Sunday, November 30, 2014

Falling Out of (and back in) Love with Music

After almost a year of playing cover shows with the band, pretending to be Beck (, working a day job, trying (sometimes successfully) to quit smoking, and trying to grow up in a number of different ways, I’m gearing up with my label to get the band back together and back in the studio for a project I’ve been getting more and more excited about.  But if you asked me six months ago if I was trying to get back into recording and performing original music, I would have given you a bitter look and changed the subject.

I’d played to many empty, beer-soaked clubs whose glory days had passed way before the music machine crumbled and left every band out there alone with nothing but their minivans, a cooler for food, and a vague dream of success.  And success for me as a musician didn’t even mean millions of records sold, and arena (or even big theater) shows.  It just meant a small income; enough for me to pay rent and to keep making records and performing.  Right around the end of 2012 we hit that sweet spot where the guys I took on the road and I were able to do that, and we hit a nice ground swell with the record “DJ Booth.”  We started seeing repeat fans at clubs, more money from the door, and some online press to support our touring endeavors.  But in a climate where everyone interested in making a living in that space is fighting for so little money to go around, there are vultures and bottom feeders around every corner.  I was green enough, gullible, and so excited to break into more success that I fell right into the trap of some crooked radio promoters who conned us out of a major chunk of our financial resources, and hired-gun musician who tied the band up for over a year in a frivolous lawsuit (which was eventually dismissed).

But as this was going on- we kept playing shows.  For another 8 months, pooling every dollar from merch sales, door fees, spotify, Pandora, and almost any source, and putting in the van’s gas tank to get to the next club.  I commend everyone in the band for sticking with it on the road for so long, but we finally decided to hang it up, go to work for a while and push the reset button.

I parlayed my touring experience into a decent job in sales at the end of 2013, and for almost a year I didn’t want to have anything to do with music unless I was at a bar getting paid at least 200 bucks to play someone else’s songs.  As the months wore on, a number of my friends in DC, where I grew up and still live and work, started putting together some amazing bands and releasing great records.  Watching bands like the Cowards Choir, the Deadmen, The Beanstalk Library, and Derek Evry rock out helped me keep a little spark of inspiration and creativity that has in the last month or so transformed into an overwhelming desire to write and perform again.

I let my narcissism about being the guy who could “make it” get in the way of actually writing and recording great songs, and that’s not what playing should be about.  As I get ready to re-enter “Alex Vans & the Hide Away,” I think about everyone who has helped inspire and keep that creative spark in me.  I can’t wait to get this new music out to everyone.  When the songs come out, I don’t care if you listen to them on vinyl, itunes, spotify, Pandora, or by tying a string to a cup and having your grandma play it off her old cassette player.  I don’t care if I make a an eighth of a cent from it or 10 bucks- I’m just looking forward to you hearing it and getting your own value from it.  It’s my job to figure out how to make it happen and your job to rock out.

The new EP is coming out in March.

Monday, July 8, 2013

big shows this weekend + new single on the way + new live videos

Just finished up an amazing weekend recording a new single at Bias Studios with the inimitable Mike Douaire producing/engineering.  The new song "Somebody to Lose" will be finishing up mixing this week, and will see a september release along with another cool new b-side.

Haven't named the release yet, but stay tuned.

As for some new show announcements, the band has been rehearsing hard for a huge east coast weekend.  On friday, we will be hitting my favorite venue in Brooklyn, the Rock Shop, with my favorite band in Brooklyn, These Animals.  Show starts at 9pm, for ticket info click here:

Then, we will be blitzing down to Richmond to play Hardywood brewery for a marathon 3 hour set.  We are armed with a bunch of new tunes, and some of my favorite classic rock arrangements (a rad new Neil Young cover is in the works for the Brooklyn show Friday).

If youre new to the band live you might want to check out the latest video from last month's NYC show:  My favorite part is at 4:22.

Hope to see some of you on Friday in NYC, and in the meantime, rock on!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Alex Vans & the Hide Away NEWS: What I'm Doing on my Summer "Vacation"

Alex Vans & the Hide Away NEWS: What I'm Doing on my Summer "Vacation": One of my new years resolutions that it has taken my roughly six months to make the first step into doing has been keeping a more regular bl...

What I'm Doing on my Summer "Vacation"

One of my new years resolutions that it has taken my roughly six months to make the first step into doing has been keeping a more regular blog.  Well, dog gone it, I'm going to do it starting now.  I'll be updating this page much more frequently, and not just with the incessant stream of "come to this show" and "hey I'm playing a show over here" and hey "why haven't you been to a show yet?!"

