Van William has just released his first solo effort, The Revolution EP, on September 8. Coming from previous bands Port O’Brien and WATERS, William has always been able to tug at the heart strings, but this time, it’s much more personal. The Revolution EP feels both therapeutic and celebratory. We asked Van to compile a list of songs that inspired him during the process of making this EP, and it’s filled with the perfect mix of timeless classics and modern jams for your listening pleasure.
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Beck – Lost Cause
Sea Change came out when I was in high school, and its resonance hasn’t diminished one bit since. I remember my punk friends thinking I was super lame for liking it, and it was one of the first moments when I felt so justified in saying fuck off. The string arrangements and drum sounds on this record were references that were frequented during every step of the way.
Neil Young – On The Beach
While Sea Change has these carefully constructed and orchestrated arrangements, On The Beach represents the other side of that coin to me. Its got that loose early 70s Neil swagger that nobody will ever have again, but can still be a guiding light. I hung up the dreamy Gary Burden artwork in my bedroom as a sprit guide while writing and demoing.
Nirvana – Where Did You Sleep Last Night
Nothing matches Kurt’s vocal delivery at the end of this. Its closest rival might be John Lennon’s “Mother” outro, but it hits me even harder. I can’t match those dudes with a one million foot pole, but I knew I needed to push myself as hard as I could. I had to balance my obsessive perfectionist with the punk rawness of the shit I grew up on.
Alvvays – Party Police
Its been a while since a new band has floored me like Alvvays. Lyrically, nobody touches Molly Rankin. Every song is so beautifully constructed and purposeful. I saw them at The Echo while I was writing and demoing, and I raced back to my bedroom right after and stayed up until 5am working on songs.
The Radio Dept. – Heaven’s On Fire
My favorite working band on planet Earth. After the breakup that inspired these songs, I would get stoned and lie in my living room that was all of a sudden 50% emptier and listen to this record on vinyl almost every night. By the end of it, I would be ready to get up, start re-organizing the apartment, working on songs, and even awkward-solo-dancing-alone-in-my-living-room. Its power over me was like one of those videos of a preacher who puts their hands on someone and the person is “healed” or whatever is going on there.
Cocteau Twins – Heaven Or Las Vegas
This record came into my life on a night drive back to LA from Joshua Tree right before things started falling out from under me. Somehow, I had never really listened to the Cocteau Twins, but thanks to the wonder that is Shazam, a song on the radio turned into obsessive listening that continued throughout the writing and recording process.
Lilyer – I Was On Your Side
As mentioned, The Revolution EP and the forthcoming record are full of heartbreak fucked-upness, so it makes sense that one of the most inspirational artists is the person on the other end of that, who remains one of my favorite songwriters. I remember this song and others from Lilyer coming together while I was in the other room working on Never Had Enough Of You. This song is layered in beauty and heart that was at times too much for me to listen to, but with time has been able to get back under my skin.
Ronnie Wood – Mystifies Me
While I was rehearsing the songs before recording with the greatest drummer I’ve ever played with, Griffin Goldsmith (Dawes), he turned me on to this Ron Wood record. I’ve always been a Stones Guy, but somehow never heard this pre-Ron-Wood-Being-A-Stone-But-Mick-And-Keith-Are-On-It record or greatness. Magically, there was a vinyl copy at the studio we recorded at up in Stinson Beach and we listened to it almost every night while playing dice and drinking wine and smoking Js.
Modest Mouse – Trailer Trash
I was on the road while I was writing a good chunk of this record, spiraling in and out of post-breakup depression while zoning out through the tour van windows. It made me think of the most important record from my high school days, Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West. The Polaroid visuals and lyrical desolation of that record gave me an idea of the country before I had seen any of it outside of California and Alaska and revisiting it during this time was a way to connect the dots between young love and adult heartbreak while using ideas about “America” as a way to express that.
CHVRCHES – Recover
True story: I got into CHVRCHES after I saw them guesting on The Star Wars Show, which is a YouTube weekly video from the official SW channel that I watch along with several other SW non-official channels, but I should stop talking about that and start talking about CHVRCHES because this is a list for a music website. I’ve always been a pop writer at heart, and while this band doesn’t necessarily inform the production of Van William songs, the writing absolutely does. I saw them at Hollywood Forever a while back, and similarly to the effect of Alvvays, I rushed home and started working late into the night.
Vetiver – Current Carry
Andy has always been one of my favorite writers, but for some reason Complete Strangers hit me harder than any other Vetiver record. I wouldn’t want to tell him how many times I’ve listened to Current Carry while driving around Los Angeles because he might be freaked out. I can’t listen to this record without daydreaming about my many years spent living in the Bay, which is an emotionally packed space for me. Also, the acoustic guitar tones of Thom Monahan are legendary.