Everybody in Orange County knows the members of the Vandals are as punk as they come.
But who would have guessed they were also neo-grunge post-metal alterna-rockers? For a little more than a year in the early '90s, two of them
Drummer Josh Freese and guitarist Warren Fitzgerald, along with
vocalist Darren McNamee and Big Drill Car bassist Bob Thomson released
a 12-song album entitled Now I Eat Them.
The album, which featured
cover art of a large roach type insect in full vestments presiding over
the wedding of two lovely women, was released on Warner Music Group
The band sprouted from an earlier project Fitzgerald
and McNamee had been involved in during the late '80s called Gherkin
“We had broken up and decided to record those older songs.
Some were actually four or five years old by the time the record came
out,” says Fitzgerald.
The resulting musical product featured
Fitzgerald's chugging guitars and face-melting solos accompanied by
McNamee's maniacal high-pitched warble. It was at once bizarre, heavy,
catchy, and punctuated by unexpected moments of profound beauty.
Witness track four, “Perfect House,” a lushly arranged acoustic
strummer with Beach Boys-style harmonies and an acoustic guitar solo
that could arguably have been lifted by No Doubt guitarist Tom Dumont
four years later with the single “Don't Speak.” While perhaps overly
sentimental, the chorus repeats the refrain “I'm in pain/ But what am
I?” with sincere pathos.
“My personal influences are incredibly vast.
And when that record happened I was particularly fascinated with The
Who and a lot of classic rock with various indie bands from that time,”
says Fitzgerald, explaining that while Xtra Large had its fans locally, the
road saw the group playing to empty venues.
“What happened is that we
were on tour and at that point the record wasn't performing dynamically
and the label pulled tour support.”
Around this time Freese started
touring with Paul Westerberg. “Shortly after, I joined Oingo Boingo and
kind of let it go.”
Does he feel any lingering
disappointment about the band's failure to launch? Fitzgerald replies, “It was an interesting experience. It was my first
dabbling with a major label to see some of the dynamics involved.”
He laughingly adds, “When I joined Boingo and worked on their following
record, it was also on Giant so it was the same cast of characters
under different circumstances. It was kind of an indication of how
incestuous the music industry is,”