INTERVIEW: The Vandals

Published on, Feb 2015


Soundwave-bound California punks The Vandals have enraged and lost fans with the latest addition to their merch store. Bassist Joe Escalante states his case to Daniel Cribb.

As harmless as their intentions, it seems The Vandals can’t stay out of trouble. Before their last time to Australia in 2013, they’d just beat a lengthy court case that nearly destroyed them. US entertainment magazine Variety took the band to court over the cover of their 2004 Hollywood Potato Chip album, due to the band parodying the publication’s logo on the cover. Luckily, Variety eventually dropped the case, but, as The Vandals have been rebuilding the band and gearing up for another appearance at Soundwave, they accidently stepped on some other toes.

“Our logo is a machine gun, and it’s our best selling T-shirt, so if we don’t make a real one, what kind of hypocrites are we?” bassist Joe Escalante begins. He’s talking about a fully-functional AR-15 riffle which was created by gunmaker Jesse James as a “piece of art” to replicate the band’s logo for exhibition Peace Through Vandalism. Unfortunately, it sparked outrage among some of the band’s most dedicated fans when a picture was posted on Facebook. “It’s a little weird if you wear [our gun] T-shirt and are a little worried about gun culture… you could be a Vandals fan and you could hate our first EP and you could refuse to wear our gun T-shirts and wear our happier, lighter shirts. The whole thing is kind of silly.”

One product they know will be received with open arms is new music, which will be their first new material since 2014. “We’ve recorded a bunch of stuff; we just don’t know what to do with it. What’s a proper Vandals release? Should we release an EP? A record? Or just a couple of songs at a time? Since there’s not a lot of pressure, we don’t put a lot on ourselves. It takes a while to get this stuff done.”

They’ve let one track out of the bag for the Soundwave 2015 compilation – a cover of AFL star Mark “Jacko” Jackson’s track I’m An Individual – and Escalante says it sets the tone for an Australian-themed released that’s in the works. “We just started putting together a few songs here and there, and the funny thing is, we recorded all of these original songs dealing with Australian topics and Australian cover songs.

“We have a song called Pat Brown, which was a legend about some guy in Orange County here, for running over a bunch of cops. So we wrote a song about Ned Kelly in the same sort of style. It’s hard to talk about because people in the United States don’t know who Ned Kelly is, and the people in Australia, most of them have never heard of this Pat Brown guy. It is such a Vandals thing to do; something that makes no sense. And then, I don’t want to give anymore of it away, but there are songs that deal with Australian things and content… and I don’t know if the world needs another Waltzing Matilda version, but we have one.”