Release Date: Apr 15, 2014
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival, Punk/New Wave, Punk Revival, American Punk
To sum up California punk quartet Plague Vendor in one word, they’re agitated. To sum up California punk quartet Plague Vendor in one word, they’re agitated. Certainly, vocalist Brandon Blaine’s high-pitched screeches (most notably on ‘My Tongue Is So Treacherous’) don’t bode well for his sanity, while Jay Rogers’ squalling guitar sounds like he’s desperately trying to scratch some kind of indefinable musical itch.
For the unacquainted, Plague Vendor have opened for acts such as Little Dragon and Passion Pit. But who opens for bands like these? Three-piece electronic bands with a few off-kilter melodies? Soaring, stadium-ready synth-pop groups? Sure, maybe. But Plague Vendor aren’t any of those. Think about this for a second - they’ve also played with Social Distortion and Iggy Pop, too.
Plague Vendor’s brand of punk rock is Californian, though not in the sense that their debut Free to Eat conjures visions of Los Angeles’ variegated urban sprawl, or the countercultural aggression Berkeley, or the disparity in Sacramento’s double life as a cow town and a state capital. The descriptor likely triggers some immediate ideas their Cali predecessors embedded in our consciousness, few of which are consistent with each other but all aligning to create a theoretical Golden State: the guitars are situated somewhere between the beach and the garage, and there's "surf's up" tremolo riffing played with the berzerker energy that powers the Bay Area. It's pop too, if not necessarily pop-punk—the kind you could hear on Lookout! or Plague Vendor’s home, Epitaph.
While there are lots of party records out there, few really evoke the reckless exuberance that exists in the pre-dawn hours reserved for the hardest partiers; the brave and foolish few possessed of a combination of boundless energy and zero self-preservation instinct. It's exactly this feeling that Plague Vendor capture on Free to Eat, an album of nocturnal punk that finds the California quartet eschewing the sunshine of the Golden State in favor of something darker and more dangerous. An album that seems to burn the candle at both ends, Plague Vendor don't waste a moment as they rip from track to track, bashing out each song and moving on without looking back to assess the damage.
When we interviewed Brandon Blaine for this year’s 100 Bands You Need To Know special, the Plague Vendor frontman admitted that when he started getting into music and performing, his focus was on hip-hop. It took some friends to convince him that he should be give singing a real shot. Whoever those nameless Whittier, California, chums are, we owe them a huge debt.
Apparently Plague Vendor has been flailing through L. A. house shows and warehouse parties since 2009, and somebody finally corralled them into a studio long enough to make this classically one or two take per tune post-punk debut zinger.