2016 Van Halst interview with Kami Van Halst
Hard rock and metal have often seen geographic explosions of talent and music movements; the L.A. hair metal era, the U.K. NWOBHM period, the Bay Area thrash movement, and the European death and German power metal scenes. You can even toss in the Seattle grunge era, and the Norwegian black metal period. While there has been some notable talent out of Canada over the years, it is only within the last half decade that the great white north is beginning a music movement of its own, and shining among the many emerging talents from the region is Edmonton’s Van Halst.
Van Halst began as a solo project for vocalist Kami Van Halst, who along with guitarist Scott Greene wrote the music for what was to be an EP. As the project grew it became clear it should become both a full album, and a complete band. With the additions of drummer Brett Seaton, guitarist Strathon J. Bajowsky, and bassist Brendan McMillan the group came to fruition.
The band’s debut album, World of Make Believe, was released on March 4, and contains 10 tracks that balance Van Halst’s love of other artists like In This Moment, Shinedown, and Evanesence, while also adding its own biting edge. Van Halst’s socially conscious lyrics tackle all manner of topics from poverty, domestic violence, and disenfranchised and homeless youth, to oppression through superficiality and corporate greed, and the issue of blaming the victims of sexual assault and rape. The result is a powerful debut record that just scratches the surface of what the band is capable of.
This week, Metalholic caught up with Kami while out on her daily exploits and talked to her about her own musical background, her choice to add harsh vocals to her arsenal, and the creation of World of Make Believe. While most female rock vocalists tend to cite male vocalists as their dominant influences, this is not the case for Kami.
“I’d say the opposite. I’d say more female than male” offers Van Halst. “Growing up as a kid in the 90s I have to honestly say that singers like Christina Aguilara were always huge for me. I wanted to be able to sing like her. I thought she had such a crazy voice. As I got older, I got into artists such as Amy Lee, and Maria Brink from In This Moment is probably my biggest vocal influence. She is so dynamic. So I’d say vocally, even more females than males actually.”
Because World of Make Believe was intended as a solo effort initially, there were no rules or preconceptions about what direction to take. Kami’s sister, a pop musician, even helped her in writing a few songs, so the record has great continuity yet it still eclectic, fusing elements of hard rock and metal together. Van Halst talked about how the project grew during the creative process.
“We definitely did want we wanted,” laughs Kami, “We threw some of the rule books out the window for sure and wrote the songs we wanted to write and put them together. It started off as a solo project EP actually and once we realized I had a lot more to say and that the music needed to be heavier, we brought the full band into it. We just really wanted to talk about a lot of these issues and felt that doing four or five songs wasn’t going to do them justice and that it needed to be 10. We had various titles for the album, various songs to choose from and I’m really happy with the ones that we chose, and feel like it’s a full product that you can listen to from start to finish without ear fatigue.”
You can check out the full interview with Kami below, as well as view their video for “Save Me” as well. Van Halst will tour Canada this spring and summer and plans to hit the U.S. this fall.