“It’s not that we’re hot,” VNV Nation songwriter, producer and singer Ronan Harris, 43, said about the group’s appeal to gay audiences. “We’re not exactly 22 years old and shaving with a rough towel anymore.”
The pair that is VNV Nation, rounded out by drummer Mark Jackson, may not be gay or strapping young lads: But the German-based Irish-English duo has spent over a decade slowly but surely winning new fans the world over with its rocking fusion of trance, industrial and electro-pop they describe as Electronic Body Music (EBM), as well as their extensive body of remix work.
“Someone once described us as a mini-Depeche Mode, which I thought was a really amazing compliment,” Harris said, describing VNV’s sound and the concept of EBM. “I think one of the key elements of this music style is that it is heavily melodic. It draws on a lot of 1980s inspiration and dance music. It’s regarded as the more uplifting and positive side of alternative and electronic music. It’s music you can dance and feel to.”
As for the group’s gay fans, Harris said they are drawn to the lyrical content.
“I’ve talked to a great deal of them and my common experience is that this is music with a great deal of emotion,” he said. “From the gay male point of view, it’s music that describes a thinking, feeling person who they can identify with. It’s very easy to access the music because it makes them dance and feel good about themselves, but also speaks to them about who they are. We’re here to play to people who have an open mind about their emotions, and obviously one of the key aspects of VNV Nation’s music is about finding your strengths through your adversities. I don’t think I’ve met any of my gay friends who haven’t experienced some amount of trauma in their lives because of who they are and what they represent. So, although the situations described within the songs are very universal, they’re my own personal experiences. They can be easily transcribed and applied to those kinds of situations of trying to find your place in this world and finding strength from it.”
Harris said his experiences of trying to find his place in the world stem from growing up in a restrictive environment.
“I grew up in Ireland, which is rather a conservative country that for quite a long time was under the oppression of sort of the Dark Age-religious-type view,” he said. “I was different, and different is too broad a word to use, but I didn’t really belong in any category. I sought to express myself without being confined to the pre-programmed roles that are ascribed to what a guy is supposed to be like. In Ireland, it was this atmosphere of ‘boys don’t cry, boys don’t talk about feelings.’ It’s not a weakness to be able to feel or to be able to put into words a great deal of emotion and passion within your life.”
VNV Nation’s emotional and passionate music has won the group a dedicated following in North America and Europe — and a diversity of fans that Harris calls “a really beautiful thing.”
“We talk to people over here who ask us what our audience in America is like and I have to strongly distinguish it because, culturally, growing up in America and Europe are two very different things,” he said. “Germany, where I live, is a country that is very embracing, accepting and tolerant, which would surprise a lot of people who have never visited. When we go to North America, we see that there are so many different dogmas and views to which people hold themselves that are so opposing. We find this to be very fascinating, but what really impresses us is the diversity of our audience. This is something that we could never have dreamed of.”
VNV Nation’s new album, “Of Faith, Power and Glory,” is in stores now. The group performs at 8 p.m. July 19 at TLA, 334 South St. For more information or tickets, visit www.vnvnation.com.