Chad VanGaalen is a weird guy. Less than three minutes into our conversation he explains to me his desire to reinvent roller blades using puppies in lieu of wheels
“A good replacement for roller blades would be a couple puppy dogs strapped to your feet. You’d be on the bike path trying to get going but it would look like you were sort of murdering them. You’d explain it to people like ‘No! No! It’s a real sport, it’s in the X Games!’”
If you were to ask iTunes the genre of VanGaalen’s music it would be described as “Indie Rock” or “Alternative Folk”, at first listen these labels seem accurate. But in paying close attention to the lyrics, which are often giddy and grotesque, accompanied by his animated world inhabited by rag tag bunches of decaying cartoons you’ll quickly realize his sound is best described as “Obscure Guy With Instruments”. VanGaalen gave us a quick ring to share his thoughts on integrating animals into self-perpetuated transportation and the influence of noise music.
VanGaalen’s first release Infiniheart was a compilation of bits and bobs curated by Ian Russell of Flemish Eye, inspired by an interest in noise music with a folk backbone.
“Noise music is what got me into making music and I’ve definitely been struggling at times to insert the appropriate amount of dissonance and experimental music without fully alienating people from the folk music. Now I compartmentalize those different versions of myself and release them as fundraising records on Flemish Eye. I don’t feel like it’s as unrepresented as it was in the past.”
By combining genres, VanGaalen creates a distinct sound that walks on the line of reality and oddity. This line is blurred further with the inclusion of his drawings on album covers, as music videos, and in Zines tucked in the record casings of vinyl releases. When asked about the connection between visual and audio mediums he maintains that his music influences his art just as his art influences his music. Both of these expressions which sometimes appear silly or cryptic in VanGaalen’s mind are intimate and therefore a tad frightening to release.
“It feels weirder and weirder all the time, because the proper records are the only ones that get any attention, those are the ones filled up with words which people will interpret however they want. It’s like opening your diary and letting the world read, it’s strange. Especially after not doing it for the longest I’ve taken a break, I’m a little bit scared, I’m always a little bit scared of it to tell you the truth.”
In the next year VanGaalen hopes achieve more of a balance between his life as an artist and a dad.
“I want to feel like when I’m home with nothing to do I can run around with my family and feel good. As I get older I’m getting busier and less able to cope with activities that are going on; it’s dance recitals versus making videos. Looking at how you spend your time and what’s most important, I want to get that figured out. I’m becoming more comfortable with it, I think it’s a necessity as far as being a parent.”
You can help him reach this fine balance by purchasing his newly released album Shrink Dust so he can buy his young’ns fancy tutus and leg warmers. VanGaalen describes the album in haiku form as this:
“Oh no, I did it.
Why did I do it again?
I have no reason.”
Check out Chad VanGaalen June 14th at Deer Lake Park as a part of the CBC Music Festival.
By Maya-Roisin Slater
Photos: Marc Rimmer