Canadian Band Van Halst Waxes Lyrical On Feminism, Religion, & Rape Culture On Debut Album ‘World Of Make Believe’


You’ll never find an article about artists feuding on Twitter on our site, but you WILL find interviews about musicians who know how to use their platform to raise their voice about important issue. One of those bands is Canadian metal band Van Halst, based out of Toronto. Their first single ‘Save Me’ debuted in September 2015, and now the quintet have released their first full length album ‘World of Make Believe’ which you can download here.

We had come across Van Halst in a number of interviews, and what caught our eye was the way singer Kami Van Halst talked about the lyrical content and foundation of their album. In an interview with, she explained the background to the song ‘Questions’, saying it addressed the issue of victim-blaming.

A few years ago, there were a bunch of women who were getting assaulted in an alleyway on the south side. We got the idea for the song when a person in a prominent position (I can’t remember who it was in this moment) basically said, ‘Well, what were they doing there in the first place?’ They were, in my opinion, putting the onus on the women and that they shouldn’t have been there. We wanted to song to literally be questions to get people thinking about victim blaming. ‘What was she wearing?’ ‘Was she by herself?’”

In a culture where there is so much focus on social justice issues largely fueled by activist movements and artists, it’s important to highlight bands using their platform to continue this momentum. There is a rich history of all-female bands or female-led bands becoming becoming beacons of social conversation in a way that is far more interesting than politics, and far less threatening than an academic setting. Bands born during the Riot Grrrl movement like Bikini Kill and Sleater Kinney, Russian activism band Pussy Riot, and newer bands like punk outfit War on Women who tackle rape and sexual harassment in a very in-your-face way from the stage, we need women using their voices to further the cause of feminism.

That is what Van Halst are doing, so we asked Kami about their debut album and what makes the ‘World Of Make Believe’ so real.


Tell us the history of how Van Halst came together

Van Halst started as a solo project for Kami. Scott and Kami have known each other for many years and started working on this project in 2013. Once it was established that the sound was going to be heavier then turning the project into a band made more sense. Scott met Brett while tracking in the studio and Kami met Brendan when she moved to Toronto. Thus, Van Halst was created.

You have debuted your new album ‘World of Make Believe’. What has been the response so far from fans?

Thus far the response has been amazing. I think we surprised a lot of people with the content and variety on this record. We’ve been receiving a continued stream of messages on social media from people who are telling us how much they like the album. We’re really grateful for that.

As a woman in a mostly male-dominated genre, have you faced any gendered criticisms or comparisons to other prominent female singers in this genre?

I get compared to Amy Lee from Evanescence all the time actually. I’m a fan of Evanescence but sometimes the comparisons get tiresome. A lot of the time when I do interviews people say that they didn’t expect me to be so good at extreme vocals because I am a woman.


Has there been any pressure from the goth rock scene for you to act, dress, or sing a certain way?

I wouldn’t say there’s been any pressure per se. We decide how we want to look and sound. I work really hard on my vocal dynamics and I really just sing how I want to sing and try to experiment with lots of vocal sounds. We don’t really keep a genre in mind when we’re writing, we just write what we want to write and look how we want to look.

Your are taking a stand for social justice issues in your music which is something we want to focus more on. Talk to us about addressing mental illness through your lyrics and why you chose to do this?

Our song Monster speaks to mental illness, well stigma really. Sometimes if you’re labelled something by enough people you start to live up to that title.

One of your songs ‘Questions’ tackles the culture of victim-blaming that has become common place when talking about rape and sexual assault. Why was this important to you?

This was something that made me angry. I’ve worked with some young women that have been through some of these situations and the fact that they were blamed for what happened or, in a lot of cases, to afraid to come forward really resonated with me. I was also taking some Women’s Studies courses at the University of Alberta and this was an issue that was discussed a lot.


Religion is another theme present in the album, explain how you present it and what message you want to get across?

When I was doing my Sociology degree I took a couple courses on religion in society and religious cults. So many people have been killed in the name of religion and are continuing to be killed in the name of Religion. Throughout my life I have come across people that judge me for the fact that I wasn’t baptized and never went to church.

That’s where the idea of “Save Me” started. I wanted to talk about how judgemental religion can be and how if you don’t believe in their system and celestial hierarchy that somehow you’re a bad person who will be damned. A lot of horrible deeds are committed in the “name of God” and this is something that needs to end.

You also deal with domestic violence in your songs. Talk us through what the message is here and why you chose to write about it.

Our song “Put Him Down” deals with this issue. This song is very special for me because, before I met my husband, I was involved with someone who let’s just say didn’t treat me right. This is a fantasy song about getting even. This song deals with the physical and psychological realities of domestic violence but I wanted to have a powerful ending.


What other important issues can we expect to hear about on the album?

The album also deals with poverty, youth homelessness, the impossible standards of the beauty industry and feminism.

Why do you think it is important to use music to share powerful messages?

I think that public figures have a responsibility to raise awareness. You have so much influence when you’re in the public eye, I would like to see that influence used to make the world a better place rather than selling some sort of product.

What makes you a powerful woman?

I have a relentless work ethic. The things I’ve been through in my life have helped me, through a lot of self reflection, become a very content person.

I also try and surround myself with people that motivate me to work hard, I have the most amazing band members that push me and treat me like an equal. My husband is also a huge contribution to me being a “powerful woman” too I guess! He also pushes me to be the best person I can be.


To follow everything Van Halst and find out their Canadian summer tour dates visit their website, and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Meet Kaija Kinney - Founder Of Canadian Music Festival 'Metalocalypstick' Celebrating Women In Metal - GirlTalkHQ

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