The Van Doos are a pop rock group from Helmsley, England, which is a small market town in North Yorkshire. Louis, the guitarist, said they came up with their name by watching “an infantry parade on TV” and found “the Canadian Army’s Royal 22nd regiment are nicknamed the Van Doos.” They got their start by meeting two girls who run an indie label called Young and Lost Club, which helped them get their first gig in 2010. They said they feel their music is “about wanting to play the things you love hearing, and want to hear develop and push forward.”
Simon - singer, guitar
Louis - guitar
Dom - drums
Jack - bass
To read the entire interview, click “Read More” below their music video.
Where is the band from originally? How did the band form?
The band is originally from a small market town in North Yorkshire (in the North of England), called Helmsley. It’s a very rural place but with a great recent tradition of encouraging musical and creative talent so that a strong young arts community has bonded there. The band met through the local music scene, seeing each other and putting on gigs which led to us all working together. It wasn’t until we moved to London though that The Van Doos actually formed, where we realised what we wanted to do, how we wanted to sound, and where we found the people to complete the band.
How did you come up with the name The Van Doos?
We had loads of dumb suggestions that made us either laugh or cringe too much to go with, before one day we watched an infantry parade on TV, with the British Grenadier Guards. We thought that would be a great name for a band, but it’s too famous over here so we started checking out the names of other army regiments and garrisons. Turns out they’re all amazing and all have even better nicknames - the Grenadiers are nicknamed the Donkey Wallopers! If we’d been forming a rockabilly band that would have been it! Anyway, we looked all over and (found that) the Canadian army’s Royal 22nd regiment are nicknamed the Van Doos (after the French vingt-deux). Seeing as we all have a bit of love for the number 22 it was the obvious choice. That, and also bands with the word Van in their name are cool. Like Van Halen.
Who are the members of your band? Are they all original? Where are they from?
Simon (singer, guitar) and Louis (guitar) are both from North Yorkshire and formed the band together, using session drummers and bassists until finding Dom (drums) and Jack (bass) in London, who now complete the Van Doos’ full lineup.
How did you get your start?
We’ve hung out and played with a few other acts around town who are all into a similar vibe - going to the same gigs, clubs etc. From that we made close friends with a couple of girls (Sara and Nadia) who run a brilliant indie label called Young and Lost Club, and they gave us our first gig at their Christmas party 2010, and also gave us a platform on their website to release free downloads of our tracks. Their encouragement and help has been as important as everyone around us.
How long have you guys been playing together?
Simon and Louis have written and played together for a few years now, but as a band the Van Doos was formed in at the end of 2009 and got going properly (rehearsing, recording and writing regularly) towards the back end of 2010.
How did you know you wanted to play music?
I think for all of us it wasn’t really a conscious decision, more something that came naturally, inevitably. I don’t remember thinking one day ‘I want to play music’, and picking up an instrument or starting to sing, but being surrounded by music on tv and on the radio from as long as I can remember it’s always been part of me - and I guess the creative thing was more a reflex than a decision.
Who are your influences? Have you been able to contact or play with these artists?
We’ve all got different influences, but it’s important to have a common ground in a band, and I guess for all of us The Beatles are really important - they’re everything you could want from a band. Simon and Louis do most of the writing and they share a big love of loads of different things, bands like ABBA and Metallica are on most of the time in their house. The bands that really affect us and our writing now though are mostly British, bands like Suede and the La’s, Echo and the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes.
How did you know what type of music you wanted to play? Have you played other music genres?
We jam everything - but indie is where we all click and find the most enjoyment. It’s where our immediate references are and what we’re likely to go out and dance to. It’s about wanting to play the things you love hearing, and want to hear develop and push forward.
Where do you get your ideas for the songs you write?
Loads of ways and places. We tend to write the music first, and sometimes that’s about listening to something and wanting to re-create a sound, then accidentally finding you’ve created something totally different, sometimes it’s just messing around on your own for ages in your room, sometimes we chuck stuff out then later down the line have a new idea and reintroduce it in a different way. Everything changes when you get together as a band though and work it out - and that’s where the best creative stuff happens - when you don’t know what you’re looking for from a session and it just comes out. You can’t plan for it, it just happens. When we put lyrics to songs, we think about the mood of the music and beat, but instinctively we write about experience and things that are immediate to us. It’s usually about the frustrations and tensions of growing up - things that everyone feels but usually the less glamorous side of it all. We like a positive vibe, but putting your heart on your sleeve and not being worried about the embarrassment that can come with it is something we like to talk about. It’s usually funnier that way, and that’s a good thing - we’re not into being assertive!
What is your most successful song?
It’s (in the) very early days so we don’t really have any success to speak of! But having put out a couple of tracks on free downloads and on youtube (Tenterhooks and Is This The One), they’ve both gone down really well, and Tenterhooks gets everyone jumping at our gigs.
How did you create your music video?
We had a lot of fun. A close friend from Yorkshire is a brilliant video editor and we knew we wanted to use him in whatever we did - but we couldn’t afford to do a proper shoot! So the next best thing was to find a load of archive footage and cut it to the music. We wanted it to be relevant to the song, but not too explicit, so for something like Tenterhooks we looked for clips that suggested tension, and of something big to come, but never giving it away. For Is This The One, which we did in a similar way, we focused more specifically on one thing - cars - but still kept that idea of something big potentially ahead, but not sure if it was ever coming. You’ll have to check them out to see what we mean!
What has been the band’s biggest success?
Much too early days yet, but I’m answering this on the morning after our best gig to date and still buzzing on how it all went. It was in The Social in the middle of London and we packed it out - the vibe and the crowd were amazing. I guess so far getting the songs we have recorded to turn out as we wanted them to has been great. You always go into these sessions knowing you’ve got a good tune, but you never know how it’ll come out. Because we’ve got a brilliant producer, Tristan Ivemy, we never really worried too much about it, but that first playback of your finished tune is always the moment of truth, and we loved it!
What was the most interesting experience you’ve had on the road? Has that affected your music at all?
Uh-oh - we’ve not even been on the road yet! We’ve still only played in London! Can we report back later??!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had as a band? Have you been able to overcome it?
We had a pretty big one recently, when our drummer Dom was taken ill into hospital a couple of days before our gig. We didn’t know whether to cancel - not something we wanted to do as we’d sold so many tickets - or to try to find someone to learn the material in time, which would be a big ask and a bit of a gamble. Thankfully, our bassist Jack got us out of jail as he knew someone he was confident could get it all down in time. And he was right - two all-day practice sessions and a soundcheck later and Adam Sullivan drummed us through our best gig ever!
How many albums do you have out?
Uh-oh again - none yet! Hopefully something coming soon.
What was the response to your first album?
We’ll let posterity be the judge of that…
Do you have a website future fans can check out?
What are your future goals as a band?
The usual - a tour, an album and shedloads of Karibbean Kola.
What do you do on your free time outside of being in the band?
Play the Logo Board Game, drink G&Ts (Gin and Tizer) and complain about Bob Crow’s council housing swindle.