Peppy, bright melodies, gnarly guitar, heavy percussion and easy-to-repeat lyrics with just a slight touch of punk — that’s what you get from self-proclaimed “assertive pop-rockers” Vundabar. But fans also describe them as "excentro-pop" and "avan-pop."
“I like that. I’ll take that, too,” says songwriter and lead vocalist Brandon Hagen, laughing. The Boston-based trio is made up of Hagen on guitar and vocals, Drew McDonald on drums and relative newcomer Grayson Kirkland on bass.
Hagen and McDonald have played together for five years, since high school. Kirkland came on board two years ago after getting to know the pair while working in local music venues and helping out with merchandising. And from the start, it’s been non-stop.
“It’s been pretty nose to the grindstone,” says Hagen. “It’s certainly not an overnight success story or something like that.”
Vundabar has built a loyal following thanks to social media, constant DIY shows and non-stop touring after the success of their first album “Antics.”
“It was pretty true to the name; pretty rambunctious, whimsical and kind of lighthearted I think,” says Hagen of that first album, which, was recorded with the GarageBand program.
Two years later came sophomore album “Gawk,” and just this past February, their third album “Smell Smoke” was released. Already it’s earning praise from NPR and industry press like Drownedinsound and Stereogum.
“I think there’s just a bit more depth and consideration in terms of my songwriting,” says Hagen. “Things are just a bit more thought out and I’ve maybe gotten a bit better at it.”
Hagen doesn’t bring up the personal reasons behind the growth during our conversation (helping to care for a loved one with a long-term illness), but it’s definitely there in his lyrics and songwriting in "Smell Smoke." The album is still poppy and positive, but the songs showcase a lot of strength and empathy, too.
The music is energetic and takes you on a journey, and that’s what Hagen promises if you come to their show at Savannah Stopover Music Festival on March 10 at Barrelhouse South. After Savannah, they'll head to Austin, Texas, for SXSW and then a a European tour in April.
“You’re gonna laugh,” he says. “You’re gonna cry. You’re gonna experience a life-affirming performance.”