Art Vandalay is Minneapolis singer-songwriter Brandon Henry. His music is a unique blend of swaggering Americana, indie rock and country-folk with vivid, intelligently crafted lyrics. His debut album Dancin’ With Your Demons celebrates the restless spirit of young adulthood while embracing life’s mistakes along the way. The songs keenly observe slice of life situations painting vibrant pictures of desire, heartbreak, the tenderness of loss, and pearl snap shirts. Along with a talented bunch of Twin Cities musicians, Calvin Plocher (drums), Mother Banjo (harmonies, banjo), and Ben Cook-Feltz (keyboard) Art Vandalay has created a sound unto his own and an album of pure Americana.
The dark romanticism captured on the seven tracks of Dancin’ With Your Demons traverse the silver linings of life’s losses (“I Been Down,” “Way It Goes”) and ponder the wonderment of life’s paths (“Tarot Cards,” and “Speck in the City”). “Slow Painful Death” is a tongue and cheek country lament of longing for a lost lover, while the crowd favorite “If You Love Me” is a raucous tribute to his love affair with the pearl snap shirt. The song’s infectious chorus features the Rockmount, which is considered the first pearl snap shirt. The song has garnered praise not only from fans, but from Steve Weil, President of Rockmount Ranchwear.
Growing up in Norman, OK, Art Vandalay began playing guitar at age 15 after watching the live video for Green Day’s “When I Come Around.” While spending his time learning every Tom Petty, Foo Fighters, and Smashing Pumpkins song his guitar teacher would show him, Brandon knew that performing music was in the cards for his future. It wasn’t until he came to Minnesota for college that he started performing at open mics here and there, slowly planting the seeds for what would later become Art Vandalay. The summer before his senior year of college he went to a parking lot show in Norman with a friend to see an up-and-coming band Cross Canadian Ragweed. It was there that he was introduced to a style of music that is referred to as the “red dirt” sound. The genre is born out of restless spirits and a melding of country, rock, and story songs, with a keen sense of lyricism. After hearing Cross Canadian Ragweed’s “Jimmy and Annie,” Brandon knew he had to begin writing his own songs and he soon began filling notebooks and napkins with song lines. To fill the time while he worked on writing songs, Brandon formed the infamous Jimmy Buffett cover band known as the Buffett Buffet that year. All three of their performances bordered on complete lunacy and sheer disaster, but always came through with a good time.
After the demise of the band and graduating with degrees in Sociology and Norwegian, Brandon permanently resettled in Minneapolis. Finding that work in Sociology and/ or Norwegian was tough to come by Brandon began spending more and more time pursuing a passion for songwriting while honing his guitar and performing skills. In 2004 he joined the Minneapolis acoustic pop trio Nothing of Consequence where he held down the rhythm section on bass. Nothing of Consequence played shows around town from The Acadia to the 7th St. Entry. That same year Brandon began playing lead guitar in the acoustic jam duo Gumption Trap, which he continues to perform with. It was with this trio and Gumption Trap that Brandon strengthened his stage chops and songwriting ability, but he still had a hankering to branch out on his own.
In early 2007 with a fresh batch of songs, a co-worker encouraged him to do the “One-Night-Stand” variety show hosted by local singer-songwriter Jaspar Lepak (Loes). Not wanting to use his real name, Brandon adopted the alter-ego of Seinfeld’s George Castanza, Art Vandalay. Art Vandalay continued to play coffee shops around the Twin Cities with his small batch of roots songs, and develop his lyrical craft. Soon, what was once a small batch of songs turned into notebooks and notebooks worth of fresh material. Today, Art Vandalay is joined by Calvin Plocher on drums who brings to life his unique style of indie-Americana rock. Trained as a jazz drummer, Calvin’s drumming has brought a new texture and feel to Art Vandalay’s sound. With appearances by Mother Banjo on harmonies and banjo as well as Ben Cook-Feltz on keys, Art Vandalay’s sound has expanded into a gritty slice of Americana.