If there’s one thing you can say about Van Canto, it’s that they’re unique. I can guarantee you that you’ve never heard anything quite like them. OK, you’ve never heard anything like them at all. A capella is Italian for “in the manner of the church” or “in the manner of the chapel”. That means unaccompanied singing. That’s right. No instruments. Except for drums, that is.
There are those who would dismiss them as a novelty act, especially since they always include covers on each album. I’m not one of them.
This “novelty act” have stormed that European bastion of Real Heavy Metal, Wacken Open Air (the evidence of which is on the bonus DVD that comes packaged with the earbook version of the new album) . They’ve had guest appearances from Blind Guardian‘s Hansi Kürsch and Marcus Siepen, Chris Boltendahl from Grave Digger, Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica and Sabaton‘s Joakim Brodén.
The Wyrd Ways Rock Show caught up with mainman, Stefan Schmidt as Dawn Of The Brave was unleashed…
WWRS: You’ve just released your new album. Can you tell us something about it?
It’s our most compact album and we are very happy with it as every song could have been chosen as the opener.
WWRS: Is recording a capella more challenging than recording with instruments?
Stefan: Yes, it’s harder work to create a full sound with your voice only, and especially the rhythm singers need longer breaks between the takes.
WWRS: Every album so far has had cover versions on it. How do you decide which songs to cover?
Stefan: First of all we have to like what we are covering. Second, the original has to have some melodies and harmonies that can be translated into metal a cappella. And of course it has to fit into the album concept.
WWRS: Where did you get the idea of putting together an a capella band?
Stefan: After the split of my former band I wanted to do something vocal oriented. It started as a studio project among friends and turned out to become the world’s first metal a cappella band
WWRS: How do you go about putting a band like this together? It must be a different process to putting together a “standard” band?
Stefan: Some of the members I knew from my former bands, apart from that I just chose great singers. As we did not plan anything it was just a lucky choice.
WWRS: How did the crowd react when you stepped onto the stage at Wacken the first time?
Stefan: Great. Our first Wacken gig was in the tent and it was so full that people did not make it inside. Wacken has always been a great place for us.
WWRS: Right at the start did you ever think you’d be releasing your fourth album with Van Canto?
Stefan: It’s our fifth album, haha! No, we never thought we’d get this far. It’s great.
WWRS: Oops! You’re right, of course. That’s A Storm To Come, Hero, Tribe Of Force, Break The Silence and now Dawn Of The Brave. OK, next question: For anyone who’s never heard any of your stuff, how would you describe what you sound like?
Stefan: It’s a really cool thing that we have a unique band sound, so we can not easily be compared to other bands. You have to hear it to believe it.
WWRS: As musicians, who would you say are your main influences?
Stefan: Every bandmember would give a different answer, for me it’s the bands we are covering.
WWRS: What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?
Stefan: The Final Countdown by Europe.
WWRS: What’s next for Van Canto?
Stefan: Touring, playing festivals and presenting Dawn of the brave to the public.
WWRS: Any chance of coming to the UK?
Stefan: Sure, we play in London (Underworld) on April, 2nd.
WWRS: If you had to pick 5 songs to listen to now, which ones would you choose?
Stefan: The first 5 songs of Dawn of the Brave, haha.