From: Portland, OR
Often adorned with war paint and a splash of sass, the Vandies are a small time girl band that packs a big punch. Hailing from Portland, OR, this quintet has steadily nestled their way into the hearts (and ears) of many at a rapid pace. Deemed a modern-day Spice Girls among the band (for their pride in girl power), the group consists of five truly individual girls who come equipped with their own monikers—Karla Ecklund, vocals (the vintage one); Cassondra Phillipsen, lead guitar (the sexy one); Kat Olsen, rhythm guitar/backup vocals (the art one); Shannon FitzMaurice, bass (the healthy one); and Kim Coffel, drums (the wild one).
So prepare to learn a thing or two about girl domination and accompany me in giving the Vandies a massive Rain City Ambience welcome!
How did you get your start?
Kat: How we started is Cassondra had a post on Craigslist that I responded to when I was in another band and we just kind of talked back and forth [about] how she wanted to start a girl band—so I left the one I was in to start this one with Cassondra. So this was her idea and I was just the first member.
Cassondra: I had been looking at Craigslist for 8 months straight and reading every day. Seriously, 8 months! I’m not even exaggerating! I was at the point where I was like, ‘This is gonna suck but I’m just gonna try to start something from scratch and it’s gonna take FOREVER!’ But…I’m so happy that I posted.
Kat: It was a long road to find all of us. We tried out a lot of random people.
Cassondra: We had strippers with armpit hair. Within the first 5 minutes she was like, ‘CAN I BORROW A TAMPON?’ [said in a burly woman’s voice] And I’m like, ‘BORROW?!’
Klara: Was my audition after hers?
Kat: Oh yeah! We had the craziest people try out for the band and then Klara showed up and was like, ‘I brought beer, I’m totally normal and I have a good voice!’ and we were like, ‘AWESOME!’
Kat: She didn’t have anything weird going on.
So you were already in!
Kat: It felt that way, yeah! We clicked right when we saw each other!
How do you think the Northwest music scene differs from other places such as the East Coast?
Kim: We were thinking about doing road trips and stuff like that—going and doing tours—and I think it’s a lot easier for people on the East Coast to tour to different places and get your music out there.
Shannon: Portland is it’s own kind of bubble for music scenes, like coffee shops, bars, and vintage stores will set up a stage with a PA system. People LOVE live shows here so it’s so easy to book shows, at least it has been for us.
Who are some of your Northwest favorites?
Everyone: Kings and Vagabonds.
Klara: They’re super nice, super fun people to play with.
Cassondra: The guys from Swim Atlantic are really cool guys.
Kim: I think Kings and Vagabonds and Swim Atlantic have a really individualistic sound. Kings and Vagabonds is this almost ska, upbeat band.
Cassondra: I think of them as the Guns N’ Roses of punk music.
Kat: Swim Atlantic, they’re like the Beach Boys of 2013. If they were around in the 50’s, they would be solid gold by now.
Shannon: I really like the Shivas. I have a major…
Kat: Girl boner.
Shannon: …girl boner for them. Those are Kat’s words [laughs]. My dad’s gonna read [this article] and be like, ‘OHH!’
Shannon: So, the Shivas are really good. It’s cool ‘cause I watched them play really small, tiny shows at Ash Street, where we played, and they’ve progressively gotten so much bigger. It’s been cool to see that.
Kim: I was in History of Women in Rock and Roll with the drummer. We had a cluster of three drummers all sitting at the same table—it was really interesting.
Shannon: Any other favorites? The Thermals, I really like the Thermals.
Kim: Oh, sorry. Local favorites—Spellcaster! I have to put in my boyfriend’s band!
[all look at Klara and shame her for not including her boyfriend’s band]
Klara: I didn’t want to be like, ‘My boyfriend’s band!’ [said in high-pitched tone]
Kim: But you like them!
Klara: They’re called Ugly Colors and they’re a local band.
Your band represents a strong female act, what advice would you give to girls that want to pursue this as a career?
Kat: Roadie your own shit!
Kim: One of the pieces of advice my drum teacher gave me was to just go ahead and try out for bands, even if you know you’re not going to make it or you just don’t even wanna be in that band. Go ahead and try out because that really puts the pressure on for you to be your best because you don’t want to leave them thinking that you didn’t try hard. Put your heart into it and then if you don’t get it that’s one thing to put into your little pocket of experience. If you try out for 50 bands you’re going to be way better than if you didn’t try out for any.
Shannon: It’s so nerve-wracking. People don’t understand how nerve-wracking it is to put yourself out there like that.
Klara: I sang in my frickin’ car for years! This was a dream for me—I didn’t think this could EVER happen. Be persistent!
Shannon: Be persistent if it’s something you’re passionate about even if you’re just looking for people to jam with or just to share your love of music. Continue to have a creative outlet in your life and then hopefully it’ll get bigger from there—you have to start somewhere.
Kat: I did music journalism in college and I met Sia before she was famous and that was her advice to me, ‘Always roadie your own shit.’ And I was like, ‘Oh okay! Thanks, random British person!’
When you aren’t being the Vandies, what do you girls do?
Cassondra: Dentures, crowns, fillings.
Kat: Her patients totally know she’s a rock star and they’ll listen to the Vandies in the dentist’s office. It’s pretty cool!
What do the rest of you do?
Kat: I work in a creative agency and I work with Adidas and Red Bull and I do launch events. I travel—it’s fun.
Klara: And she’s a model.
Kat: Not realllly.
[fun fact—Kat modeled for MSN]
Kim: I work at a gym, I fold towels. I go to PSU for film during the week and then I work on the weekends at Duniway Park Athletic Club.
Shannon: I also work once a week at Duniway Park Athletic Club—I teach yoga. Then I also tutor on the weekends and evenings sometimes for children with expressive language delays and dyslexia. Also, I co-manage a Thai restaurant down in the Pearl District.
That’s a big variety!
Klara: I owned a vintage shop for a little while. I’m a barista—I’ve been a barista for the past three years and I’m trying to be a bartender very, very soon.
The band is receiving a lot of positive feedback and reviews, most recently from the Portland Tribune, how does that feel?
Shannon: People don’t really know how to classify us. This guy at the Portland Tribune did a good job because he was like, ‘power-pop meets garage-punk’. You know, we have a lot of ballads and slow songs and then really hard, rocker songs. It’s really, really nice to have that feedback from an outside perspective of what they perceive our music to be. The fact that it’s all been really positive—like we have not had one bad review. If I get a bad review I’m just gonna die.
Cassondra: I built our website and I keep it up-to-date all the time. In the past few weeks I feel like every morning I’m getting up and adding something to the website and just going, ‘WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?’ We seriously have something cool going on every day which is HUGE and I’m just going, ‘Am I dreaming? Can someone slap me with a 2×4 to wake me up because this cannot be real’.
What can we expect from the Vandies in the future?
Cassondra: Full-length album—coming at your face!
Shannon: We have stuff planned out all the way through the end of August right now.
Klara: We really wanna tour!
Cassondra: We’ve contacted labels—we all wanna go all out. If we have the chance to go all out I’m dropping out of dentistry!
Klara: I will drop out of making coffee! It’ll be hard but I will do it!
Cassondra: We’re working on another music video coming up really soon.
Kat: Probably in June we’ll film it. It’s called ‘Bright Lights’ which we’ll play for you before you leave.
Shannon: This summer’s really busy for us—we’re playing shows. Then September, our goal is to get everything recorded.
Kim: Play more shows, get album printed, get our music video for ‘Bright Lights’ done, mini-tour, new photo shoot, and then taking over the universe!
Check out the Vandies’ video for ‘Chinatown’ below!