BY CHARLOTTE ALEXANDER | Go Venue Magazine
In a world that is filled with chaos and uncertainty, the piercing and intricate particles pieced together in new musical group Vended have blended together nicely, settling the age-old theory that a metal infused apple really doesn’t fall, all that far, from a wildly thrashing tree.
Gravity be damned, these branches are strong as stone, and the roots are weaved in the DNA of the metal realm as two members of this group grew up with high profile performing fathers that have circled the globe to sold out arenas, since before they even existed.
Griffin Taylor, son of Slipknot and Stone Sour’s lead vocalist and lyricist, Corey Taylor, must have been practicing his headbanging moves in the womb because he looks like he was born to front a metal band, and his lead guitarist admits they never really had any other aspirations to do anything else.
The in-your-face hammering beats of the Iowa based metal band are the first thing that gets your attention with Simon Crahan, son of Shawn “Clown” Crahan, casting the kit on drums, and it’s as if he was born on stage, in his element, doing what he just, instinctively, knows how to do. Connor Grodzicki slicks the rhythm guitar like a glowing oil sheen across an impressive wave to Jeremiah Pugh‘s brash and brutally executed bass line, with a reliable and anchored wise-beyond-his-years revealing talent and maturity in lead guitarist Cole Espeland.
Growing up with fathers of Slipknot’s status, may have opened a few doors for this young 5-member group, but it doesn’t mean they haven’t had to prove themselves worthy of a passing crown, especially when their dads aren’t finished ruling the metal world. And they’re only just beginning to present what they’re capable of in a metal Excalibur arena of expectations and new challenges in live performances.
It’s a brazen and razor-edged round table to be seated at, with a genetic court of assaulting musical marksmanship, passed down in their heritage, with the axis of killer metal string riffs that could be on their way to rivaling giants, with some more experience. As they came off a stage in a touring spotlight showcasing their debut EP on a Thursday night, the young knighted Direwolf pups are unapologetically invested into soaking up the adrenaline that a live audience injects into their own accomplished caliber.
Vended lead guitarist Cole absorbed the atmosphere and admitted he never had another goal in his life other than to strum the strings onstage. “It was a weird experience,” he said of the band’s EP release party. “They were singing our songs. Griffin and I met in junior high, and we did a talent show together, performing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. We picked these other guys up in high school, and we’re rolling with it. We’re young. We’re hungry. And we’re after world domination.”
Griffin and Cole only recently graduated from high school, and dreams of following those metal GODS into the spotlight isn’t their only goal. They intend to lead beyond where legends have roamed. “There’s room for young bands to come up with the legends,” Cole said.
Overwhelmingly influenced by Slash and Dimebag, and an imperial nod to Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and the band Pantera, are all credited to contributing to his rock style. Cole, a self-taught slinging battle axe grinder, to the young Simon, who is anything but simple in his execution, is slaying along with this drummer’s power-driven nails, and was already aiming for the direction of a stage to pour the smashing strings of his instrument onto an audience, before he was even a teenager. “When I was 12, well, even before I even really picked up the guitar seriously, I’d watch music videos and Paradise City was one where there was a clip of Guns ‘N Roses playing on a stage in front of thousands and thousands of people, and our performance at Knotfest, was like that. It was a total mind fuck, to be onstage playing for thousands and thousands of people. We started jamming with Simon and now, everything is coming to fruition. Rock ‘n Roll!”
Their first headlining tournament came at a Knotfest.com performance in Iowa, as part of the Pulse of the Maggots Fest, and was a momentous debut they’ll never forget, but now, in the role of changing multiple stages in promotion of their EP released this year, they have it down, and it’s all pro, with planned dates of their metal showcase going into South America next year.
“March 8th of 2020, we sold out a local club in our hometown, and that same week, everything shut down,” Cole said in reference to a global virus that shut down all music venues worldwide. “It was in the nick of time that we got it out of the way. We prepared and rehearsed for three years and then got cut off right away. We didn’t play live again until April of 2021, so 13 months. That first show was so energetic. It was really intimate. We spent that year just writing and practicing and getting better, so we came back even stronger. We are so in the pocket, after this first tour with our EP. There’s no time to stop. You just have to push through.”
They bring a lot of real world exposure to some heavy hitting topics in their newborn releases of “what is it//kill it,’ and the song ‘Anti Body.’
A year ago, there was some evidence of a controlled delivery in their “Vended Asylum” and Cole said the newest material on their EP wasn’t meant to accurately depict controversial and timely subject matters, it was a coincidence, written a year ago, some even before the pandemic, and revised, before mastering, but created by a divine interpretation of something that was just meant to be.
“We mostly had a good response, this whole tour, the crowd singing our songs with us,” Cole said. “It was a whole surreal experience. The song subjects, none of that was intentional, not predicted.”
The 19-year-old Griffin had performed with his famous father in Stone Sour, four years ago, and proved he had a vocal range, an affirmable presence, that may have needed some molding at such a tender age of 15, but he’s polished his skills with ambition, and it’s impressive how motivated he is into fronting his own soul-searching vocal discoveries. He shouldn’t be compared to his parental nurturing and lifelong environmental instructor. He’s on the path to carving out of his own swords to swing onstage. A live audience only seems to fuel his determination to demonstrate the band’s combined generational gifts and efforts, without riding the coattails of the majestic robe his father legitimately adorns.
Don’t expect any ballads from their current live performances. Cole said Griffin is capable of going in that direction, and they may put out more of a variety later on. “Griffin can sing clean, and the EP is mostly screaming,” Cole said. “We’re not planning any ballads, but there will be some clean singing, not like the straight hard vocals on our EP. We’ll see a lot of Griffin’s range brought up when we release our full-length album.”
It’ll take experience, failures, falls, triumphs and adjustments, battling tribulations and conquering preconceived expectations, and Cole insists they are ready for the challenges. “In this music industry, it is completely about talent and hard work,” he said. “Connections and mentors like Slipknot guiding us through are great, but we are grinding our way. We rented the van and the trailer, stayed in shitty hotels, ate gas station food. We don’t wanna act like we’re too good for anything. We want to earn our respect. We practiced for three years before we did our first show. The crowd response definitely helps.”
The young metal guitarist said it’s incredible to have access to legends like the members of Slipknot, and learning the behind-the-scenes construction from the higher levels of an industry they are just beginning to wade in, has been an education for them. The tips are taken seriously, but once they are on the stage, it’s all about wanting to be there and there is no hiding behind anyone.
“They inspire us to work harder,” Cole said. “We want to do this for the rest of our lives. We want to be the biggest metal band out there. We’re going to keep touring and playing shows. Our goal is to carry the torch for these legends.”
Adapting to the challenges is something Cole said the band is adjusting to, and they intend to perform as much as they can, in an uncertain future of restrictions and venue requirements of an audience.
“It’s a new world in performing live, and it really should be coming back full-time. We’re playing in Brazil and Chile in South America next year, and that’s gonna be a whole different world,” Cole said. “Metal is a next level thing there. That’s gonna be a crazy fucking experience.”
It’ll be interesting to watch the progression of Vended, and to witness just how far those royal Iowan homegrown apple seeds spread into the metal world. I’m betting it will be one hell of a ride as they grow into their own structured orchard of metal exploration.
Check out their website at vendedofficial.com for some upcoming announcements and scheduled events for Vended.