Introducing: Vundabar’s “Montage Music”

A track premiere from the Boston band, plus an essay on cars and Tony Soprano by frontman Brandon Hagen.

I wrote “Montage Music” (and Either Light) as an exploration of the mythology of American life and culture, with the car as the primary symbol of our paradoxical relationship to ourselves and the world we occupy. Cars are a feat of human inquiry and innovation, indicative of potential and possibility; they’re a force of forward propulsion and thereby a promise of life while being powered by oil and old death, and ultimately careening towards new death — a reality of the CO₂ this technological triumph creates and the (non-)future it presents for our generation and generations to come. 

In this way, the car is a perversion of the beauty of the life cycle and a physical embodiment of existential dread made novel by its grounding in ecological inevitabilities. Plants grow, blossom, die, and new plants grow out of old plants. Ah, so nice. The car streamlines this process but consequently depletes it, thereby denying the possibility of its repetition, breaking the chain and denying beauty with a beautiful machine. The paradox is there, we gun for the top, glory and immortality, not realizing the peak is the upturned tip of a sinking ship. We want a peak, not a circle; we want all the life now. We’re the asshole at the buffet table that ate all the crab rangoon, but when we finish we feel nauseous, a little ashamed and, dang it, we got rangoon all over our favorite Tommy Bahama button-down t-shirt. The car is a loaded symbol. A sex death machine. A black horse, and we all kinda want to ride it, but we’re torn between the awe and terror of its potentials — those being an annex of our own potentials to the nth degree, packaged up and upholstered into an aesthetically pleasing machine. 

There’s also a sense of fate and destiny with travel. There are two fates — that of the passenger as an individual and that of the car itself, the latter informing and enclosing the former. It’s unclear where it’s heading, who’s driving and what’s burning in the engine, but the feeling of movement is exciting and the leather seats are nice, even if they must come with the forfeit of control (ironically to a machine that is an attempt at furthering human control). 

Tony Soprano was a source of inspiration for this record, because I see him as someone who chooses to take that ride and who’s naive enough to believe that he can sway it. Tony, and characters like him, drive around in seductive cars, engrossed in a set of American ideals (rugged individualism, bootstrapping, “strong silent type”) that historically end in their dying. I like Tony Soprano because his story makes the sometimes implicit brutality of American life and capitalism explicit. Tony’s caught in a moving car, bound by forces larger himself, and in taking the ride he condemns himself.

On the opposite pole of all this doom and gloom, I used light and water as an essential version of everything a car symbolically is, but without the decisive end the car brings. There’s an innate restorative quality to water and light that predates our interpretation and control that creates a perfect circle. This record has many moments that take pause to notice light and water, and they’re an attempt to recognize a cycle outside of our own and sit in the sensory pleasure they provide. On the cover of the record we see two circles, two lights, the original one, essential and outside of our control, which provides life and renewal, and then our wonky circle that tries to enact control over life and in doing so suffocates it. The record present two lights, two circles, and a choice between either. 

— Brandon Hagen

You can catch Vundabar on tour this spring: 

3/18: Buffalo, NY — Mohawk Place +o
3/19: Toronto, ON — The Garrison +o
3/20: Cleveland, OH — The Grog Shop +o
3/21: Chicago, IL — Lincoln Hall +o
3/22: Minneapolis, MN — 7th Street Entry +o
3/24: Denver, CO — Marquis Theatre ^&
3/25: Salt Lake City, UT — Kilby Court ^&
3/26: Boise, ID — Treefort Music Festival
3/28: Portland, OR — Mississippi Studios ^
3/29: Vancouver, BC — Biltmore Cabaret ^
3/30: Seattle, WA — The Crocodile !
4/1: San Francisco, CA — The Chapel ! *
4/2: Los Angeles, CA — Lodge Room ! *
4/3: San Diego, CA — House of Blues Voodoo Room ! *
4/4: Santa Ana, CA — Constellation Room ! *
4/5: Phoenix, AZ — The Rebel Lounge ! *
4/7: Austin, TX — Barracuda ! *
4/8: Dallas, TX — Club Dada ! *
4/9: Houston, TX — White Oak Music Hall ! *
4/11: Orlando, FL — Soundbar ?+
4/12: Atlanta, GA — The Masqurade-Purgatory ?+
4/13: Nashville, TN — The High Watt ?+
4/14: Asheville, NC — The Mothlight ?+
4/15: Durham, NC — Motorco Music Hall ?+
4/16: Washington, DC — U Street Music Hall ?+
4/17: Philadelphia, PA — First Unitarian Church ?+
4/24: Boston, MA — Paradise Rock Club ?+
4/29: Brooklyn, NY — Rough Trade ?+
4/30: New York, NY — Bowery Ballroom ?+
5/01-5/03: Winooski, VT — Waking Windows Festival

+ = Boyscott
& = Ohmme
o = The Ophelias
^ = Great Grandpa
! = Destroy Boys
* = Boyo
? = Dehd

(Photo Credit: Pond Creative)

Vundabar is a great guitar band. In an age where critics argue endlessly over whether or not the guitar is dead, the Boston band could clearly care less. Trends be damned, Vundabar continue to play and be who they are. Along the way they’ve sold out 1000+ cap rooms across the country, self-released and sold thousands of their records, and built a dedicated fan base for their quirky indie pop that follows them wherever they go.
In March, Vundabar will release their fourth album, Either Light, on their own Gawk Records. For the album, Vundabar (Brandon Hagen and Drew McDonald) worked with producer Patrick Hyland (producer for Mitski‘s Be the Cowboy, Puberty 2, Bury Me at Makeout Creek). It makes the first time they have ever had someone produce one of their albums. Their original bass player, Zackery Abramo, re-joined the group to play on the record, and Emily Massey from Slow Pulp contributed backing vocals. Recorded at Gradwell House and Retro City Studios, Vundabar came in with the song skeletons and built out the arrangements in the studio. The difference is apparent and there are a host of new sounds on Either Light, including a sequencer, vibraphone, synth, drum machines, and more layered vocals than ever before.
(Photo Credit: Pond Creative)