Vundabar’s Brandon Hagen on the Plastic Truth of Creating Indie Rock New music in the TikTok Age

Brandon Hagen, lead singer/guitarist of Boston-primarily based alt-rock band Vundabar, has used the final ten many years having ambiguous existential crises and distilling them into tune lyrics. Even so, there are nevertheless some matters in lifetime that are just as well challenging to explain.

“I’m just heading to display you,” he tells Billboard from North Hampton, Mass. on a Zoom simply call, lifting his foot up to the camera and rolling up his pant leg. “It’s just wonky!”

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His ankle is just that — wonky. Perpetually discolored and bruised-seeking, the 27-calendar year-old’s so-named “achilles heel” beginning defect is anything he was typically bullied for increasing up. That, blended with remaining exposed at a youthful age to the repressed troubles bubbling under his Irish-Catholic, Twin Peaks-adjacent hometown, designed for what Hagen phone calls a extremely “angsty” adolescence, which he vented into Vundabar’s 2015 album Gawk and its whimsical-but-rage-loaded solitary “Alien Blues.”

That song’s path to accomplishment has also been a minor wonky. Above fifty percent a decade following it was introduced, its streaming quantities instantly started off increasing by the tens of millions — all many thanks to a snippet of it heading viral on TikTok seemingly out of nowhere. Simply click on the “Alien Blues” audio and you will come across hundreds of video clips of teenagers passionately singing alongside to the lyrics, “My tooth are yellow, howdy globe/ Would you like me a minimal much better if they had been white like yours? I need to have to purge my urges, disgrace, disgrace, disgrace.” A person screams the words and phrases at his have pink-confronted reflection in the mirror, and one more punches what appears to be like like the partitions of a higher college rest room stall to the rhythm of Hagen’s superior-voltage voice.

“The figures shot up genuinely superior,” Hagen recollects of the song’s spike in listeners, which started out about Thanksgiving past 12 months. “All of a unexpected it was important, in which I believe we experienced 100,000 streaming [plays] a day, and that turned into a million a day in two times.” (As of publishing, the tune had racked up 90 million complete U.S. streams to date, according to Luminate, formerly MRC Information.)

In the six several years among the launch of Gawk and the “Alien Blues” increase, Hagen and his bandmates Drew McDonald and Zack Abramo had presently place out two entire albums and concluded recording another — their most up-to-date challenge Devil for the Fireplace, which dropped Friday (April 15). He was turning out to be recognized for a track he wrote as a teenager — “[TikTok] is just this crazy tool…you have to just get it and try out to get it gracefully” — but he’d already discovered extended back that there is a good deal extra to be indignant about than the things he felt at 18.

Vundabar’s 2017 LP Scent Smoke, for instance, explored the futility of caring for a unwell beloved a person in America’s capitalist health care method. And the band’s new horror film-themed challenge Devil for the Hearth — created to simulate how fact is as unpredictable and plastic as, say, results attained by blowing up on TikTok — was influenced partly by pandemic daily life and partly by Hagen’s father’s heart attack-induced stroke and subsequent aphasia diagnosis.

Hagen, having said that, has made the decision to just take all the recognition funneled by the triumph of “Alien Blues” — no make a difference how delayed — in stride. “Our documents are all slow burns,” he states. “It takes people time to discover them and get to know them and pass them all over. I really do not treatment that substantially any longer. We have just often been a band wherever we plod together and we grow a little bit, and we plod together and then we improve a bit, and just keep grinding.”

Under, Hagen talks with Billboard about Vundabar’s new album, pandemic-age touring and the aftermath of heading TikTok-viral with “Alien Blues.”

The “Alien Blues” success tale is mad. Out of all the tracks in your catalog, why do you imagine that was the just one to blow up on TikTok?

It makes perception to me that a lot of young people identify with it. I created it and recorded it when I was like, 18. That music is just working with a perception of alienation, it type of just seems like a meltdown. Being a teen is weird, and becoming in a time the place people today have to have a release and want to blow off some steam – that tune has that.

