Just before Bleeker’s first show in Paris, we met Mike Van Dyk, the band’s friendly bass player, at Les Etoiles. He told us more about the recording process of “Erase You”, the Canadians’ first album, his influences, how they were enjoying their first time in Paris, cereal box, bathtub and lobster. Yes, everything makes sense.
Tonight, you’re going to do your first show in Paris. Are you excited? A bit anxious?
Mike Van Dyk (bass): Really really excited. Not so much anxious or nervous or anything. We never seem to get nervous before shows. No, we’re really excited. Not too sure what to expect. I heard that we sold a decent amount of tickets and that there’s gonna be a lot of people from the industry, a lot of Olivier’s friends, a lot of editors and people from Live Nation so it’s kind of a showcase in industry show but yeah, looking forward to it. Those ones are usually the most fun for us. The pressure’s on. (laughs)
It’s kind of a surprise. You’re finally known in Europe.
Mike: Yeah, it’s very very surprising for us. Just to get all these big TV shows and interviews like this and it’s like we’re being loved more here than at home. (laughs)
So, unlike Taylor and Cole, you didn’t start as a teenager?
Mike: No, I started by playing the guitar. I started playing with them around the same time. I was in other bands through high school when those guys were starting. I joined like late 2009. They needed a bass player, stuff wasn’t working out with theirs so I was like “sure”. I love those guys, I’d known them forever so why not. (laughs).
How did your music evolved since Dan and Dustin have left the groupe? (ed. Dave and Dustin Steinke were members of Bleeker Ridge)
Mike: They both recorded on this record. We were growing up as people so that kind of led to the slight change in music. We weren’t really trying to write pigeonholed songs, certain type of rock songs, it was way more enjoyable because we were just doing what feels good and, for me, music is about letting it flow so you can express yourself. So we have those rock songs, those straight-up kind of Queen, AC/DC riffs and then some softer songs like “We’re Not Laughing Now”. “Everytime You Call” is another one I like because it’s very kind of ballsy rock and in the middle part of the bridge it’s all soft with the piano and we kind of built it up, built it up, built it up. I just feel that this record feels more natural.
How was the recording process?
Mike: Recording process was very easy. We did it at James Michael’s place (Sixx:A.M.’s singer and producer) in Los Angeles. He just has a smaller studio that he built out of his house, really really laid back. It was nice because we did a song at a time, it’s a nicer way to do it rather than doing the drums at once for twenty songs and then do the bass for twenty songs, you kind of lose your vision in the feeling for each song when you do it that way so it’s nice that we hammered away at one song, hammered away at the next. It was very easy, very enjoyable. We did it in about twenty six days and we did about eighteen tunes.
Who’s James Michael?
Mike: He’s the singer of Sixx:A.M.: the band with Nikki Sixx and DJ Ashba. And Dustin (ed. Dustin Steinke, a former member of Bleeker Ridge) has been playing for them since a show in Tokyo. James is great, he worked with Papa Roach, he does all the Mötley Crüe stuff. He’s just a sweetheart, a really nice guy, a very talented guy. It was interesting to see him and Taylor work together because James is a vocalist. It was so effortless for both of them.
What is the album really about?
Mike: Wow. That’s more of a Tay question. Taylor writes the majority of the lyrics.
Everything seems connected.
Mike: Yeah it is. It’s really about going for it, changing, moving on, expressing yourself, having fun and just not really holding back. (laughs)
Why did you choose this name for your record: “Erase You“? Who were you trying to erase?
Mike: I don’t know, I have to say it wasn’t really anything in particular. That was the name of one of the songs. I guess part of the reason is what we were doing with the band: changing the sound, expressing ourselves, not pigeon holing ourselves, really breaking out of that headspace of “you need to sound this way”. We were working with new people and a new record label.
Because it seems that on the artwork of your album, there is a face that is being erased like somebody you don’t want in your life anymore.
Mike: (laughs) Yeah yeah, it was nothing really like relationship based.
Yeah? Because it talks a lot about girls.
Mike: (laughs) I guess, relationships from years and years ago.
So Taylor writes the lyrics.
