Kim Churchill on the realities of living in your van

Kim Churchill on the realities of living in your van

His new single, After The Sun, speaks on how travelling and touring effects his work processes and day-to-day life.

While many Australian artists are among music's most travelled - primarily due to the major markets of the US and UK/Europe all almost a full-days flight away - there are little as travelled as Kim Churchill. As a musician, one of Churchill's most prominent lyrical and musical themes is travel; building songs around the environments and people he encounters while travelling and touring, with his new project, in particular, being a world-encompassing series of releases that reference this directly. After the Sun, his new single, is the perfect example, finding influence and inspiration from Berlin and how the German capital contrasts the built, concrete city with areas more nature-entwined. "It started out as a way to contrast the natural and the man-made, but as we started searching the city and finding things, we noticed that there were so many wonderful examples of nature jumping into buildings, re-taking over what it originally owned," he explains.

The new project is a series of four EPs written in different areas of the world - Germany, Canada, Australia and the UK - with local collaborators aiding to flesh out the inspiration Churchill has found in these countries and their people. After the Sun is the first tease of the Germany-centric EP and it offers a glimpse at what to come, so dive into the single below and while you do so, read about Kim Churchill's experiences with living out of your van, touring and travelling the world, and how it has shaped him as an artist.

Kim Churchill, on the realities of van life:

Over the last ten years of my life (basically since I finished high school), I’ve been living out of different vans in different countries. In the last few years, I’ve been enjoying, as much as the next person, these wonderful Instagram accounts where people post incredibly beautiful shots of old, treated pine interiors and open back doors looking over mountain ranges in Switzerland. This new style of ‘van porn’ is incredibly addictive and beautiful to see everyone’s sensational designs and homes. I like both the culture and how it teaches people that one can have a beautiful little ‘home’ you can create in a small space. As the human race continues on its gluttonous growth and over-population; we need to understand how to take up less space, how to be comfortable in smaller places with less. So this is good. Even if it’s a diesel guzzling 70’s Chevy, cruising into the vast empty national parks of California. It’s a good step.

So, I’d like to talk about the realities of van life. The two hours before the van was cleaned and made pristine and had the nice woollen rug stylishly ‘thrown’ over the clean white sheets. Van life, in reality, is the best and worst parts of freedom and independence. Last week I had parked next to a river in the Victorian alpine town of Bright and woke up to dunk myself in the beautiful clear water and make breakfast in the grass on an old cast iron fireplace. The next night I was at Hornsby train station car park finding every piece of fabric I could to sling over the curtains and block out the fluorescent glare of Sydney street lights. I peed against a fence next to the van and just hoped to god no one would walk past at that moment. It was 37 degrees that night and I couldn’t sleep with a door open because I was worried about my safety in such a busy location. I woke up in a pool of sweat and had to get dressed, brush my teeth and get on the train to the city for a whole day of press. The point is; It’s not all glamour especially if you need to lead some form of ‘real life’ in your van life. If you’re just going on a yearlong jaunt away from work, that’s all well and good, but living in a van is a ‘life’ for many people and when it becomes a fixture the realities are… real.

While these beautiful #VanLyf ideals grow online, I think it’s important to remember the realities of living in a van, as it can be uncomfortable and really hard work. You really can’t get around that, but in an odd way, after so many years living out of a van, it’s often the weirdest and most uncomfortable nights you remember fondly. Each day, depending on your schedule, there will be these subtle suggestions from your environment as to what you could do and where you could go. If you’re hell bent on getting to that ‘perfect’ spot and setting up for the ‘perfect’ Instagram shot, you’re potentially missing a myriad of wild and weird options, especially in the smaller towns. Be friendly. Be on a lax schedule. It’s great for your stress levels too. Let the perfect woollen rug get dirty and wrecked. Cart it up and mountains and throw in the dirt just to sit and look at the view for an hour or two. Have a couple of cocktails in a city bar with an arrogant lawyer and sleep on a busy street and wake up all crusty eyed and feeling rank! It’s all so important to feel and deeply experience what van life has to offer.

One of the largest populations of van life people are musicians. We travel constantly for work, the costs of which we are rarely able to cover, and we must constantly look for cheap ways to be accommodated. The difference for musicians is that we are not following some delightful holiday schedule. We play where we are booked and more often than not, sleeping options in the van are dire. So, to finish, I thought I’d give a coulee of quick tips:

If you have to sleep in cities and they’re on the coast, I’d advise hitting the council beach car parks. You need to be up and running before about 7.30 just in case a ranger decides to check in on you, even so, most councils give you a warning first and with any luck, you’ll just be passing through. The bathrooms often have showers too! If you can't get to the beach/shower, park near a cafe. You can at least wake up, throw a coffee down and use their bathroom. Other little things I’ve found that help are; having a good sleeping mask and a set of headphones that also double as earplugs. Make your own little world as introverted as possible. Oh, and have a couple of ales kicking around in the van or a carrot. A fresh piece of fruit in the morning can make you feel a whole lot better than you’d think!

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