Interview: Joe Escalante from The Vandals talks Soundwave, Writing, and Influences Over The Years

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Veteran punk rockers ‘The Vandals’ are once again heading Down Under for this years massive Soundwave 2015. With a mix of good old fashion punk rock sensibility, some tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and over 25 years of experience together, The Vandals are a complete package and not to be missed. We got the chance to talk to bassist Joe Escalante about what keeps the band going, Soundwave and the state of punk rock in 2015.

Q, You guys have been together for ages, what is it that keeps you guys together making  music for so long.
A. Well one of the things we do, is we never schedule a band meeting. We never schedule a band meeting because thats when bands break up. We don’t schedule them and we just play shows, and we let everybody do what they wanna do. Like if your Josh Freese and you wanna go play in whatever band you wanna play in, then go ahead, we’ll get someone else. If you’re Warren and you wanna go work with the Aquabats TV, you go do it, we’ll talk to you later. So everyone kinda stays, and don’t take it all to seriously and theres no reason to stop I guess. We have a good agent and I wish we could record more, but we’re working on it, we’ve been in the studio, putting stuff together one song at a time, trying to figure out what the heck to do with it.

Q. Starting out, who were your influences?
A. Oh, In the beginning I would it would be Divo, number one. Then The Dickies, you know because we’re kind of a funny, quirky punk band. But we also liked The Damned a lot and The Clash. TSOL were a big influence early on. And the Weirdos.

Q, Have your influences changed as you’ve progressed?
A.Well I would say that in the middle part of our career we more influenced by bands like Bad Religion, NOFX, Pennywise, the bands that we were touring with over time. And now I would say our biggest influence is Fallout Boy

Q.Oh right?
A.You can laugh at that one

Q. What’s your approach to songwriting?
A. Well right now our songs range from songs that sound really punk rock to songs that sound like show tunes. Everyone just tries to write their stuff and some people are like ‘Well I think the songs should be more like this end of this end of the spectrum’ and some people in the band say ‘No, I think it should be at this end of the spectrum.’ So we try and right somewhere in the middle, so it’s not too much like a show tune, but it’s not going to be the next pop record either. 

Q. What’s your approach to writing lyrics?
A. Mostly it’s inside jokes, stuff that makes each other laugh, because we think songs should have a certain amount of subtley, and if we’re doing it all with these inside jokes then we’re not spelling it out for everybody.

Q. How do you find the Australian crowds?
They’re a very happy bunch, they speak in nonsense really well. I think we connect with that, and we really like it that people in Australia seem to get it. It’s a privilege to able to go back there so often.

Q. How are you looking forward to your second Soundwave tour?
Yeah, before out last Soundwave we hadn’t been to Australia for a few years, I think we came out with Sum 41 and Pennywise before that. (Last Soundwave) it was good to able to go out and not wait too long, you know the festival’s all day long, so depending on time slots it can have a big effect on how big the crowd is. This time it looks like we’re playing after Lagwagon, which doesn’t seem like a very good spot, because I mean who want’s to play after Lagwagon? I’d much rather play before! So I’m working on that.

Q. Is there word on any Sideshows or Aussie tours.
We’re open to it, but we just haven’t been notified of any, it’s kinda a shame that we don’t know yet, because then we’d have something to talk about! So let’s pretend we’re doing some Sidewaves. I heard that there’s no where really to play in Melbourne, but maybe Sydney or Adelaide or Brisbane we can do something. We want to. You know it’s a weird tour, Soundwave, you wait for them to put it all together, and you just kinda go ‘Okay! Thank you!’

And you you’ve got about 5 days off in Sydney which isn’t to bad either.

Q.Yeah, not too bad at all. My last question is, being such a veteran of punk, what do you think of the state of the genre in 2015?
A. Well if you think about the Warped tour, we’re not connected to that anymore, we don’t know what goes on there. But we’re still playing lots of good shows with bands like the Offspring, they took us out on tour last year, and tours like Soundwave. So as far as shows go, I feel like punk rock is doing great. But as far as record sales, that’s a whole different world. It’s definitely not 1996 anymore. But the opportunities to play live a re better than they’ve ever been, and there’s plenty of kids who like this kind of punk rock, for it to be fun for us to do and travel around. There’s plenty of people who like it. 

But you don’t want to many people to like it, or otherwise it’s not punk rock anymore.

Make sure you check your Soundwave timetable and get down to see this guys killing it!

Soundwave Festival 2015
Saturday, 21st February & Sunday, 22nd February 2015

Bonython Park, Adelaide, South Australia

Saturday, 21st February & Sunday, 22nd February 2015

Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, Victoria

Saturday, 28th February & Sunday, 1st March 2015

Olympic Park, Sydney, New South Wales

Saturday, 28th February & Sunday, 1st March 2015

RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane, Queensland
Tickets here 

Sideshows supporting Millencolin  

Monday, 23rd Feburary 2015
Melbourne, The Hi-Fi
tickets here

Friday, 27th Feburary 2015
Sydney, The Hi-Fi
tickets here

Written by James Frith