Maui gig: Friday, March 12, 10:30pm at the Hard Rock Cafe, Lahaina, 667-7400
Web site: vandals.com
Essential tracks: “Urban Struggle,” “A Gun For Christmas,” “The Day Farrah Fawcett Died”
Joe Escalante of The Vandals is so rock star that he can’t be bothered to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “I just pop Uncrustables out of the freezer,” he says. But who can blame the multi-tasking musician? I mean, the man is busy. This drummer-turned-bassist is also a radio host, record label owner, music video director and matador, as well as having been a television executive and entertainment lawyer.
But it’s still a pity Escalante doesn’t appreciate the culinary complexity that is the humble, homemade PB&J, since the sandwich and The Vandals share a lot in common. Musically, The Vandals combine hardcore punk rhythms (peanut butter), with fun, playful lyrics (jelly). Was that pushing the analogy? Probably.
But no matter how you look at it, The Vandals are a dynamic band. Conceived in the ’80s, they’ve toured the world extensively. (Favorite spots include, “Tokyo, Italy…and Maui, Hawaii, of course.”) They’ve performed alongside bands like A Perfect Circle and were a part of the Vans Warped Tour.
While the band’s line-up has changed since they appeared on the scene, Escalante was the first consistent member. Asked what’s different since he first joined, Escalante says, “We got better. We’re goofy, and it’s for the better. After the first couple of records, we became more attentive to the song writing.”
In 1989, Escalante moved from drums to bass because, “I got tired of carrying all that crap around. I asked the now-famous Josh Freese, and he was OK with it.” Currently, the band consists of Dave Quackenbush (vocals), Warren Fitzgerald (guitar, vocals), Josh Freese (drums) and Escalante (bass, vocals). And when these pop-punk demigods play, they want you to feel like “we didn’t play enough.” Leave them wanting more, right, Escalante?
Escalante, the youngest of seven, was first introduced to music by his family. “I grew [up] listening to whatever they were listening to—Frank Zappa, The Who, David Bowie.” Music isn’t the only thing Escalante’s family introduced him to. Escalante, who is half Mexican, was also introduced to the sport of bullfighting. “We lived like, 90 minutes from the Mexican border. I watched lots of bullfights,” he remembers. Since Maui isn’t particularly well known as a breeding ground for matadors, I asked Escalante to drop a little bullfighting science. “It’s very challenging. You have to be in great physical shape,” he says. “And there’s that huge sword…It’s exhausting, and it really hurts. I’m not really active in bullfighting anymore; I just observe…I’m just a fan now.”
Getting off the bulls and back to the sandwiches: Escalante himself shares similarities with good ol‘ PB&J. While you might think the fun-loving rock star lives a life of debauchery and excess—complete with a house furnished with an army of naked supermodels—he doesn’t. In fact, he’s a devout Catholic. And while most Catholics give something up during the Lenten season (and yes, it is Lent, right now), Escalante took a different approach. “Instead of giving something up this year, I went on a retreat program, where we meditated and were asked to step up our prayer life.”
Sweet as jelly. – Ynez Tongson, MauiTime