Volumen 1 :: Shane Hickey
Volumen 2 :: Doug Smith
Volumen^2 :: Bryan Hickey
bKCAWCK :: Chris Bacon
Volumen Beta :: Bob Marshall

Volumen Band

Here's some articles and other random press for your viewing pleasure.

diskant 01/01/2003
URL: View Actual Article
Title: wäntage USA
Author: Simon Minter

Straight out of the deepest, darkest depths of Montana comes Wäntage USA. Okay, so I don't know for definite if Montana has deep, dark depths. But I do know that Wäntage USA live in Missoula, the place where David Lynch grew up. So it must have something weird about it, right?

This is one of those fantastic record label finds - everything they've released (well, everything they've released which I've heard) is to some degree, superb. The Wäntage USA thing is a cross-section of the best aspects of new American indie rock music - a combination of the noisy mayhem of Oxes and so on, and the funky dance moves of !!! and so on. A fine combination, you must agree.

My introduction to the label was through, initially, the Oxes 10", and then the insanely good 7" single by The Whip. This got me all in a musical lather so I had a bunch of other records from the label shipped to my door immediately. Read about these further down the page, but for now relax awhile and find out more about Wäntage USA with this lovingly-crafted, long-but-well-worth-reading interview conducted with head honcho Josh Vanek... there's some links and stuff after the interview.

Tell us a little about the history/origins/etc of Wäntage USA.

My, what a tale, Simon. Well, let's see here, it was a mirthful time. The autogyro had just dropped out of popular usage, Soundgarden and Hüsker Dü were ruling my life and I'd discovered Hamms, The Beer Refreshing. It was 1992 and I'd started college here in Missoula. Before classes began I saw Nation of Ulysses play at a bar unfortunately called 'Trendz'. I met them on the street and they were nice guys. Godheadsilo and Slant 6 opened. My fucking jaw was on the floor for that entire show. It made me realise that there were people well into their 20s playing crazy ass music incredibly deftly, and that helped get me inspired.

Once done with an interesting freshman year, albeit none too solid academically speaking, I moved home to get a summer job. I worked as a merchandiser for a frozen food company in and around Yakima, Washington. The job paid pretty well, and I got to drive around and listen to music. I was almost crushed by four stories of frozen juice concentrate, but that's another story. I stowed away a few dollars to keep me in new Seaweed and Flaming Lips records through the school year. Yakima is a town of about 50,000 folks. Many of them beligerently disinterested in things like original music, not to mention punk rock. But, lo and behold, some good music was going on. There are three Yakima bands that really helped me understand the importance of original rock and roll, and they are: Itchy Scratchy, Squelch and Clever. The first Wäntage USA release was a split tape by Squelch and Clever. Clever was Bill Badgley, my brother Matt and a drummer named Ben Taylor. Squelch loved Rocket from the Crypt, had a drum machine and more showmanship than a trunkful of Mick Jaggers.

Jean and John Vanek, my parents, are cool folks. They always were supportive of our creative endeavours. I had free reign of my dad's workshop, and my two brothers and their friends played music constantly. For some reason, I preferred to facilitate their stuff, rather than get right in and do it myself. I helped by rewiring junky old guitars, reattaching mismatched guitar necks to ill-fitting bodies and that kind of thing. I dreamt of one day building distortion pedals, but settled for doing things like using stereo receivers as amplifiers, and running them to car speakers to get a nice distorted sound. The idea for Wäntage means that something looks vintage, but is actually total crap. All the junk we made was Wäntage. It sounds like the word vantage, with the hard 'a' sound.

I should say something about making the leap and peeling off the initial money to release something by someone else. I had to part with fifty or sixty bucks for the first run of tapes. That's big money for a 19 year old. It was a hard decision, because it was something I knew I wasn't going to get back, or that if I did, it would be two or three dollars at a time. Yet, it was beyond cool to hear people's reactions to the music, know that it was a project that would not have happened otherwise and to have been part of something good.

In 2003 Wäntage helped to set up an Eastern European tour for Volumen this past September, which was a pretty awesome milestone. Release-wise, I think I've done 25.

There is a noticeable lack of catalogue numbers on your records which makes it hard for collector type people (like, uh, me) to discern the full scope of what you've put out. Is that intentional?

Hmm, beli eve it or not, there are catalogue numbers, but I don't make any kind of big deal out of them. It's consistently something I run into trouble with when I deal with the pressing plant. I remember things by the songs, or cover art... and therefore haven't ever really gone to much trouble to tell people what release is number what. If it gets more serious, that'll change.

Is Wäntage exclusively a noisy, heavy, guitar-based label?

Nope. The sole criterion for Wäntage Material is that it meets my tastes. Music needs to have guts and I think I am into more than strictly the noisy and heavy stuff. I put out a single by No-Fi Soul Rebellion that is dance music. That said, loud, heavy guitar music is something I've always felt completely inspired by, so expect most of what I dig to have something to do with hard rock.

Missoula, Montana - the only things I've heard of which come from there are David Lynch and Wäntage USA. What's it like? Does it have a good music scene?

Montana is what America was. Believe it or not, you can buy a t-shirt that says that here! It's what I like to call 'statriotism'! Anyway, Missoula is like America was at the turn of the century. People live close together, don't drive every place and regularly have discussions with one another at the Food Farm. It's legitimately a place where you know your neighbours, run into friends at the grocery store, barbecue often, swim in the river, hang out with friends and do the kinds of things that people did before they had TVs and e-mail, and lived on a cul-de-sac 15 miles from fucking everything. People are politically aware here and the town's pretty easy to ride your bike around. There are some good places to see music, and to buy new music too. We also have three breweries that brew excellent beer. Missoula is also conveniently located to a couple of huge wilderness areas, and I dig hiking.

