By Dave Griffiths
Now any heavy music fan could easily be excused for hearing about Tasmania’s Festival Of Voices and thinking ‘well their wouldn’t be any reason for me to attend that’, hell you’re probably wondering why the festival is even being mentioned in Heavy right now! Well there is a reason, a very big reason, and that reason is German outfit Van Canto.
Of course, if you haven’t heard of Van Canto then you are about to be in for another shock. See if you watch Van Canto unload their tour van you’ll see a drum kit, some amps, some mics and some band members but you won’t see guitars or keyboards. That’s because those sounds come from the mouths of Ross Thompson (higher guitars), Stefan Schmidt (lower guitar and solos) and Ingo Sterzinger (bass). Van Canto are a power metal band with a difference. Everything except for their drums is done a-cappella (yes that thing that the girls do in Pitch Perfect) style. One look at their videos on YouTube and you are quickly won over by their sound. Now they are on their way to do a concert and workshops at the Festival Of Voices, which is to be held in Hobart (2-12 July) and Launceston (14-16 July).
Catching up with Stefan Schmidt is a unique experience, even on the phone, as he is only too happy to demonstrate how easy it is for him to deliver his guitar vocal stylings, something that has to be heard to be believed. He tells me contrary to what many people believe Van Canto didn’t start up any differently to how most bands start out. “We all joined together in 2006,” he explains. “We actually all knew each other from playing in other bands, we knew each other from being in bands together or playing gigs together. We were actually all singers in our former bands. We decided to do something different and I wanted to do something vocal orientated so I got all these singers together. And then when we started out in the studio it turned from being something vocal orientated to pure metal a-cappella. We noticed that it wasn’t only something that worked but was something really unique, we really liked it so and that was how Van Canto was born.”
Stefan goes on to explain that the last thing they ever wanted to do was simply mimic the sounds. “I think the important thing to remember is that we are real guitar players. We don’t just sing like guitars players we think like guitar players as well, it is a real sound. To get that sound we practiced a lot, we did a lot of shows and we noted what worked and what didn’t. Basically we realised that it was that different to what a metal vocalist would do. What we do isn’t much different to say what James Hetfield would do. We have to put just as much crunch in. It might be a couple of octaves different but it is basically the same as a metal singer.”
Van Canto have certainly made a name for themselves over the years delivering their unique sound to many countries right around the world. Not only have they sold out shows right around the world and delivered four high-selling studio albums but the band have been invited to perform on albums with Blind Guardian, Taj Turunen and Grave Digger. Now Van Canto bring their sound to Tasmania something that Stefan is very excited about. “That is the great thing about Van Canto,” he says with a laugh. “Not only are we in the metal scene but we are also attracting people not in the metal scene, people into the choir scene and things like that. We have been invited to the Festival Of Voices to do vocal workshops with local participants and to help them extend their vocal experience or even getting to learn new singing techniques. We will have some choir arrangements of some of our original songs and maybe one or two covers that we will practice with local choirs. We will also do a regular metal a-cappella show like we would if we were on tour, and this gives us a great opportunity to get to know another country on the other side of the world. Plus, we get to meet new people who love singing and get to do a Van Canto in Australia for the first time ever, which is something we are really looking forward to.”
While Stefan isn’t allowed to elaborate on what covers that Van Canto would be doing at the Festival Of Voices in the past they have covered tracks by bands including Metallica, Europe, Black Sabbath and even music from The Lord of the Rings trilogy so the people of Tasmania are in for something very different, but also very special.
And if you are still a little confused at what an a-cappella metal band would sound take a look at Van Canto’s Lost Forever clip below because it is well worth a look… and is lot more entertaining than the latest cute cat video.
Festival of Voices runs from 2 – 12 July in Hobart and 14 – 16 July in Launceston. For more information, visit this link.