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  • Writer's pictureJohn Carlow

" Plans to Escape " - Vic City Rejects

I recently had the chance to hang with the boys of Vic City Rejects (VCR) in their jam space at The Artfarm, to talk about the band and the new EP " Dismantled "

Dismantled celebrates the third-year mark for this band and an example of how they have honed a sound that is truer to where the band wants to land. Recorded at Circle A with Cody Baresich, the four track represents a progression from pop punk to a more aggressive, heavier sound, very much " live off the floor “. Indeed, the opening track has a very " live " feel to it, like the band just took the stage and lit the fuse on the night. It is a sound the band is excited to take on the road, with cross country touring and even international ambitions on the horizon. Aidan summed it up: " We have been building a rocket ship in the basement, just waiting for the approval to take off."

Prior to Dismantled the band had released a self-titled album, followed by singles in 2020 and 2021. With a base of NY punk and SoCal skate of the 90s, VCR delivered a mix of “all styles " of punk with rapid, high voltage tracks. Early influences include The Ramones, Rancid, Anti Flag, Briefs, Pears, Descendants, NOFX and The Misfits. The fury in their songs speaks to how the band views issues of politics, social justice and a hatred for “patronizing superiority”. The VCR library includes some select covers, having paid tribute to Misfits, Operation Ivy, Fear and FIDLAR. Talk of a Christmas track includes resurrecting a Hank Angel track called " All I Want for Christmas is my Rickenbacker Back ".

I have known these guys a few years. As a music photographer, I am often drawn visually to a band as much as their sound. To say these guys are an exciting band live, is an understatement. No matter the size or makeup of the crowd that comes to see them, they deliver that satisfying mix of high energy and visual excitement. In a reality that means your audience might just be the other bands that night all the way to a sold-out venue, the band feels collectively " you play like your life depends on it. We have played to and been in these crowds “. I have a lot of respect for bands that can play with conviction to a small crowd like they are playing to a full arena.

VCR is a band that has come together with a solid foundation. These guys have been in and continue to be part of a bunch of bands in the local scene. They are very much a team, with everyone contributing to words and music, and you will hear everyone’s voice in a VCR set. Aidan Engel (Hank Angel and His Island Devils, Sado Mannequin, Whiskey and Fire) was 16 when his Dad (Hank Angel) bought him his first guitar. He was taught traditional rockabilly style, that he later put his own spin on with a healthy dose of "distortion and attitude". He plays a Telecaster into a Fender Blues Deville with a Ds1 distortion pedal.

I asked Kyle Burnett (Safe Decisions, Rat Limbs, Dead Rights) where he learned how to play bass. " My mom used to make me go to a Christian youth group when I was super young. I had some good friends there including my friend Nick Vance who was the lead guitarist in the worship group. I learned a lot from him but other than that I was self-taught through chord charts and playing along to my CDs. My mom was a country singer and guitarist, so she gave me all her old chord books, bought me a cheap Stratocaster and sent me on my way. “Kyle plays a Mexican Fender P bass, with a SansAmp Tri-A.C. to a Kustom Deep End Bass stack.

Bryce Gillis (Joy, Solvent of Society, Skurry, Mass Distraction, Strategic Abuse, REK) remarked " I took drum lessons at Alloy Music in about grade 4. I learned from a man named Gary who has since passed away. Wicked drummer, amazing person. He taught me how to play with the traditional grip but I kind of grew out of it. I dropped lessons and practiced a lot at home and annoyed my parents. Eventually bands came along into high school. “Bryce uses Paiste cymbals with a Pearl Forum series kit. He plays with Vic Firth pure grit sticks or Zildjian dipped sticks, size 5A or 5B with white nylon tips. Evans skins.

VCR is self-described as a “passion " as opposed to a trade. All the guys are in jobs that help cover the costs of studio times, rentals and merch, and " if it costs you to get on a ferry so you can play, that’s what we will do. " With more music and thirst for the road being in the crosshairs, the idea of being on a label is brought forward. The leap from a DIY reality to having someone arranging tours, promotion and finding opportunity does carry some appeal to the band. This hunger for performing has meant the band has found themselves in some interesting places and situations over the past few years. Before the guys played me the new EP live, we shared some laughs over gig stories. I am sure a lot of bands have shared similar stories of sketchy or odd venues, marginal hotels, stamp size stages and the woes of having suffered broken strings, sticks, running out of material and landing on a bill that clearly wasn’t the right fit. VCR has played with a lot of great bands and I asked who the band would want to see themselves on a bill with, or a " dream gig ". " Pears, NOFX, Against Me, The Briefs, Stitches or The Wheels" were names brought forth with Ramones added as a band I am sure many have dreamed of sharing a stage with.

A much-discussed topic is brought up regarding the year past and the future of live music. Facing fewer venues, a backlog of cancelled gigs and uncertainty over festivals, VCR seems very much geared for the challenge. Perhaps the road ahead sees " vaccinated " shows or the return of house shows for a while. "We want to be ready, and certainly won’t be taking future gigs for granted. "

I borrow a set of plugs from Bryce because I have got out of the practice of packing a proper gear bag. The band launches into all 4 tracks of Dismantled. The boom through the floor is a welcome, familiar feeling with just enough 1-2-3 4 to launch you right out of your boots.

Check out Vic City Rejects on Bandcamp and through socials.

Published in Absolute Underground Vol 17 # 3 Issue 99 - April/May 2021

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