PLAGUE VENDOR: THERE’S A GHOST HERE
Brandon Blaine: If we weren’t a band, we’d all be bank robbers. In another time, I’d be Dillinger. Or I’d be an outlaw. Now I don’t have to be an outlaw. I’m in a band! Like Tombstone! I’m Val Kilmer. Jay’s Kurt Russell. That’s us. We love each other. I’ll cry on Luke’s shoulder. The four of us … we’re four friends turned brothers turned artists turned rebels. There’s that kinship there. I give Luke a look, and he knows what it means.
Who would be which bank robber? You need like the crack shot, the fast talker, the demolitions guy …
Luke Perine: I’d be the shaky scared one that doesn’t really wanna do it, and I’d be the first one to die. ‘I don’t know if this is right! I don’t know if we should do this!’
Brandon Blaine: I’d be the half-drunk half-sober half-awake—
Luke Perine: The Doc Holliday?
Brandon Blaine: No, not that cool. More like funny—‘Woo! Fuck it! Let’s go!’ We’d all embody the spirit of Doc Holliday but in our own way. Back then in that time, anything went down—those hangings, and people’d get shot up. I feel like there’s so much death around all that stuff … it was just a crazy time.
Death seems really close on this album, too—about six feet away, at least in a few songs. Why?
Brandon Blaine: I started writing lyrics for Bloodsweat and the songs came in—the catalysts were ‘Chopper’ and ‘Anchors to Ankles.’ I don’t wanna just say I like horror films, but I think about all that morbid stuff. I freak myself out and think there’s ghosts in my room—I’m really paranoid like that. I like dark imagery. It’s interesting to think about and write about stuff like that.
What’s the most boring thing for you to write about?
Luke Perine: Anything explicitly personal. We never really wrote a song like, ‘I was in love with this girrrrl! And she broke my heart!’ Anything that doesn’t have some poetic encrypted message, you know? But they’re not my lyrics.
Brandon Blaine: It challenges us to be a little more daring and a little more honest and vulnerable. If something’s too easy for us, even if it sounds good … it just doesn’t work. We’ve taken enough steps along the way to know that we won’t fail cuz we really believe in what we do.
Luke Perine: And even with every measure of failure, we’d still be a band—we’d still be writing, even if we weren’t getting shows or whatever.
People talk about Nick Cave and Iggy Pop when they talk about Plague Vendor—but have you listened to Gun Club?
Brandon Blaine: Yes—after people started saying it. Nothing I do musically is inspired by them. I found out about Nick Cave after people started to hear our songs. ‘Oh, you sound like Gun Club.’ I found out about them cuz Keith Morris talks about them a lot. Like with Nick Cave—‘OK, I’ll check Nick Cave out.’ Or Mark E. Smith. I’m not trying to be like them at all but I can’t help it. It’s cool finding out you sound like something you haven’t heard of. We were confused—like, ‘What? I’m listening to ‘Mighty Healthy’!’
What’s it like when you encounter kindred-spirit artists like Nick Cave or Mark E. Smith when you’re already pretty far along into developing your own identity?
Brandon Blaine: I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m just gonna say—I got into watching Cedric [Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In and Mars Volta] interviews at an early age, when I had my Windows 95 computer. He taught me a lot. How to be a band, how to behave, how to play to a room with one person who’s the sound guy. He taught me all about music. When he did … I think Big Day Out he talked about the Fall. So I’m like, ‘Wow, I get compared to someone that someone I learned a lot from talked about…’ I don’t know if Nick Cave or Mark E. Smith are happy to hear that I’m compared to them, but I’m honored. You gotta keep doing what you’re doing. I’m not trying to do Nick Cave, but if this hits you that way, that’s good.
Cedric has talked about using a Ouija board to write songs. Does Plague Vendor believe in paranormal assistance?
Brandon Blaine: Yeah, I do. I’m always haunted by something. I’m the grandson of a preacher who was the son of a preacher who was the son of a preacher. I was born and raised in that home with a grandmother who had the dog tags of the dad she never met—and the cane and pipe—and at a young age I dug into it. And every afternoon I’d come home and the oven would turn on. That’s only when it would turn on. I’d feel a spirit there … something dark there. I have a really dark side to me. I can always tell like … ‘There’s a ghost here, a ghost there.’ I really believe that. I met a girl in Ventura who said ‘Forgive your mother’ and then my horoscope the next day said ‘Forgive you mother.’ I think my grandfathers are looking down on me and guiding me through it. My grandfather asked his dad, ‘What am I doing wrong as a preacher?’ And he said, ‘All I’m doing is praying for you.’