No, no, no.  this blog will be reserved for my thoughtful musings on life, music, things that I feel like I have to complain about, and the occaional new video, single, album release, aka what I'm actually supposed to be doing as a bandleader.

After 6 months of hitting the road hard, and finding myself in town after town of strangers (albeit very cool strangers, which, for the most part became fans and friends), I'm happy to finally be mostly back home in Washington, DC for the summer.

The band is getting back to its roots.  I've put together a great line-up of DC all-stars from the area and we are getting back to the basics.  Actually practicing, writing songs, working out tighter arrangements, and, most importantly, bro-ing down.

We have a few weekend excursions to New York City and North Carolina, as well as a healthy docket of hometown shows.  I'm excited to have these guys on board and I can't wait to share with you whats coming next.

Over the summer, you all will have a chance to look forward to a new web video series called "Live from The Dunes" that I will be putting out starting Thursday July 3rd, with new content coming out once a week.  We will be previewing new songs that will be on our upcoming, yet to be titled fall EP.

More to come, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Now on Pandora!

Some quick, awesome news:  our new album now has its own Pandora radio station.  Just search for "Alex Vans" next time you go onto Pandora, and listen to us and similar artists.  And who knows, maybe that next awesome song you hear pop up on one of your other stations, it will be ours!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

one chapter ends, another begins...

After spending the better part of 2013 so far on the road, we have been taking a much needed break from touring.  I've been writing some new material, licking my wounds from the road, and preparing for the next step in this never ending musical journey.

One important chapter of the band recently came to a close.  My New York City backing band and I parted ways at the beginning of this month.  Jaron, Scotty, and Dave rocked it out with the band for the better part of 100 shows and they kicked ass on every single one, whether it was at a huge festival, or a dive bar, they always brought their musical "a-game" and I feel blessed to have shared the stage with such great dudes for so long.

On May 3rd of this year, we played a near sold-out show at Pianos in New York City to commemorate how much the band was rocking, and we recorded a live album and video, which I hope to be releasing in the next few months.  I've been listening to the mixes so far and they sound amazing.  For anyone that didn't get a chance to hear that band, keep an eye out for the live tracks when they come out.

A new chapter in the life of this band began last week, when the new incarnation of the Hide Away rocked it out in front of 400 people on the lawn of the National Building Museum in DC.  Made up of some great guys from my hometown, we just killed it in Philly last night, and are looking forward to a busy summer, starting with string of MD/VA shows memorial day weekend, and beyond.

Hope you've enjoyed our shows and releases so far, thanks again for your continued support, and we can't wait to show you whats coming next.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

SXSW Tour: A Complete Retrospective

Its been a month or so since I last made a blog post, mainly because the band has been hitting it so hard on the road.  But finally, with two weeks off, I'm able to sit back and chronicle some of the crazy adventures that we've had from the beginning of March up until now.

I have saved up about 23 days full of stories from the road, and in this entry, I'm going to purge them all in one epic retrospective, starting from our warm up show in Connecticut, all the way to Austin, TX and back to New York City.  Here goes....(by the way, this will be the longest entry to the blog yet....)

Day 1,  Redding Roadhouse, West Redding, CT

We started as any tour normally does, with getting the back back together.  Scotty was to take a bus from Raleigh to meet me in DC, then I was going to pick up Dave and Jaron from Brooklyn.  We were all going to head up to CT together with plenty of time to spare.  After a disastrous Greyhound bus trip from Raleigh left us 4 hours behind, a rather easy game of travel leap frog, turned into a race against time (and NYC rush hour) to get to our first show.  Luckily we made the gig with only ten minutes to set up and play, but it turned out to be a blast.  The venue was a cozy little inn type of spot with a great built in listening crowd.  The talent buyer, Dylan, was one of the coolest people we have met on the road, and treated us really well, we will definitely be back.

Day 2,  The Bowery Electric, New York City

My favorite venue in the city for many reasons.  Diane, the manager is one of the coolest people to work with for one.  Also, amazing sound, lighting, and stage, all in a nice little space the gives all of our fans a great view of the band.  I left my amp there, which definitely caused some problems, but my buddy Mark at Sucker Punch studios was kind enough to let me borrow his for the tour, and Bowery kept my amp safe for the duration.  Good experience overall, made better by the best fans we have in any city.

Day 3,  Mellow Mushroom, Washington, DC

Cant say enough warm fuzzy things about my hometown.  Some great old friends showed up to our bar gig to show some support, as well as some new fans, stay tuned for our next big hometown show.

