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From a basement in Iowa to their upcoming UK debut at Bloodstock, a lot has happened to Vended in two years. Now as they sit on the precipice of taking that next step toward world domination, we meet frontman Griffin Taylor and drummer Simon Crahan to find out why they could actually be the future of heavy…
Griffin Taylor is running late. Having driven across Des Moines to his bandmate Simon Crahan’s house, he missed the memo about the drummer being some 400 miles away at a cabin in Minnesota, so is hastily making his way back home to join us on Zoom from there. As Kerrang! and Simon make idle chit-chat about heatwaves, touring and the pristine lake we can see from his balcony, Vended’s vocalist comes bounding in. Apologetic but clearly ready to go, this might not be the most polished start to a band’s first-ever K! cover interview, but as we come to discover in our hour together, convention isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Even the band name, Vended (pronounced Ven-dead), isn’t your typical metal moniker. It’s the product of Griff “hyper-fixating” on finding a name and writing down as many ideas as possible, before coming across Vended and thinking “it’s just a shortened-down version of Vendetta”.
“We played a show with it and everyone was chanting Vended so there was no going back!” laughs Simon. “We spent two years trying to find a fucking band name and it was the hardest thing ever. We could write music, we could slam, we could play our music, but the band name was the fucking one thing.”
Indeed, Vended had existed for two years before they had a name or even played a show. With seeds first sown in middle-school with a teenage Griff and guitarist Cole Espeland, soon the group evolved to include Simon, bassist Jeremiah Pugh and rhythm guitarist Connor Grodzicki by 2018. But instead of gigging here, there and everywhere like excitable young bands are wont to do, they decided to lock themselves away in Simon’s basement to perfect their craft.
“You see a lot of bands who have been practicing for a week, they’ve got two songs, they have a name but it sucks, then they play a show in front of three people,” says Simon with a chuckle. “We isolated ourselves in my basement, writing and writing and writing and writing and not showing anyone our music or anything we were doing. Then two years later – boom - Asylum was released, we had 8,000 followers right off the bat, already verified on Instagram and people loved it more.”
“Everyone still needs to wait for a Marvel movie even though everyone wants it now,” laughs Griff. “That’s the whole journey, it’s the patience and the waiting. That’s what we try to provide rather than the serotonin immediately. You need to have the calm before the storm.”
Vended’s first official show took place at the 250-cap Vaudeville Mews in March 2020 in their home of Des Moines, Iowa, to a sold-out crowd, armed with a clutch of hyper-aggressive, metallic cluster-bombs that connect on an almost primal level. Short, sharp shocks of venom and vitriol, spat out by a pissed off, disenfranchised youth. Heavy fucking metal.
“I think the reason why we were drawn most to heavy music was because we were just so angry at a lot of things,” says Simon. “Some of us grew up with certain problems and certain things, and heavy music was the only way to let out our emotions as much as we could. We were pretty angry as kids – every kid was fucking angry – so it was the only way to show our emotions, and it still is like that.
“It’s an outlet,” he continues, considering the cathartic nature of all-out, brawling heaviness. “Yeah, we’re feeling this way, but it’s also for our fans to be in their car and be like, ‘I fucking felt that. I feel with these guys, I wanna ride with them until the end of time because they get me.’ It’s talking to the outcasts and the misfits like, ‘You’re not alone, we’re in this together.’”
From the roaring barbarism of Asylum, to the anthemic angst of My Wrongs, to the spiteful grooves of Burn My Misery, darkness oozes from every pore of Vended’s music. But from where does this dark energy emanate? Put this question to the pair and both are keen to not have their art be interpreted as emo (although Griff says he will still jam to some MCR songs), instead revisiting the idea of talking to the unwanted, and that “the aggression and all that shit is coming from years of not being able to get a word in because we’re kids”.
But this murky, morose mood is more than music. It’s stitched deep into the fabric of Vended. In today’s world of TikTok, Reels and infinite scrolling, visuals are everything to artists looking to make an impact. And for a band who have been meticulously constructing their own reality for four years, the tried-and-tested metal look of standing in a line in a spooky forest just isn’t going to cut it.
“You realise there’s so many bands out now, and there’s no disrespect to any of them, but it’s a change of motion,” begins Simon. “You go on tour with a band and maybe they put on a couple of stage outfits, two of ’em are still wearing the same outfit they wore yesterday, and you realise that’s not cool. Yeah, you guys have kickass music and you guys slam, but where’s the visual effect? That’s what gets you. We put on this gross-ass, slimy-ass fucking make-up that looks gross and smells gross, but the fans fucking love it. They’re like, ‘These guys slam, their music’s great and the make-up looks dope.’ That’s three gold stars that are in our pockets.”
