Latest release: Flogging a Dead Phoenix (Independent)
Sydney’s Nancy Vandal were a legendary institution on the local punk scene in the 90s with a blitzkrieg of buzzsaw guitars, bad acting, ridiculous cover songs and hammy stage props. Stumbling from gig to gig like a professional disaster area, they finally cracked the national radio waves with 1997’s Bikini High Pool Party Massacre 3 and a string of massive hits* like “I’m More Metal Than You” and “I’ve Wasted My Life” before disappearing in a puddle of their own tears. Now they’re back, rising like a roadkill phoenix and sure to be bigger than ever**, soon to grace stages nationally on the Soundwave tour. Loud recently caught up to frontman, guitarist and comedic genius*** Fox Trotsky.
*probably not true. **probably not true. ***probably true
Well this isn’t just a comeback. This is like the biggest, most glorious comeback you could ask for.
Yeah, we couldn’t come back any harder.
You’ll probably be playing at 10 o’clock in the morning or something though. You won’t even be awake.
We’ve got no problems playing at 10am. That’s our best time. Get it out of the way, then go and watch some bands, have a few drinks… I don’t know what time we’ll be playing yet, but we won’t be complaining if we’re playing as people walk in.
It’s really a pleasant surprise though. It’s almost like you are a street-level inclusion!
I think that’s why it is a surprise! I didn’t think we were the sort of band to get on Soundwave. I don’t think anyone did. I think we were riding on a bit of a wave that maybe the underdog would come good. I was waiting for all these bands that have been battling to go on there over the years that are really good to go, ‘What the fuck are these guys doing on there?’
So what did it take to get all you guys back together? It certainly wasn’t money.
Certainly not! (laughs). No, no… I think it was Gillian (sax player Gilli Pepper) whinging about not being in a band anymore, too many times. We all have these various other projects that we’ve been tinkering with, and Gillian felt left out. I felt sorry for her and said, ‘Let’s do another Nancy Vandal album’. She was shocked!
Was it difficult to get back into Vandal mode after all this time?
It was actually. For a few reasons. I hadn’t been listening to the sort of music I was listening to when Vandal was a going concern for a while. So I had to get back in the zone there. And I hadn’t written anything like that for ages. Once it got going it kind of happened pretty quickly really.
The new album is a bit of a mixture of your styles. There’s the buzzsaw pop-punk at the beginning there and then towards the end expands out to that the garage rock that you were doing on the Pool Party Massacre album.
That garagey party rock n roll from Pool Party was in a sense always the kind of music that we really liked. We tried to do a lot of different things I guess, over the years. It’s trying to fix up what we fucked up with Bikini High, this album.
Is there going to be a return to the Vandal of old when you get up there on stage? What are you going to do, Nancy Vandal live, 20th anniversary?
When we mapped out this thing, we weren’t really expecting to be doing festival stages! A lot of our tricks and stagecraft – if you will – are pretty much designed for small stages, like the Wheel of Rock, sticking sparklers on the end of our guitars, things like that. They don’t translate so much to a bigger stage. We just have to think a bit bigger. We have to take what we think was the best ideas of huge stadium rocks bands like AC/DC and Kiss and stuff, and shrink them down to what will fit into a few milk crates to take with us, and then expand them back out again so we’d have to add things to the milk crate.
So can you transport yourself back to the Feedback days and do quiz shows on stage and stuff?
Yeah, but will that translate to a festival crowd though? Does the festival crowd want to hear a quiz show?
There’s a lot more folded arms in the crowd these days.
We’re expecting a lot of folded arms, don’t worry about that (laughs). We’re keen to reintroduce the puppet show, too, because that was a very popular part of our very early days. Again, we’d probably have to make the puppets very large. We should talk to the guy who did the Olympics ceremony over here. We could say, ‘Can you help us make things on a grander scale. We’re not gonna pay you, but you can have a copy of the CD’.
You should make more of the fact that Silverchair once supported you.
(laughs) We haven’t really used that much yet. It’s a good one isn’t it? The less details you give about that, the more impressive it sounds so we should really just say, ‘Well, Silverchair opened for us one time, so theoretically Green Day probably should play before us.’ It’s only logical.
Maybe you’ll get to come on the main stage after they’ve finished. If they want to make people leave, bring out Nancy Vandal.
(laughs) That’s the equivalent of someone having a party and walking out in their dressing-gown as a way to tell everyone to fuck off! (laughs) Maybe that’s how we’re going to be used. We’re the band that, the lights get turned on and we’ll come out, and everyone will know it’s time to go home.
Do you have plans to continue after Soundwave?
Well we never had plans to continue after 1999. I’ve learned not to say we’re breaking up. We probably broke up years ago, but we didn’t. We sort of hibernated for a while. Who knows? I wouldn’t be expecting to play a week after Soundwave, put it that way. Maybe down the track. There’s lots of bands who have had these weird Renaissances in the latter part of their careers.
You still see Ray and Blackie around doing the Hard Ons, and you talk to them and they say they never expected to be still doing the Hard Ons after so long.
Without knowing their philosophy, I reckon it’s probably similar. They are the Hard Ons, and if they don’t play for five or ten years, they’re still the Hard Ons, and it’s just a matter of, ‘Well, now we’re gonna do a gig’. Nancy Vandal will always be, it’s just how active they are at any given time.
The album was paid for through crowd-funding, which seems to be everywhere now like a plague. Do you wish that had been around in the 90s when you were doing the Vandal’s Voice and all that sort of stuff?
Yeah. I’m a real big advocate for it. I think for me it’s kind of just an extension of the real DYI ethic that we used to employ back in the old days, but it’s just a mechanism for people to be able to pay for stuff ahead of time. I’m not a fan of begging for money and then not giving people something of value. But as long as they’re getting at least equal value of what they spend, it’s really good. It keeps the record labels out of it and we’re happier to do it all ourselves and keep the design and production all in-house, because that’s what we do.
It’s like instead of asking record companies to give you money now, you’re just asking the fans.
Well that’s why I think it’s a good system, as long as no one gets gyped.
What happens if a bunch of fans turn up at a gig and say, ‘The album sucks, we want our money back’?
Well, that happens anyway. I guess you can’t blame the record label for that! I think it’s a good system. A good way to cut out a lot of the middle men. I’m sure bigger bands can do things on a grander scale than us. Our fanbase is still relatively small, but we can still access them and give them hopefully what they want so it works well for us.
Will this be the first time you’ve been able to play some of these places?
We’ve played Perth only once. We toured there with Frenzal Rhomb a couple of years ago but we never went over there by ourselves. We went to Adelaide a few times, and again on that Frenzal tour, but that’s the great thing about this tour. We get to play all over the country, and we wouldn’t have otherwise.
What do you think the reaction is going to be like?
It’s been remarkably positive so far, but we’re only really hearing from friends and fans of the band. I’m a little bit worried that we’ve been out of the spotlight – not that we were ever in the spotlight – but a lot of people don’t know who we were so I don’t know how we’re going to go down with people at Soundwave seeing us for the first time. They’ll probably think we’re a bit fruity.
Nancy Vandal do their comeback tour through October and November:
18/10: Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle NSW
19/10: Dicey Riley’s Hotel, Wollongong NSW
2/11: Reverence Hotel, Melbourne VIC
8/11: The Zoo, Brisbane QLD
9/11: Miami Tavern, Gold Coast QLD
16/11: Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW
They will also be appearing at the Soundwave Festival
22/2: RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD
23/2: Olympic Park, Sydney NSW
28/2: Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
1/3: Bonython Park, Adelaide SA
3/3: Claremont Showground, Perth WA