Damn Vandals // Live // EP launch at Underbelly, London // 01.03.12
"We make a lot of noise” says Jack Kansas with a smile. Kansas, front man of London 4 piece Damn Vandals, is talking to me before they take to the stage to launch their new EP ‘The Beautiful Mind’. And now having seen the show, I can concur – they do indeed make a lot of noise, but it was definitely the good kind.
I ask Kansas if he’s nervous, but he assures me that the Damn Vandals are at this point beyond pre-show anxiety. Instead he’s relaxed, beer in hand, just waiting for the time to come.
And when it comes, it’s worth the wait. Their sound is a difficult one to pin down, mixing traditional rock and 80's styles to sounds that wouldn’t have been out of place on an early Franz Ferdinand album. Their opener, ‘Napoleon’, also draws on chords and patterns more rooted in blues. It’s an interesting mix, one which doesn’t come across necessarily on their recorded material.
Because although the EP is well produced and has some strong tracks to offer, Damn Vandals are definitely a band to see live if you really want to appreciate them. The second song they play, ‘You Can’t Go Dancing When You’re Gone’, is a prime example of this. I first heard this song when it was released back in late 2011 and thought it was an enjoyable piece of rock from a band with potential. On stage though, the song transforms into a rich, stomping track that builds to a chorus that has far more impact than I expected from the recording.
It just goes to show, sometimes you need to see someone live to understand what they’re about, and Damn Vandals are one such group. Jack Kansas is ultimately an engaging host, linking the songs with charismatic asides and ever present beer in hand. In other cases it might have come across as a crass attempt to capture the rock ‘n’ roll spirit of ages past. Kansas however carries it off so naturally you barely notice.
And behind him there’s no weak link to speak of either. This is well written guitar rock, with tracks ‘King Of Never Never’ and ‘The Trouble With Jesus’ emerging as live standouts. Adam Gardens & Chris Christianson hold together a solid rhythm section on bass guitar and drums respectively. Frank Pick, meanwhile, layers his guitar over the top with a mix of squealing and precision that blends well with Kansas’ confident vocal.
All in all, if you check out the Damn Vandals online and enjoy their recorded material I can highly recommend seeking them out live. Once you’ve seen them play, you’ll appreciate them all the more – they do make a lot of noise after all.