While make-up might not be that alien a concept to the heavy music aesthetic, adopting blue as Vended’s palette was a calculated pantonal shift. “No-one uses blue!” the drummer smiles. “It’s always red, white or fucking angry colours. We’re fucking angry but we’re using one of the colours that’s mostly described as sad or moody.”
Although Griff admits that he actually wanted purple, he agrees on the importance of looks for a new band “as long as you don’t make that your whole thing”.
“If you can get good visuals, good music, and just an overall welcoming vibe, you can have a band,” he asserts. "If you don’t abuse your power in any of those categories and just keep doing it for the people who enjoy your stuff, it’s really fucking inspiring. We really hope we can get to the point where we have fans wearing the same type or style of make-up that we wear at our shows and we can have an army of people in our make-up.”
There is an 18-legged elephant in the room – one wearing a mask and boilersuit. Because if there’s one thing people know about Vended, it’s who Simon and Griff’s fathers are: Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan and Corey Taylor. It’s not a secret; in fact, recently Griff even came out onstage with Slipknot in Bucharest to barrel through Custer. But when the topic comes up in conversation, both of our guests get rather animated, like they’ve been preparing for this moment, biding their time to tell the naysayers and online commenters where to go.
“Yeah, we got more help than other bands do and I’m honest about that,” begins Simon, visibly more riled. “I’m not going to say we didn’t because that’s not fair to who our fathers are. They’ve helped us, but they have never, ever, ever, written our music, never showed us how to play, never showed us how to perform onstage, they’ve never done any of that. When people say, ‘Oh, Griffin’s dad’s probably showing him how to scream how he does,’ Griff is learning on his fucking own.”
“I started learning how to scream in middle school and my dad was out in Vegas [where he lives],” the vocalist interjects. “I understand when people say, ‘Oh, they got all of their musical talent from their fathers.’ I understand where people come from with that, because of genes or just the way a voice is built or someone’s reflexes are built, but we didn’t get our parents’ musical talent. We found that on our own.”
“My dad never showed me how to play the drums,” Simon continues. “Maybe he showed me little things, but I learned that shit by myself – we all learned this shit by ourselves. To think that some people actually think our dads help us like that, I can see what they’re talking about, but we’re a bunch of fucking talented 18, 19, 20-year-olds that are trying to show the world that anyone can fucking do it. People can just fuck right off, half the time.”
Even though Corey and Clown might not have shown Griffin and Simon how to play, there are of course certain perks to being the sons of the biggest metal band of the past 20-plus years. Vended’s fifth show was at Knotfest Iowa, for example, and they’re currently touring Europe supporting Slipknot in arenas with Jinjer. Having spent their formative years traversing the globe in planes and tour buses, hanging out in green rooms while their dads decimate venues on a nightly basis, this isn’t unknown territory for Simon and Griff, and it sure as hell isn’t an opportunity they were going to pass up.
“I think touring with Slipknot is perfect because Griffin and I get to see our dads – that’s amazing. We never get to see our fucking dads!” says Simon, with Griff adding a mock-screamed “You live in fucking Vegas! You live in a desert!” echoing a Sam Kinison stand-up routine.
“It’s good for us to be around the people who really showed us what music was really about,” Simon continues. “Yeah, people are pissed off, but if you were in our position, you would take the tour, so shut the fuck up.”
While today both young men can speak to the accusations of nepotism and Slipknot comparisons with a sense of confidence, this hasn’t always been the case. In an interview in 2021, Griff revealed that after reading a deluge of online comments he went into the bathroom and immediately started crying. Raise this to the singer today and he seems almost embarrassed, and admits that he doesn’t let the words of strangers get under his skin anymore.
“Ever since last tour, and even beforehand, I kind of just shut off,” he explains. “I thought, ‘Either I need to accept this or I’m not going to get anywhere.’ If I just sit and dwell on this one fact that my dad’s my dad, it’s not only gonna give me a different worldview over the years, it’s just going to make me a bitter and more difficult person to work with. I just need to accept it.
“Yeah, I’m a lot like my dad – but I’m a lot like my mom, too. I can also be myself and pick the positives from both sides. All I’ve been trying to do now is create my own character, create my own personality, and try to be nice to people at least. I don’t need to be a dick 100 per cent of the time, I can be just a nerd, and that’s all I wanna be right now.”
