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New album brings the Verve Pipe back to rock

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Thirteen years is longer than Brian Vander Ark and the Verve Pipe planned to take between its rock albums.

But with a little push from "the top," the Lansing-formed, Grand Rapids-based group -- known worldwide for its 1996 hit "The Freshman" -- has delivered "Overboard," a 10-song set whose title track was co-written by Vander Ark and fellow Michigander Jeff Daniels.

"About a year ago I just said to our manager, 'Look, I really want to do a 'record' record, but I need to do it no-nonsense. I want everybody to write. I want to get in a room together like we used to do and figure it out,' " says Vander Ark, 47, who's recorded four solo albums outside the band. The process didn't sit well with drummer and co-writer Donny Brown, who decided to quit, but Vander Ark says the current sextet still captured the kind of spirit he hoped for, which he felt was missing from the two family-oriented albums the Verve Pipe recorded during the interim.

"There's an energy to it which is us in a room playing together," he explains. "A lot of times we'd Frankenstein things together, but on this one we recorded the basic tracks live, together, and you can hear the raucousness but it's also well-played. There's a much more focused chaos, I guess, to what we're doing."

The collaboration with Daniels on the "Overboard" track, meanwhile, helped Vander Ark finish a song he'd been working on for a couple of years. "(Daniels) saw my 'Lawn Chairs and Living Rooms' (concert) DVD and contacted me and told me how much he loved it and asked if I ever wanted to work together," Vander Ark recalls. "We want back and forth for some demos, and I had 'Overboard' but was stuck on the story; I knew there was a girl up in Michigan, up in Lake Superior, I didn't know why she was dead...

"So (Daniels) said, 'Try this and this.' He wrote a short story and everything, and it really helped. I think it would be a great play, kind of dark and disturbing, with a lot of conversation. So we'll see..."

The Verve Pipe performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 21, and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 22 at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts, 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield. The concerts will be "sensory friendly" for children with special needs. Tickets are $20-$50. Call 248-661-1900 or visit www.theberman.org.

Web Site: www.theberman.org

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