Luke Perine: I went with him to his grandpa’s house and it was like 15 people—like all those people getting up there and going crazy.
Brandon Blaine: Pentecostal holiness! That’s what it is. Subconsciously I’m like … I’m not super super religious, but I am in certain senses. In my blood and my DNA is growing up with my grandpa and watching him preach … he preached all over. North Hollywood, La Mirada—everywhere. He started preaching when he was 15. My great-grandfather was a preacher and my great-great-grandfather was a preacher, too. Right now it’s a congregation of like 15 people, but when I was born it used to be huge. Every pew was filled. People would go to see my great-grandpa and my grandpa would be there, and my great-grandpa would preach to all-Black congregations. Pentecostals are like … way more emotional. They speak in tongues. I don’t wanna say it’s more ‘showy’—at all—but there’s a lot more energy. There’s a lot of singing. My grandpa sings. He has a blind organ player I’d go with him to pick up every Sunday when I was seven or eight. She’d just sit and play organ. Sister Gosnell—she was cool. I can’t hide from it. It’s in my blood. I respect it. It’s part of me. I tell my grandpa—cuz he wants me to be a preacher and I’m his son, basically—I tell him, ‘Well, I’m preaching in another way. I’m speaking and telling my stories to people my age. I can relate to them.’ It’s working—for me and for them. It’s a little more colorful, obviously, and I’ll be a little sacrilegious, too, but right now there’s no rules. I don’t wanna put any walls up.
Luke, you told your hometown paper that is was important for Plague Vendor that everyone be able to hear the lyrics and the story. Why?
Luke Perine: What I really think it is … Brandon is just crazy! There’s no one like him. The same with all of us. Jay is the dopest guitar player I ever heard. Mike is coming up with the dopest basslines with no experience at all. What’s the point of covering that up? We’ve just gone to so many shows … what benefit would it have to the band to just blend in? Like when Dylan was writing those songs, he put a little list he wrote out based on Woody Guthrie’s principles. The first thing he wrote was MAKE SURE EVERYONE CAN HEAR YOUR LYRICS. That’s a classic folk thing!
Brandon Blaine: Why am I gonna go up there when I have so much to say … like we go to art galleries or see a band where you can’t hear what the singer says. Not cool! I personally didn’t think it was cool.
Luke Perine: It’s cool if you can’t hear it and it’s all reverbed-out and fucked-up—
Brandon Blaine: I don’t think it is.
Luke Perine: It is.
It will be awesome if we can keep this going for half a page.
Luke Perine: I would like that on the cover! ‘It’s dope!’ ‘It’s not dope!’ People got the wrong message about us—people think we’re new. We’ve been through every fucking phase. All the styles, all the whatever. We were like, ‘OK—we’re gonna make the decision and be confident as a band to clearly have our lyrics out there.’ There’s no ‘side’ to it. We’re kinda cool with this, kinda cool with that—we’re our own thing.
PLAGUE VENDOR ON THURS., MAR. 24, WITH A LIVE SHOW AND RECORD SIGNING AT AMOEBA RECORDS, 6400 SUNSET BLVD., HOLLYWOOD. 6 PM / FREE / ALL AGES. AMOEBA.COM. AND WITH REFUSED AND THE COATHANGERS ON FRI., MAY 27, AT THE FONDA THEATRE, 6126 HOLLYWOOD BLVD., HOLLYWOOD. 9 PM / $35 / ALL AGES. GOLDENVOICE.COM. AND WITH REFUSED AND THE COATHANGERS ON SAT., MAY 28, AT THE GLASS HOUSE, 200 W. 2ND ST., POMONA. 9 PM / $30 / ALL AGES. THEGLASSHOUSE.US. PLAGUE VENDOR’S BLOODSWEAT IS AVAILABLE ON FRI., MAR. 25, FROM EPITAPH RECORDS. VISIT PLAGUE VENDOR AT PLAGUEVENDOR.COM.