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The Blue Van, comprised of Steffen Westmark (vocals/guitars), Søren V. Christensen (keyboards), Allan Villadsen (bass) and Per Jørgensen (drums), have slogged it out in the rock scene in both America and their native Denmark for a decade. There have been global ups, downs, ebbs and flows. But through it all, The Blue Van have never stopped revving their engines or adapting and adjusting to changing consumer climates in order to have their music heard and to find their audience.
Armed with five albums, dozens upon dozens of placements in American TV and advertising (for major blue chip companies and brands like Samsung and Apple), hundreds of high-profile gigs and unforgettable songs in their repertoire, The Blue Van have accomplished quite a lot. But they are not done. They are, however, making a major change to how they get music into fans' hands and to their ears by doing away with the album format in favor of something more organic and more immediate.
But first, one needs to understand The Blue Van's history to see how they arrived at this decision.
The story of The Blue Van takes off in Hallund, a village just outside Broenderslev in the northern part of Denmark, where four rock sprouts, all aged 13, met in and around the local music school. They drew lots for the role of lead singer, with Steffen Westmark winning that role. With a lineup solidified, they started playing bluesy rock.
They went to kindergarten together, practiced in a deaf grandmother’s basement and went on to enjoy lots of worldwide success, the type that these former schoolboys could only dream about when starting the band.
The history of The Blue Van's career contains many impressive international highlights.
Their first release was the 2001-recorded and self-funded EP, A Session With The Blue Van. After playing different concerts around the world, as well as the SPOT and Roskilde festival in Denmark, the band landed a management deal with the Danish indie record company Iceberg Records. In the autumn of 2003, The Blue Van recorded their debut album, The Art of Rolling (2005), in Hamburg.
Things were going so well that The Blue Van's manager was eventually contacted by an A&R at TVT, an American record company, which flew to Copehagen on a moment's notice to see the band. A showcase was put together within two days and it convinced TVT, which was, at the time, the largest independent label in America, to offer the band a record contract on the spot. With a new deal in hand, the band trotted off to America, before even having a true or major breakthrough in its home country!
The plan at that time was to firmly establish The Blue Van in the U.S. market. So the band uprooted and moved to Brooklyn in 2005. They lived together and played lots and lots of gigs.
The first four months in the U.S. consisted of lots of hard work and little glamour. During the first four months, The Blue Van played clubs in New York as residency gigs, doing multiple shows at the same venues in order to gain name recognition and to hone their live skills. Off nights did not consist of parties with celebs or other clichés that define the popular notion of Manhattan nightlife. Instead, the boys were drinking bottled beer on their outer borough fire escape.
In addition to residency gigs, the band recorded Dear Independence (2006) for TVT.
During the TVT years, The Blue Van gained a lifetime of experience, and were the Danish band to play the most foreign concerts. They toured all over the world – at one point logging over 200 shows in the U.S., along with dozens of gigs in Europe and Japan. The band certainly established itself as a viable, international live draw with all these plays. They found themselves supporting Jet in the U.S. and Europe, as well as other big acts such as The Pretenders, Hot Hot Heat, Keane, The Killers, Electric Six and Louis XIV. They racked up plenty of festival slots, as well, including Siren, ACL, T in the Park, Oxygen, Pukkelpop, Rock am Ring, Rock Im Park, SXSW, CMW and more.
Additionally, The Blue Van served as the musical ambassador for Denmark in 2009, under the royal visit to Vietnam, where they played several times in the company of the royal couple: Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary.
All of this live activity kept them away from the writing and recording process, but they found their way back to the studio, acknowledging that breaking in America was an arduous process. At this point, TVT did not pick up the third option on the band. The label soon went bankrupt anyway.
But The Blue Van did not give up. They went home to Denmark and nabbed a record deal with Iceberg Records.
Their third album Man Up (2008) was recorded by Dan Hougesen and Mark Wills in Hamburg and Randers, Denmark. Key singles "Silly Boy" and "Man Up" helped open the ears of the Danish audience. Man Up was a multi-faceted album with a hi-fi-feeling, although the basic tracks were still recorded live. It was a rebirth of an experienced studio band, which also excelled onstage with the raw garage rock hymns.
