Van Larkins is hailed world-wide as a leading songwriter and guitarist in fingerstyle earning him magazine covers, a coveted spot on the CandyRat Records roster, endorsements and praise from the world’s leading artists in the genre, including Andrew White, Phil Emmanuel and Strictly Ballroom’s Antonio Vargas. Soon to release his fourth studio album, Cinder Moon and feature in a world-first fingerstyle guitar movie, Van Larkins is without a doubt one of Australia’s proudest exports and must-see performers. Before he hits Dust Temple alongside Andrea Valeri – who is just 25 and has seven albums to his name, Van Larkins spoke to Blank’s editor Samantha Morris.
What is fingerstyle?
Fingerstyle is a technique based genre, making the art-form accessible to guitarists of different backgrounds. My new album features tunes composed over a four-year period inspired by everything from psytrance to funk where I use double tapping, slap harmonics, neck bending and percussion on the body of the instrument.
You recently ‘sounded off’ with Phil Emmanuel at Sunshine Coast’s Turn Up! Conference. Tell me about the experience?
Phil is an amazing guitarist and story-teller with decades of experience, the workshop was mind blowing. Whilst Phil showed his advanced electric guitar techniques and effects like delay and ‘wha’, I did my best to recreate these sounds using an acoustic instrument with no amplification.
You’re touring with Andrea Valeri. He’s only 25 but has made serious inroads in the fingerstyle scene. Are you guys collaborating musically as well as on the road?
We’ll no doubt collaborate on at least one piece to finish the shows, possibly more depending on how much time we have. With any luck, we might have a music video to share around at the end of the tour!
Check out Van Larkins and Valeri in action below, then continue reading for the rest of the interview.
You don’t sing or play other instruments on your tracks. There’s no loop pedal. It’s just you and the guitar. What’s your earliest memory of guitar-playing?
I picked up a guitar when I was 13, playing along with my dad’s records of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd but it wasn’t until I was 16 and introduced to acoustic fingerstyle that I really started to “play”. I still listen to a lot of different bands, many of which use effects and looping, this continues to inspire me and has presented the welcome challenge of trying to emulate these effects live.
Can you tell me about some of the things you do to or with your guitar to create the effects and sounds we can hear in your music?
I believe you are only ever limited by your imagination, I achieve ‘delay’ by shaking my hand quickly while making contact with the strings, it looks really weird, but sounds awesome! ‘Wah’ can be achieved by resting your arm on the face of the guitar, then removing to mute and un-mute the sound and bending the neck creates an extreme pitch bend which I like to apply to harmonics. It’s almost digital in nature, but delivered organically, too much fun.
You’re really spearheading this musical evolution of fingerstyle. How do you see your music evolving in the future?
Now that I have learned to create these effects acoustically, I may just have to electrify everything to see what happens… that and the deep well of inspiration that is the internet, continues to inspire my own compositions.
You’re at Dust Temple on 15 December. What do you love most about the Gold Coast?
Aside from the fact I was born there in Southport, the Gold Coast is exploding! SO much talent and excitement there, I never wait too long between visits. Can’t wait to play there again!
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Van Larkins and Andrea Valeri are at Dust Temple on Thursday 15 December.