After recently returning back home from a 24-date UK and European tour, the Dallas-Fort Worth sextet of Joshua Fleming, Mark Moncrieff, Trey Alfaro, Travis Curry, Dustin Fleming and Cory Graves who collectively assemble as Vandoliers are set to release their near eponymous title new album The Vandoliers on August 12th. They are a band full of energy that cover such a wide spectrum of musical sounds and influences to create one of the most unique and entertaining brands of country music that you will encounter anywhere. Ahead of the release of the new record, we caught up with Josh from the band to find out how “Your favorite punk band’s favorite country band” came to do what they are doing. I managed to catch your London show at The Grace whilst you guys were over here and was really quickly thinking to myself why have I not listened to or tried to find out more about these guys before? What you guys do just works and it’s so much energy, then when my friends are seeing videos on Instagram it’s oh my God it’s like a punk rock band with fiddle and trumpet that have country songs, there’s a part of you that is like I don’t know if it should work but it really does. “I mean it is 2022 so there are no rules anymore. For us it has been a trial and error for the last seven years anyway. I feel like we have formed our own sound, kind of became our own show and are we’re pretty unapologetic about it as you saw.”
In terms of when you guys were starting out and you were putting the band together, was this the idea from day one in terms of the sound that you wanted and also how was it with the sales pitch with getting other guys to play in the band by saying this is what I want to do? “Back then, the people that were in my band or started the band with me at the time, they saw me get all my other bands off the ground, so they knew that if I said something, I was going to follow through on it. With this band I was super open ended about it, it wasn’t like we’re going to control the world or we’re going to be the biggest band in the world, it was more like hey I wrote these songs, do you want to come over and like with Cory, I know that you play trumpet so would you like to play trumpet on my record? Drums at the time was just a friend that came over and said do you want to play drums, and can you count to four for me because I can’t play drums. Once the record was there, I think everybody liked what happened with it so we were like maybe we will play a show, so I booked this little festival in a parking lot in Dallas where a bunch of people showed up and we thought maybe we will play another show, then seven years later I am playing for you at The Grace and reciting everybody’s names.” With the record, one thing that I take from it is that you guys are a live band who are very good and very full of energy, which with a recording you can’t always replicate the extent of that in the studio, but this really feels like a record to be played live and that energy still comes across in the recording. “Yeah, it’s really simple and it plays to our strengths in some places and we definitely stretched our legs on a lot of songs. The whole thing was really how do we get that size and sound of being at a live show. A lot of records sound really cool, but they are really hard to replicate live, you’re not going to sound lo-fi going through two-inch tape with a distorted vocal when you play live, you’re going to have reverb and probably some other stuff. First, I wanted to make a very loud record because we are probably one of the loudest bands in this scene and I’m ok with that then the other side is that I wanted it to be dynamic where things shift and flow or come in and out of each other in the way that our live show does.”
I suppose when you are working on a record that is going to have that impact when you play it live, the real-life Jumanji that we all played during the pandemic allowed you to refine things fully but didn’t give you the chance to road test them in front of an audience. “I’ve already said that on my next record, I’m going to write it then go on a six-week tour with the band before we record again just because we’ve never done that, but this was impossible. We had just gotten off tour with a handful of songs and thought we were going to waltz into the studio and lay down an album, go to Europe at the time then we thought we were going to play St Patricks Day with Flogging Molly in LA and do South By Southwest. That didn’t happen and it took us about six weeks to get back into the studio to really finish what we had and after that it just kind of sat there. I get bored easily and just keep writing, I wrote some songs that we really loved and went back into the studio. We did “Every Saturday Night” and we had just lost our label so we kind of had free reign to just release music and we released that one because it was really poignant at the time, but I knew that I wanted it on the record moving forward and if I was going to put it out myself, I could do whatever I want. Then we went back into the studio one last time and recorded “Bless Your Drunken Heart” and “Lighthouse” then I think that is really when the album became what it’s supposed to be.”
