music, Uncategorized

Written by Yvonne Villasenor


Photo by Cailtin McCann

Three-piece rock band, Vundabar, started with the sole intent of playing for fun – four years later, they are playing shows where their fans can have fun too.

For those who don’t know, “vundabar” is a German word that translates to “wonderful” and if I could describe the L.A. show in one word it would be “vundabar” Ha-ha.

I had never been to Non Plus Ultra, but the venue was once a warehouse and in its current state, seems to be a great place for upcoming bands to play at. It was a really laid back environment, filled with more people than I expected and some sick projections to give it a psychedelic vibe. Even the famous singer-songwriter, Ryan Adams, was there to check out the new talent. I could not believe it – I had to Google “Ryan Adams” on my phone to ensure it was him…Needless to say, I am not used to the Los Angeles scene.

There was a homeless man who came to party at the show and as he was walking in, he enthusiastically yelled, “it’s just rock and roll!” I was unable to get his name, but he danced and smiled watching the bands play and was certainly a favorite among the crowd. He came up to me outside minutes before interviewing the guys and the information I was able to get from him was that he was a veteran who immigrated to the United States and loved it much more than where he grew up despite his current struggles.

Brandon Hagen, singer of Vundabar, humorously introduced the band.

“We’re Vundabar, we’re playing a sold out show at The Echoplex tonight…it’s gonna be a good time.”

SUCKER: Okay, so I’m sure you guys get this a lot, but is there any reason why you picked “vundabar” for your band name? Why a German word?

VUNDABAR: There’s no reason at all, we just kind of decided on it.

SUCKER: What’s your favorite part about touring?

VUNDABAR: “Seeing new faces, meeting new people, making new experiences…We saw Tom Cruise,” Hagen said.

Each of the guys told me about seeing Tom Cruise on Sunset Boulevard and how they had a joke about “Tome Cruises.”

SUCKER: What’s the worst part of touring?

VUNDABAR: Being tired. Showering isn’t the easiest task while on the road and we try to make sure we shower every other day.

Sucker wanted to know what bands the guys were anticipating on hearing albums from.

SUCKER: Which band’s upcoming album are you guys looking forward to?

VUNDABAR: “That’s a really good question…I’d have to say Protomartyr,” Hagen said.

Drummer, Drew McDonald, and bassist, Grayson Kirtland, responded with “Thee Oh Sees and Crag Mask.”

SUCKER: Where do you get ideas for your music videos? They’re so eccentric and entertaining to watch.

VUNDABAR: From movies, seeing people on the street and everyday things I find funny.

SUCKER: What place aside from your hometown feels like home?

VUNDABAR: That’s also a really good question… I’d have to say Richmond, Virginia and Philly.

SUCKER: Do you have designated time to write music or do you write music whenever?

VUNDABAR: It happens when it happens. We’ll just play in general. You might even say we’re currently working on something.

SUCKER: Where do you get your ideas for your songs?

VUNDABAR: Shit that happens, movies, personal experiences and a lot is observational.

SUCKER: What are your favorite songs to play live?

VUNDABAR: Worn / Wander, Voodoo and Ash in the Sun. They give me a lot of room to dance around and act dumb.

NOTE: I also discovered here that they aren’t really fond of their most popular tune, Holy Toledo.

“I don’t know why people like that song so much,” Hagen laughed. “We have better songs.”

SUCKER: Where are some places you really want to play a show?

VUNDABAR: The U.K., Portland and Brazil.

The boys concluded the interview by mentioning how they’d nominate a radio personality if they weren’t able to vote for Bernie Sanders this election and how they were excited to see more Tome Cruises and play their upcoming shows in San Francisco, California + Boulder, Colorado.

Minutes later, they were on stage headlining the show. They played a good amount of songs off each off their albums Gawk and Antics. It didn’t matter whether you had heard every single one of their songs or hadn’t heard a single one up until they played live – the crowd had a great time. After Vundabar played their final song, many fans yelled “Holy Toledo” in hopes that they would play it, and unfortunately for them, their wishes were not granted.

Be on the lookout for new music coming from these guys. You don’t want to miss out.


music, Uncategorized


By Yvonne Villasenor

Photo by Michael Haight


On the final day of Burger Records and The Observatory’s five year collaboration celebration, I was able to get musicians’ perspectives on the significance behind the event and interview some of the raddest dudes who play the sickest tunes.

