Record reviews

SLOW BURN

“8/10 – This is rock the way it should sound – shambolic, energetic and exciting… the delivery is often enthralling.”
Blunt Magazine, August 2008

“4 stars – …the ballsy racket of Slow Burn is a grizzled-in-a-good-way insta-classic.”
Jmag, August 2008

“Feature Album: The wait has been worth it for one of the great albums of 2008.”
Rhythms, October 2008

“4 stars – Play it at home, at the beach, in the car, play it all summer, play it loud and proud… the result is magic.”
The Age, 7 November 2008

“‘Slow Burn’ gets As for Arse-kicking and Attitude… their spiritual heartland is the spot where Keith Richards and Gram Parsons merged the contents of their cowboy boots…”
Rolling Stone, November 2008

“It’s great to hear a local band that’s not chasing trends and is instead whipping up its own intoxicating brew. Don’t be deceived by the title, ‘Slow Burn’ is definitely incendiary. Ragged glory.”
MAG, September 2008

“…those who like their rock to have some sweat and smoke to it should make this a priority.”
Australian Guitar, November 2008

“4 1/2 stars – …this is an album that has real depth and lasting vitality. How many recent releases can you say that about?”
i-94 Bar, September 2008

“…make no mistake, this is a hugely likeable album… their next release will be pounced on.”
Mess + Noise, 10 December 2008

“Album of the Week – The Vandas have returned with an album that is as much a statement of the band’s evolution as it is an illustration of rock’n’roll quality.”
Beat, 13 August 2008

“…surely a contender for Australian album of the year.”
Inpress, 10 September 2008

“Indie Album of the Week”
The Brag, 18 August 2008

“The Vandas really do step up to the plate and deliver on Slow Burn… simply a great album!”
Rip It Up, 5 November 2008

“…plant Slow Burn into any period in the last half a century or so and no-one would find it out of place. The Vandas rely on the timelessness of awesome rock’n’roll to create the ultimate time-travelling soundtrack.”
Time Off, 8 October 2008

“…it’s that sense of not overplaying the material to keep it sharp that makes ‘Slow Burn’ work as well as it does.”
Rave Magazine, 10 September 2008

“…a cracking debut from one of Melbourne’s best live bands.”
Forte, August 2008

“You will finish this album feeling as though you have known The Vandas forever. Original, intriguing and nostalgic. What more could you want from this Melbourne rock band’s first LP?”
FasterLouder, 27 October 2008

“Promise more than fullfilled.”
Sydney Morning Herald, 12 September 2008

“Freewheeling lead guitar, impassioned vocals… bluesy licks reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Unrefined, organic sound separates this Melburnian band from its auto-tuned contemporaries.”
The Daily Telegraph, October 2008

“…a swaggering, fuzzy and elegantly sloppy classic rock album… great melodies and classic guitar tones make this one a must-have.”
Xpress, August 2008

“Feature Album”
4ZzZ FM, 6-13 October 2008

“Feature Album: …a winning record and a rewarding experience… if you’re looking for a band that you just know would sound even better with the warm crackle that vinyl brings then The Vandas are definitely your best bet.”
TUNE!FM, 8 September 2008

“4 stars – They rifle through rock’s back pages but there’s none of Jet’s star-tripping here, as they conjure up everybody from The Band to early Elvis Costello, relying on feel instead of bluster.”
Who Weekly, September 2008

“4 1/2 stars – Sounds like a Cuban cigar – slow burning, fat and addictive.”
Ralph Magazine, September 2008

“…a sound as raw as the scabs on a skateboarder’s knees and a delivery as passionate as a drunk Frenchman talking about pastries”
People Magazine, August 2008

“This really is a contender for album of the year.”
The Dwarf, August 2008

“4 stars – One of the better, far-reaching talents from our fair city of Melbourne. This ten track album makes up for lack of length with each track selling itself.”
Buzz Magazine, October 2008

Live reviews

The Vandas, Slow Burn album launch @ East Brunswick Club, 13/09/2008 – The Boomeister, Inpress, 17/09/2008
Having recently seen The Vandas, “everyone’s favourite support band” on The Mess Hall bill, I notice that this evening there is a noticeable spring in their collective step.

It is two fold, methinks: it’s the official launch of their debut Slow Burn and they have top billing, a point not lost on lead singer Chris Altmann. Fear not, Chris & Co: your time is now.

Tonight’s rapturous set oozes confidence and has a steely edge of a top notch outfit. While a showcase for their new release there is still room for some “oldies”: Hello Again, Hours Away and Leaving, which introduces a three piece horn section for the final five songs of the night.

It must be said that tonight’s version of Silence is an absolute cracker, with lead Mikey Madden tearing it up n a 12-string. Go Getter, Three Steps Ahead and especially So Happy Now rock along with a live voracity that cannot be captured on the CD, though they are clearly potential singles, while my personal favourite, the slower Ravine, sounds awesome tonight.

The Vandas, and especially the horn section, really come into their own on the album’s first single Know It Alli and the brand new track Jonathan, another bottler and further sign of what’s in store.

