Plague Vendor's punkish dark rock makes you want to dance and destroy everything around you.
Front man Brandon Blaine says people didn't know how to react when the four-piece from Whittier started performing in 2009. "I was really influenced by Andy Kaufman at the time," he says in a low voice muffled by shyness - a far cry from his high-pitched rapid-fire vocal style on recordings.
In other words, they weren't afraid to piss the audience off.
The group didn't invite anyone to attend the concerts, and maybe six people showed up the first time. "We used those shows to experiment," Blaine says, adding that the band came together over a shared desire to play simple, bare bones music. "We'd play a few songs and then start a fight, get in people's faces. Maybe [guitarist] Jay would start yelling at the sound guy. That kind of thing.
"The only response I remember is someone saying, 'Their music is really good, but they're assholes!'"
The group started out as four friends writing music together after high school. In addition to Blaine on vocals the band includes guitarist Jay Rogers, drummer Luke Perine, and bassist Michael Perez. With their debut album Free To Eat out today on Epitaph, and a spot on this summer's Warped Tour, the outfit is primed to make a name, and it's all on the basis of recordings they made five years ago.
After a show in Studio City in 2009, Plague Vendor was approached by Tom Livemore, who wanted to record them at Regime in NoHo.
"We recorded the whole album in one day," says Blaine, and explains that he sees the work as a testament to the band's early soul searching. Last year, Brett Gurewitz, founder of iconic punk label Epitaph Records, came across the recording, hit up the band's manager and offered to release Free To Eat.
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"Brett told our manager that our record made him feel like he was 16 years old again," says Blaine, explaining that Plague Vendor plays new material as well as old when they perform now. "Even though we recorded it in 2009, Brett wanted to introduce us to the world through those recordings."
What makes Plague Vendor's idiosyncratic - yet carefully crafted - expression fascinating is the clarity of artistic vision. "We wanted the music to be like the name Plague Vendor," says Blaine. "We wanted the music to be dark but at the same time vibey, you know? Like, it's fucked up and dark, but at the same time it's music you can move to."