Purely as a listener and as you can probably work out that in our position covering that we listen to something all the way through to see if it is our cup of tea then more and more if we dig it but as I have listened to it a fifth, sixth or seventh time there isn’t anything that you skip or gets lost amongst them. I’m not just saying that either because “Lighthouse” starts off with the acoustic intro which is almost a false sense of security that you guys may be doing something a bit different but within about fifteen seconds it drops and goes in. You have the big tracks like “Every Saturday Night”, “Howlin’” and “Bless Your Drunken Heart” that as a listener you know you WANT to hear live but have you found that when you have been playing them before the record came out that any tracks were getting a bigger reaction than you thought? “People love “Better Run” which I feel like is the song that we really stretched a little outside of our realm on. If we go back to our other albums there’s always a southern rock twinge on a song, on “The Native” it was “Juke Joint Lover” and then on “Forever” it was “Shoshone Rose” where it gets a little funky and we just kind of took those two elements and kind of put them together on this one, then I just went full Bon Jovi on it. In my punk days I used to scream a lot and as a Texan I kind of have a bit more of a growl and gravel, so I get to whip out those tricks on that song. I didn’t know how it was going to go but everybody that I’m working with is putting it on the radio and when people play it live, people love it which has been really great.“
“Bless Your Drunken Heart” I knew was just what we do so knew that was going to work and “Every Saturday Night” is the most powerful song that I’ve ever written. I’m so happy that it’s on the record and we will be opening with it every night from here on out. It is one of the songs that I feel like has struck a chord and will probably keep striking a chord for a long time. Then “Howlin’” we’ve been playing that song since I wrote it, I had written it right before we went into the studio and we recorded it then the world shut down. In 2021, when we started playing live again after “Every Saturday Night” had come out we did this session for Sirius XM Outlaw Country just in a controlled rock element where we played that and that was the standout track for that then when we played it every night on tour it just got better and better and better. Right now, those ones are hitting really well and in Europe “Lighthouse” was hard to sing because it’s so personal about missing my daughter whilst I’m on the road, so that one was tough. I kind of love that it gets that out of me, I don’t know if it gets it out of anybody else but I’m loving it. They’ve all been going over really well though.”
Texas country and the Nashville scene is very different, but the perception of what quote unquote typically works in Texas is quite a long way from what you guys are as there is a feel that things are more traditional. “The thing that is hard to explain to people is that there is Texas music and Texas country. Texas country is awesome, it’s great, I love it and I have a lot of friends in that scene. That scene is a dance hall scene, it’s a Honky Tonk scene and a barroom scene but it’s also like massive theatres and a stadium scene too. Cody Johnson, Koe Wetzel and all of those guys, none of them sound alike so there is an element of how far you go. I consider us Texas music because we have a lot of elements that aren’t country where Texas Country takes a blend of different types of country music and throws them together where we blend a lot of Texas music and put it together. That’s why you get Tejano with us, a little Blues, country music and there is also a really great punk scene in Texas. We take in a lot of those things that are our regional music and put it together where Texas country guys take elements from western swing to bro-country and shove it all together which is really cool. The best part is that the scenes intertwine and we’re very cohesive together.”
The only thing really people over here may have come across like what you do is going back to the start of the year at C2C Festival, we had Jaret Reddick from Bowling for Soup over playing his solo stuff that he had just released. It is very similar of blending the elements that people may associate from a different background, except that you don’t tell as many fart jokes on stage as he does. “We love Jaret. He sang on “The Native” with us and came into the studio, I’ve been friends with his wife forever and I love his record, fart jokes and all. The best part about what Jaret and I bring to this experience is that we’re from Texas, we can do whatever we want. We grew up with country music and we were also punks when we were in high school, once you’re punk you’re punk. It’s more a mindset and ethos than a fashion statement or an explicit sound. It’s more of if everybody says no, then I know that I can do it even if I’m not the best. That’s the part that I love about punk rock whilst the thing I love about country music is the authenticity and how it has to be true or if it’s not true then there has to be a great story. It’s the imagination, the nostalgia for the past and those are things that I thrive on which I love in both country music and punk music so to me I didn’t see much of a difference just as a Texan you know. When I grew up, the punk all ages club was across the street from Billy Bobs which is the world’s largest Honky Tonk and it wasn’t like we were outside fighting these guys, it was just kids and other kids. We were younger, messier and weird looking but you know there is always Rodeo Clowns at the Rodeo and that’s kind of where we fit in.
To finish off, you guys are all from Texas and your based in Fort Worth, so as I am a huge Cowboys fan, please tell me that you are all full-on Dallas sports fans too rather than having any Houston teams sneaking into the band? “Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars, we are very sports driven people. Most of the band is very Rangers centric, I played hockey in high school rather than baseball, so I follow the Stars and played a bit football so am a huge Cowboys fan too. Cory loves the Mavs, so we all follow everything, and it means it’s pretty much year-round for sports radio om in the van which is always nice. I don’t really get hockey until playoffs with the rest of the band but it’s great.” I appreciate your time this morning, I really love the record and I’m not just saying that. If people haven’t seen you live, it will make people want to come and see you where they will not be disappointed! I love what you have as your bio on Twitter because it just sums you guys up perfectly as being “Your favourite punk band’s favourite country band”. “That’s all thanks to Flogging Molly ha ha!”
The Vandoliers is out now through Amerikinda Records/Soundly Music and is available Here.