The Vandals Biography

The archetypal southern California pop punk band, Orange County veterans the Vandals have maintained an irreverent position over their lifetime and while being avowedly anti-political, they nonetheless aim continuous pot shots at likely targets such as self-important punks, domestic violence, social inadequacy, the MTV generation, and the Rollins Band.

Formed in the early 80s by bass player Joe Escalante who had also appeared in seminal punk movie Suburbia, the original Vandals line-up featured Stevo (Steven Jensen, 1959, USA, d. 20 August 2005, Maui; vocals), Jan Nils Ackerman (guitar), and Steve Pfauter (bass; Escalante played drums at this point). The first Vandals EP, 1982’s Peace Thru Vandalism, appeared on Bad Religion’s Epitaph Records. Containing future classics such as ‘Anarchy Burger’ and ‘Pirate’s Life’, When In Rome Do As The Vandals, was recorded with new bass player Chalmer Lumary. The Vandals had a settled line-up by 1989, with Escalante joined by former Fallen Idols vocalist Dave Quackenbush (with the band since 1985), guitarist Warren Fitzgerald (b. 15 September 1968, USA, joined in 1987), and drummer Josh Freese. Slippery When Ill (later re-released as Play Really Bad Original Country Tunes) tackled all the usual subjects in the usual manner, and was essentially a typical Vandals record with a cow punk/country twist, ‘Play That Country Tuba, Cowboy’ being an exemplary track. Following the release of 1991’s Fear Of A Punk Planet, the band moved to the XXX label for Sweating To The Oldies: The Vandals Live, but this partnership was quickly and acrimoniously dissolved when the Vandals moved to Dexter Holland’s Nitro label for Live Fast, Diarrea, a solid if unspectacular release. The band was in full flight for their next effort, 1996’s The Quickening, with typically excellent musicianship matched by intelligent and occasionally heartfelt lyrics, notably on ‘Canine Euthanasia’ and ‘Aging Orange’ (a deserved dig at aging punks Agent Orange).

Escalante, a UCLA graduate and Californian attorney (who also represented Sublime in their label negotiations), established his own Kung Fu label with Fitzgerald at this time. Aside from the Vandals, the members have a wide variety of outside interests. Fitzgerald worked with Oingo Boingo, No Doubt and Tenacious D, while Quackenbush runs his own alcohol distribution company. Freese (who the band reputably discovered drumming at Disneyland as a teenager) was much in demand as session drummer working with Guns N’Roses, Suicidal Tendencies, A Perfect Circle, Devo, and Mike Ness, and also recorded a solo album The Notorious One Man Orgy. These studio commitments limited his ability to adhere to the band’s heavy touring schedule, his spot being filled at various times by Brooks Wackerman, Adrian Young, Derek Grant, and Ty Smith.

The Vandals’ first recording of the new millennium, Look What I Almost Stepped In …, marked a return to the Nitro label for another collection of knockabout punk. A brief hiatus ensued before the release of the lacklustre Internet Dating Super Studs, which included an interactive section following the band on a series of hapless dates. The in-concert set Live At The House Of Blues included a free DVD in the package, while the studio album Hollywood Potato Chip marked a partial return to form.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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