Berlin – She laughed. It is impossible to write about Sam Vance-Law without mentioning the unique smile that spreads across his face and then into the world. It can only come out of his supposedly pure heart. Even the smiling Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada’s New Cologne, is likely to be jealous of this laugh, by which you might recognize Sam Vance-Law—even from a block away.
We meet not far from Sam Vance-Law’s old apartment on Bodinstrasse: on Neukölln Herfurthplatz, where Marion Gould and Bernhard Lloyd von Alfawil first met in the early eighties – soon followed by “Forever Young” and “Big Writing world hits like “In Japan”. However, as Germans, they had to sing in English. Sam Vance-Law, a native speaker of English, on the other hand, sings in German on his latest EP “NDW”. 80s cover version of Neue Deutsche Welle. It sounds weird, but it means a lot if you chat with him for a while. Especially since there are some lines from Ina Dieter’s 1982 hit “New Men Needs the Land” that he really wanted to sing—and what he does now: “I spray it on every wall of a house / I’m the most Looking for more handsome man in the country / A note on the notice board / He must be good in bed too.” Oh.
Sam Vance-Law went to a classical choir boarding school as a teenager
We walk for a bit and have a milk coffee-to-go at Café Engels. The staff behind Plexiglas are dancing to Beyoncé’s power R&B hit “Irreplaceable,” which they exaggerated, so turn it up appropriately loud this spring day.
Sam Vance-Law impressed everyone with his outrageously perfect Elvis hip swing on this and that side of the plexiglass—and his smooth baritone, with which he sang Beyoncé’s self-assured rendition (“You Shouldn’t Know” me!”), until he also staffs the strap: This man is not a hobby karaoke freak, but a professional singer.
As a teenager, Sam Vance-Law went to a classical choir boarding school—where he acquired singing skills, which he also benefited from in his 2018 debut, the highly acclaimed chamber-pop concept album “Homatoopia”, which was released in 2010. But he admitted to being gay. Not taking it too seriously, but with humour—a technique of tragic comedy, which Sam Vance-Law, a graduate of studies literature, may have copied from Shakespeare, from whom he, at the age of 34, wrote his As per Tender’s own statement read everything. Really everything.
Not a parody, but a bow
But why doesn’t the good Sam Vance-Law copy Shakespeare on his new EP, but copy the classics of Neu Deutsche Welle, from Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” to “I Don’t Want to Get Old” by the Hanoverian pop-punk band I am Burchen und die Milchbubis called? As a Canadian, how do you come up with singing in German? Sam Vance-Law sips his latte, and we ease ourselves on a bench at the edge of Tempelhofer Feld, where Vance-Law was with his less prominent friend, the confident bisexual glam punk rocker Drangsall, who plays “I’m Old”. Don’t want to be” sings along in tenor-baritone duet.
This is where Sam Vance-Law (or: SVL, as he eloquently writes himself on the EP cover) unpacks the full story: He reveals that he lived a decade ago in Canada through a stopover in Paris. How to get stuck in Berlin “Berlin was the first city in which I felt safe with my boyfriend,” he says. And here at private parties in Berlin, in an advanced time, when you were not ashamed of anything, but only did what you really wanted to do, those hits of Neue Deutsche Welle were played – from Nena to Peter Schilling . Sam Vance-Law, who has been playing the violin classically since the age of four, had a lot of fun swaying along with the song without understanding a word. So SVL does not want its EP to be considered a parody – but rather as a bow. Even if he imitates the German pronunciation of the original “for fun”: “Inna Dieter sings very harsh, punk, almost offensive. And Peter Schilling whispers creepy.”
Prejudice about Germans in Canada: Efficiency, no humour, furious
The understanding of German language words has certainly changed after a decade in Berlin. SVL meanwhile is more quick-witted in German than most native speakers. And of course he knows it has a socially relevant dimension too when, as a confident gay man, he sings about the fact that this country needs new men. Even if he doesn’t want to give a readymade answer.
“It’s something we’re very reluctant to do at the moment. Everything has to be a hashtag or a catchy line — and then there’s a fight on Twitter. I don’t like it at all, I like to scatter impulses. People It’s allowed to celebrate or feel excited. Have fun!” But it certainly isn’t too silly to come to the conclusion that after their album “Homotoopia,” NDW songs can now also be about traditional ideas that a What, how and who should man be under the present scrutiny.
“Eisbar” by the Swiss band Grouzon has been an enduring attraction at SVL’s concerts over the years. The Reason? “‘Polar Bear’ doesn’t have that many words. I thought maybe I could learn it easily,” he says mischievously. In any case, the audience goes crazy, like Sam Vance-Law’s own hit. Gaby”. After a semi-ironic sigh, he takes it calmly: “I think the song is amazing! Synths are very wild and weird. And the singing is dark. The singer doesn’t give a damn. We have some prejudices against the Germans: efficiency, no humour, furious. But here the singer is so casual. It didn’t sound German to me – but very German nonetheless. He was good.” The storytelling with an unheard twist in “Major Tom” also at second glance fits in perfectly with SVL’s own English lyrics.
SVL was able to enjoy the well-deserved fame of the first album with only one reservation: he went through a breakup. “At least now I know what my next record should be about!” He says it and laughs and means it’s serious. “There aren’t that many gay love songs yet. There are billions of break-up songs and 99.9 percent are straight.” SVL is someone who loves biking. Most recently he was harvesting wild garlic in the Planterwald, his single “ Eisber”. Wild garlic is polarizing, some hate it. “Oh, there are people who hate everything,” he smiles, again with that magical smile on his face. Less hate in the world, people! Like any material, you have to find a balance.”
Sam Vance-Law: “NDW” (Virgin Music/Universal)
The text appeared in the weekend edition of the Berliner Zeitung – every Saturday at the kiosk or as a subscription here.
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