Sydney four-piece Van She are ready to release their sophomore record Idea Of Happiness. Having lived with the tracks on the record for the last few years, Tomek Archer tells 100% that they “can’t wait for everyone else to hear it”. They also can’t wait to be in Jamaica and get on the turps with Rüfüs, their support act for their upcoming national tour.
A slender gent who looks like ‘a boss’ crossed with Jesus sprays hairspray across his face in slow-mo, walks around in a g-banger playing pool, dances with a sexy lass, drives around in a vintage car with what appears to be a pink plastic Christmas tree in the back seat and he is completely content. This is what happens in Van She’s video clip for first single and title track off their forthcoming sophomore record Idea Of Happiness. “One of the directors came back [after the band put out expressions of interest] and pitched this guy to us and his name was Emil and he’s from Germany,” Archer says down the line from Sydney, finishing his lunch.
“He’s a vintage car collector and dealer and likes going to motor shows. He also likes being an exhibitionist. So the director’s pitch was to make a video about this guy’s idea of happiness. He’s not an actor. He’s a real guy and it is shot in his house and it’s shot with his friends and, to some degree it’s a set up party, but he’s a real guy. It’s all about Emil.”
Although the video clip is about Emil’s idea of happiness, Archer has his own in mind. “It’s pretty cold in Sydney at the moment,” he says. “All I would like to do is go on a holiday somewhere hot. Fortunately we’re going to Jamaica next week.” And no, they’re not going to play in Jamaica, they’re just popping over for a few days to make the video clip for Jamaica, a dreamy, tropical tune from Idea Of Happiness. “None of us have been to Jamaica so the song was never written about Jamaica; it was more of this idea about a happy, sunny kind of holiday place, like another place basically,” he explains. “It was kind of funny that none of us have been there so the idea of this video – to actually go there – it’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy; make a song about a place you’ve never been to and then you go there.”
Although much of Idea Of Happiness is upbeat electro-pop with daydream-like synths and tropical beats, Archer can’t quite put his finger on where exactly the sound came from. “It’s hard to know whether the mood of the music comes from the mood you’re in or if you consciously make it and it just makes you more light-hearted,” he says. “We had a pretty good time making this record and it’s a pretty uplifting, light-hearted record. I don’t know if we got on really well because we were making music that was happy.”
It’s been four years since Van She released their debut record V and Archer says the great luxury this time round was they were able to produce it themselves. “The most important thing about the recording process is to have the freedom to make mistakes and to go through making lots of stuff and trying different things and then reviewing it and going back and trying to critique it,” he says. “With the first record we had the experience of going and working with a producer in London and that was great. We spent a couple of months over there. We found that’s one way of doing it and you have a deadline and you’ve got so many weeks in the studio and it’s really expensive and you have to get everything done so you don’t really want to be stuffing around. There’s not much room for experimenting and trying different things. You’ve got to just do what you know. With this record – we were doing it ourselves and if things were working we’d stick around and if something wasn’t working we’d leave it and come back to it.”
Mixed by Tony Hoffer (Phoenix, Air, M83, Beck), Idea Of Happiness is very much a collaborative record for the four-piece despite the fact that songs such as Sarah and Tears lean towards more personal, individual experiences. “It’s been a long process of songwriting over the last couple of years,” Archer says. “Just the way that things happen, we usually end up pairing up.
“So everyone kind of plays every instrument on the record. We don’t necessarily write by setting it up like a band and jamming like a band and just hitting record. It’s a lot more like everyone has guitars, keyboards, drum machines and everything at home, all the kind of tools. And then basically everyone writes everything. Everyone’s written significant parts of the record.”
Now focused on their upcoming national tour (“We’ve got a really full schedule. The label’s been like, ‘You really need to lay low and focus on the record and the tour and not overexpose yourself’”), Archer says they’re looking forward to meeting and hanging out with their tour support Rüfüs. “One of the things about touring with another group is that you get to hang out. Sometimes it’s tricky. We didn’t really hang out with the supports on our last tour very much. Hopefully we’ll get to hang out with these guys. Maybe we should all go out to dinner or get really drunk or something.”
Although the tour is a priority, Jamaica is at the forefront of their minds. “Every report that we’ve had from anyone who’s been to Jamaica is like, ‘If you’ve heard it’s rough, like whatever you’ve heard, it’s rougher!’. It sounds like a terrifying place to be a white boy,” he concludes, laughing.
BY ANNABEL MACLEAN