The Verve Pipe in Traverse City

Brian Vander Ark says as his band has matured, so have the fans. And that has meant some big changes for the Grand Rapids-based Verve Pipe, which will be performing at the Wine & Art Festival in Traverse City on June 20.

“Our fans didn’t want to cram into college bars. They have kids, I have kids,” he said. The band’s response: Change gears and make an album suitable for kids as well as their parents. The Family Album, released in 2009, gained the band a new audience. Quite a shift for the group that had previously been a college favorite, and had opened for Kiss on that band’s Reunion Tour in 1997.

“Kids don’t take excuses,” said Vander Ark. “They cram their fingers in their ears and run away screaming” if they don’t like a song.” Vander Ark says a downside to the change is who the group gets lumped in with. “What most people compare us to is the Wiggles,” he said. “Our kids want to listen to pop.” He much prefers musicians like Dan Zanes or They Might Be Giants. The former once fronted the rockin’ Del Fuegos, while TMBG cultivated an audience with alt-rock fans. “Flood is a kids’ album,” said Vander Ark of the latter’s debut recording. “I love that album.”

While Vander Ark and his band recorded another family-oriented disc, the Verve Pipe hasn’t abandoned its own rocking roots. Last year’s Overboard received positive reviews, and Vander Ark says he’s happy to be returning to both the style and excitement that marked hit albums like Villains, which spent 15 weeks in Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and earned them that slot opening for Kiss.

“Our last kids’ album took one and a half years to do. The first album took three to four months. When you take three or four weeks to record a song, you get tired of it. We’ll have a new EP in a month.”



The Verve Pipe


How they got their start

The band formed in 1992 in Lansing from the ashes of two local bands. Vander Ark and his brother had previously played in Johnny with an Eye while drummer Donny Brown and guitarist Brian Stout were veterans of Water 4 the Pool. Brown, the last remaining original member with Brian Vander Ark, left the band last year.



Pop with indie-rock flourishes, kids’ music


Influences and Inspirations

Better than Ezra, They Might Be Giants, Bob Mould, Jeff Daniels


Additional Background

The band’s first major album, Villains, contained a re-recorded version of the song “The Freshmen,” originally found on their independent debut, I’ve Suffered a Head Injury. It became a smash hit and led to great success.



“We’ve had new members with a new perspective. It’s been a good evolution.” – Brian Vander Ark



The Village at Grand Traverse Commons


Date & Time

June 20, 5:45 p.m. (approximately) at the Traverse City Wine and Art Festival. There will be live music throughout the day, from 2 to 9 p.m.


Ticket information

Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door. Go to

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For more


Learn more about the Traverse City Wine & Art Festival