Mike: Taylor writes the majority of the lyrics, yeah. We let him handle it. I think Cole wrote “Emergency”, that one is… (laughs) I have to listen to that one again to see what it’s about.
What’s your favorite song of the album?
Mike: “Where’s Your Money?” I would say. “I’m Not Laughing Now” is a great song, it’s a good pop song. I really like “Everytime You Call”, the last song of the record, because of that guitar line mixed with how Taylor’s vocals come in and that “ta da da da da” (ed. he imitates the sound) and just the fact that at the ending, it just builds up in cascades and everything just kind of get bigger and bigger and it just climaxes.
Are the one you love on the record the same ones that you love to play live?
Mike: It’s kind of different. We just started playing “I’m Not Laughing Now” live. That one is a little harder to play, to make it sound like the record. That one has piano and none of us can play the piano live so we just started doing it the way we do it acoustically so just no drums, I just fill up the big bass line and then it’s just Taylor and Cole doing it, which is special.
“Where’s Your Money?” is the last song we play, it has that anthem stadium sort of feel which is nice.
You were joined by the drummer Chris Dimas. He was there at OÜI FM when you did your acoustic song. When did he join the band?
Mike: It would have been early last year, like January. We needed a drummer and it was a word-of-mouth thing. Rose is a good friend of ours, she is the general manager of the label. She is from Toronto. She did a Facebook thing like “Hey, looking for a drummer” and a friend of hers knows Chris from Regina, Saskatchewan, which is a place in the middle of Canada. We were down in Los Angeles shooting our video for “Highway” and he was down there already so we met him for dinner and it was like “Hey do you wanna be in our music video?” and we started touring after that and it just worked out so well.
So he didn’t participate in the recording process?
Mike: No, he was not on the record.
But he’s going to stay in the band and for the next album?
Mike: Oh yeah, yeah, he’s a really talented drummer and he actually does a lot of recordings himself so he has bands at his studio all the time when he’s at home.
Some songs like “Close My Eyes” are kind of melancholic. It’s kind of surprising because all of the songs are cheerful, energetic and catchy. So how do you explain this melancholia?
Mike: Oh, that would be more of a Tay one because he wrote the lyrics.
Is it something you discovered after recording the songs or that you did on purpose?
Mike: I would stay, on that song in particular, it is something that I would have discovered after recording it for sure. I don’t know how to answer that one. (laughs)
Is it something that corresponds to your personality? Something you wanted in the record or that Taylor wanted in the record?
Mike: Yeah, for sure, it is good to have that sort of feel in a record at some point, I agree.
Taylor and Cole started as teenagers by covering Jimi Hendrix. Do you like him too?
Mike: Oh yeah, we’re all massive Hendrix’s fans. When Taylor started to sing, I bet some his first songs, when he would play the guitar and learning how to do that wild singing would have been “Red House”, the blues sound that Hendrix does. He was a big fan of “Castle Made Of Sand”; it’s been many years since I’ve heard him sing that but… (laughs)
On the record, you chose to cover “Radio, Radio” by Elvis Costello. Whose idea was it?
Mike: That was actually suggested to us by the owner of the record label. For years and years, we haven’t really done covers with the band. When we were starting, we would do a lot of covers. That one was actually done after we recorded the record. He suggested that we have this one. None of us really had a chance to dive in Elvis Costello at all. Personally, I instantly fell in love with that song; it’s high energy, it’s happy, positive. And I find it ironic that the guy from the record label wanted us to cover “Radio Radio” which is like a “fuck you to you” (laughs).
After that, you listened to Elvis Costello?
Mike: Yeah, his first four or five records, I’m a fan of it for sure. You reminded me, I think I’m gonna Spotify it and listen to it for the rest of the day. (laughs)
What are the other influences on the album?
Mike: I would stay a lot of Chris Cornell kind of projects: Audioslave. AC/DC. A lot of that kind of guitar riffs. Some Beatles as well, all of us are big Beatles’ fans. When we were writing the music, Taylor was really diving deep with a lot of Paul and John stuff. Those were really big influences.
Because, all the reviews of your album compare you to The Black Keys, Royal Blood, The Rolling Stones, Jet… So will rock n’roll always be about looking at the past?
