The Van Burens

Why yes, you’re right! The first question that progressive genre-benders TheVan Burens (Jeff King, Emmett Knox, Greg Smith, Greg Spitz, Matt Spitz) always hear is indeed, “You guys Seinfeld fans?” And once again, theanswer is yes, this 5-man vocal harmony rock band loves that famous scene where Kramer runs into those Van Buren boys, AND they also happen to really dig our eighth president, Mr. Martin Van Buren.

The Van Burens7033_129425392295_19739617295_2315059_1117849_n-300x214The Van Burens summarize their music as an “eclectic, genre-hopping, progressive brew of rock, funk, jazz, pop, dance and more filtered through our odd sense of humor, history, and pop culture,” as heard on their first EP from 2009, The Eager EP. Today, we’re happy to share news of The Van Burens’ new album, a collection titled Presidential Lovefest. We asked the group to tell us all about it – they said, “The new album is a high energy dance party record focusing on rock, funk, and reggae with a live energy…We set out to up the ante on our presidential theme with an EP that would be an audio record of all the ballers from history getting together for a funboy kegger blowout. The album is full of twists and turns and Easter eggs, something you can listen to again and again while still finding something new.”

The Van Burens will remain busy this summer supporting Presidential Lovefest, so click to to keep up on shows and sample some tunes. The band is already working through the next record, so don’t delay! So now, keep reading – there’s still so much more to get into in all the answers to the XXQs below.

XXQs: The Van Burens (PEV): How would you describe your sound?

Matt Spitz (MS): Our sound is hard to pin down; it’s an eclectic, genre-hopping, progressive brew of rock, funk, jazz, pop, dance, etc. filtered through our odd sense of humor, history, and pop culture.  Everyone in the band is a solid instrumentalist, and we all write tunes and sing,  which leads to a wide variety in our sound and styles, and makes us the rare five-man vocal harmony rock band.  In a given live set, the VBs could go from slinky, kinky reggae to wild time-signature-shifting epic prog rock to a bouncy, poppy puppy love ballad with lyrics by the Little Rascals.  On our new record, Presidential Lovefest, you can find a 60’s-funk stomper about Richard Nixon (“Tricky Dick”); a cyclical, psychadelic spacey reggae slow dance (“Hey Everybody”), a giant prog hard rock anthem to the First Commode (“LBJ”), and a cheerful, bouyantdancehall number about Lee Harvey Oswald.

PEV: What kind of music were you all into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?

MS: The Van Burens grew up on classic rock such as the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, CSN, Elton, Billy, Bruce, Jethro (ya know, the classics) as well as the music that was around us as youths in the ’90’s.  Weird Al was a huge influence; he exposed us to so many different bands with his parodies and elevated humorous music beyond novelty. In middle school, our bass player McGee introduced us to Dispatch, then Phish and the whole jam scene, which emboldened us to let our freak flag fly and become comfortable in our weirdness.  We all started playing and studying jazz and a little classical in college, and really deepened our well of influences.  My personal earliest concert memories would be going with my brother (VB guitar player Spitzy) to see our mom sing with her band when we were but tiny rockers.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live The Van Burens show?

MS: Funky funny fun.  We try to make every show a different experience, so we change up our set lists and antics from night to night, and often tailor the sound to the scene.  Our goal is to get people to dance and let loose to a stimulating, surprising, exciting evening of music.  The VBs go big for holidays and special occasions (we threw a pajama party show for Mothers Day, and Halloween, New Years, and Presidents Day are always crazy) and really we try to make every show a special occasion in some way with either with our music, costumes, lighting, or other insanity.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

MS: “What’s the first song?” – Smitty

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of The Van Burens?

MS: We all live together in a magical funhouse with a talking couch.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, Presidential Lovefest. What can fans expect from this work?

The Van Burensa3039508529_2MS: The new album is a high energy dance party record focusing on rock, funk, and reggae with a live energy.  Our horn crew, the Dick Johnson Memorial Horn Section, brings a brassy edge to proceedings; our vocal-swapping and  background harmonies are joined by audio cameos from guest stars historical and otherwise.  We set out to up the ante on our presidential theme with an EP that would be an audio record of all the ballers from history getting together for a funboy kegger blowout; the album art by Caleb Williamson plays up the presidential pool party image.  The album is full of twists and turns and Easter eggs, something you can listen to again and again while still finding something new.

PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

MS: The Van Burens put together a national tour in 2010 that brought us around the US, but we missed out on the Pacific Northwest, so we’d love to get out there at some point.  Beyond that, we’d love to play (among other places) Amsterdam, Japan, and Mars.

PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

MS: We all teach music and/or tutor on the side.  We play/write music pretty much constantly and hang out in our magical funhouse with our talking couch.  McGee brews beer and climbs cliffs.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?

MS: It’s a toss up between Freddie Mercury, Frank Zappa, Duke Ellington, and Beethoven.  And Karen Carpenter.  And Bill Belichick.  Now that’s a band!

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

MS: The NYC reggae crew Rocky and the Pressers is a killer band we’ve played with and admire.  Their album, Dance at the Playhouse was in major rotation in the Van Buren band van.  We are also big fans of the folk-rock-reggae-soul Hayley Jane and the Primates and the gypsy jazz outfit Somerville Symphony Orkestar.

PEV: So, what is next for The Van Burens?

MS: Some festivals in the summer (including our superfun late night Saturdayset at Jerry Jam in Bath, NH).  We will have lots of wicked awesome shows in between, too.  We’re also partway through the next album, which sounds good so far and will showcase yet another angle on the Van Burens’ sound.

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