VERSUS THE NOTHING – Canada’s “Anthemic Crusaders”

“If you’re worth listening to, it’s all about heart…right? That’s the way I look at it.” Jay Scannell tells me, waiting to take the stage right before HINDER, “If a band doesn’t FEEL themselves, FEEL their music…enough to be honest…then they’re just trying to make a buck.” Unmask the pretentious bullsh*t & park it at the door – VERSUS THE NOTHING are in town.  “TRUTH & VALOR” rule this brotherhood – they’ve been together for ten years now…three years with current line-up:  Ross Archibald (vocals), Jay Scannell (bass), Chris Shaw (guitar), Ande Otte (guitar), & Jake Wyman (drums).  Livin’ in a bus & just rockin’ out…that’s what we do.” Jay says.

Standing up for nothing, & EVERYTHING, all at once…like a group of “Anthemic Crusaders” – their heated guitar, raw emotion, & belting fever transcend into catchy radio mixes for a discontent generation.  Their commitment to unobstructed musical breadth spells LONGEVITY for the unsigned Canadian act, but it’s been a harrowing ride.  With NO FUNDS to record a highly-anticipated FULL second album, scraping pennies together to tour back & forth from coast-to-coast, random jobs between painstaking road efforts, & depending on fans to aid them in their perilous battle…they know what it means to be strugglingly “INDEPENDENT”.  They also know that, in order to change the strained music world, musicians must stick together…& it starts within YOUR OWN BAND.  “No fake personae, keeps things strong.” drummer Jake Wyman reveals.  It is this honesty that has been the critical deliverance for VTN.

Inspired by Michael Ende’s “The Neverending Story”, the quintet reflects on personal influences & childhood dreams of beating the odds, & encouraging others to do the same…using MUSIC as the resource.  That’s exactly what unfolded on their 22 date “CANNON BALL TOUR” – the fans (especially the ladies) can’t seem to get enough of this hot, young Canadian act.  They know how to bring out the “Best” & “Worst” of their situation, living a very “confined lifestyle” in one SMALL, CRAMPED BUS…but they also know how to bring out “THE MAGIC” in every song they touch, even when only given the option to record a four song EP.  “Black Gloves” was released in July of this year, a follow-up to VTN’s 2008 full-length album “Let It All Come Down”, & it boasts HARD-DRIVEN alternative grooves sifting between rich, cascading melody.  They explain how it encapsulates the BEST four endeavors of their current songwriting journey…with “new limb”, Ande Otte – who lived & breathed guitar during highschool, “It became my life…it was all I would do.” he states.

An eager “clarity” enriches this young Vancouver sensation, as they deliver massive hooks & lyrical mood changes involving elements from rock, jazz, blues, grunge, even power-metal, & fragments of growl.  The “PROGRESSIVE COLLAGE” is vibrant in today’s over-saturated market, & allows them to easily stand out amongst the sea of rivals.  “Our image is who we are…” Otte comments, “…this is honestly WHO WE ARE.” The comical, spirited gang of hardrockers (a few that were even kicked outta’ highschool band) have zero inhibitions when hitting the LIVE stage, & give a HIGH-TRIGGERED performance through constant interaction with the fans…the “LIFE FORCE” to any musical following.  “If it wasn’t for the fans, we wouldn’t even be ALIVE right now.” Scannell admits, & then they reminisce about a Montreal couple who helped them get to a pivotal gig at the “Whiskey a Go Go” in Hollywood, a show that would’ve never happened without encouragement & support – & if your names are “PAUL & SHORTY”, this is my cue to give you a heartfelt “SHOUT OUT”.

VTN has a strong grasp on what it’ll take to keep them in the eye of the storm, one of those things being…the ability to tour for extended periods of time.  “The more you tour…the better you get it.” guitarist Chris Shaw states, “We tour with each other enough, that we pretty much know each other inside & out.”…& Otte adds how it didn’t really make sense on paper, when it all first began.  “Money comes & goes…& if you want to be around, you’ve got to invest in it.  So, that means…you don’t get any!” Scannell remarks.  They share the fights that other bands are accustomed to, but within the past few years, have come to realize just how important an “awareness of personal space” can be.  Vocalist, Ross Archibald, compares it to shutting yourself off like a “SWITCH” – to avoid the things you shouldn’t say & have the entire project crumble at the height of success.  The five-piece collectively agree…IT’S ALL OR NOTHING…& they’re not about to settle for the second part of the phrase.

“You’ve gotta’ have the whole emotion behind it & you gotta’ BE REAL.” – Jason Scannell (Bass)

Instead of focusing on the darker realms of retreat & submission, Versus The Nothing have chosen to use “optimism” as their weaponry, & it often pairs their catchy vibrations with EXTREME SPORTS.  Their songs have been used in video games for Mazda, the official “2010 Winter Olympics” (found on SEGA Games), Tom Green’s movie “SHRED – Ride or be Ridden”, & a couple snowmobiling/paintball DVDs.  It’s the enthusiasm behind the writing that makes all this possible.  Referring to themselves as inadvertent “extremists”, succumbed to the vastness of British Columbia & a rugged outdoor lifestyle, Versus The Nothing carry a survival instinct…something they pass on to their listeners.  The sarcastic sting of new single “KILLER” draws attention to those shooting your ideas down, or “harshin’ your buzz” – as frontman, & main lyrical contributor, Ross Archibald puts it.  “Writing is kinda’ therapeutic,” he says, “& the songs can really be about anything that’s bothering you in a day.  It’s like taking something & throwing it away.” The purpose of the “Black Gloves” EP was to grab public attention with a solid recording…& it has definitely accomplished that.  With a variety of national (& internet) stations airing the angst-infused tracks of VTN, the name is quickly spreading…giving them opening slots for bands like Thornley, Art Of Dying, State of Shock, & American conglomerates “HINDER”.

VTN will be heading into the studio later this year, & just what they will unveil…nobody knows for sure.  Could be acoustic, could be anthemic, but it will bleed all the PASSION they can summon…these guys don’t know how to do anything less.  They share a true sense of the effectiveness of their music, & previous offerings show unique, charismatic components that blend into a gamut of uncompromising attitude – leaving the group & fans “fulfilled” every time they walk off stage.  “I think there’s still room for the full-length album, if it’s written well.” Scannell comments.  With whole-hearted determination, & plans for taking their adventure into The States (& hopefully Europe) within the next couple years, Versus The Nothing are prepared to “FACE THE MUSIC” for a long time to come.  Strap on your “Black Gloves”, & free yourself from what you might have heard before, things are about to get sonically crazy!  The delirious chants, interluding harmonies, blistering emotion, & pulsating core tell us that VTN’s principles work.  They make it look like NOTHING AT ALL, but it’s a balanced equation for hitting the top of the charts.  Versus The Nothing are calling…taunting us to step to the edge of NEW MUSIC.

“QUALITY is priceless.” – Chris Shaw (Guitar)

Find “VERSUS THE NOTHING” on the web:

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BPatoine – October, 2011

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