he’d mixed Beck and a whole bunch of other people. He did a really good job of just taking what we’d done and made us sound like a band – and you know, he did a really good job!
How did you guys get hooked up with him?
Well, there were a few people we were looking at, and we just thought that [Hoffer] was someone who would do us well as a band, so we approached him, and he said yes!
And it got mixed in Los Angeles, while you recorded in Kings Cross, Sydney. What are the dynamics in the group? How do you all work, once you start working? What’s the process like?
It’s kind of like, whoever’s there; whoever has the idea plays the part. Everybody plays a little bit of everything. For example, if Tomek [Archer, drums and sequencer] has an idea for a part, he plays it. So yeah, whoever thinks of something plays it. If we were to list on the record who played what on what, it would get pretty boring. (Laughs) There are no roles! So if it’s a good idea, it’s a good idea! But if someone’s better at that particular instrument, it will get redone.
And this is the first record where we’ve had an extortionate amount of travel. We know what we want, we know how to achieve it!
Van She has done a hell of a lot of remixing for other artists – do those side projects help you to modulate instrumentation for your own music?
Well, we’ve kind of pulled back on the whole remixing thing. Essentially, we were writing new tracks for other people. So when we’d remix, we’d pretty much discard everything [in the song] except for the vocals. So that [process] was definitely practice. So we know what we’re doing and how to get the result that we want; and that’s what it’s all about, really.
So all the rehearsing and preparations for the tour are in place. You have Rüfüs opening for you – those are some great blokes by the way! Any awesome surprises in store for the punters who catch your show?
Well, I would be amazed if the guy from the “Idea Of Happiness” [film clip] would come to Australia and be part of the show.
Oh, that would blow peoples’ minds.
It would be really cool, wouldn’t it?
Yeah! Just have him dancing by the side of the stage.
Ahhh. Maybe we could find somebody who looks just like him!
VAN SHE TOUR DATES
ALL TICKETS CAN BE PURCHASED AT WWW.MOSHTIX.COM.AU UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.
THUR 5 JULY
PERTH - CAPITOL
FRI 6 JULY
ADELAIDE - FOWLERS
SAT 7 JULY*
CANBERRA - ZIERHOLZ
SUN 8 JULY*
NEWCASTLE - CAMBRIDGE
WED 11 JULY*
BYRON BAY - THE BREWERY
THUR 12 JULY*
BRISBANE - THE HI FI
FRI 13 JULY*
MELBOURNE - THE HI FI
SAT 14 JULY*
SYDNEY - METRO
SAT 21 JULY
HOBART - REPUBLIC
*SUPPORTED BY RUFUS