With newfound homeland success, America remained a market to which The Blue Van were committed. Their manager was able to place songs on American TV shows and in commercials and advertisements, a huge platform that would allow their music to be heard by tens of millions of people, if not more. The TV placements garnered attention and provided financial stability, so they could continue to write and make music.
The song "Silly Boy" was chosen as the soundtrack for the ad for Samsung’s Behold mobile phone in 2008, while "Man Up" was used in the TV series 90210, which attracted a teen-driven audience, as well as in the popular crime procedural CSI: New York.
In 2010, "There Goes My Love" from The Blue Van's fourth album Love Shot (2010) was featured in the launch propaganda for the Apple iPad. There was no bigger product launch at the time, and there was The Blue Van, intimately involved. The partnership and the association with the biggest brand in America created incredible exposure for The Blue Van. The placement's weight was immeasurable and priceless, and it was a major gold star on The Blue Van's resume.
"Love Shot" was featured in the critically and commercially lauded Steven Soderbergh movie Magic Mike (2012), starring A-list actors Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey. Love Shot –the album-- also generated several single hits, including the title track, "Fame and Glory" and "Run to the Sun," as well as the Nabiha-assisted duet, "Love Radar."
The band has seen over 65 placements in movies, trailers and TV, including: The First Time, Magic Mike, American Reunion, The Boys Are Back, Fright Night, That's My Boy (movies); Dallas, Hellcats, NCIS, CSI, 90210, Entourage, Hard Times of RJ Verger, Common Law, Lie to Me, Shameless, Body of Proof, Call Be Fitz, Revenge, Last Man Standing, Private Practice (TV); and Samsung T-Mobile, Apple (iPad), Red Lobster (advertising).
The Blue Van are also two-time BMI TV Music Award winners in 2010 and 2012 for their track "Independence," which was named the Best TV Theme Song for the show Royal Pains. The TV series has been broadcast in more than 20 countries, including the USA, England and Scandinavia.
The band released Would You Change Your Life? in 2012. The title indicates the thematic thread of the album, which questions what one could and would do differently if given the chance. The album's guests included Kim Menzer from Burning Red Ivanhoe, who played the flute, while singer Kristina Romby from Death Valley Sleepers joined the band both in the studio and in the live setting.
Clearly, The Blue Van have slowly and steadily been met with some grand successes. But the story does not end here. In fact, it's just beginning and it comes with a huge change.
To celebrate all their amazing fans all over the world, The Blue Van will release music in an entirely different way in 2014. It's not a method utilized by most rock acts, so The Blue Van can be viewed as visionaries, thanks to their choice.
The band has said, "We want to be where our fans are, give what they need and like the most, and be the inspiration for them as they are for us!" To do that, they are changing their release method to match up with consumer habits. "We have chosen to make completely nude singles that catch us in our most happy, confusing, sad, playful and lots of other moments," the band said. "Instead of making the sixth traditional album, from now on, we will be providing our fans with ongoing great tracks and videos. It's all about thinking in new directions and doing things differently because the world is different now."
On the surface, this appears to be a "new" way of doing things, but it is also inspired by the greats and legends. As The Blue Van points out, "The Beatles, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis did just the same in the old days."
"The Beat Goes On" is the first single in a string of 10 planned singles and has been through the hands of the producer team Dan Hougesen and Mark Wills. This dynamic duo, also involved in previous The Blue Van album production, was focused on the musical vibe at the time of the recording. The "right here, right now" ethos allows different singles capture the band at the particular point in time. Furthermore, the new and spontaneous ideas blossom and are delivered to fans almost immediately, instead of being put on the shelf for the next album. That means fans don't have to have to hurry up and wait.
The Blue Van's fans should not expect a reduction in output; instead, they can merely adjust to a positive change in how the music is delivered and parsed out, which, in the end, is more frequently and often!
Essentially, The Blue Van are making it new and putting fans first. That's how they got here in the first place.