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DAMN VANDALS: "YOU CAN WALK PAST IT IF YOU WANT, IGNORE IT, BUT IT’LL JUST COME BACK AGAIN" – INTERVIEW BY EVA JOSTAKOVA

Damn Vandals released their debut album 'Done for Desire' last July and since then, it's been a one interesting ride for the band. The record received a lot of praise from the radio stations and press, even made some lists of 'best albums of 2012' and all this for a very good reason - they are one of the most thrilling rock and roll bands around. But their sound is not a one you can easily compare to someone else’s. It's their own - big and engaging, accompanied by the marvellous vocals of Jack Kansas, which blend entirely with the dirty guitar riffs.

Damn Vandals are a band that takes you on a hell of a musical adventure. With such a mighty noise, it's only a matter of time till they make it big. They are surely on the right path. In the interview below with Jack Kansas he shares a new promo for the track 'The Revenge of Spider Toothy’, then tells us the story behind the band's cheeky title, his song writing process and more.

EVA: It seems like 2012 was a great year for you with the release of your debut album ‘Done for Desire', which got a lot of positive buzz from the media. How would you sum up the past six months?

JACK: Yeah, the last six months have been a lot of fun for Damn Vandals and people have written some kind words. It’s been busy, which is great to be – whether it’s gigging, writing new songs or making extreme low-budget videos. In fact, have just this second put the finishing touches to a new promo for the track ‘The Revenge of Spider Toothy’ – it features a midget superhero with a gripe against Damn Vandals plotting to blow up the band (he even goes as far as flushing our album down the toilet). It’s up here if you don’t believe me:

EVA: The album was also featured in the Glasswerk’s Top Ten Albums of 2012 and Bloomberg’s best CD’s of 2012. What was your reaction to these?

JACK: Really happy to be included in those … I know music shouldn’t really be reduced to lists, but secretly it’s a good buzz to be remembered at the end of the year like that …

EVA: The record was produced by Julian Simmons who’s worked with bands like Midlake, Guillemots or singer Ed Sheeran. What was it like working with him? 

JACK: Julian Simmons is a man of quantifiable genius. Watching him at a mixing desk is like witnessing a divine ballet of fader pushing and knob twiddling. Once I swear I saw him floating a few inches off the control chair. It’s like working with Phil Spector but without the firearms. When his head starts nodding and that boyish smile creeps across his face, you know you’ve got the take. He’s also great at putting mics in front of amps – and he’s got a new kettle now, so we’ll definitely be recording with him again. 

EVA: Going back to the beginning of the band, what is the story behind forming ‘Damn Vandals’ and where did the title come from?

JACK: We’re a bunch of friends who want to play the kind of music that excites us and keeps us happy. Frank ‘the fingers’ Pick is on guitar – I first saw him playing in an arty alt folk band, it was like his fingers were making love to the fret board. I knew instantly I had to kidnap him and put him in a rock band. We met bassist Adam at a house party. Then we all stalked Chris – who we knew to be one of the finest unsung drumming heroes on the London scene – and plied him with drinks until he joined. I just started trying to sing as loud as possible over the top of them and it all seemed to work.

In terms of the name, my mum used to complain about ‘damn vandals’ if anyone scrawled any graffiti locally. I always thought it would be a good name for a band, but was never singing songs that suited the name – until now … It’s just a cheeky slogan beneath which we can explore avenues of social commentary whilst reserving the right to cause wanton havoc. Plus it kind of worked with wanting to do a bunch of handmade videos and cover art intended to bring the songs to life. Like graffiti art, we wanted a band that stood in your face and said something – you can walk past it if you want, ignore it, but it’ll just come back again …

EVA: Musically, are you open to experimenting with different sounds or do you think it's better to find your own thing and stick to it?

JACK: Musically we’re open to any sound in the known sonic spectrum and beyond, as long as it comes out of a guitar being played through an amp.

EVA: So what is the music making process like in the band? Who does what and what's the best atmosphere for you to create music?

JACK: Just the band being together in a rehearsal room on an evening with a couple of beers – Frank bleeding his guitar for notes, Chris in metronomic oblivion, me shouting and Adam exploring the infinite joys of a single bass string. I usually bring in a vocal hook and a riff and then we just see how much joy we can have with it. Personally, I’ve learnt to stop writing lyrics when I’m in a bad mood, and just do it when I’m happy, excited or manic. It has also come apparent that storytelling, imaginings and sheer nonsense are far more entertaining than reflections of everyday life. 

EVA: Regarding the live shows, what do you think attracts people the most to come and see you play?

JACK: Hopefully punters see a band immersed in what they’re doing, playing as if their lives depend on it. All we can do is try and pass on the kicks we get to them, then pray they return.

EVA: Which festivals would you like to play in the future and is there any particular place in the world you want to tour?

JACK: We’ll play anywhere and everywhere for a large plastic container of ale and a handful of Facebook likes. Damn Vandals are pretty easily bought, but that’s because we love to play. Independent, relaxed festivals bathed in sunshine and frequented by rock-hungry music lovers are probably the best, but we’ll take what we get … have always fancied touring South America, that would be sweet, wouldn’t be short of a few stories/tweets out there. 

EVA: Could you tell us about your upcoming releases and plans in the next few months? What can we look forward to? 

JACK: The next single from the album is ‘Kings of Never’, which is released on 18 March. It’s a solid rocker. For the rest of 2013 we’re wishing for gigs and more gigs, new songs and more new songs. We’re supporting The Blockheads soon which everyone in the band is looking forward to. To be honest, we have no idea of our destination – we’re just happy to be on the move …… Thank you so much for having us Mudkiss, here’s to you! Jack and the DVs xxxx

http://damnvandals.co.uk

Interview by Eva Jostakova
Photography by Marcus Maschwitz