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Tim Vantol’s new album “Better Days” will be released on May 22, 2020. This record contains songs that sound like you’ve known them forever. If you want to visit the Dutchman privately, you have to travel to the edge of the Alps in Berchtesgaden: 800 meters above zero and a soothing dimension away from the stressful bustle of the big city. Berchtesgaden, that is “Next Level Bavaria,” says the singer. Three meters of snow on the doorstep last winter, Vantol feels at home here and you can hear that in his songs. The place with its nice and accessible inhabitants probably also contributes its part.
The music of the album “Better Days” can also be described as “Next Level”: like the last pearl on the string of muscular rock albums that could secure the Dutchman a loyal fanbase in the last eleven years. “Better Days” is probably by far the musician’s most personal work. “My songs are always written from the perspective of my life, but at the same time they should remain as open as possible,” says the singer. The very first song, “No More,” contains one of those typical Tim Vantol lines that sound as if they had been freshly tattooed on the soul: “Brand new directions are waiting for you,” it says, but once again it’s the voice that sings these lines that counts.
Because Tim Vantol’s voice always sounds all in. It sounds like the arm that pulls you back over the parapet into the window from which you fell. Like the pack leader of a benign gang or the last responsible guy in a crazy world. It sounds like socialism would work with people like him. Rough, but just as rough as a wool sweater and not like bursting sandpaper. Above all, it sounds rousing – and that, in turn, suits a music that only knows forward gear. “Be grateful that you have family and friends and tell them,” for instance, “Tell Them” seems to say. Nothing in life can be taken for granted, so it seems all the more important to speak positive thoughts on a regular basis as well.”
“I’ve never had what they call a bucket list,” says Tim Vantol. “Still, it feels like I’ve crossed off a lot of items from it in my career. Everything from here on out is a bonus.” In his case, though, it’s not some vague esoteric insight that comes with enough fortune cookies, but a hard-earned piece of life philosophy. “I’ve been battling my own demons for years, sometimes with a stronger presence and sometimes with a weaker one,” the singer explains. “For the first few years, I thought it was just me. But then I increasingly had thoughts that you shouldn’t have as a younger person. I even thought about hanging up the music. On stage, I was always the friendly, happy guy, and that wasn’t a lie at the time, but off it, a hole opened up more and more often.”
One rejected EP of oppressive song material later, the musician realized, “There are only three ways to deal with yourself. You can stay the way you are; you can fight your way out of difficult situations in life; or you can fall deeper into it, whatever the consequences.” Fortunately, Tim managed to carve out the beautiful from the ugly, making the somewhat ironic situation of becoming a comfort song with a sore core. “Better Days,” in fact, has become anything but morose. “When you listen to it, I don’t want you to think: Oh, fuck my life”, Tim Vantol emphasizes. “I’m more about motivating people. Sometimes you’re down, but there’s always a reason to keep going. There are people who need that little pep talk, and that’s what I want to give them.”
On the new album, Tim Vantol virtually explodes with renewed vigor, raising his fist, howling at the moon, rolling up his arms and letting out a cry of triumph that no one is too old to hear. The title track sets the marching tone with crashing guitars and galloping drums: “I want to wake up next to you and feel unbroken.” “A River Full Of Reasons” hits the same note, playing that one disarming minor chord in the middle of its melodic crunch that unbuttons your shirt and puts your hand on your heart.
The new album also includes very thoughtful passages. “I’m going to make it, but not today”, it says on “Not Today,” for example. But already with “It’s Gonna Hurt,” the wisest song Tim Vantol has ever written, he takes up the pen of his own biography again and sings “Promises are made to be kept.” True enough. “This song is an ode to pain”, the singer says. “We perceive pain as something bad, while it can also make us strong. Of course, I’d rather none of this had happened to me, but it also just made me the person I am now, and looking back, I’ve become stronger because of it.”
Which brings us to “You Will Never” – the drinking song, soccer song, Christmas song, love song and protest song all in one. The one you can sing at the bar, in the bathtub or at the barricades. Until the voice gives up and the chorus begins to scare fate. The song simply says “You are never gonna get me down!”
As Tim Vantol says so well.
“I’ve been fucked up and now I’m telling people how to be okay. Is that hypocritical?”
Spoiler: It isn’t.