MELTED is a punk band from Corona, California that consists of Justin Eckley on vocals/guitar, Sam Mankinen on drums and Thomas Jones on bass. These guys put on a phenomenal show Sunday afternoon in the Constellation Room and brought an exhilarating rush of energy to everyone who was present.

SUCKER: What is your fondest memory at The Observatory, whether you were a guest or playing?

Thomas: The spread for the No Parents/SWMRS show. It was pretty good.

Justin: We played a show and it was with No Parents and The Aquadolls. While The Aquadolls were playing, Yellowcard was playing in the big room and we all went to the big room and watched ‘Ocean Avenue’ and it was so tight. That’s probably my fondest memory.

Sam: I’d say mine was today. I’ve had cool experiences at shows, but today was really cool.

SUCKER: Do you guys prefer these shows to the smaller shows?

Sam: I don’t really have a preference – I just really like playing shows. If there’s anybody there and people like us, then I have a good night.

SUCKER: Is there anything more fun compared to the other ones?

Sam: It sounds really good. *laughs*

Justin: What I like about stuff like this is that there are so many different bands that we don’t get to really see or play with all the time. So it’s like, Too $hort…we’re probably never gonna get a chance to see Too $hort again.

Thomas: Especially with the big shows like this, people who wouldn’t ordinarily go to your shows or if they haven’t seen you before, they get to learn about you.

SUCKER: How would you describe Burger Records to someone who has never listened to them?

Thomas: Maybe it’s not what people think. I think there’s kind of a stigma around it, but I don’t think we sound like a “Burger” rock band.

Justin: True, I don’t think we sound very Burger either, but we are definitely a part of the scene. If someone was to say, “What is Burger Records?” I’d say it’s Orange County music. It’s everything.

Thomas: There’s so many different people – there’s goths, there’s punks, there’s greasers, Tumblr kids…

Justin: There’s everything. So that’s what’s cool about Burger. It’s a young thing.

SUCKER: Would you say there’s anything that makes them [Burger] different from any other record label that you know of?

Justin: Well, they solely put out tapes. They put out records and stuff, but they do a lot of tapes and their catalog is about to hit a thousand releases. And that is insane. I can’t even believe that – over what, eight years?

Thomas: They put Orange County back on the map. Before, no one would ever come here. And now, people have shows on Fridays and Saturdays at The Observatory and just in general.

Photo by Michael Haight

SUCKER: Do you think it would be different if shows weren’t held here at The Observatory?

Thomas: Yeah, I think so.

Sam: Definitely. It’s been very progressive in the last two or three years.

Justin: There’s no other all-ages big venue. The small room is great because it holds like 300 people and it feels packed, you know? And the big room is like 1,200ish. So those places, like where else in Orange County can you go to a show other than the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre that holds like 10,000 people?

Thomas: Especially even in Santa Ana, it’s a really big help since it’s just so close to Orange County as opposed to Irvine or L.A…There would be no home for all these rock n’ roll weirdos if it weren’t for them [Burger]. They’d be playing bars every day.

Justin: Like we usually do when we don’t play here *laughs*

SUCKER: Are there any bands on Burger that heavily influenced your guys’ music?

Justin: It’s easy to say yes- like FIDLAR, Pangea and bands like that.

Sam: But even like bands that we’re associated with like…we like King Tuff a lot, but they also have a lot of heavy, cool bands.

Justin: It’s really hard to say that we are influenced by bands on the label. I would say for myself, an inspiration is when we see our friends do cool shit, we’re like, “dang, our friends are doing cool stuff – we should do cool shit too.” Not like ripping them off, but that’s working for them and that’s cool. We should try to emulate that with them.

It’s cool to be a punk band. There’s maybe five punk bands on Burger Records right now and they’re currently on Burger Records…No Parents is killing it. We play with them all the time. No Parents would have nobody else to play with if there weren’t punk bands too. I think that’s a big thing.

For us, we’re trying to stand out from the Burger crowd. We’re trying to be what they’re not being. We’re trying to be shit that all these Orange County kids don’t know exist kind of, I guess.

Sam: It also kind of goes back to the roots of old punk bands we like and that’s a big influence. Venturing out in that direction too is an idea. I’d say everything we listen to influences us.

