You Vandal is a power-pop/pop-punk quartet out of Gainesville, FL who recently released a pretty badass album called with the uplifting title 'I Just Want To Go Back To Hell'. It's out now via the amazing Jump Start Records and if you haven't already checked it out, I suggest you do so now. But while we have you here, why not read this interview we did with vocalist/bassist Eric first?
PRT: Your new album is out now, you played Fest and just got back from a short tour... how has the reception been so far?
Eric: We've been happy with the feedback so far. Most of the comments we've received have been complimentary. A few people have said that they think this new album is our best one yet, and that's always nice to hear. FEST will forever be a rad time, and the tour was a lot of fun too. I've seen some folks singing along to “Sorry” and “Collapse” at some of the shows, so that seems like a positive sign.
PRT: Every band – logically - always says that their new album is their best material to date… why do you personally feel these are your best songs to date?
Eric: Our early releases were mostly comprised of lyric ideas I'd had sitting around since high school, because I'd never had a band to use them in before we started You Vandal. There are definitely a lot of cliché and immature moments in those songs; not even just lyrically, but instrumentally too. Afterward, we may have over-corrected by incorporating a lot of dark, brooding, mellow, or minimalistic elements into our more recent releases.
In contrast, I feel like this album is the most accurate and balanced representation of who we are and what we're about. More thought, time, and effort went into every component of this release than had gone into any of the previous ones. Based on the reactions of listeners who have followed us for a long time, I think that all comes across.
PRT: “I Just Want To Go Back To Hell” is out on Jump Start Records. How did you end up with them?
Eric: We cold-call emailed the songs to Jump Start right after we got the finished tracks. I wasn't sure they'd even reply, but Jeremy got back to us within a day or two. He seemed genuinely excited about the album and we got the ball rolling from there. Jeremy is the best, and Kevin might be the nicest person I've ever met. We're fans of a lot of the bands they've worked with, past and present, so it's exciting to be involved with them.
PRT: Speaking of Fest, you also played a Third Eye Blind cover set there. Why did you pick that band?
Eric: We genuinely love Third Eye Blind. Not in like a nostalgic throwback “the 90's were so awesome” kind of way. Between the four of us, we regularly listen to their entire catalog. When I was a kid, my mom took me to go see them right after “Blue” came out and it was amazing. Alex and our old drummer Jesse were the first people I'd ever met who liked that band as much as I did, and the fandom has since awoken in Gooch and Millsaps as well.
Earlier this year, I was seeing all these Third Eye Blind references on popular shows like “Girls” or “Workaholics.” It seemed like they might be creeping back into the mainstream, and I felt like we needed to jump on the cover set idea before somebody else beat us to it. We didn't know what to expect going into it, but it was an awesome experience. The general reaction afterward was “I didn't realize I knew so many of their songs.” We're thankful that Tony and FEST were cool enough to let us do it.
PRT: When people think of Gainesville, they think of gruff-voiced punk rock. Do you get bullied by the other bands for sounding different?
Eric: We definitely don't get bullied. Gainesville has been kind to us. I think the association with gruff stuff is a misconception. Some gruff-voiced bands from Gainesville have become huge names, and FEST definitely features plenty of gruff-voiced bands and draws lots of fans of that style. Currently, though, I'm not sure I can name more than a few active local bands that fit that stereotype.
Regardless of location though, there absolutely are fans of the gruff stuff that have their reservations about us. There are plenty of bands that I can't get into because I don't like the vocals, so I understand it. But I'm not about to change how my voice sounds just to fit in. However, we've got Gooch doing more singing now and he sounds like he's gargling rocks, so that might win some people over.
PRT: While having a distinct pop-punk sound, you guys manage to avoid the clichés associated with the genre. Is that something you pay attention to or do songs just turn out the way they do?
Eric: A little bit of both. We're aware of all the stereotypes and we aren't interested in playing into them, but we aren't having to police ourselves either. We've already outgrown the clichés, so they don't organically show up in the writing process very often. Some elements that seemed attractive about pop-punk when we were younger have since lost their appeal, like riffs that now sound hokey or lyrics that now sound gross or pathetic. I'd like to think we're successfully cutting out most of the bullshit; sometimes intentionally and sometimes incidentally.
PRT: Your lyrics touch on everything from broken friendships to overcoming obstacles in relationships. I’ve already asked other bands the same question, but what is it that appeals to you about the juxtaposition between poppy music and heavier lyrics?
Eric: For our band, I think the disconnect comes from the music and the lyrics each being written for independent reasons. The thought process when we're writing the music is usually “this guitar riff is fun to play,” or “this drum beat sounds cool,” or “this melody is super catchy,” and so on and so forth. When I write lyrics, though, I'm usually not thinking about what would best fit the mood of the instruments. I'm more concerned with clearing my head of some sort of negativity. It would probably make us better songwriters if we tried to connect the two, but fuck it.
PRT: If you would dream big… what is one thing you would still like to achieve with You Vandal?
Eric: If we could open for Bigwig, I think we'd die happy.
PRT: And I have to ask… why is your guitarist called Gooch?
Eric: It's almost such a bad story that I don't want to tell it and ruin his mystique. The tale as I know it is: when he was a young teenager, he went bowling with a group of friends. They all gave themselves joke names for keeping score. His joke name was Gooch and it stuck. It's such a dumb fucking story, but literally everyone knows him as Gooch now. His own family even calls him Gooch. But he's a pretty cool dude and we're glad to have him, so we'll let his terrible origin story slide.