Music News

Covenhoven Let Album Marinate With Listeners Ahead of Release Party

Joel Van Horne performs as Covenhoven.
Joel Van Horne performs as Covenhoven. Courtney Nicholson-Paine
Joel Van Horne, who performs as Covenhoven, released his fourth album, IV, in October. Rather than jump right into a record-release show, he opted to let the new songs marinate with listeners for a couple of months.

“It’s given people a chance to really get to know the songs, so they just become a part of their lives by the time we get to meet in the same room,” Van Horne says.

As of late November, IV has been streamed more than 65,000 times on Apple Music and Spotify, he notes, and he’s gotten a good deal of local radio support. He's also working on stringing together a tour for next year.

“That’ll be all over the West,” he says. “My typical spots all up and down the West Coast, as well as everything south of here and north of here.”

The new record marks a departure from his previous work; it’s more of a collaborative effort and includes a big lineup of Denver artists, among them Ben Wysocki of the Fray, singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov, Julie Davis from Bluebook and Luke Mossman of Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. The songs find Van Horne taking a more overtly indie rock direction: Less reliance on acoustic instruments like the mandolin and banjo makes the finished product less folky than usual. The resulting songs are more energetic in sound than those on his previous three albums, and they tackle some heady subjects, such as climate change and the current state of tension throughout much of the world. 

Writers and poets have reached out to offer feedback on the lyrics, says Van Horne, who adds that it’s a great feeling to know people are paying attention to the words in the songs.

“I’ve heard from people all over the world who are loving it,” he says. “That’s the cool thing about social media: You can hear from people across the globe. It’s been pretty amazing to see this thing find its way out there — 65,000 streams in a month is way beyond what my previous three records are doing.”

Van Horne will play his record-release show, An Evening With Covenhoven and Friends, at the Mercury Cafe on Friday, December 17. He’ll have a ten-piece band backing him up, and he hints at an interesting list of guest performers without naming names. “It’s going to be ‘An Evening With,’ so I’ll be doing half the show solo and half with the band,” he says. “People are flying in from a lot of different places. ... People are reaching out and saying they have their tickets, and I see they're from Seattle or the East Coast. That’s been cool.”

Like many other musicians, Van Horne is waiting on a vinyl order that's taking longer than usual. Normally, he says, it takes about three months to get a vinyl album pressed, but now it takes seven or eight months because of pandemic-related issues. He’s not too worried about the long wait, however, as it will afford him the opportunity to have another release show, this time for the vinyl version, next year.

“I guess that’s a positive,” he says of the backlog. “In some ways, it’s cool and fun to get to celebrate it again. I did that with my first record, but only because I had never done vinyl before. I waited and released the vinyl a year later.”

In the meantime, Van Horne has been breaking the songs down track by track on his Instagram account to give listeners an in-depth look at why and how he wrote he wrote each one, what they're about, the recording process and more.

“That’s been interesting to go through that,” he says. “I’m on song seven or eight now. I think it’s a result of having that platform or medium to communicate with people.”

He wrote the track “Gone With the Wind” in about a week, he says — a breakneck pace for him, as he sometimes takes up to three years to finish a song. He wanted to write the song in the tradition of “Last Goodbye,” by Jeff Buckley, or “Paranoid Android,” by Radiohead — songs that fight the concept of what he calls a “used and abused song format” of verse to chorus to verse and back.

“Those songs were always fascinating to me,” he says. “I’ve always been in awe of writers who do that kind of stuff: break the mold, constantly try to reinvent what a song is, and not just follow the song form concepts that most people do. Those songs are incredible versions of that.”

An Evening With Covenhoven and Friends, 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 17, Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street. Tickets are $25 at
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