Mike: I think, with every type of music it’s an easy way to explain what something sounds like. I do that all the time and I think most musicians think: “oh that sounds like a Black Sabbath riff” or “that sounds like Royal Blood”. Rock n’roll was awesome back then but I still think it’s pretty sweet now. There are so many good bands: Kings Of Leon is so so good.
The Black Keys were a main influence for your album, is it?
Mike: I would stay that style of music is for sure.
Because, “Highway” reminds of them.
Mike: Yeah, it’s got that vibe for sure.
On “I’m Not Laughing Now” you used a cereal box sound and a bathtub sound?
Mike: Yeah! (laughs) The working title for that song was “Cereal Box”. Taylor spends a lot of time in the bathtub (laughs) and he was actually in the tub and came up with that melody. It was like a big style and he made up that drum kit. And he was probably eating cheerios in the bathtub and he had the box so he recorded a quick demo with that in the empty bathtub, he was like “what a wicked drum sound!”. And they had this old piano in the bedroom so he just did that simple piano line. Actually, we sampled the drum sound of the cereal box sound and the bass drum sound of the tub and used that on the recording of the album.
So you’re going to use that tonight?
Mike: Not live tonight (laughs). We’re going to incorporate that for sure. We used some of the samples down the road. But it was cool to hear.
Do you think living in Canada influenced your music?
Mike: I would say so. Songs like “Free” and “Erase You”, about breaking free and doing something a little bit differently. Because we’re from a small town, like 35 000 people (ed. Orillia, Ontario). It’s a lovely town, there is a decent amount going on but it was kind of like: get out, do something, have fun, meet new people, that kind of fun sort of vibe. Now that we’ve been other places and seen other cities in Canada and the United States and seen all these amazing places like Paris. It still makes us appreciate our home, even more.
Are you going to do other shows in Europe in the next weeks?
Mike: Hopefully yes! We haven’t anything booked now. This is kind of our little trip to France. We will probably be back in the fall, we’ll be opening up for some bands and doing some headlines at show as well.
It’s going to be very different. Because in Canada when you’re doing a show in another town, you have to drive for like eight hours.
Mike: Here it’s like forty-five minutes, yeah. We were just in Germany last week doing a lot of press stuff. And the longest drive was two and a half hours which is nothing to us. (laughs)
And what bands are you listening to right now?
Mike: I speak for the other guys too, all of us listen to a lot of hip hop: Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper, Kanye. But I still love my punk and my metal. Queens Of The Stone Age. Billy Joel “The Stranger” : I showed that to Taylor late last year and it hasn’t left his record player since. He must listen to this record at least once a day. (laughs)
Our website is called “RockUrLife”. So what rocks your life?
Mike: Rock music, performing live and I would speak for the other guys too, we love playing live, get out and rock out, as cliché as that sounds but our shows really have high energy and feed off the crowd. And meeting people, doing this sort of thing, I love travelling, eating food, I’m pretty passionate about that, I love to cook. Even like this week I’ve been cooking for the guys. The place we’re staying in has a kitchen. We’ve done pasta a lot of times. Last night, Chris Cole and I got back from a show and we were drinking so we woke Taylor up and I made them all grilled cheese at like 2.30 in the morning. (laughs)
Did you have time to go to a French restaurant?
Mike: We did. Olivier (ed. their PR) took us to a really nice spot, a seafood restaurant so Taylor and I, we got a lobster. I had lobster tail before but I never had the lobster and crack it opened. It’s a tonne of work! I made Taylor eat sea snails which he never had before and oysters. And also, I don’t know what is the French term, but I had a sort shepherd pie, really creamy buttery potatoes mixed with slow cooked duck and it was unreal. I almost couldn’t eat it because it was too much flavours. My brain was overloaded. (laughs) The food is insane here. And everybody is so nice, the staff too. I haven’t run in anybody that’s been sour. It’s been sweet. Everybody was really nice.
And what about your fan base here?
Mike: Everybody has been really positive. I would like to see more. More feedback. Maybe, there is a bit of a language barrier but feel free to message us. (laughs)