This week, Makin Waves chats with The Vansaders and Hot Blood, reviews and streams The Battery Electric, Wetbrain, and Rahway, streams Billy Walton Band and Spowder, and features briefs on Colossal Street Jam, State Champion Records, Hoboken Arts & Music Festival, the return of The Meatlocker, and the next generation of “Allman brothers” coming to Asbury Park.
Makin Waves’ coverage of the Punk Rock Bowling & Music Festival in Asbury Park continues with a combo interview featuring two of its local Stone Pony Summerstage opening acts, The Vansaders, who’ll play June 10, and Hot Blood, who’ll play June 11 (see an interview with fellow NJ Punk Rock Bowlers Crazy & the Brains here).
The Vansaders are led by singer-songwriter-guitarist Doug Zambon, whose rootsy brand of punk rock recalls Mike Ness of Social Distortion, as well as Johnny Clash, a cross between Johnny Cash and The Clash. The band also features Deaglan Howlett on guitar and vocals, Kyle “Zupe” Zupancic on bass and vocals and Jay Maranzino on drums.
They have released three records in as many years – the 2014 LP, “Stuck in New York,” and “Jumping at Shadows” and “This Time Around,” EPs respectively released in 2015 and 2016. Another EP, “No Matter What,” is on the way in August.
The hardcore-punk four-piece Hot Blood features vocalist-guitarist Mat Kiley, drummer Billy Straniero, bassist Charlie Schaffer, and guitarist Alex Rosen, the bass player in the popular Asbury band The Battery Electric (see review below). They have released the 2014 LP “No Kings” and the 2015 EP, “Overcome Part 1” and 2016 EP, “Overcome Part 2.” Later this year, they expect to drop another LP, “Fear of a Unified Public,” parts of which were produced at Volume IV in New Brunswick and Trax East in South River by Chris Pierce (Night Birds).
Both The VanSaders and Hot Blood have been produced by Bouncing Souls guitarist Pete Steinkopf at his Little Eden Studios in Neptune, where Hot Blood may finish up “Fear of a Unified Public.” Steinkopf has been a Punk Rock Bowling regular in Las Vegas for many years and may have had a hand in getting both the bands the Asbury show. What sucks, however, is that Kiley, a huge fan of June 11 headliner NOFX, will not get to fulfill has bucket-list item by opening for them because he is still in the hospital after four surgeries and two more expected to remedy injuries sustained in work fall from a roof.
But the show will go on for Hot Blood as did the following chat with Kiley, bandmates Alex and Billy, as well as Doug and Zupe from The Vansaders. We talked about Punk Rock Bowling, working with Steinkopf and plans to release new music soon.
Question: What inspired the name of the band?
Doug: The Vansaders were nameless for a good few months. In that time, we had a revolving door of musicians playing and hanging out with us at practices and shows. There was a definite sense of community and family within the scene that we created so we thought it appropriate to take a family name (our drummer’s last name) as our band name.
Kiley: We were called The Goons at first because Alex, myself and our first bass player, Dan, are all 6-foot 3-inches and taller. Turns out there were like 20 bands with that name so we kicked around some names. We changed it to Hot Blood after I was sticking my boots in a fire and felt the hot blood running back up my legs. I suggested it for a place holder until we came up with something better. One name I really liked we were kicking around was Lurch, another tall joke, but, ultimately, we just kept it. We kind of figured the name isn't really that important.
Q: How and when did the band get together?
Doug: This current lineup got together in the fall/winter of 2015/2016. Deaglan and I had been working together and knew each other from Deaglan’s band, Corrina, Corrina. I knew he could sing and play guitar very well so I asked if he’d be interested in playing some of the old Vansaders songs and writing some new ones and he said yes.
Jay has always been playing drums around town and came recommended from Alex Rosen (Hot Blood/The Battery Electric). We played a few local shows and made a trip down to Baltimore and he absolutely killed it. The amount of energy and positivity he brings just made it really easy to play and write songs with.
Zupe was the last to join. Alex had been filling in on bass but that wasn’t a permanent solution. Zupe and Jay had met a few years ago and Jay was filling in on drums for Kid Nichols, Zupe’s former band. He agreed to play a run of shows, but since we all just meshed well from the beginning it made sense to keep this lineup.
Kiley: I was at a show at Red Bank Rehearsal studio and someone put on ‘Heart Attack American’ by The Bronx. I went over to the PA and killed the music and asked who put that song on. That's how Alex and I met. We bullshitted all night and by the end of the show decided to start a band together.
Q: Is the lineup original members?
Doug: The current lineup is myself on guitar/vocals, Deaglan Howlett on guitar/vocals, Kyle Zupancic on bass/vocals and Jay Maranzino banging on the cans. I’m the only original member, but every lineup has had fantastic musicians. They have really helped shape the direction of the band.
