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The Vandals Biography

Home > Music > V > Vandals, The > Biography

Birth Place: Huntington Beach, California, United States
Years Active: 1980 – present
Genres: Punk Rock, Pop Punk

The Vandals are a rock band that formed in 1980 in Huntington Beach, California, whose sound incorporates elements of punk rock music and political satire in their lyrics. To date the band have released ten studio albums, two live albums, and have spent a large part of their career extensively touring the world. Currently, The Vandals, are signed Kung Fu Records. After formation, the band's lineup changed significantly during the band's first nine years, with only founding members, vocalist Steven Ronald Jensen, guitarist Jan Nils Ackermann, and most consistent drummer Joe Escalante remaining as regular fixtures throughout. Escalante is the only remaining member today. The band's current line-up consists of Escalante, Dave Quackenbush, Warren Fitzgerald, and Josh Freese.

The Vandals came together when friends Jensen and Ackermann decided to start a band. The duo recruited bassist Steve Pfauter and drummer Joe Escalante and began to play local gigs in the Los Angeles and Orange County area. The more the band played, the larger their audiences – and reputations – grew in the punk rock community. The Vandals were playing alongside bands, such as Bad Religion, Descendents, Black Flag, T.S.O.L., X, the Germs, Suicidal Tendencies, The Dickies, and Social Distortion. 1982 saw the band sign with Epitaph Records, and release the EP, “Peace Thru Vandalism,” which was a bit hit with their growing fan base. 1984 saw the band appear in the film, “Suburbia” by invitation of director Penelope Spheeris, which raised the band's public profile. That same year saw Pfauter leave the band to be replaced by Brent Turner. The band's much anticipated debut album, “When in Rome Do as the Vandals” emerged in 1985 to positive reviews and spurned the fan favorites: “Ladykiller,” and “Mohawk Town.” More internal fighting caused shake-up in the line-up. Dave Quackenbush of the Falling Idols came on board as the band's new vocalist when Jensen quit.

1989 saw Lumary depart the band, and be replaced by Robbie Allen for the album, “Slippery When Ill.” The album saw the band depart the punk rock genre that had been their trademark to date, and showcased a fusion of country music with a humorous punk style that the band deemed “cow punk.” The album was met with mixed reviews from their fans that did not grasp the humor of it all and took the music seriously. Drummer Doug MacKinnon joined the band just as the album was released and Escalante moved to playing bass. Shortly thereafter, remaining co-founder, Ackermann left the band. The departure of Ackermann was followed by the departure of MacKinnon. Escalante and Quackenbush recruited Warren Fitzgerald and Josh Freese. This line-up of The Vandals has remained fairly stable for the remainder of the band's career.

1990 saw the new line-up put out, “Fear of a Punk Planet,” which caught the attention of a number of California punk rock bands, including Pennywise, Rancid, NOFX, the Offspring, and Sublime. Soon The Vandals were sought after by these up-and-coming punk rock bands to collaborate with them. 1991 saw the live album, “Sweatin' to the Oldies.” 1992 saw Escalante graduate law school, Freese became a sought-after studio drummer, and Fitzgerald begin a 3-year stint as a guitarist for the band, Oingo Boingo. Despite their busy lives and side projects, The Vandals still continued to write music together and perform when their scheduled allowed for it. 1996 saw the release of “The Quickening,” a more nihilistic and aggressive album; that same year saw Escalante and Fitzgerald found the record label, Kung Fu Records.

As the 1990s began to draw to a close and the 2000s emerged, The Vandals continued to tour, making appearances on Vans Warped Tour, and continued to release albums. 2000 saw the band's final album for Nitro Records, “Look What I Almost Stepped In...,” which freed the band up to legally release their music under their own label, Kung Fu Records. The band's debut for their own label, “Internet Dating Superstuds,” arrived in 2002. In 2005 the band played a benefit show for the legendary New York rock club CBGB, that same year also saw original singer Jensen die of a drug overdose. 2006 saw The Vandals perform for U.S troops in Afghanistan. They continue to tour as a band when their schedules permit: Freese continues to work as studio drummer for a number of recording artists; Fitzgerald writes and produces songs for other artists, in addition to scoring soundtracks for feature films; and Escalante continues to own and operate Kung Fu Records and Kung Fu Films, signing bands and making films. 2007 and 2008 saw The Vandals perform on the Vans Warped Tour with Sum 41 drummer Steve Jocz filling in for Josh Freese, who was touring with Nine Inch Nails at the time. Recently, the band released the “BBC Sessions and Other Polished Turds,” a collection of rare songs and B-sides, exclusively as a digital release on their website.