A couple weeks ago at Vans Warped Tour in Holmdel, NJ, I got the opportunity to sit down with Plague Vendor, one of the most unique bands on the tour. They also happen to be one of the coolest and promising punk acts I’ve seen this year. The California natives put out their debut LP Free To Eat earlier this year via Epitaph. If you haven’t picked it up yet, stop whatever you’re doing and download it via iTunes or grab a physical copy here. Big thanks to the guys in Plague Vendor and Keaton for hanging out!
The Garden Statement: The debut LP came out in April via Epitaph – Free to Eat. There was a ton buzz from everyone, including Pitchfork who gave the album a stellar review-
Brandon Blaine: Shoutout to Ian Cohen
TGS: (laughs) he is awesome. Did you expect, Plague Vendor being more of punk band, to gain so much attention from these indie sites?
Jay Rogers: No, we were actually really surprised.
BB: Yes and no. We were expecting some but not as much.
TGS: And what do you think about what was said?
JR: It was great.
BB: Humbling and stoked on it.
TGS: It’s somewhat hard to classify your band into a specify genre. Looking at the reviews online, each site tends to call it something different. What genre would you put Plague Vendor in?
BB: Graveyard Groove.
TGS: Graveyard Groove? Why that?
BB: It’s dark but groovy. You can dance to it. It’s heavy but I see people in crowd lately, on this tour – when we’re playing heavy shit, people are moving.
TGS: Did you make that genre up?
BB: Someone made it up. I might’ve made it up at The Glasshouse. . . Voodoo punk, I’ve also read somewhere.
TGS: I read that somewhere, too. It’s very hard to classify so who are some of your influences to make this very unique sound?
Everyone: The Liars, Cramps, Gang of Four, Joy Division. . .
TGS: A those aren’t really similar sounds. Did you specifically try to take different parts from each or is that just kind of how it went?
Michael Perez: It’s our musical taste, I think.
JR: I think, for me at least, it’s passive inspiration. You kind of listen to a bunch of stuff and then it comes out.
TGS: Do you all have different music tastes that you bring to the table?
Luke Perine: I think we all – There’s a lot of stuff we agree on but there is a lot of music that maybe one of us isn’t as excited about.
BB: There’s music that we tolerate from each other (laughs)
LP: For example, when we started the band, we made mixtapes of about 20 songs each and shared them with each other, made copies for everyone. It was like ‘This is the stuff I really like so if we are going to be in a band together, we got to incorporate this.’
TGS: When writing this album, was there anything that someone brought to the table that everyone went ‘no way?’ Or were you pretty accepting of everyone’s input?
BB: We accepted each other.
LP: Or at least made a decent effort to achieving some kind of sound like that. And if it wasn’t working, we would try something else.
TGS: Obviously you guys found some sort of a balance because the record is awesome. But, as I said earlier, this is Vans Warped Tour coverage and the tour itself isn’t necessarily known for punk acts anymore. We see a lot of more metalcore, a lot more pop-punk. Do you think that you bring something different or maybe attract different sorts of fans?
MP: I think we are attracting genuine fans.
BB: I think we are attracting people who don’t know who the fuck we are and they listen to us and they stay there and they come up to us afterwards and they’re genuinely stoked. Those five or six people that we meet a day make our day. Whether it be a little girl who is so stoked on the record or this older guy with a Lou Reed shirt on. Like that’s cool.
JR: I think there is an age gap too. It’s like right around puberty – up to that age – they like us a lot. And from puberty to mid-20s, they’re just not really into it. After that age group, they like us again. And if you are a dad, you love us. (laughs)
TGS: And can you figure out any reason behind that? Were you able to figure out what that is?
MP: I think it’s just genuine kids.
BB: We attract genuine kids. . .
TGS: You guys were up in Canada the last two days, did you find any differences in the Canadian fan bases compared to here?
LP: They spoke French and we didn’t know what the fuck they were saying.
TGS: Just the language barrier?
BB: There was a lot going on. I couldn’t really . . .
LP: We got thrown on the Main Stage last minute and they kind of just threw us off. We just weren’t expecting that so that was cool. We had a good time doing that.
TGS: Being a California band who started off playing smaller shows in basements and warehouses and really taking hold of what I think of when considering the LA underground punk scene, how are you adjusting to a more organized, broader national tour?
BB: We’ve always been outcasts, even in LA and the “LA Scene.” We play warehouses. We were, basically without even saying ‘oh, we’re a punk band’ – I don’t think we ever said that. Our style just stood out and still does out there like ‘oh, these guys are fucking crazy.’ So we’ve always stood out and here, we stand out.
MP: We’ve been embraced by a lot of other bands. They come and see our set and are like ‘damn, you guys killed it.’
JR: We’re used to standing out. We’ve accepted standing out.
LP: One thing that I’m adjusting to is playing so repetitively, day after day after day. Usually, we would play two or three in one weekend and then not play for a month or something. To play every day, you get to see these really little differences that you maybe wouldn’t have recognized if the shows were more spread out. It’s kind of like refining [things].
TGS: Now that you are getting used to the daily routine of Warped Tour, do you have a favorite moment since the tour started two weeks ago?
LP: I think just meeting some of the fans that were really sincere. To see a kid that young and with so much confidence.
MP: And mention good music, that’s a big thing. We see kids [watching] bands that I don’t care for personally. Then they come up to me and get our music and it’s like ‘wow, okay cool.’ And then they mention different bands from the 70s and 80s that we all like.
LP: I think it’s cool too because if I were their age, I probably wouldn’t have had the balls to walk up to an older band and try to talk to them.
TGS: Are there any bands that you are excited to be on this tour with?
Everyone: Every Time I Die, Terror, Vanna, K. Flay, DJ Nicola Bear, Antiserum
TGS: Do you have any Warped Tour essentials or items you’ve found you can’t survive this tour without?
BB: Each other.
TGS: Wow, that’s a good answer! That was nice.
BB: Coors Light (laughs)
TGS: I mean, not as sincere but I can understand that
BB: No, very sincere (everyone laughs)
TGS: The last set of questions I have are for Brandon. I read online that your music career started in hip-hop.
BB: My first taste in music was in elementary school. My two first friends showed me hip-hop
TGS: So that was your first big jump into discovering music?
BB: That was me finding music, yeah.
TGS: Do you think that, with hip-hop being the beginning of your interest in music, it goes into how you write?
TGS: How so?
BB: Well, I mean, you could say. . .
JR: I think in his vocal rhythms and stuff too. You can hear a lot of it.
BB: When we are writing in the studio, sometimes I’ll treat the music like how a hip-hop artist would listen to it over and over again and write, write, write – like that. I have a certain aesthetic that I’m always working on but yeah. I’d say it’s all hip-hop for me.
TGS: Very cool. That’s all I have on my end. Is there any final comments, messages to fans, anything you want to wrap up with?
MP: Go get Free to Eat on Epitaph. Go buy it. It’s fucking killer.