All and sundry are sent pack with two encore tracks, the cover of Lobby Loyde’s Mr Mean Mouth and album closer See Me ‘Round, content in a consummate performance by one of Melbourne’s finest.

The Vandas, Slow Burn album launch @ East Brunswick Club, 13/09/2008 – Patrick Emery, Beat, 24/09/2008
The Vandas appeared shortly after eleven to a crowd many thought would have been more voluminous.

It didn’t seem to worry the band itself and neither did it detract from The Vandas’ extensive repertoire of classic pop and rock’n’roll tunes.

And it’s in the quality of its songs that The Vandas’ live, breath and excel. Slow Burn, The Alarm, Go Getter, Silence, Warm At Night, So Happy Now, Ravine, plus a few choice tracks from the earlier EPs (including Leaving).

Chris Altmann looks every inch the refugee from Big Pink – either that or a hermit who’s spent the last ten years writing colourful treatises on the impending demise of the western civilisation – possibly now in follicular competition with Gus Agars.

Julien Chick’s suit was a fashionable combination of rounded collars and 1974 flare, while Mikey Madden was the slim and slick rocker from central casting.

The encore began with an ode to Lobby Loyde – with whom Altmann had played just prior to Loyde’s death – in the form of a cover of the Coloured Balls’ Mr Mean Mouth, before the set rounded out with See Me ‘Round. And see The Vandas ‘round we will, for the good of everyone concerned.

The Mess Hall, The Vandas, Violent Soho @ Northcote Social Club, 22/08/2008 – The Boomeister, Inpress, 02/09/2008
…The Vandas, too, have just released their debut longplayer – Slow Burn has received much industry acclaim and plenty of excitement from a strong fan base, many here tonight.

Kicking off with the single Silence lifted from their Didn’t Come Here To Be Alone EP whets the appetite before showcasing many of the quality tracks from the newbie.

With a delectable shift from previous pop/rock sensibilities towards a new “ballsy” outlook, the live sound can draw comparisons to, say, The Black Crowes; point in case: See Me ‘Round, Go Getter and the first single Know It All.

While the night is guided by singer Chris Altmann, Mikey Madden has his moment to shine vocally during the two tracks he wrote for the album – Warm At Night and the title track Slow Burn. The Vandas are terrific tonight.

A personal gem is So Happy Now drawing inspiration from the band’s namesake, Harry Vanda. It could be straight from The Easybeats’ playbook.

The Vandas, James McCann & The Dirty Skirt Band, Gareth Eunson & The Graveyard Sons @ The Tote, Melbourne, 14/06/2008 – Tim Cashmere, www.undercover.com.au
The Tote, Melbourne’s home of rock ‘n’ roll, had never seen so many people crammed into the sweaty venue in the midst of winter as they did on Saturday night for the Vandas single launch.

Even the smokers peering in from the beer garden were hard-pressed to find a decent vantage point from the convenient stage side windows that line the bar.

Why was it so packed? Well, The Vandas, who have become such a part of Melbourne’s iconic rock ‘n’ roll scene that they’re practically part of the furniture, simply put on a great live show.

Even when playing stuff off the new yet to be released record, the crowd loved every minute of it.

Recent articles

Sam Fell, Rhythms – September 2008

 

Patrick Emery, Beat – 11/06/2008
Chris Altmann, lead singer and guitarist with Melbourne band The Vandas, has just returned from a six week holiday to the United States. While Altmann should – all parochial allegiances aside – probably be touring the United States with one of his various musical outfits, on this occasion Altmann was simply taking a holiday. That said, the sojourn reinforced Altmann’s desire to make sure his musical activities remain focused on the enjoyment aspect. “I saw [former member of The Band] Levon Helm at a festival in North Carolina”, Altmann says, “and he sang a heap of old band songs”. While Helm’s face showed the effects of a life lived true to rock’n’roll’s excessive reputation (and for which The Band became infamous – to the detriment of the band members’ individual and collective health), Altmann was impressed by Helm’s attitude, almost fifty years after he embarked on a life of rock’n’roll. “He looks like he lives to play music”, Altmann says admiringly.

Altmann has returned to Australia to pick up with his ‘main’ musical pursuit, The Vandas. Since forming from the reminants of Adelaide band The Drowners a few years ago, The Vandas have evolved to become one of Melbourne’s finest rock’n’roll outfits. But despite the band’s recording and live reputation, recent sightings of The Vandas have been limited. The recent absence is easily explained by competing musical and personal priorities – bass player Julien Chick became a father last year, while drummer Gus Agars (a member of Mike Noga’s Gentlemen of Fortune) and Altmann himself (Idle Hoes, Van and Cal Walker) have been juggling other artistic pursuits.

Making up for recent absences, this year sees the release of The Vandas’ debut long player, due around September. The first cut from the album, Know It All, will be launched at the Tote Hotel on Saturday 14 June. In contrast to the country infused rock’n’roll on the band’s first two EPs, Know it All is a ballsier track, bring to mind early 70s Rolling Stones, or even classic Australian pub rock. “I think you can hear a few things”, Altmann says. “I hear early AC/DC” he counters. “suppose most bands say this, but we weren’t looking for a particular sound”, Altmann says.

