John Van Deusen survived adolescence by matching hooky riffs and angsty lyrics. Today, he brings that love for pairing heartfelt words with catchy melodies to his indie pop-rock band The Lonely Forest and his solo career he’s maintained since 2016.
His latest solo release, (I Am) Origami Pt. 3 – A Catacomb Hymn, drops on July 19. The lead-off single “Whatever Makes You Mine” has the immediate and undeniable guitar pop appeal of beloved indie rockers like Modest Mouse and Weezer. However, it’s also tempered with his unique songwriting that’s heavily influenced by XTC.
“I love pop music [and] pop songcraft,” he tells BTRtoday. “I’m [also] moody and I REALLY love radio rock from the ’90s.”
Read the entire interview with John Van Deusen below and listen to his latest release from (I Am) Origami Pt. 3 – A Catacomb Hymn “Social Sucker” below and keep an eye out for the new album out July 19.
John Van Deusen, “Social Sucker”
BTRtoday (BTR): How did start writing music?
John Van Deusen (JVD): I started writing my own music when I was 11 years old. I wrote my first song with lyrics and vocals about my favorite comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. I didn’t actually begin writing songs based upon my own emotional experiences until I was 13. That’s when I really discovered my love for songwriting. I think puberty and girls had something to do with it.
BTR: Do you remember one of the first songs you wrote?
JVD: I was in middle school. It was called “Falling Down Again” and my first high school band played it at the talent show the next year. To our surprise, we won. That first taste of success jump-started my love of performing and writing—I was quickly addicted to the feeling.
BTR: How would you compare your solo material to that of The Lonely Forest?
JVD: I don’t think my solo material is all that different from a songwriting perspective. Also, having the epic drumming talents of Braydn Krueger (who plays in The Lonely Forest) adds a common dimension to many of my solo recordings. However, not having Eric (bass) and Tony (lead guitar) clearly changes things in the end, because they are both very distinct in their creative decision making. I’m neither a bass player nor a lead guitar player, I just fake it.
I do think I have more agency as an artist now that I’m not working within the structure of a band. Being a creative dictator can be lonely, but it definitely allows me to take more risks as an artist.
BTR: What do you want your listeners to get out of your music?
JVD: I would hope that my music helps people get in touch with their emotions—good, bad and ugly. I want people to feel okay about not feeling okay.
BTR: What do you think of pop bands today?
JVD: I love pop music. I love pop songcraft. But I find most current chart-toppers perplexing and I think that’s because I’m getting old. I do feel strongly that most current pop stars need more editing. Taylor Swift is a great example. Is she a prodigious talent? Without a doubt. Does she need someone to occasionally say, “that’s a shitty idea?” Yes, in my opinion. Does she care what I think? Not a chance.
BTR: Tell me about this first single “Whatever Makes You Mine.”
JVD: I was staying alone in a cabin up in the mountains and I was very afraid. I wrote the song at night while staring out a giant window that overlooked the woods. I think I just wanted someone there with me to take the edge off. So in a way the song is a cry for help. I was yelling into the night hoping someone friendly would hear me.