Whittier, California - home of Plague Vendor and absolutely nothing else at all. Emerging from a steady diet of nothing but rock ‘n roll fed to them by their dads and older brothers, it’s incredible to think these twentysomethings have managed to end up signing to Epitaph Records when the last sign of a Whittier punk scene was back in the early 90s - even that vanished into total obscurity.
Plague Vendor on the other hand are making sure they’re damn well remembered. This year the twentysomethings released their debut full-length ‘Free to Eat’, a blistering record of so-called ‘voodoo punk’ that’s confrontational, abrasive, and undeniably great to get down to. Opening track ‘Black Sap Scriptures’ is a bold lead single, one that sees our mysterious heroes blur the boundaries between dance-punk and snarling post-hardcore. It’s all about the attitude with these guys, and they have it by the bucketload.
On the phone from a floor in London somewhere during a break on their brief UK tour, frontman Brandon Blaine divulges answers “Liars and The Blood Brothers!’ almost instantaneously when asked about what bands were important to him growing up. Those are two bands who aren’t as juxtaposed as some might think, and it’s the combination of Liars’ ambitious experimentalism and The Blood Brothers’ knack for a racket that lay the foundations for Plague Vendor - they just slather their own black magic on top.
Rumour has it their obsession with voodoo and dark arts came from a Mexican folk tale, but Blaine has a bit of blunt confession to bestow in regards to that. “I saw this book one day when we just started the band that read P L A Q U V Vendor,” he says, upping the anticipation with every utterance. Then comes the punchline. “I mistook the Q for a G, and I just thought that was cool,” he unabashedly lays down, with the same do-I-give-a-shit attitude that makes the band ooze with excitement in the first place.
So he’s never been to Mexico or explored any of its culture beyond a book title? “I never said that,” he continues, hinting at a jumped gun - he’s slicker than a oil leak, cooler than a fresh six pack - the complete embodiment of Plague Vendor’s wickedly impressive punk rock shenanigans. “I’ve been there a few times,” - there’s that anticipation again, building up pace like the riotous guitar work on their latest single ‘Breakdance on Broken Glass’. “There was tequila and there were fireworks.” No man has ever been this illusive.
But what exactly is voodoo punk, to them anyway? Blaine gets straight to the point, of course. “Well, when we had the name, we then wanted to pursue dark themes, and when I hear the music we make I just can’t stop thinking about dark stuff,” he calmly points out. Plague Vendor’s live show is an in-your-face spectacle operating at full velocity, an adrenaline-fuelled tour de force that’s an exciting sight to behold. But underneath it all, when you pull the songs apart and expose them at their barest, they are - in the words of Blaine himself - ultimately about “dark… dark, fucked up shit."