The genesis of the new recordings came early in 2007, when The Vandas headed into a recording studio in Northcote, with the audio engineering assistance of their regular sound engineer, in addition to the production expertise of friend Joel Sibersher (God, Tendrils, Hoss). “Mikey [Madden, Vandas guitarist] and I knew Joel from our days working with him”, Altmann says. “We liked Joel’s no bullshit attitude – if something didn’t work, he’d tell us straight away”, Altmann laughs. The Vandas put down nine songs in the initial recording session, and decided they were worth keeping. A subsequent session yielded some more tunes, providing ample material for a full length album. Altmann says the tunes on the album were predominantly recorded live, with the exception of the horn section included on Know It All. For the horn augmentation, The Vandas called upon the services of Phil Day, Joe Greenway and Hugh Kendall from fellow local band Dynamo. “I’ve never recorded with a horn section”, Altmann says. “It was probably more my idea than the others’”, Altmann says. “And using Dynamo’s horn section was a natural thought”, he says.

While Altmann is adamant that neither he, nor the band itself, were striving to achieve a particular style, Altmann was hoping to capture a ‘party sound’ – an aesthetic that he witnessed again recently while seeing Levon Helm play live in North Carolina. “There’s two sides to the album – a serious tone, but we also tried to keep a good party side to the songs”, Altmann says. At the risk of describing The Vandas in paradoxical terms, it appears the band is very serious about having a good time. “I’m hellbent on having that party sound”, Altmann says. “I’ve been listening to a lot of records that have that feel – like early 70s Texas country, people like Jerry Jeff Walker and David Bromberg. I like bands that aren’t afraid to pull out a Chuck Berry tune to get people dancing”, Altmann says.

A couple of years ago, and you could have been forgiven for expecting The Vandas to hit the road relentlessly in a possibly exhausting effort to ‘break it’ on a commercial style. Altmann says while The Vandas might have once contemplated such a standard operational approach, these days the band is more pragmatic – and realistic. “When we were first trying to break onto the scene we took it a bit more serious”, Altmann says. “But it only takes a few years to get over that”, he laughs. The release of the new album will see The Vandas return to the road and the stage, though the extent of the band’s touring schedule is still being determined. “We’re still nutting that out at the moment”, Altmann says. “We’re doing a tour for the album in late August or early September”, he says. Pausing briefly, Altmann makes it clear that The Vandas are determined to be visible long enough give their fans something to savour. “We are going to get very busy”, he promises.

Jessica Kendall, www.fasterlouder.com.au – 10/06/2008
Melbourne four-piece The Vandas are back from a two-year hiatus to launch their rocking first single, Know It All, from their long-awaited debut album, Slow Burn. They formed from the ashes of one of Chris Altmann’s (guitars, keyboard, pedal steel and vocals) old bands called The Drowners. Julian Chick (bass and backing-vocals) began playing gigs with them in 2003, and they migrated to Melbourne from Adelaide six months later. Drummer/percussionist Angus Agars and Mikey Madden (guitar and vocals) soon joined them, and The Vandas were born.

The band has a variety of influences, from modern rock, to folk artists like Bob Dylan, but they derived their name from Harry Vanda who produced one of their biggest idols, The Easybeats.

“We’d done a bit of a recording, and we were trying to think of a new name for the band. We had some pretty horrible suggestions,” Chris laughs. “I was trying to think of Australian musical icons I guess, and I thought of George Young and Harry Vanda, and we just thought that the name Vanda looked good when it was written and sounded good. We liked The Easy Beats, so that’s why we chose the name.”

The band recorded two EPs prior to Slow Burn. 2005 saw the release of In The Morning, which was followed by Didn’t Come Here To Be Alone in 2006. Slow Burn will be released this August. The new album shows the band’s progression. Their early work had a bit of a “country twang” to it, but Chris says Slow Burn is a “straight rock and roll album.” They recorded it in two sessions at a studio in Northcote, Victoria, and Chris says it is the first recording that captures what the band is about.

“I think the band’s got a lot more balls to the sound now I guess,” he wagers. “There’s less pop sensibilities to it, and it just sounds a lot more believable I reckon. I guess that’s probably also because of the fact that it was all pretty much recorded live. It’s really the first recording that we’ve done that sounds like us.”
The title comes from a song on the album that Mikey wrote that captures the band’s evolving sound. “There’s not that many slow songs on there, but there’s some burning songs on there,” Chris laughs. The first single from the album, Know It All, will be launched in Melbourne on June 14, and Sydney on June 27. The song was written about hanging out with somebody who gets under your skin because they have an answer for everything. Chris says the launch shows will be “more special” than a normal gig, and fans can expect some surprises.

The band has supported You Am I, Elvis Costello, and toured with artists like Dallas Crane, but the most defining moment of their career so far has been recording this album. “We’ve been working towards this album for so long,” Chris says. “It’s the first recording that we’ve done that really sounds like us and that we’re really happy with. It’s made us really know who we are as a band, and what we’re doing.”