“It’s crazy to me that people are like, ‘Of course they got into music.’ Yeah, of course I did, you think I’m going to waste my talent?” bristles Simon. “If I’m born with something and I’m able to do it, I’m going to fucking do it.”
“It was the opposite for me,” adds Griff. “People were like, ‘So are you gonna get into music just like your dad?’ I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a musician as a kid. I wanted to be a florist, a video game designer and a police officer, and I think at least two of those things are still on the table (laughs).”
Famous parents will only get you so far – it means nothing if your music isn’t on point. And it’s safe to say that Vended are one of the most viscerally exciting bands to break out of the underground in the past few years. Part-hardcore, part-metal, part-groove, the aforementioned comparisons to Slipknot are in some ways valid, although when Griff jokes that both bands are “technically” nu-metal, Simon jumps in with a swift, “We’re not getting on that topic…”
There is, however, a fresh wave of bands drawing on the brutality and swagger of ’90s metal and taking it to new extremes. Acts like Tallah, Vein.fm and Vended’s previous tourmates Code Orange all draw on the savagery that legends like Slipknot created, building a burgeoning scene of bloodthirsty bands.
Likening this resurgence of the (whisper it) ‘nu-metal sound’ to being in an ice cream store, and sampling all the different flavours, Griff doesn’t see it as total nostalgia, but rather young bands using different formulas to create something new.
But these bands aren’t existing in isolation, and there is certainly an upswell in this new wave of heavy, as fans search for something even more sadistic. Speaking to Kerrang! on the release on latest single Ded To Me, it’s clear that Vended are more than happy to provide the filthy sucre to hungry fans. But this is just the beginning.
“I think there’s a different type of aggression [that fans] want,” says Simon. “I think people want a little bit of breathing room, there are a lot of people who don’t want the same type of music all the time from the same band. They don’t always want music that punches you in the face for two minutes, but they want something that’s got heart and feel to it. We want to release all types of songs, I wanna progress every album – I wanna write sad songs, I want to show all types of emotion with this band.”
And are you already thinking about a record that bridges this gap?
“I know we’re thinking about it, but it’s more down the road songs like that,” answers Simon. “I think we wanna be aggressive right now, but when we get a bit older and more experienced in writing different kinds of music, I want us to experiment with other genres because it’s important. I want to add a couple of songs like that now so people are used to it and they don’t freak the fuck out on us when we do it down the road. I’ve seen bands write four albums of the same music and then all of a sudden one album is completely different and their fans are like, ‘What? This sucks!’
“I want variety and fans want variety too – it’s important. I don’t want our music to be ‘Fuck you, fuck this, fuck off’ every album. It’d be nice to see how fans react to it because right now I think our fans are angry with us, but then we can slowly amp up to being better. It’s the stages of being sad – you’re angry and pissed-off then you slowly get happier, and that’s a good goal to work towards.”
For a band with just six songs on Spotify, it could be considered a bit premature to be thinking about the progression of each album, but Simon isn’t here for a glorified hobby. All members of Vended know what they want and how to get it. The bio on their website uses the phrase ‘world domination’ twice. Ask the drummer what that actually looks like, and he’s quick to respond “The fucking top” with a grin. “Touring arenas and fucking playing in front of thousands of people, and people who are taking time out of their day to come watch us. That’s world domination. Being the biggest band in the fucking world. Touring around in a bus, arenas, and being able to headline with thousands of fans waiting at the door.”
Before their own arena tour, though, Vended will make their UK debut this weekend, opening the main stage on the Sunday of Bloodstock, before two headline shows at the Black Heart in London and The Anvil in Bournemouth. And while Griffin is perhaps most excited to visit the UK in order to play a game of Magic The Gathering with Kid Bookie, both men are bursting to say how many ‘Come to the UK!’ comments they receive on the regs, and just want to see how many people are going to show up.
With a North American tour supporting In Flames this autumn, and their latest track already hitting 300,000 streams on Spotify, confidence is at all-time high. But what can we expect for the rest of the year?
“Absolute fucking hell and distortion,” says Simon with a glint. “People are gonna be so tired of our name, it’s gonna be in everyone’s fucking mouths for a while.”
“You’re gonna walk past a vending machine like, ‘God dammit!’” laughs Griff.
“People are gonna be so sick of us and it’s gonna be funny,” Simon concludes. “I’m gonna sit in a chair and laugh my ass off.”
Vended will play Bloodstock at Catton Park, Derbyshire, on August 14. They play London on August 15 and Bournemouth on August 17.
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