Gothic rockers Van Halst: Setting the real world to music

Gothic rocker Kami Van Halst released an album called World of Make Believe, but she definitely lives in the real world.

Gothic rocker Kami Van Halst released an album called World of Make Believe, but she definitely lives in the real world.

With songs about victim-blaming, domestic violence and religious intolerance on her CD, Van Halst, front-woman of an Edmonton band with the same name, doesn’t pull any punches on social commentary.

“I try really hard to talk about these things in my music — to speak up and make a difference,” said the musician, who holds a university degree in sociology.

Her progressive lyrics will meld with the sound of wailing guitar and jack-hammer drums when Van Halst performs on Saturday, Aug. 20, at Ourfest, an independent music festival at Tail Creek Raceway in Nevis.

Considering her messages come via her Toronto-based band that bridges the hard-rock and metal genres, she doesn’t think they run the risk of sounding didactic. Still, the Edmonton-raised singer admits it takes courage to admit you’re a feminist these days.

The moniker is being misinterpreted as ‘man-hating’ instead of its original definition of seeking equality for everyone.

Yet 40 years after the women’s movement exploded in the 1970s, achieving an even playing field for women still seems an elusive goal, said Van Halst.

Consider the vitriol piled on U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who hasn’t wracked up any more scandals than her popular husband Bill, or other male politicians that are judged less harshly by the court of public opinion.

Even this summer’s all-female remake of the movie Ghostbusters has felt the scorn of many disparaging male movie-goers.

Van Halst recalled being appalled by a real-life incident in Edmonton when an assault on two women in an alley prompted an authority figure to question ‘What were they doing there in the first place?’ This victim-blaming inspired her song Questions.

Put Him Down, also from World of Make Believe, which is nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award, is about domestic violence, while Save Me is about religious extremism. “It talks about how religion… is used as a free pass to do evil,” said Van Halst. Examples of this have been in the news almost daily.

Van Halst believes young women are also continually being blasted with reminders of the unrealistic beauty standards to which they are supposed to aspire.

The singer grew up in a free-spirited household, listening to the music of hard rock bands like Motley Crue, Guns ‘N’ Roses and Bon Jovi. Her favourite group these days is kLL sMTH, a futuristic electronica group from Denver.

Although Van Halst’s songwriting has evolved towards topical issues and inward-reflecting lyrics, she said “I like the aesthetic of heavy music — and rock ‘n’ roll has always been a bit of a lifestyle for me!”

For tickets and line-up information about the Ourfest indie band festival that runs Aug. 18-21 at Nevis, please visit www.ourfest.ca.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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