Van She are walking on sunshine.
Four years after the release of their debut record, V, the synth-pop quartet from Sydney have infused their new collection of anthems with the feel-good optimism of calypso music.
“When we first started writing the new record we were all a bit shell-shocked from our [V],” Van She singer Nick Routledge says.
“I spent quite some time in the Caribbean with my mum, because she lives there.
“She has a boat and listens to a lot of yacht rock and reggae – it was a really good feeling to be away from everything and get my head together.
“That music is just so perfect and cheesy and I just loved it.
“The songwriting did take some time to get into a groove, but once we nailed the first song, Idea Of Happiness, that became the starting point for the record.”
The music video for the title track from Van She's new record, Idea Of Happiness.
With track names like Calypso, Coconuts, Beat Of The Drum and Jamaica, Van She have created their own desert island disc.
Idea Of Happiness wears similar tropical influences to music by Last Dinosaurs, Jonathan Boulet, Vampire Weekend and Friendly Fires, but is far more synth-laden and hedonistic in its vision.
Waves of echoed vocals are buoyed by buzzing, sunny keyboards, and percussive electronic flourishes.
Jamaica, which will have a music video shot in its namesake country, has a steel drum rhythm and chorus that immediately washes you away.
Instrumental Coconuts is a futuristic excursion through a world of water, sand and sunshine.
You can see the tanned, Wayfarer-wearing characters of a Bret Easton Ellis novel sunbaking and drinking to the shimmering sounds of Idea Of Happiness.
The lyrics on Idea Of Happiness add to the immersive experience.
“Most of the lyrics are about escapism because I think at that point we were all wanting to find a good place to hang out in our heads,” Routledge says.
“The songs come from experiences and wanting to have a better time of life – like everybody does.
“We’re not an urban roots, street-level band – we don’t talk about day to day life, or making money and taking drugs.
“We’re more an escapism band – a fantasy.”
The summery record is the product of 18 months of studio work.
The four-piece, which includes bassist and singer Matt Van Schie, also chose to produce it themselves.
“We didn’t really enjoy the last time we had our record produced by someone else,” Routledge says, referring to Jim Abbiss.
The British producer was behind the Arctic Monkeys’ massive debut and also worked with Adele on her albums 19 and 21.
“We knew we could do it all ourselves, rather than pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to basically change whatever we thought was special,” Routledge adds.
“It worked out better.”
There’s no denying the cohesive and engaging kinetic energy of Van She’s second record.
They gave little thought to how they would translate the rich production to the stage, but Routledge doesn’t mind morphing what they’ve created.
“I actually like it when people have a studio album and when you see them live it doesn’t sound like it does on the record,” the singer explains.
“I like when people play new versions, because the melody is what matters.”
Van She have had limited opportunities to perform the songs, having only played a few launch shows for the Idea Of Happiness single, but will hit the road in July for a more extensive tour.
They appear at the Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle, on Sunday, July 8.
Routledge is confident the new songs will fit comfortably alongside the rockier, sonically dense material of V.
“We were a bit worried, but we decided that if we use the same instruments throughout the whole set then it is going to sound more cohesive,” Routledge says.
“As it stands, Mikey [Di Francesco, guitar] plays most of the bass parts on his Moog [synthesiser] and has another keyboard, and Tommy [Archer, drummer] plays a xylophone, which is like a sampler, as well as play the drums.
“That [sampler] plays guitar now, which turns into a bass.
“I just play effects – I’ve given up playing instruments on stage.”
After their Australian dates the band have their sights set on shows in Japan, Europe, the United States and South America.
They will also find time for side projects.
“We all still do our own little collaborations,” Routledge says.
“I’m doing a track with Alex Metric and Matt is doing some stuff with Ladyhawke.”
With four years passing since their last record, Routledge admits that having Idea Of Happiness on people’s stereos will be both a literal and figurative release.
“This record is what I’ve been thinking about – when it comes out maybe I should have a holiday for a week,” Routledge laughs.
“Oh my gosh – imagine working on something for three years and then it finally coming out.
“People go to you, ‘It’s nice to have you back man, we thought you weren’t coming back’ and I’m like, ‘I’ve always been here!’
“Because we haven’t had a record out, they don’t realise you’re still alive.”
# Van She’s new record Idea Of Happiness is released on July 6.
The band perform at the Cambridge Hotel on Sunday, July 8 with support from Rufus.
The Maitland Mercury has two double passes to give away to their Newcastle show.
For your chance to win fill out the attached coupon in Thursday's Mercury and return it to the Mercury’s office by noon next Wednesday.