Day 4, Lexington, KY

Notice how I didnt name the club in this post, mainly because of how royally they screwed us over.  They originally had us booked as part of a big radio fundraiser they were hosting, but when we arrived, they informed us that they didnt have time in the schedule to have us on stage, so they moved us to a "sidebar" that was basically a run-down shack behind the main venue that nobody knew about.
On the good advice from my bandmates, we decided to "take the money and run" (even though there wasnt any money, just a free meal and some beers).  The worst part of it was, the manager of the venue called us the next day to see how the show went!

Day 5, Dragon Pub, Frankfort, KY, AKA "Kentucky's Redemption"

One of the biggest surprises on our tour.  We met some of the nicest people, and the most rowdy crowd yet.  Some really cool people invited us to after party with them, and we ended up eating moonshine cherries and drinking Makers Mark until about 5 in the morning.  Win.

Day 6, Makers Mark Distillery

Much needed day off after 5 shows straight.  We decided to take a trip to the Makers mark distillery and enjoy ourselves some free bourbon.  We got to try a few special blends available only at the distillery, and got ourselves good a buzzed (except for Dave who was driving) for our trip to Nashville.

Day 7 and 8, Nashville, Tulsa, and the long road to Texas

Nashville was a blast, thanks to Ashley and our drummer jaron who cooked us some amazing meals, and hosted us on some awesome jam sessions and sing-a-longs.  Big props.  After some great times and good friends, we headed to Tulsa, OK for one last show before the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, TX.

Tulsa was a great time, but in the back of our heads we knew in order to make our first SXSW showcase by 6pm, we would have to make the drive overnight from Oklahoma to Austin.  We left the Tulsa gig at 3am, and arrived in Austin after driving through the night, 10am.  We promptly passed out, and 6 hourr later, made it to 6th street in downtown Austin for our first SXSW showcase.  If youve never been to Austin during SXSW its like Mardi Gras time 10, for a week straight, and coming into town during the last 3 days of music week, was quite a shock for us coming from the open pastures of Oklahoma.  We played to our biggest crowd yet, and had an amazing time.  That night we crossed over to W 6th street to play a private rooftop party from 12-2am.

Day 2 of SXSW (Day 10) had us lugging our gear through the crowded streets of E 6th in Austin to the 311 club for the Indie On the Move showcase. We started off our set with an thin crowd, but once they heard the tunes, by the end of our set, we had a full-house.  Its a great feeling to know that end of the day, maybe the songs are good enough, and the band is tight enough to pull a crowd.

We ended our time at SXSW at an invite only (open bar!!) party featuring one of my favorite bands from NYC, Spirit Animal.  I for one took way too much advantage of the open bar and ended p with a major hangover on the ride to Houston the next day.

Day 11 and 12, Houston Texas, the weirdest gig ever, and a decent club gig

Thanks to our drummer Jaron, we were able to pick up some extra shows, and a great place to crash in Houston, TX.  I'll spend the most time talking about the strangest club I've ever played in, Super Happy Fun Land.  How can I most accurately describe this place without directly referencing a bizzarre passage from a William S. Burroughs novel?  If you have ever seen the move Escape from New York, picture the run down post-apocalyptic Theater in which the homeless put on macabre improptu plays, and you'll have a very clear picture.  They invited us to spend the night, but decided to pass, fearing what might happen to us if we did.

Thanks to some great hosts, and good weather, we left in good spirits for our next night in New Orleans.

Day 13, Checkpoint Charlie, New Orleans, LA

The gig, which was at one of the coolest bars in the French Quarter played second fiddle to the night we had afterwards.  After playing from 11-2am, and rocking New Orleans for the first time, we decided to ride the high of the evening and take it until dawn.  We ended up  on Bourbon street 3 hours later eating seafood gumbo and taking whiskey shots until, when we decided to leave, the sun has already been shining for about two hours.  After a quick nap, we treated ourselves to a breakfast of alligator tail and red beans and rice at 11am, and hit the road for Panama City, FL

Final Leg, Day 14-17, Panama City, Birmingham, AL, Greenville, SC, and Charlotte, NC

Making our way back home, we hit some familiar haunts and soon to be familiar haunts.  The back-end of our tour saw some of our tightest sets, great promoters and venues, and lots of free PBR tall boys.  Big Win.

Overall, it was a great time and we hope to keep sharing the great tunes and vibes with everyone in the spring and summer.  We'll be heading back out April 11-26th, but for now, I'll be reflecting, writing, and preparing to share some brand new tunes to everyone when we come back.  Cheers.