Plague Vendor

Plague Vendor

Rock The 'Burbs — California punk band Plague Vendor recount tales of dark mythology and creativity in the Los Angeles suburbs.

Google the LA suburb of Whittier and you’ll see page after page of sludgy beige buildings, overly-manicured trees and sun bleached asphalt. Casting your eyes over this archetype of white picket fence conformity, it comes as no surprise to learn it was the childhood home of Richard Nixon.

That may be one side to the town they call home, but Plague Vendor are adamant if you look at it with the right eyes – and know the right people – you’ll see a creative community of musicians, skaters, fashion designers, artists and filmmakers thriving just beneath the surface.

Plague Vendor hide out from the mundane bullshit at a former frat house, meth lab and porn dungeon they’ve transformed into a skate house come cultural hub and christened Comstock. The house is the band’s spiritual home and the centre of all the collaborations that go on between them and their creative circle of friends.

Huck sat down with Plague Vendor to find out more about the clandestine creativity that goes down in suburban LA and their mysterious language of abreevs.

So, our new issue is all about Ed Templeton and the creativity that emanates from the suburbs. Tell me about your experiences of the ‘burbs.
Luke, drums: Woah, rad! I met Ed Templeton when I was like 14. He put an autograph on my hat and drew his little alien character, but it had a boner and an eyeball at the end of the boner. I love Ed Templeton!

[They all laugh]

Jay, guitar: They call Whittier Gateway City, it’s like the city going into the greater Los Angeles area. We’re right on the cusp of Orange County and Los Angeles. It’s kind of like a small town, everyone knows each other but it’s rad.

Luke: It’s unique because it’s not close to any highways so that’s helped Whittier stay the same for the last 50 years or whatever.

What’s it like to grow up there?
Michael, bass: There are loads of families and people just trying to live a comfortable life, so it can get… not boring, but it makes you want to go and do something more exciting. You get into weirder shit because you’re not in the centre of the city.

Jay: You can be pretty resourceful. If you really think you need something you can, you know someone locally that you can barter with and get whatever you need. You’ve known the same people and they’ve known everything about you for like multiple years.

Brandon, frontman: Which is cool, it kinda sounds weird but it’s cool.

Michael: We love it! The city’s embraced our art. It seems like everyone looks out for us.

So you never found it boring or frustrating?
Brandon: You can choose with boredom, it can inspire you.

Jay: We’re not rebelling against our city. We’re happy.

Brandon: It’s a little conservative, it was a Quaker town back in the 1800s so places close earlier.

Jay: There are horrible people in Whittier, don’t get us wrong. You get your jeans wearing, polo shirt tucked in, red faced dad with his cell phone and he’s a horrible guy.

So, how do you screen out the bullshit?
Jay: A big middle finger and we have a butthole filter. We have knob vision.

Luke: We have this house, we call it Comstock. It’s like the central house that we’ve had between us all for maybe four-five years. There’s a revolving cast of five dudes or five girls living there and we’ve all lived there at one point or another. It’s like a central skate house. We’re putting together a skate video with the guys who live there now. All the band gear is there and when the bars close we all go hang out there. I think it’s been really key to keep a little cultural hub or a creative place, like an actual space. That’s where we made our music video. I think that’s been really important for us.

What’s the story of the house?
Brandon: The party started and it’s never ended. People started revolving in and out and it eventually became a skate house.

Michael: There’s a kind of dark history to it. It’s really old and the basement is full of beer cans from the ’90s and old cigarette packs. Some pretty sketchy people lived there. It used to be a frat house, then it was a meth lab and a fucking porn studio at the same time.

Brandon: The maintenance dude came by one time and he said that there was this guy that lived there in the ’90s. There was a basement and a full blown set up. You open the door, there was a concrete floor, a TV and wall full of pornos and a chair. He would sit there and beat it in his little porn den. I was like, ‘are you fucking serious?’ and he said yeah, one day he came by to fix a pipe and found all this shit.

Michael: I don’t know if it’s because the neighbourhood’s pretty sketchy or whatever but we’ve done everything there. We’ve had a rave in that house. We’ve had bands play. We’ve skated in the house, we’ve been on the roof, screaming on the porch at 3 o’clock in the morning on like a Tuesday. We brought a keg into the house, built a cooler room for it and sat there drinking in our boxer shorts.

Brandon: The police never come. They never fucking come!

What’s it like to live somewhere with all this dark mythology?
Brandon: I think there are party ghosts, they’ll haunt you and make you do some crazy shit.

Michael: We’re also convinced that some of the people that have partied there, that you no longer see, are like shrivelled and dehydrated in one of the couches. He just fell down in there and he’s still there.

Is there a big creative subculture in Whittier?
Michael: Everyone’s trying to fuck with being creative in Whittier, especially our group of friends. We have like probably close to like 40 or 50 people that are friends and acquaintances and they’re all doing different shit. We’re doing our thing and we inspire them. Being over here [in the UK], they’re like fuck, like that’s so fucking sick. Everyone has their thing. We have friends in the fashion industry in LA, people working at restaurants cooking and making new food, and working in the film industry.

Luke: And they’ve been skating really good since we’ve been gone. We’ve seen rad videos of them.

What’s it like to be at the centre of so many creative people?
Jay: Feel pretty drunk most of the time.

Luke: We all just get super buzzed and come up with ideas.

Brandon: It feels good. We’re trying our best and they’re trying their best and it’s just like this mutual respect.

Michael: We’re tight, we have our own language basically. I just started dating this chick and she trips out on how we talk to each other. She’s from 10 minutes away from Whittier but she has no idea what we’re talking about.

Teach me some.
Brandon: We have abreevs – abbreviations of words. We shorten words that are already short to a point where it’s stupid. We think it’s funny.

Jay: This one relates to Ed Templeton, like if we called each other in the morning during summer and we wanted to go to the beach, you’d say ‘what do you know about the motherfucking Hun B?’ and Hun B is short for Huntington Beach.

Brandon: Tow 9, tac’bell, bahablast…

Jay: Handle it.

Michael: What’s up panklin’, are you chonched out? Are you chopped?

Brandon: How’s your dinkie? Err, small?

Michael: If someone’s leaving you go, ‘on your way’. It’s short for ‘I’m on my way to fuck your bitch’.

Luke: When you sneeze and your friend goes ‘Sancho’, that’s like a Mexican thing. You know when you sneeze, supposedly your heart skips a beat? So when you sneeze and the guys says Sancho, it means like you better not let your heart stop cause Sancho’s right around the corner to fuck your bitch.’

[They all start cracking up]

I’m lost for words…
Brandon: We’re just trying to make each other laugh and everyone’s trying to make each other laugh more and more.

Michael: We make up stupid shit. It’s a defence mechanism, like if you’re somewhere and you’re kind of uncomfortable you can knock on the wall and crease your friend up.

So, to freak people out?
Brandon: Or make them mad that they’re not having as much fun as you.

Michael: Our group has always been like that. At high school people were like ‘what the fuck?’, but anywhere we go we’re always reaching out to have fun with people.

Brandon: It’s not like ‘you can’t come in’, it’s ‘come, hang out and get fucked up with us!’

Get fucked up with Plague Vendor on tour across the US this summer or grab their the Free To Eat LP, out now.