Alex: The lineup as we stand is Kiley, Charlie, Alex and Billy. Charlie though is not a founding member. He recorded our demo at his studio, Word of Mouth Studios, and then became our bass player shortly after.
Q: Comment on how The Vansaders, especially Doug, is like Johnny Clash or a cross between the roots of Johnny Cash and the raw punk of The Clash.
Doug: Most of the band grew up with punk rock. I, however, grew up on folk music. When I was about 7, my father took me to a Woody Guthrie play and the songs stuck with me. From there, it was really any music like that that I could get my hands on. In my teens, I was introduced to punk rock. Social Distortion bridged the gap for me, and now, here we are.
Q: What do you like most about being a part of the Asbury Park music scene and why?
Doug: A lot of people like Asbury for the musical history it has. I honestly couldn't care less. I like the Asbury scene because of all the music that's happening now. There is immense talent here. But not only are there great bands, there are shows every night of the week of original music. I don't know anywhere else where I can go to a show every night of the week and check out good original music.
Kiley: It's a very musically diverse scene. There is so much going on any given night and for the most part, everyone is super rad. There's a lot of love here.
Alex: Speakeatery, Mike Longo and Bond Street Proper.
Q: How has the City of Asbury Park and its music scene changed since the band first got involved in it and is that change for the better or worse and why?
Doug: It's growing. It's always growing. More bands. More venues. More opportunities. Asbury Park is a great place to be as both a musician and music fan.
Alex: We miss the (Asbury) Lanes. The people who worked, booked, and were a part of that community were integral to Asbury’s underground, independent and alternative scene. True artists, as well as awesome people. A real shame that it is not there.
Q: When and how is the band’s next record coming out and how does it compare to your previous ones?
Zupe: We’re going to release the new record, titled ‘No Matter What,’ on Aug. 11 with more details to follow. This record is more similar to ‘This Time Around’ than some of the other releases, but if you’ve enjoyed any of the songs we’ve written previously, I think you’ll seriously dig the new tunes. We’ve tried to really focus on our songwriting, and as a result, the songs are littered with harmonies, strong rhythm guitars and some tasty solos. I can’t stress how excited we are to show everyone.
Alex: We have hit a few speed bumps but our new album, "Fear of a Unified Public" should be out this year and will be on vinyl, as well as digital. It is one song longer than our first LP, ‘No Kings,’ hence comes in at 16 tracks. It has a few curve balls in it as far as our sound, but I think it will be enjoyed as much as our previous stuff. I don’t think it will alienate our fans at all.
Billy: I am Billy.
Q: Who are you working on it with and where, what do you like most about working with them, and how did they impact the band’s sound and style?
Zupe: This is the third EP we’ve done with Pete at Little Eden, and I can’t say enough good things about him and the process. He just knows how to write and produce a song and is able to bring us down to earth a lot of the time. There’s so much adrenaline when you’re in the studio and you’re just trying to iron out every idea that comes to you. Pete is like a really effective gatekeeper for ideas that help push songs and music into something both cohesive and coherent.
Alex: It is still being recorded. We are still figuring it out, but we worked with Chris Pierce at both Volume IV and Trax East. Chris we wanted to work with after hearing the Night Birds record he did. Chris is a bad-ass musician and knows what we are going for. As far as the sound and style are concerned, you will have to wait and hear it!
Q: Did Pete help you get the gig at Punk Rock Bowling?
Doug (laughing): I don't know actually. You’ll have to ask Pete.
Alex: I am not sure how we got asked to be on it, but am very thankful to anyone who has helped us and put in the good word for us. Pete is honestly the fucking man. We are going to try to get him to help us with the record, as well, since he did both our EPs, ‘Overcome Part 1’ and ‘Overcome Part 2.’
Kiley: Pete is the fucking guy, man. I couldn't say a bad thing about him if you paid me to. Class-act dude. We owe him some beers for sure.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about Punk Rock Bowling and why?
Kiley: I'm a huge NOFX fan so it's literally a bucket-list item of mine to play a gig with them. Granted, we’re playing, like, seven hours apart, but it still counts. I'm also really excited to see a lot of the other bands playing both the main stage and the club shows. Another thing is seeing all of our friends from around the country who come in to town and party with us.
Zupe: Other than the fact that it will be the on the Summer Stage, which is one of those lofty goals we set out to achieve, we’re looking forward to a weekend of hanging out with massively influential friends and musicians. We’re sharing the stage with our buddies in Crazy & The Brains, who are always a good time, plus PUP, Charles Bradley and the Specials?! It’s going to be one for the books for sure.
Also, with our brothers in Hot Blood playing on Sunday without Kiley, we certainly want to make sure we aren’t taking anything about the weekend for granted. We know he’s absolutely gutted and we’re going to channel as much Kiley-inspired energy as we possibly can.