The music scene here is really good. There are tons of amazing bands. Leading the pack are: Volumen, No-Fi Soul Rebellion, the International Playboys, Oblio Jones, Ass-End Offend, and that's just the tip of it.

Oh, and Steve Albini grew up here. He went to Hellgate High School. The Fireballs of Freedom lived here for years before moving to Portland. A River Runs Through It was unfortunately set here.

Lots of Wäntage bands sound like they'd be awesome live! Do they ever make it over to Britain? Do they play a lot of shows in the US?

Damn right, they are all awesome live! Federation X, who are in the family, toured around good ol' Britannia last year. Drunk Horse are going to soon, I believe. So, yeah. Once in a while it happens. Most of the bands I release play and tour pretty often. Volumen spent two weeks touring in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania this fall.

Britain has caught on in a big way to the noisy/complex structure/repeated riff style of guitar music typified by Shellac and Oxes. It seems like that stuff's been around for a while in the USA, and is the core of your label. Is that true?

Core, no. The core is exciting music. That's it. Drunk Horse sound more like Foreigner than Shellac! By the same token, stuff like the Champs, Early Humans and Oxes is pretty goddamn technical. They all pratice tons and I think are more intentional about their output than lots of groups these days. I appreciate bands with telepathy, senses of humour and fresh ideas.

What is the truth about the Oxes/Arab On Radar record - it's nothing to do with Arab On Radar, right?

Truth? You can't handle the truth, bro.

I like the limited-colour sleeve layout style on your records - who does it? Is the appearance of your records important to you?

Yep, very much so. I design a lot of them, and have screen printed quite a few of them here in the basement too. Thanks, bro. It's nice to be really connected to the stuff you put out, and silkscreening definitely does require some time, patience and good relaxing, repetitious labour!

Got any pointers about underground US labels to watch?

Tons of pointers! Thanks for asking. Never underestimate the power of Load Records from Providence. Likewise, my brother Ian's label, Tapes Records, is righteous. All his releases smoke. This Here from Chatanooga, TN. S.P.A.M. Records is from the Bay Area, run by dudes from the Fleshies, and totally bitching. Thin The Herd is good, if Zach's still releasing stuff. GSL is pretty good. Life is Abuse is good. Tornis Records from Latvia is awesome. There are also a ton of good bands who self-release their records. The Narrows are an awesome band from Bellingham, Washington who do that. The Quarterhorse and Actual Technology from Olympia do that too.

How do you find it, running an independent label these days? How do you find distribution and pressing of vinyl - it seems like it's getting harder and harder as years go by?

I find it by walking downstairs into my drafty basement! Bdumpt-bah! Hmmm, nope. I wouldn't say generally that it's harder to do a label. CDs are fucking cheap, lightweight and the turnaround time for production is nuts. Distinguishing oneself is more of a challenge, perhaps, but so it goes.

For me logistically it's become easier because I've learned a fair amount about how to do things correctly, after fucking up dozens of times, in eight or ten years. It's expensive to press records, and nearly impossible to recoup on singles, unless you sell through a couple of pressings. Good distribution is difficult, but possible. Persistence and creativity are what makes punk rock superior to other forms of music.

Give us some Wäntage USA inspirations: other labels/bands/things.

Original inspiration came from K, Sub Pop, Kill Rock Stars and Dischord. Knowing that idealistic, creative folks could achieve as much as they have has always been inspirational to me. Bands: Africa 70, Karp, The Whip, Drunk Horse, Cherry Valence, Ass-End Offend, Lightning Bolt, Le Force, Japanther, Federation X, No-Fi Soul Rebellion, the Joggers, Fireballs of Freedom, Point Line Plane, Volumen, Oblio Joes, The International Playboys, the Fleshies, Party Time, Last of the Juanitas, the Bugs, Excelsior, Touhy, Early Humans, 400 Blows, Black Eyes, Bloodhag. Dude, there are so many.

Other inspirations: Ryszard Kapuscinski, a badass Pole who has lived all over the developing world. He has covered all sorts of revolutions, wars and general living in Africa and South America and has travelled extensively in Russia and the former republics. What's gr eat about his writing is his deep understanding of cultures and his total lack of condescension. Start with Shadow of the Sun, and work through all of it!

Also, Car Camping, by Mark Sundeen, is a great book. As is Great God Pan zine, which he did with Eric Bluhm in California.

Places: Uzupis, Vilnius, Lithuania. Karosta, Latvia. Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Montana/Idaho. Lee Metcalf Wilderness, Montana. Escalante National Monument, Utah. Zabadaks in Kuldiga, Latvia. Saline Valley, Death Valley, California.

Plans for the future of Wäntage?

Yeah, I'd like to devote much more time to it. Promote the bands I like, and make things happen on a wider scale. Better tours, more off-the-wall places, more risks. I'd like to work to get better distribution, get Wäntage stuff played on more radio stations, help bands get to out of the way people and play for kids in rural towns with little action going on. I'd like to make Total Fest a larger event, and involve more people and bands from other countries.

One thing I'd love to start is a punk rock exchange programme, where American bands could do residencies elsewhere, and where bands from other parts of the world could come and live here for a while, work on material, play shows and share ideas. It still needs to be completely formed, but that's the framework at least.