PLAYLIST: Vundabar’s Songs About Cars, Mystery, and Night

Brandon Hagen breaks down the duo’s influences on Either Light, from Robert Smith to Tony Soprano.

This past Friday, Boston duo Vundabar released a relatively somber follow-up to 2018’s cartoonishly over-the-top Smell Smoke, which introduced many of us to their wonky take on post-punk revivalism. While maintaining this distinct sense of personality established over the five years leading up to Smoke, Either Light explores new themes and sounds for the band, incorporating vibraphones and electronic drum loops without quite losing the big funny that made Smell Smoke so instantly gratifying.

The tightening-of-screws that resulted in Either Light, though, wasn’t merely the result of a few years’ maturity—as with any artist featured in FLOOD’s revered PLAYLIST series, Vundabar was heavily inspired by a handful of songwriters musically and lyrically to pursue the seemingly disparate themes of cars, mystery, and night for their newest record. With additional shouts out to Miki Dora and Tony Soprano, vocalist Brandon Hagen details some of the artists who inspired these themes—or reinforced the group’s off-the-wall energy—below.

Either Light is out now via the band’s own GAWK Records. Order it via Rough Trade here.

Bill Callahan, “Riding for the Feeling”

Either Light explores myth and mystery quite a bit, and I spent a lot of time thinking about artists’ roles as creators of myth and myth’s function to contextualize lived experience. This song sort of explores the role of someone who does that, and what that experience is like. 

Songs: Ohia, “Farewell Transmission”

This song is so strong visually. The first line hits, “The whole place is dark,” and you’re pulled into Jason Molina’s dark and expansive environ. When I was writing this record I was thinking about cars, headlights hitting highways at night, and this sort of lingering feeling of dread and exhilaration that those images encapsulate for me. The use of metaphor in this song, as a way to act as placeholder for something that cannot be explicitly expressed, a mystery, is something that I strive for in writing.

Amen Dunes, “Miki Dora”

The rhythm of this song feels like movement to me. It’s almost like the rhythm of a train chugging. Either Light is about transience, movement, and flux, so expressing that sort of  consistent hum of an engine propelling you forward was important lyrically and musically. Miki Dora is an interesting figure. He’s someone whose pride and ego destroyed him, and I see parallels between him and my muse, Tony Soprano. I also just love the way Amen Dunes emotes. This song makes me cry.

Karen Dalton, “Something’s on Your Mind”

Drew and I listened to a lot of folk and country music while writing this album. Many of these songs have two or three chords and are gut-wrenching. I made a rule for myself to use only two or three chords in a couple songs to prove I was worth my salt

Cate Le Bon, “Home to You”

I love Cate Le Bon. The way she approaches guitar is interesting, and all of her records—as well as everything with DRINKS—was a big inspiration for me.

Mount Kimbie, “Marilyn”

This whole record Love What Survives feels like a ride. It inspired many of the images I had in my head when we started writing.

Sports Team, “Camel Crew”

Sports Team is a great group from the UK. We played with them in Nantes two years ago and I appreciate the wry, dry humor in their music. I see a lot of parallels between us.

Caroline Rose, “Soul No. 5”

Caroline’s songs are kinda funny, kinda melancholic, kinda manic. We bring a similar energy, I think.

Institute, “Salt”

“Salt of the earth, don’t mean shit.” Angry!

The Cure, “Disintegration”

Mr. Robert Smith is a builder of worlds and a songsmith anyone would want to strive to be.


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