Q: How is Kiley healing up and will he be able play Punk Rock Bowling?
Alex: I don’t think anything would stop Kiley from the opportunity to share the stage with his favorite band.
Kiley: Doc says I'm gonna be in a cast until January probably. It sucks, but I could have died so I'm pretty lucky. There's no way in hell I would miss this gig.
Alex: (But) as the weeks went on, the surgeon has decided Kiley will not be able to do the show. Kiley has had four surgeries so far and will be getting two more before the show date. Despite the surgeon being a big NOFX fan as well, he has advised that he cannot leave the hospital.
We will still be playing it as per Kiley's request. Me, Billy, and Charlie will have some guests to fill in (guitarist Sergio Casal of Shape Shifters and vocalist Devin Walby of Plaguebearers and Nation on Fire). Was not an easy decision, but Kiley did not want to cancel. We will try our best. Send Kiley some love.
Q: Have you ever attended or previously played Punk Rock Bowling? If so, what did you like most about it that you would recommend to others who never have been?
Zupe: Deaglan attended last year’s Punk Rock Bowling and had a blast. As soon as one band finishes, the next band is on almost immediately. The music never stops and the lineup is always great. Where else are you going to be able to see The Descendents and Flag? We would all be going even if we weren’t playing. On the downside, no re-entry is really a bummer, especially since it’s in the summer and the ocean is less than a block away. How great would it be to jump in the water in between bands?
Alex: We went last year, and it was a blast. FLAG ruled. My advice would be to pace yourself with the drinking because it's a long day!
Kiley: What he said. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Stay hydrated. Bring sunblock.
Q: After Punk Rock Bowling, what does the band have coming up as far as shows, tours, videos, and anything else you would like to plug?
Zupe: We have a lot going on right now that we’re planning. We’re going to announce a good run of shows for the summer, shoot some videos for the new EP, release a single shortly, and there are some talks about a vinyl collection later in the year.
Alex: Right now, the focus is Kiley getting better. It is No. 1. Our new record isn't done, and we haven't figured out artwork or any details. I have some ideas for videos, and I am sure Kiley will have a lot of inspiration for some new material. Just check out our Instagram and Facebook for updates.
Q: Is there anything I didn’t ask on which you would like to comment?
Billy: I am Billy.
The Battery Electric have re-recorded and repackaged last year’s three-song “Got Your Soul” EP with two additional tracks: the opening ’50s-fueled punk blast “Ghouls in Heels” and the closing “Shake,” a soul-punk party anthem that gets their legions of local fans fired up at shows. Speaking of which, TBE will be at the Punk Rock Bowling After Party on June 10 at Asbury Park Yacht Club with Jon Caspi & First Gun, featuring Dez Cadena of Black Flag.
But I digress. The new version of the previously released “Maybe” still has the ’60s Shirelles-like take on soul-pop, but this time out, the track has a more of a dirty Jerz surf vibe to it than before. The retake offers a gnarly, spaghetti Western-tinged guitar underbelly that adds some vinegar to the honey of a track. “Need Ya’,” featuring sweet backing vocals, and “Nobody’s Fool,” a damned-with-ya’, damned-without-ya’ ditty, also fit in nicely with the two new tracks.
Impressive throughout are guest horns by saxophonist Anders Carlson of Waiting on Mongo and Black Flamingos guitarist Robbie Butkowski, taking a surprise turn on trumpet. A master at not wasting any time or space on a record, Pete Steinkopf, the guitarist of the seminal Jersey punk The Bouncing Souls, once again has helmed a tight, clean production. He also has quite a little stable at his Little Eden Studios also with Crazy & The Brains, The Vansaders, The Hannas, The Moms, and Hot Blood, featuring TBE bassist Alex Rosen (see interview above). There’s probably more, but they’re the bunch I’ve written about.
After you’ve taken all those bands in, you also can go see The Battery Electric play these five songs and many others live on June 19 at Cinfano’s Bar in Elizabeth with DejaGravy, Crust, Booth HC, and a reunion of Altered Cross. I’ve been told an LP is expected to surface by year’s end. Maybe they’ll play some tracks off that too.
When Wetbrain started out in 2015, it pretty much was a one-man recording band with now former Dentist drummer Rudy Meier returning to his main instrument, guitar, plus laying down vocals, drums, percussion, bass, piano, Theremin, effects and more. Fellow former Dentist member Nick Kaelblein helped him out on bass and guitar, but when I heard that they had left Dentist right before a tour of Canada, I thought they were nuts, not having heard Wetbrain yet. Now I get it.
