On Friday, November 4th, Australia-based Vancouver Sleep Clinic (VSC) arrived in Philadelphia to perform at the Electric Factory. VSC is the alias of Tim Bettinson, a 20-year-old Brisbane native who is coming back to the scene in a big way after a two-year period of work on his upcoming record. VSC is currently supporting Daughter on their North American tour which began in New York on November 1st. An interview with Tim Bettinson of Vancouver Sleep Clinic.
Why did you choose “Vancouver Sleep Clinic” as your name?
I was just having a really rough time trying to find a name that wasn’t taken, so we went for something way out there. The whole idea of the “sleep clinic” part is to encapsulate the sound of the music—that kind of sleepy, dreamy, wintery sound. “Vancouver” seems just like a pretty picturesque city. I’ve never actually been there but we will be stopping there on this tour. It’s going to be crazy, like a weird homecoming to somewhere I’ve never been.
How did you come to be touring with Daughter?
Daughter is one of the first bands I ever saw live. I was about 15, and in Australia we don’t really get many bands come round so we have one big festival, like Glastonbury or Coachella but for Australia, and they were playing at that. Since then I’ve just thought that these guys are crazy good, so I’m super psyched to be on this tour with them. We actually did some shows with them in Australia, maybe two or three years ago, and we became friends after that and now we’re here.
There was a two-year period between your last release and this tour—what were you doing in that time?
I’ve pretty much just been writing and recording the record. It actually took a much longer time than I was expecting. We had to change a bunch of stuff and we were just trying to sort out the business end of it—that was kind of a drag as well because we weren’t signed when we did the EP so we had to sort all that out. I never really took time off from Vancouver Sleep Clinic, it just took a while.
When you announced your return, there was a large fan response on social media. How do you feel about the fan base you’ve built and how do you work to interact with them?
I was super psyched—it was definitely nerve-wracking coming back and wondering if people still cared or not. the people who listen to the music are the most important part; they’re why I write it, why I enjoy playing the music live. I’m always trying to make sure I’m interacting with them, and they become inspirations for my songs. It’s kind of like a big circular thing, they give to me and I try and give back to them. It’s awesome.
You have a tour phone for your van—has anyone called in?
I actually wasn’t expecting too much to happen with it, but we did it two days ago and I can’t stay on top of it already, it’s been crazy. We’re getting hundreds of texts a day but I’m trying to get back to everyone. It’s really encouraging for us, giving us something to do when we’re traveling. It’s awesome to see that people want to hang out and chat. It’s been great. Definitely keeping us busy.
What is your creative process like?
I usually start songs on the piano. Most of the records are done in my house just really raw on piano and guitar and then I take it to the studio and let it grow, adding a bunch of synths and putting everything else in after. The songs start from a pretty honest place, a simple place, but then they become cool when we get them to the studio and get the ideas flowing through that. I definitely know what my vision is for the whole thing so I make sure that’s being maintained throughout the process.
What inspires your lyrics?
For this new record, the whole thing is about that two-year period. It was a weird time for me, just being thrown into the industry, just finishing school; I was about 18 when I started writing it. It’s been kind of a whole rollercoaster journey for me, making this record. There were a lot of times when I doubted or didn’t think it was going to come out at all. I was questioning what I was doing and who I was becoming. The music industry is kind of brutal at times, really self-centered and a bit of a dog fight. I think I just felt really torn, and the whole record is about finding my place, trying to grow and become a better person over that time. I try to keep the lyrics as honest as possible. This new record is less metaphorical and more direct. I want people to be able to relate to the things that I’ve thought about and written about.
Do you think the sound is different from your previous work?
Yes, definitely. The best thing about doing this record is that we got signed to a label, so we actually had some money to do some of the things that I’ve always wanted to do with my music, like recording drums or a string section or a choir. I think the album Is a little more dynamic musically, and it kind of brings in a bit more of my influences. The old stuff is very minimal and electronic which I still love and listen to a ton, but the new stuff has a bit of psychedelic rock and rap and R&B influence—obviously I’m not rapping, but it brings a huge range of influence in.
If you had to put yourself in a genre, what would you call it?
I don’t want to be that tool that says we “transcend genres” cause that’s a cheap way out of the question. I don’t know…” electrock.” I’m not sure, it’s hard. I definitely don’t think about genres when I’m writing, just what sounds good. My music comes from everything that I’m listening to, just kind of thrown in a blender trying to make something. Especially when I’m making music, I’ll actually try and stay away from artists that might be in a similar vein just because I want to keep my ideas new and interesting. I think you’ll hear that in the record, it kind of goes to a lot of different places. My goal was to make an album where everyone loves one song and hates one song.
Is it more about capturing a moment or creating one for your listeners?
It’s weird because when I make music it’s like a therapy for myself in a way, but at the same time I definitely make it for other people. I guess it’s trying to capture something that I’ve felt but also something everyone else can be a part of.
You brought a band with you on tour—who are they?
We’ve been playing for two years as the five of us. They’re all from my hometown of Brisbane, and they’re actually all some of my best friends. It’s been really cool just hanging out with them. Three of them play in another band called MTNS, so they came as a package deal. It’s all just worked out really nicely. It’s awesome to play with your friends—I think that’s one of the best parts about this.
What’s your favorite thing about touring?
Meeting people, for sure. These shows are crazy because we’re meeting people who have been listening to our music for three years. We haven’t been out this way before so meeting them for the first time is really special.
Vancouver Sleep Clinic will be releasing its first LP, Revival, in February 2017. For tour dates and more information, visit http://vancouversleepclinicrevival.com/