John Van Deusen creates aggressively honest, thematically rich power pop. His style is built on a strange foundation of influences, resulting in an indie rock sound that feels both familiar and curious. The hooks are sticky, but the seemingly straightforward songwriting never dilutes the music’s emotional complexity. Intimacy and vulnerability have been always been hallmarks of his songwriting.
Though Van Deusen’s music may be reasonably accessible, he is nonetheless difficult to pin down. His artistic upbringing is rooted in the DIY scene of Anacortes, Washington but equally shaped by his simultaneous love for pop songs with big hooks. Though he sings about his faith, Van Deusen explores issues of doubt, depression and suicide with as much earnestness. The feedback and the noise — both sonic and emotional — might not always reach a solid conclusion; it’s still always cathartic and gripping.
John Van Deusen is an artist of contradictions. The first seeds of these contradictions were planted in his early career as frontman and primary songwriter for The Lonely Forest (Trans/Atlantic Records). The Lonely Forest saw Van Deusen first blend unabashedly heart-on-the-sleeve songwriting with propulsive indie rock, quickly leading to heavy national touring in support of bands such as Death Cab For Cutie and Portugal. The Man. The Lonely Forest also performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and was voted NPR’s Best New Artist in 2011. Though his songs from this era were “radio-ready” and earned Van Deusen support from KEXP, Alt-Nation and 107.7 The End (KNDD Seattle), his emotional vulnerability lent an uncanny quality that made him hard to define. This quality was amplified further in John Van Deusen’s subsequent solo work, as he began to wrestle openly in his lyrics with his complicated relationship to faith.
It seems that music so energetic and approachable shouldn’t be as raw and open as Van Deusen’s. Nevertheless, his work is so engaging because John Van Deusen’s artistic identity is also his true identity. Considering his albums in the context of his whole artistic output paints a portrait of humanity in all of its messiness and inexpressibility. This contextual appreciation informs the decision to group his solo records into an album series, titled (I Am) Origami. It’s important to recognize that the sometimes disparate moods are from the same person and same body of work.
For the third and fourth installments of this series, John Van Deusen recorded 24 songs at Ranch Land Studios in Cisco, Texas, with producer and friend Andy D. Park (Pedro the Lion, Deep Sea Diver). The first ten comprise (I Am) Origami Pt. 3 – A Catacomb Hymn. On the heels of the debut full-length from his hardcore punk band, BUFFET, and a collection of solo devotional songs, A Catacomb Hymn might be John Van Deusen’s most raw and personal release yet. The album is centered on fear, doubt and depression — grappling with the struggle to exist in a way that feels true. It’s a little note that says, “It’s okay to not be okay.”