About a year ago I was told that I should have a listen to a new band from Glasgow. The band were called The Vanities and were part of the tsunami of punk influenced bands taking on the Glasgow music scene. I was told they were different from the rest; the rest being an avalanche of similar sounding bands all fighting for the top spot of playing to sell out crowds at the best venues the city has to offer.
I took a quick listen and thought they were just one of many young bands trying to be edgy playing to a crowd of disaffected youths in places like King Tuts. Throwing in the odd swear word and dissing the Tories, the police and anyone else they thought were against them. If it had been some trash TV talent show I’d have pressed the big red X or whatever it is they do on these shows.
Let me tell you at this point… I have some humble pie to eat!
They are different; they are damned good.
The Vanities are young and full of angst; they are edgy and they play a brand of punk tinged music in a raw manner that demands you listen to them. There are some lyrics that you actually need to listen to. They are not afraid to take a risk as proven by their appearance on BBC Scotland when they showcased their take on “The Best” (best known for the rendition by Tina Turner).
During the lockdown period they have kept their fans entertained by playing socially distance acoustic numbers shown on the internet where, once again, they take on the challenge of cover songs not necessarily associated with a punk scene.
They are amassing fans from within the established pecking order such as DMA’s and having their music recorded and treated by Chris Marshall (Gerry Cinnamon amongst others). Selling out headline shows at King Tuts. Support slots with The Stranglers and The Buzzcocks only add to the buzz being created by them; more prestigious support slots and headline gigs are on the horizon when the COVID plague eventually leaves us.
Such is the demand for time with the band at the moment it was only after a few attempts that I managed a quick chat with Robin Brown from the band and asked him to tell me the story of The Vanities…
Hi Robin; how are you?
I’m alright mate, thanks for asking.
Thanks for giving us a quick chat. Quite simply – tell us your story if you will.
For the sake of brevity I have, with the permission of Robin, edited the text to take out the parts where we chewed the fat and put the world to rights!
We are The Vanities. We’re a garage punk band from Glasgow. Alan and I started things about 3 or 4 years ago and at that time we didn’t even have a tuning pedal to our names. We borrowed guitars and jammed for a while before we got together with Lewis and, a bit later, Josh. That completed the band and also gave us more people to reach out to through our friends.
The influence basically comes from the first wave of punk like The Ramones and The Clash. We knew that we weren’t going to be the easiest on the ears but the bands like The Libertines kinda helped us stay a bit shambolic and run with a vibe rather than be virtuosos. The shambolic vibe is essential to the sound and the live show is mental – glass bottles thrown at us in King Tuts for a start. Glass bottles aren’t ideal obviously but if you are playing in that scene then its kind of expected!
We made some worse for wear garage demos before Johnny Madden (Baby Strange) booked us to play at The Priory – before we were even old enough to drink! He then invited us into the studio to record our first proper single with Chris Marshall (Gerry Cinnamon). That single eventually landed on the desk of someone at This Feeling who crafted our first tour and promoted our first single.
We were then booked for Tenement Trail and this resulted in us selling out The Priory venue; in fact it was already over capacity by 5:30 in the afternoon! It was at this point we realised the size of the following we were creating so we booked a DIY night at The Priory again; printed up some t-shirts and raised enough money to record our first ep. The ep was sold out on pre-sale and then we had to turn people away from the door at our gig… the buzz we were creating was huge!
On the back of this we moved to a bigger venue and played two sell out shows at King Tuts as well as playing at the sold out Joe Strummer tribute night.
On the back of the sold out ep and Tuts shows we were asked to play at A Castle for Sailor Jerry and then open for one of musical heroes, The Stranglers, at Kelvingrove bandstand…unbelievable experience and we went down a storm. Later in the year we were asked to support another of our musical heroes, The Buzzcocks and this was followed by people like Johnny Took from DMA’s and Keiran Webster from The View giving us a lot of praise. At this point everything was moving really fast and was a massive thrill. The feel good kept going when we signed to the 7 West independent label who now look after our future releases.
To keep us moving along and make sure we kept in contact with the fans we recorded two covers that went viral in South America. Its always good to gain new fans and friends as well as keep the existing fans happy – they are the ones who spend their hard earned cash on us by going to gigs and buying merchandise. South America though; if any promoters want to bring us over just get in touch!
We’ve recorded our second ep and it’s definitely our best work yet. It’s brutal to think we can’t tour it right away though as our live shows are shambolically brilliant! I think we’ve still only scratched the surface with our recordings though and, as good as the ep is, you can tell there is much more bubbling away.
We’ve come this far with no agent or management; just four young boys who started with borrowed guitars; ignored the abuse and the noise; played like no-one was watching. It feels like this is a transitional phase for us. Chapter one has finished and the next chapter promises to be even better.
Who knows how many chapters there will be but rest assured that the story will get better and better as it unfolds… thats a promise!
We chatted some more about music and life in general but one thing was for sure. Despite how quickly things are moving for The Vanities they are just some young guys with musical and life ambitions. They want to play some music to like minded people but they want to do it on their terms. They have a self assured and confident way without the arrogance that others in their scene peddle.
I hope they can continue on the upwards trajectory despite the enforced slow down due to COVID-19.
Now… where is the remainder of my humble pie?
To find out more about the The Vanities