Throughout “A Certain Light,” Meier proves to be immensely talented musically, lyrically and production-wise, channeling acts, such as Television, Talking Heads, Prince, and John Lennon, especially with Yoko Ono. Whether on the sweet side, like “Pirouettes,” creepy, such as on the standout “Sewage,” cut-and-pasty ala “Kids for Sale,” deconstructive via the finger-pointing “The Complex,” straight-up punk as on the fake closer “Wise Up,” or acoustic, like the actual closing, untitled, raw secret track, Wetbrain are inventive, imaginative and inject a great sense of pride in the words “original band.” I am glad Meier brought his strong production to be mastered by Alan Douches (Cage the Elephant, Brand New) at West West Side Music because he’s the best in my book. The precision of the intricate instrumentation and layers of production shine throughout.
If the live version of Wetbrain, which includes Kaelblein on guitar, Ryan Grebel on bass and Jay LaRaia on drums, can pull this record off, you’re in for a treat on June 12 at Happy Mondays with Fortune Yeller and Geez Louise and June 17 at The Anchor’s Bend with Tide Bends, Yawn Mower and Brian Bonz. Go see these guys and download their record. They deserve your attention. I plan to catch up with them live as soon as I can, and I’m looking forward to it.
OMG, this record is so much fun! Jersey hard rock ala Skid Row that reminds me of the days at East Coast Rocker covering bands at Studio 1 in Newark. Those good old days are long gone, and it’s so much harder for hard rock to make a dent these days, but Rahway is a veteran act who are at the top of the heap, and “Undefeated” definitely will keep them there.
The power ballad “Aching” is especially great, as are the raw, raucous “Cage the Animal,” psychedelic-tinged “Now,” fun Kiss-like closer “Drive Me Crazy,” and opening energetic, anthemic title track, which would be radio ready if radio had the balls to play this music. I particularly like the edgy chunk of David Cardenas’ guitar and the sweeter side of Nick Hade’s vocals when harmonized with drummer Steve Cardenas. Check it out live when Rahway celebrate the release of “Undefeated” on June 10 at Crossroads in Garwood with Everything Falls, Common Wealth and host Don Jamieson from “The Metal Show.” They’ll also play July 15 with Puddle of Mudd at One Centre Square in Easton, Pa.; Aug. 19, Lovecraft, New York City; Aug. 26, Lucky 13 Saloon, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Sept. 30 at Tattooing for Autism at the VFW in Port Monmouth.
Congrats to Asbury Park blues ‘n’ soul-rockers Billy Walton Band, whose sixth CD since 2007, “Soul of a Man,” drops June 10 at The Saint in Asbury Park with support from the mighty Colossal Street Jam and the awesome Strumberry Pie. Then it’s a solid summer for Walton with shows throughout the Jersey Shore and South Jersey sandwiching a two-week tour of the U.K. in early July …
Speaking of Colossal Street Jam, the Red Bank-based hard-rock band are offering a fun bus trip to their July 22 Philly debut at Whiskey Tango with StoneBaby, The Easy Outs, and The Peace Creeps. For only $20, you get a comfortable ride with free beer and snacks and a ticket to the show …
State Champion Records, the new indie of Screaming Females bassist King, will hold a label launch party on July 9 at Monty Hall in Jersey City with three released acts, Spowder, Decoration and Snakeskin. Forthcoming from State Champion will be Mike’s indie-pop band Sweaty, the Ohio punk band Vacation, and Exmaids, featuring former members of Hunchback, a New Brunswick basement who had a big influence on Screaming Females …
The Hoboken Arts & Music Festival returns June 11 with performances by Mike Daly & the Planets, Demolition String Band, Glenn Morrow's Cry for Help, Overlake, RocknRoll HiFives, Burnt Sugarr Arkestra Chamber in tribute to Prince and much more, including wares of artists, crafters, photographers, and food vendors …
After a confusing and ridiculous situation with its landlord that forced it closed for a little while, The Meat Locker DIY venue in Montclair has reopened with a slew of shows this week and last. Coming up are LKFFCT, Smock and Shred Flinstone on June 8 and Glazer, Joy Cleaner, Ultra deluxe, and Horishi Jaguar on June 16. This is a valuable all-ages above-ground DIY venue that needs to stay open, so I’m glad to see that’s happening, and I hope it remains that way …
If you’re missing Gregg Allman and The Allman Brothers Band as much as I am, Asbury Park has got you covered. Two of Allman’s sons, Michael and Devon, will be rockin’ the City by the Sea within about a month of each other. Michael Allman & the Mile High Club will play with local favorites Secret Sound on June 8 at The Wonder Bar Yappy Hour, while The Devon Allman Band will be makin waves on July 6 as part of the free Jams on the Sand series of The Anchor’s Bend.
Bob Makin is the reporter at www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor and still a contributor to The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at email@example.com.