A three-piece band takes the stage on a cool Monday night at After Hours. It’s more of an afterthought than a proper venue, just a small room, about half full of underclassmen, pushed against the far wall of a Starbucks inside Northeastern’s Curry Student Center, where the smell of Popeye’s wafts in from the food court every time someone opens the back door. The tall, lanky lead singer introduces his crew as they kick into the first song: “We Are Real Estate.”
Over the course of their 30-minute set, the singer, Brandon Hagen, stops a few more times in between songs. “We are a big deal!” he proclaims sarcastically, tearing through a howling garage rock cut that sounds like anything but The Beatles, then asking if anyone has heard their works, “The White Album” or “Sgt. Pepper’s.” After a few more songs and self-deprecating quips, Hagen drops the ruse. “Guys, we aren’t ‘Real Estate.’ We’re Vundabar.”
No one in the audience seems particularly bothered by this revelation, but even if Vundabar may not be a big deal (yet), they’re already a very good one. Along with bassist Zach Abramo, Hagen, and drummer Drew McDonald, friends from Scituate High School, make lo-fi, gut-punching indie rock that’s both propelled by their youthful exuberance and tempered by their half-jaded sarcasm. Last year’s debut record, Antics, showcased their talent for slipping a subversive edge into catchy post-punk jams like “Greenland” and “Holy Toledo,” which ends with Hagen casually musing about taking his own life (“bullet in my brain cause my life’s a cliché”).
“I try to walk the line of sincerity and irony, [of being] earnest and insincere,” says Hagen. “The sarcasm is just a bit of our sense of humor coming through, making light of heavy or dark subjects. I also think satire can showcase emotional content just as well, if not better, deadpanning exactly what you’re thinking. Just cause we’re joking don’t mean we ain’t serious.”
Hagen already has two albums fully written (“a little noisier, a little weirder,” he says) and ready to record, which will happen sometime after their second European tour through France and the UK kicks off on October 20. Beyond that, both McDonald and Hagen plan to return to school at some point in the future, thanks to some revealing experiences on tour. “We got to play a lot of shows with people who you look up to as the bands who made it, and then you meet them and see what it really is like. You have this inflated sense of stability; you think that they are OK, and they’re really not.”
Back onstage, Hagen’s squeezing the last bit of entertainment value from their final song, showing off his guitar skills by breaking into the instantly recognizable chords of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” Just outside the reach of the Starbucks lights, there’s little activity at the merch table afterwards, the audience having been passive observers for most of the show despite the band’s best efforts. It’s hardly a glamorous hustle, trying to pick up a few new fans already oversaturated with music options on a gloomy Monday night. Still, Vundabar’s product is a hell of an option.
“Music, I love it, but you kind of feel like a jackass doing it. This is all pissing in the wind,” says Hagen, before quickly adding, “but that’s not a reason not to do it.”
VUNDABAR W/ IDIOT GENES AND BRAZIL. GREAT SCOTT, 1222 COMM AVE., ALLSTON. WED 10.8. 9PM/$8/18+. VUNDABAR.BANDCAMP.COM