Dallas-based Vandoliers' recent deal with respected Chicago indie label Bloodshot Records was a big deal.
“We’re not used to this many people knowing our band,” said lead singer and guitarist Joshua Fleming through a hearty laugh.
Vandoliers fuse youthful and defiant punk with rugged Red Dirt country and elements of Tejano. Fleming acknowledges those musical strains, but in the end he said it’s all about the songs.
“Everybody has different talents and views of music,” said Fleming about his bandmates. “So at the end of the day, we just try to serve the song, the best we can with the instruments we have. They just kind of come out this weird, mutated thing.”
The new album “Forever,” which dropped Feb. 22, is an infectious, foot stomper that in addition to guitars includes a violin, keyboard, bass, and trumpet. That sound evolved naturally beginning four years and two albums ago after Fleming fleshed out a batch of songs he wrote over six months with instruments at a little garage studio at a friend’s house. He loved the sound of the songs once a band was pieced together, and hit the local circuit.
“We played a show and people showed up. They had fun and danced, so we thought maybe we should play another show. We printed out like a hundred CDs and sold out our second show, and all our CDs. So we were like, ‘Oh I guess we have to make T-shirts now,'" laughed Fleming.
Nice instant affirmation.
“Yeah, it was really crazy,” said Fleming.
The Vandoliers left Texas to tour the east coast on the strength of “Ameri-Kinda,” their debut on State Fair Records. Recently the band went west, including stops in Colorado, Washington and California. Fleming documents the travels on the lead song to “Forever.”
Come hell or high water
I am a traveler, born to roam
I got miles and miles
And miles and miles
And miles to go
Felt the breeze for the first time
Took hold and headed west
Never seen the Rocky Mountains
They were just as I had dreamt
- From “Miles and Miles” by Vandoliers
“I AM a traveler and have a lot of wanderlust,” said Fleming, who as a teen felt stuck in his hometown having lived in once hours his entire life.
“The first line in the song is actually from a Native-American superstition. The natives didn’t stop in Ft. Worth because they believed that’s where the wind stopped,” said Fleming.
My hometown's where the wind stops
On a map it's hard to find
They say you can't escape here
Been trying all my life
- From “Miles and Miles” by Vandoliers
“I always related to that because I felt stuck and music has always been my ticket out from where I’m from,” said Fleming.
The Vandoliers sound can be fairly compared to The Old 97’s, who themselves formed in Dallas in 1993. Fleming and his bandmates got to know the 97’s well while touring together in 2017. Fleming become close with leader Rhett Miller, close enough to advice for serious songwriting advice leading into the writing for “Forever.” Miller replied with a 3,000 written word answer, part of which was incorporated into the album's fourth song “Fallen Again.”
I have been reckless
Careless and selfish
Foolish in the ways of love
I woke up downtown
Concrete face down
Last night I f*#@*d it all up
- From “Fallen Again” by Vandoliers
“He kind of helped me shape the second verse and pull out a few of the clichés and get the chorus really solid,” said Fleming of Miller. “While he was doing that he was trying to help me expand my mind on how to describe things … to use more imagery and not be so blunt all the time.”
“Sixteen Years” is another foot-stomping anthem on “Forever.” Fleming calls it his favorite song on the album, mostly because it allowed him to work through anxiety of whether his life as a musician was sustainable.
Yeah it took sixteen years
And a hundred thousand miles
I was a preacher's son who lost his way for a while
I sang a poor man's song
No one could hear
It took a hundred thousand miles and sixteen years
I've been working for sixteen years
Yeah I'm gonna make it if it takes another sixteen years
From “Sixteen Years” by Vandoliers
“Before this record happened and before the Bloodshot deal, our contract was up with our last label. I had worked real hard to write all these songs for this album and maybe a week before we were to find a studio, we had to move on (from the label). When Bloodshot came to the table it was amazing and changed everything,” said Fleming.
Vandoliers play Nightshop in downtown Bloomington on Sunday night. Bloomington bluesman John Till and the punkish Dead End Lights open the show.
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