Plague Vendor: California Punk Rockers Riding the Rollercoaster, And The Importance of Knee Pads and Proper Hydration.
Plague Vendor is making punk rock real again. The Whittier quartet, fronted by wild man, contortionist, and vocalist, Brandon Blaine, and backed by the solid musicianship of guitarist Jay Rogers, bassist Michael Perez, and drummer Luke Perine, is making a big noise and winning fans the old-fashioned way—by delivering sweaty, dangerous, chaotic, and edgy punk rock spectacles. These road dogs are currently out on tour with Nashville’s finest—All Them Witches. They’re also supporting their upcoming (June 7) third Epitaph release, 10-track LP, By Night.
Produced by John Congleton, (St. Vincent, Sharon Van Etten, Chelsea Wolfe) By Night maintains the edge, but finds the California quartet adding some new colors and textures. I was able to reach the affable and energetic Brandon Blaine as he was in transit in a noisy van, and traversing the nation’s highways. Blaine and band were on the way to deliver another action-packed performance and pulverizing sounds. We discussed the band’s back story, the dangers of live performance, the rigors of the road, the importance of knee pads, proper hydration, and their new video for the first single, “New Comedown.”
How did you land the support slot for All Them Witches’ current tour?
We played at the Aftershock Festival with them a while back. They saw us play live, and we submitted our band for their tour and we were accepted. They saw our name and were into it, and they brought us out.
Does the All Them Witch’s crowd accept you?
Oh, yeah, very much.
Why is that?
Because we’re fucking awesome. (laughter). No, I just think that they see that we’re up there giving it our all. When you’re the opener, the audience rarely knows who you are and what to expect. When they go see a show, and there’s an opener, they want to be surprised. There’s a level of excitement at every show.
Did you have input for your new video for “New Comedown?”
Yeah, we just kind of wanted to mix our vision in with the director’s vision. At the end of the day, it definitely came down to what we wanted. It really incorporated what we do live and that gives people who don’t know us, a chance to see what we do live.
Do you enjoy doing videos?
Uh, yeah, you’ve got to do it. That video was filmed in one day. I was pretty fucked up from shooting and performing all day. I hurt my back jumping around. We’re pretty happy how it turned out, and we’re happy it’s out there.
How does By Night fit next to your previous releases?
There’s still a common thread because it’s us. It’s behind the machinery, but it’s still new and I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. I really think it grabs you by the throat. We’re looking forward to playing it in its entirety.
Which performer or what band made you want to pick up singing?
In the beginning, the very beginning, it’s kind of hard to say. I listened to a lot of stuff when I was growing up. It was kind of during the time when the Rapture was out, Modest Mouse, and other people that were making good music. Those were guys doing things in their own kind of way. Then, I started to find my own identity, inspiration, and a band to shape it.
Is touring still fun?
It’s always a roller coaster, and there’s a lot we have to do just to get to that stage and perform for that 40 minutes. It’s a lot of highs and lows. It’s all about the performance. We’re on the road right now. We’re from California (Whittier) and we’re driving as far as New York. After we get to the hotel, it’s soundcheck, we play, load out, and get ready to do it all over again.
It’s sometimes like “Ground Hog Day” It’s all about the show. We are there to perform and entertain. Having a great show helps make everything else that day, better. You know that you’re not going to eat good, sleep well and that you’re going to miss your girlfriend. There will be times when you’re going to fight, and it might suck sometimes. At the end of the day, though, you’re going to have a blast when you hit the stage.
Are you still doing the van thing?
Yep, doing the van thing. Michael (Perez) is our road warrior and he’s handling it.
How do you use social media to connect with your fans?
I think it’s a great tool, and we use it when we want to use it. We’re a band; not an Internet phenomenon. When we’re home, we try to get together and write some music. Every now and then, we’ll post some videos or new music. If used correctly, I think social media can be a great tool.
Do you have any preferred social media platform?
I don’t have a Facebook account, and I barely have a Twitter account, and I don’t even know why I have it anymore. I do have an Instagram account and I use it to see what my friends are doing while I’m out on the road. Sometimes it’s a welcome distraction. I only really follow people I know and that I’m friends with. The bands social media accounts have people from Mexico, Australia, and the UK following. We can see what our audience is doing and connect.