Thomas: Burger does a lot of reissue tapes of the old punk bands like T.S.O.L., Adolescents…those re-releases were not going to be on cassette if it weren’t for them.

Justin: Dookie!

Photo by Michael Haight

SUCKER: A lot of bands come to Southern California when they come to tour. What is appealing here compared to elsewhere?

Thomas: Maybe L.A. has that negative connotation of being snooty and nobody’s really into it, but over here, it’s really relaxed.

Sam: I give it that connotation. I hate L.A. – L.A. sucks *laughs*

Justin: It’s funny because people from far away think L.A. and Orange County are the same thing. They’re like, “oh, Orange County is where Disneyland is.” When we play elsewhere, it’s like, “you guys are from L.A.?” but it’s like, “no, that’s an hour away from us…”

I think bands really like to come through here because it’s like a perfect place to play a show and have a good time outside of the show. You go to other major cities like New Orleans, there’s cool stuff to do in New Orleans, or New York and that kind of thing. You got like Charleston, and there’s like a really cool place to get grits. *laughs*

SUCKER: What kind of impact do you think Burger has made on the local scene and all over?

Thomas: It put Orange County back on the map like I have never seen before…

Justin: I agree with that. Orange County was cool like a long, long time ago then –

Sam: That’s the thing. I used to go to a lot of hardcore shows down the street and a few years ago, I had never heard of The Observatory. I heard of Galaxy, obviously. I came here and I didn’t know any of the bands and it was crazy to watch how active kids were at a show like this, and it kind of just progressed from there. It definitely has revitalized the rock scene a little bit out here. There’s still a lot of work, and there’s a lot of things we can still do still, but it’s definitely active.

Thomas: I think it engages a lot of younger people to just want to try things. I think that’s really cool. It’s cool to see people just start bands and listen to older Burger bands.

Justin: Being a band from SoCal, it’s like a goal as a band is like, “we finally got a show at The Observatory” or “we finally got a show at The Echo”. Especially Burger allows a lot younger kids to do that, but it’s like the Orange County scene – there’s no other bands, there’s no other big venues, there’s no other small club that’s all ages. It’s all DIY shows and there’s a lot of them, but it’s not the same press around them. It’s not the same sound. There’s no stages, like that kind of thing…there’s kids playing on the floor. I think that’s why I like The Observatory. When we first started, I was like, “I really want to play The Observatory.” I was already in my twenties by that time, so it’s like not even as a kid, but I feel like a kid in the same sense.

It was the first time this lineup played a show, and it was cool. It was good.

SUCKER: What are your guys’ goals as a band?

Sam: I want to be bigger than Drake.

Justin: He wants to sell out the Forum.

Sam: My goal in music is to sell out The Forum in Inglewood. I want to be at the top…You can do anything in this world, why not?

Justin: I want to be played on the radio and then my mom Shazams it and she’s like, “who is this? This kind of sounds like my son’s band,” and then she Shazams it and it is her son’s band. And that’s gonna be the day we are successful.

Thomas: Just keep playing music, keep playing shows.


MELTED are currently touring and are playing this Thursday-Saturday in Austin, Texas for SXSW and will return home to play a number of local shows. They are also in the process of working on a new album with the help of producer/engineer, Jonny Bell, from Jazzcats Studios in Long Beach.

Keep an ear out and your eyes peeled for these guys – they are certainly a band you don’t want to miss.


Check out MELTED on social media:



Instagram: @meltedxca

Twitter: @meltedxca


Where When and Why: Flamingosis

music, Uncategorized

By Scott Kulicke

Music won’t – and shouldn’t – mean the same thing to any two people. “Where, When, and Why” is a first-person music series, stories about where I discovered an artist, when they began to soundtrack my life, and why they moved me at that singular moment in time.



“I got a cute face/ chubby waist/ thick legs/ in shape.”

I was feeling prematurely jaded after I graduated college. I was bartending and selling sandwiches at a spot in Little Tokyo: a 4-square block of downtown Los Angeles nestled in the intersection of skid row – a still-dangerous tent city – and the warehouse district, which had been taken over by DJs, fashion entrepreneurs, L.A. Underground scenesters, and the whole Skrillex/OWSLA scene. I’d get off work at 1 in the morning and cruise around town under a sky pink from light pollution, stinking like the beef and liquor I’d been hocking to my predominantly first-generation Japanese customers.   

The DJ at the bar was a quiet little man named Justin, professional monicker “DJ ManBoy,” large eyes peering out from a mess of black hair and black beard, an untouchably cool creature who would’ve spent his days skateboarding and finding obscure tunes if life didn’t demand rent money. His taste in music mirrored my impression of him: offbeat and cool, jazzy and slick, sonic silk.

He’s the man who, as I explained to the umpteenth customer the difference between the spicy wrap and the zesty wrap, played me my first Flamingosis track.

Flamingosis is a Jersey boy my age who ended up going to college with a bunch of my friends from high school. I’d ask them if they knew him – they had no idea he was a successful musician off playing festivals in Tunisia, they just knew him as that kid who threw down some astonishing beatboxing at a party one time. He has a penchant for crate digging and an ear for the perfect two bars that need to be flipped. I watch videos of him: just one of the old all-white MacBooks and an MPC, dexterous fingers and a headbang that moves his whole body.

As the ubiquitously corny slow jam synth swells and choppy guitar of Spandau Ballet’s “True” swept outwards from the DJ booth, I thought to myself “word, ManBoy’s tryna bang someone, more power to ya dude.” But then something else happened to my ears, and I promptly stopped giving a shit about my customer:

“Music makes you lose control”

It was an effortlessly fly mash up, two songs with universal recognition but totally opposite tones, sex jams from two very different eras. When the beat dropped, double timing hi hats and a short, punchy kick, I did something I’d been told many times not to do: I stopped serving food and started dancing in the middle of the bar.




“Left your mark/ in a distant place/ but somehow it’s all gone now/ good things can never last.”

All my friends had real jobs. They were waking up early, working till 5, cooking themselves wholesome dinners, and tapping out by 11. I was waking up at noon, starving myself till I could eat for free at the bar, drinking during my shift all night, then swinging through the McDonalds drive thru sometime between 1:30 and 3:00 – I knew things had reached a breaking point when the graveyard drive thru crew not only knew me by name, but happily commented “oh, you’re not as high as you usually are!”

I felt like I was both cooler, and much sadder than my friends. I felt like I was going nowhere but down, but at least I was doing it listening to the dopest beats in town. I’d cruise through neighborhoods blessing the sleeping denizens of Los Angeles with seconds of these velvety tunes. I was gonna go out like Fonzie – a star that burnt bright and quick, saying something dope as I rode into the sunset.

Of course, none of this was true, but I was high.

The Bobby Caldwell sample he flipped is fire, somehow landing between dance-y and profoundly sad – a throwback to a distant time with an added modern edge, contemporary enough to feel like it’s our own but never substantial enough to feel like we really own it.




I’d take the train when I wanted to drink. The late night L.A. trains were rarely ever as fun as I’d hope – I’d board with aspirations of people watching and sightseeing and feeling like “man, maybe I’ll see a buncha people living tiny little metaphors for life in the big city and I’ll get off feeling connected to the urban sprawl” like I was in a Zach Braff movie.

Instead I’d get drunk teens, workers who were tired and just wanted to get home, and the occasional babe who never seemed to notice me, and invariably I’d end up stumbling the 15 blocks or so home from the station disappointed.

One night, as I let Flamingosis’ acoustic sample of a DeBarge cover run back to back on repeat, I came to an intersection at the same time as an anonymous sedan. I was tweaked and feeling bold, so I charged the crosswalk, staring down the car in a silent “yeah, I got the right of way you sack of shit!” protest.

Halfway through the intersection, the squeal of tires filled the air and I saw the car burn rubber and starting swinging an aggressive u-turn. Then, two thunderclaps filled the air – gunshots.

I sprinted without a single thought in my head – I didn’t even think until I slammed my bedroom door behind me. I sat down and cut two rails, hands shaking, sweating, panting. I don’t even think they shot at me, I think they were just trying to scare me.

It worked. Things had to change.

That night, I hopped on Facebook and sent Flamingosis a message – I just thanked him for his music, told him we had some mutual friends, told him that I was working on my own music and that it gave me some hope and some juice to see him succeeding. His response was short but sweet, what felt like a heartfelt and genuine “thanks brother, keep at it, thanks for listening” (paraphrased). I then texted my brother and sister and told them I loved them and I was happy we were all alive.