Van Dammes Raise Hell In Helsinki

Van Dammes’ music freezes hell over.

With their robust guitar solos and wild drumbeats, they reach into the deepest, darkest parts of their listeners’ souls. The four-piece garage band hail from Helsinki, Finland and pull inspiration from every era of punk, satisfying each and every desire for any punk rock fan.

The group formed in Brussels, Belgium in 2013 and have already released two EPs, The VD EP and Better Than Sex. This May, they were back at it again with another EP entitled Vild Days. Currently, they’re touring the EU.

With Vild Days, Van Dammes dig deep into the oldest roots of punk, excavating the essence of The Ramones. They match sing-a-long ready chants and bouncy melodies with distorted guitars, post-punk-like synth and guttural vocals (which are oddly sultry on account of their Finnish accents).

BTRtoday chatted with Juho Talja and Markus Kujawa, the singers for Van Dammes. Check out the entire interview below.

BTRtoday (BTR): How did you meet and form Van Dammes?

Juho Talja (JT): We all are good friends, so we knew each other for a long time before Van Dammes. We’ve also been playing in some of the same bands for ages.

Markus lives in Brussels and this one time I travelled there to meet him we went to see this Swedish band called Holograms, which played at a legendary punk venue called DNA. We were really impressed about their aesthetics and after a few drinks we agreed to form a new band, which is now known as Van Dammes.

BTR: Why the name Van Dammes?

JT: Well, the band was formed in Brussels and there happens to be a statue of Jean-Claude van Damme, who happens to be from Belgium, that we accidentally saw.

Markus Kujawa (MK): And for a moment it felt like the best idea of the world. Now it’s too late to take it back.

BTR: Who are some of your musical inspirations?

JT: Pet Shop Boys. It was my first favorite band and it’s still one of the best. They know how to write the perfect melody to a song. For the same reasons I also like the old stuff of Weezer very much.

MK: Pet Shop Boys was also my first favorite band back in the early 1990’s. Our sound is of course completely different from theirs, but maybe melodically people can recognize some similarities between PSB and us.

JT: Of course there are also some punk and garage bands that have inspired us. For my part, I’d say [the previously mentioned] Holograms, The Spits, The Hives, Bikini Kill, Dune Rats (who we did some shows with about two years ago) and Death From Above 1979.

MK: Ah yes, I wish Van Dammes had made The Hives’ “Come On.”

BTR: Why do you sing in English?

JT: Singing in English gives us the opportunity to tour around Europe and even the world. Because of that we also have this opportunity to do interviews for example with US media outlets. If we sang in Finnish it would always be only the same Finnish towns where we could play.

MK: And there are like three towns and one newspaper in Finland… [laughs]

BTR: Tell me about the latest album Vild Days, what was the creative process like?

MK: The songs came quite quickly. Normally it’s Juho and I who write the songs but this time our drummer also made his contribution. His song is the one about drummers by the way. Also the recording process was very fast, which is very typical for us. However, the mixing process was very long due to our producer’s own (terrible) rap music projects and some record label issues. In fact, our former label is called Vild Records and they actually declined to release this EP. So after finding our current label, we decided to pay a little “tribute” to our former label. We are still on good terms with them though.

BTR: What are your live shows like?

MK: Fast and furious. We try not to play too long of sets. It’s good to leave the crowd a bit hungry, know what I mean? I guess our shows are quite messy. Anything can happen. I like that our bass player is in the middle of the stage, and Juho and I sing on both sides of him.

JT: Our shows are like running 400-meter hurdles [1/4 of a mile]. You have to go full speed from the beginning and cross many barriers to get to the finish line.

MK: Sometimes you win and sometimes you stumble.

BTR: What should we expect for the future of Van Dammes? How about a US tour anytime soon?

MK: Recently we were actually asked to tour the East Coast of the US, but I think there are already some Euro dates booked for then. It would be really cool to play in America at some point though. We’re also prepping to record our fourth album. There are already a couple of new songs so I guess the next record will be out in the beginning of 2018.

JT: Playing in the US would actually be really nice. Hey—all the active garage/punk booking agents reading this, just give us a call and we’ll be there. [laughs]

BTR: Is there something you guys like to do on your free time that isn’t music related?

JT: I’m really into European football, or soccer as you say in the US. I know everything about it and play it myself in lower levels. I’m also really interested in cryptozoology, which is about searching and studying the animals whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated.

MK: I’m into plane spotting and weird languages.