Filter Magazine Q & A & Video World Premiere!
by Lynn Lieu & Filter Magazine Staff
While some prestigious American families can easily classify and draft their family trees, others’ are a bit more complicated. Mark Charles Heidinger’s branches would stem from a judge/U.S. Congressman to a gambler to a preacher and finally to the singer-songwriter himself. Drawing from his paternal lineage, Heidinger found the title for his solo project, Vandaveer, in a family name engraved on a watch passed down from generation to generation. The music project, which has some calling him this generation’s Nick Drake, is now in its second year, with its sophomore release Divide & Conquer out now. The songsmith has traveled a mighty fine road from his hometown in Kentucky, one that has taken him to Washington, D.C., with the Federal Reserve collective and the dimly lit music halls of France. In the midst of touring, Heidinger takes some time to tell FILTER about the new album; his inspirations; his Vandaveer partner, Rose Guerin; and the secret to making it big in cheese country.
Is it true that you play your songs differently live than what was recorded?
Vandaveer: Yes, that is most likely true. Recordings are like snapshots, I think, and songs themselves are more malleable in general. You can’t change a Polaroid picture once it’s been snapped, but your subject can cut his hair or put on a different shirt directly after, you know? Songs are like that: they change over time. And they certainly change once they’re on stage—even from night to night. So, these days Rose and I go out and make as much noise as we can between the two of us—a nice little exercise in economy. Also, it can be very expensive to take an entire band on the road—expensive and cumbersome. We’re crunching numbers right now to figure out just how expensive and cumbersome it really is, because at some point we’d like to ditch that whole “exercise in economy” nonsense I just sputtered about and go full-on Flaming Lips/Polyphonic Spree weird one day.
I notice several biblical themes on the new record (“Resurrection Mary” and “A Mighty Leviathan of Old”). How much has your father, a preacher, influenced you and your music?
I suppose there are biblical themes in just about every song or story scribbled down, that being one of our oldest books and all—and such is probably the case with my songs, too. As for my father, he’s a remarkable man, and his influence on me has surely been profound. I think any person’s collective life experience influences his/her creative output, and if you’re lucky enough to have a pop like mine, then you are surely influenced by it.
How do Rose Guerin’s vocals contribute to the project?
Rose is very much a vital part of Vandaveer, so having her on board is not unlike having my lower extremities: I need them if I’m going to walk out of this alive. Also, she’s the finest singer I’ve ever laid ears on… and these ears have been around the block a time or two.
With all of these Nick Drake comparisons being tossed around, have you ever considered doing a cover of one of his songs?
I’d love to cover a dozen Nick Drake songs if I had the time. I have considered, in fact, perhaps “Fruit Tree” or “Time Has Told Me” from Five Leaves Left would be top candidates. Just so few hours in each day, eh?
How did you get so big in France?
Cheese, lots and lots of cheese; they eat that stuff by the wheel over there and our will is weak. As for why our tunes seem to be more popular there than over here, I really can’t say. They probably think Rose is the finest singer they’ve ever heard, too… And that certainly can’t hurt.
Tell me more about the “Federal Reserve” in D.C. What is that group of artists like and how did you come to be a member?
Well, there are two Federal Reserves in D.C.—or maybe that other one is in New York, I’m really not sure. One prints money and hoodwinks the entire western world into playing this game we call “Capitalism.” The other prints songs on CDs and whatnot and hoodwinks the greater DC-area into doling out five bucks a piece each month to watch a bunch of ramshackle, bleary-eyed, highly unstable folk-ish musicians get together and drunkenly sing each others’ songs. We do it once a month at a fine little club called IOTA in Arlington, VA. Every now and then we’ll throw a big ole charity event to feel a little less guilty about making people pay to hear us sing songs all the damn time. It’s an inspiring bunch, but it’s not so much about membership. It’s more about participation. We have a fine bunch of song singers around here: John Bustine, Revival, Kitty Hawk, These United States, the list goes on and on and on. I’m just happy I can call them all friends.
Fresh off the boat from a European jaunt, Washington, D.C.‘s Vandaveer is on the road Stateside all this month promoting Divide & Conquer, its new disc of gorgeous acoustic folk and harmonies on Supply and Demand Music. Check out the world premiere of the video for “A Mighty Leviathan of Old” here, and be forever reminded of why circus clowns terrorized your dreams as a kid: Now they’ve figured out how to get out of your dreams and onto your car!
Vandaveer will be performing at the Walnut Room on November 20th with The Devil Makes Three! Presented by Radio 1190
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