What would you do if you weren’t in a band?
Be in a band. I’d probably still do something music wise, even if it was just me by myself. Or, I guess I might be an actor, sculptor, or anything with “tor” or “or” in it.” No real, fur, however. No fox furs. (laughter)
Do you have a system or regimen for touring?
I find my peace in my disorganization. I drink a lot of water; a shit ton. I drink 1/3 of a Red Bull before the show and I mix it with water. I try to sleep as much as I can. Sun Chips are a really good, healthy alternative. I drink a lot of Naked Juice. I really don’t eat a lot of vegetables. My diet’s really bad on the road, but I try to do my best. I focus on sleep, water, and avoiding talking too much. I try and save my voice.
I saw you at the Firebird in 2016 and you were really physical. Do you have to stretch before performing? You’re a very physical performer?
I try to remember to do it. I give myself a little stretch most of the time. If I don’t do it, I get crazy bruises, especially in my groin area. I now wear kneepads under my jeans. Like, I don’t know what’s going to happen when I hit that stage. I don’t know where I am going to go. I find myself in crazy places, hanging from things, and risking my life. It’s for my pure enjoyment and entertainment on stage.
Have you really injured yourself?
One time, I kneed myself in the side of my head. I hit my head on a kickdrum another time. I sprained my ankle one time, but I wasn’t really doing anything that cool. And then again, my knees are always getting bruised. My girlfriend told me to get some knee pads. I think I’m wearing myself out, but we still have a week to go.
I’m basically a WWE wrestler-I have an entrance song, I wear kneepads, things go off before me, and if you get in my way, I’ll fucking body slam you. I welcome mayhem and chaos onstage.
I did a trust fall with the audience one time and that was pretty cool. Everyone got to come on stage and fall into the crowd. The other night I transformed my microphone cord into a limbo stick. Everyone’s welcome to do what they want. It’s all good.
Any memories of St. Louis?
I don’t really know. I think the air is clear. I don’t always remember where I am or when I was there. I might remember if there’s a green room, if they have one. People are asking me if I remember this or that. I’m asleep most of the time, until I’m up. (laughter in the van).
How did you come to the attention of Epitaph?
Brett started coming to our shows. Obviously, he’d come in. I was like are you going to do this or not? Eventually, he brought us in, and it happened. He was a big fan of ours and he came out. He was pumped. He’s going to help you if he likes you. He’s still a legend and he’s still out there finding bands. I think that’s admirable.
California’s always been a fertile state for punk bands, why is that?
El Paso has a lot of great punk bands out there. The Judy Blue are from El Paso. What was the question again?
If you’re in California and in a certain area, you’re going to get into a lot of things. There’s always an older influence to inspire. California is close to the edge, but I really don’t know. It’s California and it’s just the place you can get into a lot of crazy shit. There’s punk, hip-hop, you can find out about anything. You can get whatever you want in California. You can play mountain man for one day, be at the beach the next, or go to the city. It’s all to your advantage.
Did you see the argument between Marky Ramone and Johnny Rotten?
I saw a little bit of it. What the hell? I think Johnny Rotten was trying to be Johnny Rotten, and the Ramone (Marky) was just being a Ramone. I don’t know if they discussed it before going on or whether it’s real. I tried to find the whole clip. That’s classic shit right there. You have to know that Johnny Rotten’s going to do. That’s Johnny Rotten being Johnny Rotten.
The most recent record features some different instruments and production. What was it like doing this new release?
We just had fun. We experimented and I don’t think we overdid it. I think that’s it us just being us and a perfect approach. It’s just us having fun.
What are your plans? Where would you like to be in the next five years?
It’s hard to say. Hopefully, alive. Playing big shows with the Queens of the Stoneage, or just in the van again talking to you. (laughs). You’ve gotta keep going and see where it takes you. Every band says they don’t want to get bigger, but that’s a lie. I want to get bigger. I’m stoked about what we’ve done and what we’re doing now. We’re on the cusp of something really good.
Sometimes we get hotels and it’s pretty luxurious. It’s a humble place. I’m happy with where we’re at and we’ll just keep slugging it out.
Plague Vendor will be appearing at the Fubar this Friday, March 29th.