Doug Zambon and the boys from The Vansaders have been tearing up the scene and generating much interest with their repertoire of punk-tinged music for a while now. And if 2018 was a wild year of music and activity, welcome to 2019 and the brand-new release of new Vansaders music. Standstill is their fifth studio effort and the latest since releasing Stuck In New York City back in 2014. This is also their first, full-fledged acoustic-based record.
When it comes to describing their sound and style, the band says it best with their short bio: “The Vansaders seem poised to launch closer to the top of Asbury Park’s music scene, touting a banner mix of punk, rock, and folk that both reflects well upon and contrasts with what’s going in the state of music today. The band’s unassuming brand of drive is refreshing in an industry that can sometimes take itself too seriously. Everything about this group represents New Jersey’s rekindled flame, and their sound feels like a more accessible bridge to some more esoteric genres. If you need an entry point to what’s going on in the US music scene, The Vansaders is a worthy place to start.”
I would have to agree pretty much word for word with that summation. The Vansaders impressed me considerably with their 2015 release of Jumping At Shadows, mixing influential punk rock with classic rock remnants and an original flair that seldom comes to fruition these days. From the well-crafted tunes to the seamless vocal attacks and guitar sonics, the band truly shines on its way to the top. Standstill may be a slight departure from the groups original intent and attack style, but it still shines bright and shows the public a different side of New Jersey’s punkish sons.
The Vansaders includes members Dog Zambon, the lead man who also handles glockenspiel and guitar on the disc, Deaglan Howlett on guitar and vocals, Kyle Zupancic on bass and vocals and Jay Maranzino on drums and vocals. Yes, everyone in the band sings, and that makes for a genuinely unique songwriting opportunity and style. The new disc also showcases the talents of several special guests including Jake Garbe on accordion, banjo, and mandolin, Zach Doyle on fiddle, Kenny “Stringbean” Sorenson on harmonica, Robbie Butkowski on trumpet, Ryan Gregg on piano, and Pete Steinkopf on E-Bow.
Standstill was produced by Pete Steinkopf (Bouncing Souls) and mastered by the talented Tom Ruff. Steinkopf is no stranger to Asbury Park and has produced many bands that have come to call the shore town home base. He’s worked with everybody from Organ Thieves and Dave Haus to Seaside Caves and Lost in Society. When not handling guitar duties in The Bouncing Souls you can find Pete busy over at Lakehouse studios or his own Little Eden, where this latest Vansaders record was done. Little Eden is of course located in Bouncing Souls manger Kate Hiltz house in Asbury and makes for a great operations center for all things musical.
Doug Zambon (vocalist and songwriter) recently sent me the new record, and I wanted to take a few moments to go over the acoustic dominated sounds that continue to be part of The Vansaders ongoing sound.
The disc begins with the warm and folky sounds of “No Plans.” Accordions swing as cross chugged acoustic guitars sound and make room as Zambon sings in the vein of early Billy Joe from Green Day or Brian Fallon from Gaslight Anthem. Overall bouncy and upbeat, “No Plans” blends multiple harmonies with fine-tuned instrumentation to create a thought-provoking first track and a robust start to the record.
Moving around a bit I came to a song called “Christine.” Finger-picked goodness blends with bell-like instrumentation as Zambon croons about the girl of his visions. Instrumentation slowly creeps into the soundscape with fiddles, bass, and drums under guitars and rich vocal harmonies. Steinkopf’s direction is evident here as everything swings in perfect sync, and the band builds to their addictive chorus. The middle-eight fiddle work of Zach Doyle is melodic and sweet as he feathers his sound into the piece before fading back and into the next verse. Sonically fascinating, “Christine” utilizes the drumming skills of Maranzino who steers the song back into its rousing chorus and inevitable ending.
Another great song is “Kiss The Bottle.” Once again Zach Doyle fronts the goods on the intro before Zambon and Howlett strum the band into their theme with syncopated brilliance. Anthemic by nature, The Vansaders have produced a radio favorite that should do well for them. Zupancic mixes well with Maranzino, and they hold down the rhythmic end like a vise. Guitars play as hooks and work intelligently with Zambon’s toned vocals concerning regret and decisions that should have been made differently — a classic song that should stand the test of time for sure. They even have a video for the song on YouTube.
Another outstanding composition is “So Long Ago.” Piano work (courtesy of Ryan Gregg) is beautiful and plays brilliantly beneath Zambon’s melodic vocal magic. Apologetic in nature, Zambon croons his affirmation of love and memories of the past to the one he favors in a perfectly framed delivery that eventually turns on itself and comes up as one who is glad he got away. Guitars eventually come into play, delivering finger-picked melodies under the piano and adding tons of vibe to the piece. An interesting switch and a clever play on topic, “So Long Ago” is a simple composition of life and the decisions that, good or bad, we all make in our own way.
There is a total of nine songs on Standstill, and though I’m out of space, there isn’t a dud on the entire record. The actual record release takes place on several fronts including a Jan. 19 triple appearance. First, at 1:45 p.m. at Lifestyles Fitness (full acoustic band) then a 3:00 p.m. show at European Café with Doug doing a solo and finally a 9:00 p.m. show at The Saint with the full electric band along with Asbury’s own The Morgan Freemasons. The record itself will be available on Jan. 15 on all digital formats.
For more information on The Vansaders and Standstill, head over to facebook.com/thevansaders to get the info.