Vandaveer: Spite

Vandaveer Photo by Sarah Law

Day four of the shutdown. As a reminder that not everything in Washington is dysfunctional, I’m placing this amazing song from D.C.-based Vandaveer on my current playlist. If you like folk/Americana, you need to give them a listen.

Lately, music reviewers have been criticizing bands for unimaginatively riding the Mumford & Sons wave, but that is certainly not the case with this alt-folk duo. There’s an honest rawness in Vandaveer’s sound and storytelling that sets them apart. Take “Spite,” for instance. The song features a primal dance between percussion and guitar, punctuated by strings. I love how the straining, tormented undercurrent in Mark Charles Heidinger’s deep vocals is complemented by the sweet, delicate voice of bandmate Rose Guerin.

In addition to constructing hauntingly beautiful harmonies, Vandaveer pays attention to words and knows the power of allegory. “Spite” is poetry — an unvarnished representation of the (il)logic of a man who “cut out his sleep to spite his dreams, picked all the flowers to spite the bees.”

Hm, does this description fit certain ideologues who closed national parks and Head Start education programs for low-income children (the list of impacts is a long one), all because they couldn’t get their way on a piece of legislation that, as imperfect as it is, makes health care more affordable for more people — a law that was championed by a President this country later reelected, and which was upheld by the Supreme Court? Please, someone send a copy of Schoolhouse Rock’s “How a Bill Becomes Law” to these legislators.

But, I digress. To return to the music — “Spite” is a smart, well-crafted song, and a reminder of what happens when we cede our better selves to the base instincts of vengefulness and vindictiveness: Life becomes a “wretched affair,” in which we “hold our breath to spite the air.” Check out the cool video. As the band says, they “went a little Kafka on this one.”