That report in certain had grown its personal audience due to the fact it’s been out. What was happening with TikTok was just the most recent iteration of what experienced been occurring since we put it out.

Which of the TikToks are your favorites?

I’m poor with favorites… I like the types of little ones actively playing it. I like the way that it sort of is quite independent from Vundabar. Men and women are having the music and generating one thing of their possess from it, exactly where it results in being much more about them and their working experience than about us.

You’ve always produced music from your very own independent label, Gawk Data. Did significant labels commence hitting you up as soon as “Alien Blues” took off?

When anything took place with “Alien Blues,” there was a legitimate field blitz. It is all driven by metadata, so actually on the exact same working day, every main label in the planet was blowing up my mobile phone. It was really complicated and hard to navigate, specifically for a song that is outdated and part of a catalog we individual.

Why didn’t you indication with any of them?

The whole feeding frenzy of majors coming about – it is just so quick. Individuals are throwing out features and it’s all around the virality of this tune. And if that should fall, then that supply could radically improve.

I’m not opposed to labels, and there are specific added benefits to majors in distinct. If we preferred to do that, I’d want to do it in earnest with a new history – like, “Okay, Vundabar’s gonna make their weirdo pop file.” If we want to go make a big pop file, we will – which, I consider we will – but if you are going to make a slow-burn up strategy file where by you want to hear for 40 minutes, that’s probably not what a major can support out on.

You’ve been touring on and off. How is that likely? Do you consider the indie live tunes scene is starting off to recuperate from the money pressure of the pandemic?

Anyone who’s touring again is kind of having the temperature right now. The nerves are absent a small bit. People today are like, “Alright, it is time to get on with lifestyle.” It places people in this actually strange position – you could be lined up touring for 30 to 40 times and any working day in, a person could get COVID and the rug’s pulled out. Earning a living in music’s normally been precarious, and now it’s just additional so.

We’re just a reside band at our heart. It is been so prolonged with COVID, I forgot some thing was missing from my lifetime. The detail in songs is there is a murkiness to what you do. When you’re creating information and songs, it’s all in your head. Touring is grounding, mainly because it is really substantially actual physical and external. It tempers the additional “thinky” aspect of it.

You produced your late night time debut recently. How was actively playing “Alien Blues” on Seth Meyers?

That was wacky. I was like, “You have two and a half minutes to not f–k up, really don’t f–k up.” But the upside of us building our late night time debut with a track we have been participating in for 7 many years is it would be rather tricky to mess it up.

Is it odd endorsing a 7-calendar year-outdated tune at a time when you’d commonly be concentrating exclusively on pushing the new document?

There is a section of me that could fixate on that, but I don’t want to be bitter about people today coming into our audio.

One thing that was awesome about this track off Gawk and this new document is we recorded both equally of them with the identical engineer at the same studio. And it was the to start with time we’d been back again considering the fact that we built that record. So aesthetically, generation-clever and system-wise, it was really significantly aligned with “Alien Blues.” In a way, the [new] file was a return to form.

How is Satan for the Fireplace different from your earlier four albums?

It has the most assortment. There are some of the most fragile tracks on right here. There is a yacht rock tune. “Devil for the Fire” is the heaviest track we have at any time built. “Heatwaves” is kind of like a zombie soaring in a modest town and then just terrorizing the town.

There’s a desire logic to it. Matters just occur, pictures are offered to you. You don’t issue why a single detail happens just after the other in a desire, which, I sense like that was the previous two several years. In everyday living and in the world, I was questioning fact, like, “How the f–k is this genuine?”

Do you believe any of that very same angst from “Alien Blues” has carried in excess of to the new record?

No. I would be alarmed if I was 27 and felt the exact same way that I felt when I was 18.

Pay attention to Vundabar’s new album Satan For the Fireplace under:

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