Brooklyn-based band Van Vreeland brings rock and country vibes to city’s music scene

Brooklyn band Van Vreeland performs at the Knitting Factory on 4/21.
Brooklyn band Van Vreeland performs at the Knitting Factory on 4/21.
Photo by Sam Blieden

A new local band is bringing a unique blend of rock and country vibes to Brooklyn’s music scene.

Van Vreeland is a soft rock/alt-country band that formed right here in Brooklyn. The band is made up of Katie Vreeland on guitar and vocals, Spenser Naess on lead guitar, Cooper Naess on drums and vocals, and Shane Preece on bass.

“We’ve all been playing music in our own worlds for a very long time. It was really hard to find available drummers but during the pandemic a friend and former bandmates from my Sloppy Jane days introduced me to one of her friends and I mentioned I was trying to put a band together. It was really hard to find people who are available drummers in Brooklyn,” said Vreeland. “My new friend said ‘My boyfriend’s brother is a drummer, they want to start a country band.’ So I met them and we started talking about music then, myself, Cooper, his brother Spenser, we just got together and started jamming one day and the rest was sort of history.”

As you might have expected, the name “Van Vreeland” is derived from Vreeland’s last name. The band name comes from an old nickname that Vreeland had in high school.

Katie VreelandPhoto by Sam Blieden

“My cross country and track coach, who was also my English teacher, would call me ‘Van Vreeland’ because it’s super Dutch,” said Vreeland. “I’m also a big fan of Townes Van Zant, Van Morrison, Van Halen—so I was kind of like, let me go with this.”

According to Vreeland, finding the band’s sound didn’t take too long, especially with their collective alt-country/soft rock influences and individual musical styles. Vreeland told amNewYork Metro that the band’s wide-ranging influences—from Fleetwood Mac and Tracy Chapman, to Grateful Dead and Neil Young—combined with Vreeland’s song writing, Spenser’s affinity for jazz, and Cooper’s laid-back, yet energetic drumming, have resulted in what Vreeland jokingly calls “ alt-county-soft-rock-acid-folk-indie-pop.”

 “There’s a fine balance that I personally, as a musician and the songwriter of the band, trying to find between the familiar, feel-good country/pop songwriting with those solid hooks that you can sing along to, and the melding of genres and influences that make the music feel like it’s own distinct thing,” said Vreeland. “So kind of striking this balance between these flavors that we are influenced by and what it’s turning into, I think it’s hard to place us amongst our peers.”

To really capture that alt-country sound, the band brings in a rotating pedal steel player as well as percussionist, Austin Brose (of the Nude Party), during live shows. However, for Vreeland, it’s super important to not be wedged into a particular music box, saying that the band continues experimenting with their range.

Photo by Sam Blieden

“I was actually so excited when I heard Beyonce was releasing a country album and when her first couple of singles came out—I love that pop/R&B flavor that has a good groove to it, with that little bit of country twang. I grew up singing along to country radio with my dad and listening to everything from The Beatles to Tina Turner with my mom, so those flavors are ingrained in me,” said Vreeland. “So when I heard people talking about “Beyonce Country,” I was like, yes, that’s another direction I can point to that explores one mix of territories we like to play in.”

Last summer, Van Vreeland released their first single “burgundy red,” now streaming on Spotify, and finishing up their first full-length album. Vreeland says that the response to burgundy red has been overwhelmingly positive from their fans and the public, despite being such a new band.

“I was so overwhelmed with the response, being like such a new band and having a pretty small following. I was amazed to see how much traction it got right off the bat, said Vreeland. “Someone even on Instagram tagged me in a cover they did of it within the same week and my heart grew five sizes, I was just so excited that I put something out there that people liked enough to listen to it more than once, let alone to do a cover of it. That was really exciting and we definitely wanted to get more music going after that.”

Van Vreeland has a show coming up at Ridgewood’s Jones Bar on May 17. Vreeland says that those who come by a Van Vreeland show can expect good vibes and music you can really groove to.

“When we’re working on songs, I’m thinking about how it is gonna feel as a live performance. I want to feel fun, so even our slower songs still have sort of like a groove that you can move to,” said Vreeland. “It’s pretty, fun and easy. It’s fun and energetic, easy listening.”

Keep up with Van Vreeland by following them on Instagram @van.vreeland.

Van VreelandPhoto by Sam Blieden

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