If “punk country” isn’t a genre in your iTunes catalog yet, just wait until you buy Vandoliers’ newest record, The Native. Released only a few days ago, the band’s sophomore effort combines all the energy and grit of punk music with the rootsy flavor and storyboard lyrics of country.
The Dallas-area six-piece dubbed the sound “Ameri-kinda” with their first record. A clever portmanteau of sorts suggesting Vandoliers aren’t quite Americana, that album earned them enough eyes to warrant a second record not even a year later.
On The Native, the band locks into a unique blend of punk progressions and country train beats. Fiddle swirls in and out of the verses as lead singer Joshua Fleming howls with Rancid-esque intensity. The band got to blend the best of both worlds in the studio, too.
The gang vocals on “Rolling Out” feature nine men shouting into a piano while band member Cory Graves holds down a chord. Fleming also duets on “Quick To Fire,” a first for the singer.
The coolest moment probably came before the actual tracking, though. “The week before we went into the studio with our producer John Pedigo and label owner Trey Johnson, and they showed us where Willie Nelson recorded ‘Red Headed Stranger,'” Fleming tells Wide Open Country. “We even recreated a picture that was hanging on the wall. I think that took the cake.”
“Also, I got to meet a middle school idol of mine in Jaret Reddick from Bowling for Soup,” Fleming adds. Reddick sang on two songs. “He was easily one of the nicest people I’ve ever met — probably one of the most talented too.”
It’s not like punk and country come from that different of worlds, after all.
“Well, they both use the same three chords,” Fleming says. “Country is more geared towards my current age group and punk is more a young man’s game. They still use the same progressions and talk about similarly rebellious topics. They just use different drum beats. In both cases, rebellious music is powerful.”
Unlike some current interpretations of country music, Vandoliers seem to embrace jangly, off-the-rails delivery. At any moment, a few of these tunes could go careening wildly off track. “Pantego” and “The Red Dress” in particular hone in on the tongue-in-cheek, unhinged madness that made early Blink-182 records so successful.
But then tunes like “Bluebonnet Highway” and “Rain Dance” remind you of some of Pat Green’s best early work. When it comes down to it, nobody is quite making music that sounds like this. Some of that comes thanks to the Lone Star State, a theme the band honors consistently on The Native. “I’m coming home dead or alive,” Fleming sings on the title track.
“I love that everybody in Texas is doing their own thing,” Fleming says. “Everybody writes the way they write.” It’s a mentality that allows Vandoliers to fuse their favorite parts of punk and country and call it “Ameri-kinda” without batting an eye.
At the same time, they know this sound could reach a lot of folks outside the great state of Texas, too. “A lot of Texas country bands get comfortable touring strictly in Texas,” Fleming adds. “Fortunately, our state is massive enough you can make a living that way. It’s easy to get content doing that. But Texas music is so diverse and widely appealing that I think a lot of these bands could be setting their sights a lot higher and touring the entire U.S. without limiting theirselves so much.”
That’s precisely what the band is doing. In the next few months, Vandoliers go coast to coast. They open for Old 97’s on some East Coast dates before heading out West. But they also hit many of Texas’ famous haunts, like Lubbock’s Blue Light and San Marcos’ Cheatham Street Warehouse.
Not bad for a band that started in 2015.
Sounds Like: The lyrical and instrumental foundations of Texas country greats delivered with an intensity usually reserved for punk rock bands like Rancid, Social Distortion and Bowling For Soup.
Required Listening: “Endless Summer,” the third song off The Native and a great primer for what the band is all about.