The Vandals – Soundwave Special

If you have even a passing interest in punk rock music you would no doubt have heard of The Vandals.

They are punk rock at its finest and most facetious, a band who are as well known for their on stage antics as well as their music.

They are, and have always been, brash, outspoken and opinionated, but they also have another ingredient that has been the cornerstone of their success.

A sense of humor.

Talking to bass player and long serving member, Joe Escalante, is a lesson in humility, with everything that comes out of his mouth to be taken with a grain of salt. He is sarcastically funny, often at his own expense, but is also a man who is passionate about his art, which comes through in his conversation.

“Punk rock music is fast, loud music played by people with short hair,” he said.

Simple enough explanation, but for a band who have been around for 35 years and released 11 full length albums, the key to keeping things together, he says, is being easy going when it comes to the band and music, and not too take things seriously.

“We don’t put any pressure on ourselves or on each other,” he explained. “We actually encourage each other to do things outside of the band to keep things fresh. Our drummer, Josh Frees, constantly gets offers to play with other bands and we tell him to go for it and just book another drummer for the night. It’s perfect that way; there is no pressure at all.”

After so many years in the industry, The Vandals have seen many bands come and go and seen the face of punk take many different forms, and although stopping short of naming names, he says some bands out there are in it for the wrong reasons, but there are others that still have his respect despite veering slightly from the traditional underground punk culture.

“Bands like Fall Out Boy and Green Day have had pretty big hits but they are still the kind of bands who run around in their own vans on tour,” he said. “You can tell they didn’t start playing because they wanted the money but because they like playing punk rock. Some bands get huge and they sell out and some of us do but I’m not going to mention any of those names. I prefer the bands who I think started for the music, not the money.”

Starting off in the band as a drummer, Joe took the unusual step of changing to bass in 1999 after a number of unsuccessful attempts to find a constant player, another subject which he tackles in his typically flippant way.

“The bass player quit basically and I didn’t see myself getting any better on the drums and there was a lot of equipment to carry around so I thought it would be more glamorous to play the bass and I was definitely wrong about that! I think I actually play both equally as terribly,” he laughed.

Australian fans hoping to hear some new material ahead of their Soundwave performance will be left disappointed, but the band does have one new track which they contributed to the Soundwave compilation.

“Our goal was to release an E.P before Soundwave and we’ve failed miserably at that,” he laughed, “but there is the one song we released for the compilation. It’s a song called ‘I’m an Individual’ by Mark Jacko’ Jackson – I think you’re gonna like it. We’ve actually got five songs we’ve written about Australia and some covers. We wrote a song about Ned Kelly and we have a song about some other Australian…. crap and then we have a cover of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ we’ve recorded.”
After all these years in the game, it is fair to say that The Vandals and the music they created will be part of punk folklore, but Joe says the band have only a few simple legacies they wish to leave.

“We want to release a higher proportion of decent tracks rather than terrible ‘B’ cuts but I think we’ve still got some work to do achieve that. I also wanna be known as the band where 1 out of every 14 shows was amazing!”

Kris Peters.

The Vandals play at the Soundwave festival next month. For tickets and the full line up visit the Soundwave web page.

© Copyright 2024 | NQ Music Press