Interview: Vundabar on the Boston music scene, constant touring, and making Eric André laugh
It’s hard to conceptualize the current Boston music scene without Vundabar coming to mind. After amassing a cult following here in New England and abroad — thanks to an incessant and impressing touring regimen — the trio was recently (and rightly) nominated for Rock/Indie Artist of the Year in the 2016 Boston Music Awards, a nice progression from last year’s nomination as New Artist of the Year. But things like awards and accolades are not what motivates the young band; their self-described “sludgy, jangly pop” melds harmoniously with their humorous nature that seeps into every bit of Vundabar’s being, and the attitude stretches from their performances to their social presence. It’s part of what has allowed them to rise through the indie ranks, tour numerous times around North America and Europe, and what will bring them to play several shows with PWR BTTM later this fall.
The Vundaboiz are barely of legal drinking age, but last year’s acclaimed album Gawk caught the attention of many — and once people properly digested their impromptu guitar-rock sound, questions about the name started to spring up. True to form, when asked where the band’s name comes from, frontman Brandon Hagen says there was no motivation behind it — it’s simply a silly name that “comes from nowhere”. A name that was once an afterthought of sorts, something that derived from nothing in particular, has come to represent the unique talent that is ubiquitous in the local music scene.
In advance of Friday’s Vanyaland presents show at Brighton Music Hall in Allston, a solid bill with Lady Pills and Bat House, we caught up with Hagen as the band journeyed through the Adirondacks for their performance at Otis Mountain Get Down to talk about the Boston scene, new tunes, and what fans can look forward to later this week. Spoiler alert: Expect the unexpected.
Cara DiFabio: Tell me a bit about how Vundabar came to be. And where the name comes from?
Brandon Hagen: [Drummer] Drew [McDonald] and I played in a funny high school punk/ska band together and live next door to each other. Junior year we started writing songs together as Vundabar. The first year or two was mostly just us figuring it out, we actually started touring two years ago. The name really comes from nowhere, there was no motivation behind it whatsoever. It’s just kind of a silly name.
So you guys just finished up a pretty extensive tour this summer. How was that? Any super memorable stories from tour?
It was a really long tour, I just didn’t mentally prepare for it. We had done so many really long tours in a row and there was some residual exhaustion that kind of carried over. But it was still a good tour. We played a show in a warehouse in Los Angeles and Eric André, a comedian, just popped in and we were doing a really stupid, prolonged outro to one of our songs and we made him laugh. So it was kind of a personal peak.
You all mentioned you’ve done a lot of tours, and you’ve played around the world at a lot of different venues. What’s it like coming back to Boston and playing in your hometown?
It’s nice being familiar with the people you’re playing to. We’ve toured around a couple times and we’ll meet people but a lot of times we don’t know anyone in the city. It’s nice to have a home base and recognize a lot of the people who are coming to the shows. And Boston’s always been super supportive.
For sure, Boston is really into supporting the local music and it’s a cool atmosphere to be in.
I think it’s a great place to start a band, just because it’s a really good incubator. You can immediately start playing shows at venues and there’s just a lot of avenues to start out. We were really lucky to have those available to us.
So obviously being from Boston has impacted how you got started, but do you think being from this area has impacted your music at all?
Yeah, we started playing shows my junior/senior year of high school and we also started going to shows. We got really into the local bands. Some of my favorite bands are from Boston, so [their influence] definitely rubs off a lot. And when there’s such a vibrant thing going on, I think it’s going to influence you.
Your most recent album came out a year ago, do you guys have any plans for another album?
Yeah, we have one in the works, we just recorded it a little while ago. We’re taking our time with it but it should be out in the next year or year and a half.
Will you guys play any of those new songs at Brighton show coming up?
Yeah, we’ll play a little bit of everything but we’ve been playing a lot of new stuff. We played a Blink-182 song the other night so who knows. [The venue] wanted us to play 90 minutes and we only did about 50, so we did a 20-minute medley that ended in Blink song. Maybe we’ll do a Blink cover set at Brighton. Probably not.
Besides some new tunes, what else can fans look forward to for your upcoming show?
We’ll do something gimmicky on stage. Drew did the art [for the promo poster] and Brighton Music Hall is creating masks of the faces he did that we’ll be giving out at the merch table. Other than that, we’re very impromptu. Like the day of we’ll think of something. At our release show we gave a free record to anyone that ate three cake pops in a row. We thought it would be really funny and it was just a person on the stage eating cake pops really fast.
But the fans definitely appreciate that kind of stuff. A lot of bands just get up and go on stage and are super impersonal and that sounds like it was something cool for them.
Yeah, and that’s the aspect of performance that I think we like the most. That’s kind of where we lean toward, you know we play the songs a bajillion times and being able to explore what you can do on stage is the part that’s most fun for me.
Speaking of fun, do you personally run the social media accounts? I appreciate when bands put their own personality into their social media, and Vundabar’s are pretty funny.
Yes! I mean again it’s just like that’s the part that’s fun for us. I’d feel mildly guilty just self-promoting and if it wasn’t silly.
VANYALAND PRESENTS: VUNDABAR + LADY PILLS + BAT HOUSE :: Friday, September 30 at Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Ave. in Allston, MA :: 7 p.m., all-ages, $12 :: Advance tickets :: Facebook event page :: Print out your own Vundabar mask