Based out of Toronto, Canada, the alternative band Bleeker is comprised of Taylor Perkins (Vocals), Dan Steinke (Guitars), Cole Perkins (Guitars) and Mike Van Dyk (Bass). Following their self-titled EP release, the band has been hitting the road with Sublime with Rome, Dirty Heads and Tribal Seeds, as part of a two-month United States tour, which wraps up in August.
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Sean Ritchie: Let’s just start it off with talking a little bit about where you’re from in Toronto. What’s something that stands out about the city? What makes it home to you?
Mike Van Dyk: We’re actually an hour north of Toronto and I kind of call it “The Gateway to the North”. It’s just where the highway kind of goes and bottlenecks right into our city. It’s just a million lakes and it’s like heavy rock cuts up there, cliffs and everything, it’s pretty gorgeous. Where we are in Orillia, it’s really like sandwiched in between the two lakes. It’s just good vibes and a small city of 33,000 people. There’s lots of talent there — a lot of good musicians. It always has been. I don’t know if you know Gordon Lightfoot, he’s kind of a singer-songwriter, folk guy. He’s from Orillia. There’s actually a big folk festival that takes place there, and he usually does a guest performance. It’s cool, it’s a good vibe.
SR: I know of Gordon Lightfoot well, my father likes his music. So, do the musicians up there usually migrate down towards Toronto to play shows to get their start?
MVD: We’re pretty fortunate where we are, because of Toronto’s surrounding area. There’s a decent amount of population. It’s a lot better than West Coast Canada, where it’s Vancouver, and then a big hike over the mountains to get out of the province. I’d say a lot of musicians and a lot of the other bands that do it primarily go down to Toronto to play. In the hometown, there’s a couple small pubs, but there’s nothing to play a full-fledged rock show. You’re kind of stuck going down there.
SR: Pretty sweet. I’m actually from New Jersey myself, North Jersey, and one thing that I really like about where I live is that New York City is an hour train ride away to go party, but retreat back and be in the suburbs with nature easily. Is that kind of the same situation where you’re from?
SR: Cool. Now, how did you get your start in music? What was your initial inspiration?
MVD: I would say I’ve always been a music fan. None of my parents or anyone in my immediate family was a musician, but they were all, huge classic rock fans. I grew up on Pink Floyd and Queen. It was actually my older cousin who got me into playing guitars. My aunt convinced my mom to go and buy this kid a guitar. I was about 12 and she did. I actually met Taylor, the singer of Bleeker, and he was already playing guitar for years. He was pretty accomplished at that point. He was a big force in really getting me into playing. We’d do Hendrix covers, Zeppelin covers. He’d teach me a lot of stuff, and it just kind of took off from there. Once I got into high school, there was more people who played guitar. I’d also worked in a music store since I was in grade 10. That’s really all I’d personally do is music.
SR: So, knowing Taylor for a while, what’s the backstory of Bleeker? How did the band come to be?
MVD: Well, there were two sets of brothers, It was Taylor and his brother Cole, who’s the guitar player, and it was two other guys, a guitar player and a drummer. I think it started in 2003-2004. It was those four guys. Around 2009-2010, they asked me to play with them. They just started doing Hendrix covers, blues covers, playing the local clubs and open mic nights. I’ve always been friends with these guys and we’ve always played music together.
SR: It’s funny how life unfolds the way it does. Your self-titled EP dropped this past March. What’s something about the EP that you really enjoy?
MVD: It’s just a cool vibe. The songs are really something that we’ve been wanting to do for a while. There are songs that we’ve had for a while, but really haven’t had the right medium to get them out there. We’re pretty fortunate that everybody’s really been digging it. A lot of people at the label are supportive. They really like the songs. I like the wide spectrum of genres. Everything’s pretty fun and it’s straight-ahead rock tunes. You kind of have a blues flavor to it. “I’m Not Laughing Now” is a massive pop song. I love that tune. It’s all a good a cross-section of tunes. We’ve done all the songs for a while now and we’re not even close to being sick of them yet, which is a great thing. That’s happened in many bands and projects over the years, where by the time you get through the recording process you don’t want to hear the songs anymore. But, we’re having a blast right now.
SR: That’s fantastic and good to hear. To tie it into some current events, what’s it like being on tour with Sublime with Rome, Dirty Heads, and Tribal Seeds?
MVD: Oh, my dude, it’s so kill! It’s exactly what you think. It’s super, super chill for sure. Everybody’s just hanging and helping each other out. All the guys in Sublime with Rome are sweethearts. I grew up listening to Josh Freese and love everything he does. He’s the nicest guy ever. We’ll be sitting in catering and he’ll come sit down and [talk] for 10-20 minutes, then go on his way. Dirty Heads are cool, everybody is. It’s a good vibe.
SR: Cool, man. To switch gears a little bit into travel, when you do have some downtime and you want to go on vacation, are you looking for a beach where you can just do nothing and relax? Or, are you looking for some city nightlife?
MVD: Any time we’ve had off on this tour, we’ve literally just been chilling and sleeping in the hotel room, because it’s like just us traveling in the van. Usually, when we have days off it’s just chilling. Just get some pizza and chill. When we’re at home we like to hit up the beach and stay active as much as possible for sure though.
SR: Take us a little bit through your travel history. What are a places that you’ve been to that really stood out?
MVD: As a band, we haven’t done a whole lot of playing anywhere outside of Canada. Earlier on this year we did do a West Coast tour with the Struts. That was wicked. We spent a decent amount of time in California doing records, and just kind of visiting. That was a good thing to go out and play there. San Diego I love. That’s a wicked vibe; good city. Santa Ana was a beautiful city as well. We did a couple of other shows in Phoenix and Tucson. Phoenix was awesome. That’s where the girls are. You can’t stop looking at them. They’re just everywhere.
SR: How does music and travel fit together for you? One of the things I really love about traveling is bringing music along and having a playlist for the trip. Whether it be a new album that dropped or whatever, but then the memories coincide with the music.
MVD: Our drummer Chris is super-enthusiastic with music. He just kind of spins is our DJ, which is awesome for those long drives. Usually, he’ll sit shotgun and be a force to keep you awake going for those long drives. We listen to hip-hop and metal, but we’ll really listen to everything to kind of keep it going. When I listen to music, I prefer just to put on an album and let it roll. Chris is more like jump over here, jump over there kind of thing. I’m pretty old-school, man. I like to roll with it.
SR: On a broader level, in your lifetime what are three destinations you want to hit that you haven’t yet?
MVD: Europe, for sure. I definitely want to do an England trip. My dad’s Dutch, so I definitely want to hit up Holland and the Netherlands. Amsterdam, I hear from everybody, is just a wicked, wicked spot with lots of art, lots of everything.
SR: Lastly, to wrap this up, what are you looking forward to here on out on tour?
MVD: I’m just really looking forward to playing and seeing more of these venues. I like going to meet and talk to people. See what the locals are saying and hanging out with the local crew. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of time to see the sights or really kind of go anywhere, it’s just the way that it works out with load-in and then you get into the soundcheck. We’ve played pretty early, because we’re the first-tour band.
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For more on Bleeker click their self-titled EP’s art: