As another blistering Memphis summer winds down, Scandaliz Vandalistz, Memphis' best (if not only) representation of anti-folk, are recording the follow-up to their 2006 debut I Forgot Where I Was Going, So I Came Back.
The core members of the band — Katherine Dohan (bass, vocals), Alice Buchanan (guitar, vocals), Alanna Stewart (vocals), and Brock Terwilleger (vocals) — are no longer the picture of youthful precocity captured on the first album's endearing paeans to dogs, film criticism, or being fresh out of White Station High School.
A little backstory on how a school stunt became a real band:
"In the 10th grade, Katherine and I heard about a battle of the bands competition, and we formed our band for that," Buchanan explains.
Fueled by the desire to prove their "real band" status to a certain teacher (said teacher had claimed otherwise), Dohan and Buchanan were forced to promptly come up with a name, one of the qualifying factors of the competition.
Accused of being "vandalists" by a teacher because of a particular method of note passing, the word morphed into Scandaliz Vandalistz and stuck.
"We thought, Wouldn't it be hilarious if we spelled it with z's?" Buchanan recalls. "One year later, we no longer found the hilarity in it but didn't think to change it."
Terwilleger adds that, later on, when the band was on a two-week tour in the summer of 2006, "We regretted it when we had to introduce ourselves, because we had to say it slow. It couldn't be something fast and fun."
Scandaliz Vandalistz didn't officially pick up speed until after graduation, by which point the song "Hey, John Beifuss," an endearing mash note to The Commercial Appeal film critic, had garnered a lot of attention thanks to heavy airplay on community station WEVL. The song also became a much-discussed topic on the Goner Records Bulletin Board, derailing the forum's often pathological distrust of anything that doesn't rock or isn't named after a plural noun.
"Our first show that wasn't a battle of the bands was when we played at WEVL for the 'Pajama Party' show," Buchanan says. "Then we walked over to Jay Etkin Gallery and played our first real show."
The band played other shows around town, including one at the Buccaneer, opening for local punk band The Oscars (whose "Snakes on a Plane" they would eventually cover live), released I Forgot Where I Was Going ... on CD, and booked a two-week tour around an invitation to play a slot during the high-profile Anti-Folk Festival in New York City.
College scattered Scandaliz Vandalistz all over the country, but instead of throwing in the towel, they made the best of being a winter-break and summer band.
"For the past couple of years, we were a summer band, and when each summer ended, we always said we're going on indefinite hiatus," Buchanan says. "Then we would come back and play a bunch of shows, so we figured there was no point. We are a band."
This summer turned out to be a bit of a parallel to the summer of 2006, with several performances of a deluxe version of The Barbaras that featured members of Scandaliz Vandalistz (including a recent performance at the Memphis Pops Festival), and both bands splintering to create a Shangri-Las cover band.
With Dohan and Stewart busy shooting a film titled What I Love About Concrete, time is tight for Scandaliz Vandalistz, but according to Buchanan and Terwilleger, the as-yet-untitled but fully written second album will be a different affair.
"Our first album: dogs, boys, and nervous breakdowns. This album: world politics, angry love songs ... it's a lot darker," Buchanan explains.
"We are older. A lot of people don't realize that Katherine and I wrote about 90 percent of those songs when we were 15. And we made the album when we were 19. The way we sing is a lot different on this album, more guttural and loud, instead of 'I'm a cute girl.'"
Fronted by charming keyboardist/vocalist Kate Crowder, the whimsical Two Way Radio took home the audience award, garnering $3000 in studio time at Ardent Studios, despite some sound-mix problems that harmed their set and kept them from matching the quality of their recorded work.