The instant the unstoppable, three-pronged guitar attack of opening track “Set It To Blow” bodyslams its way out of the speakers, grabbing the unsuspecting listener by the throat and digging its fingernails into the jugular, it’s clear that Vaux’s sophomore album, There Must Be Some Way To Stop Them, has precious little in common with the watered-down punk-lite and dumbed-down nu-metal currently being peddled on TRL. No, a few well-placed wallet chains, spiky wristbands, and dollops of Manic Panic hair dye do not a true rock ‘n’ roll band make; it takes perspiration, inspiration, and most of all, pure passion, qualities that this Denver hardcore sextet possesses by the truckload. Simply put, Vaux are the real deal: They invest everything they have and everything they are into each atomic-powered note of their fierce, ferocious music, and that’s what makes all the difference.
Vaux’s total commitment to their art dates back six years, to their humble origins in the basement of guitarist Adam Tymn’s local skate shop. Since then, they’ve taken punk’s D.I.Y. ethics straight to heart, scrimping, saving, and struggling to release their own records (starting with the perhaps prophetically titled 1998 seven-inch, “To Write A Symphony,” and including their critically acclaimed 2000 full-length debut, AudibleNarcotic); finance their own tours (even while still attending college); and orchestrate their own dazzling and unique light show. (Band member Greg Daniels, who first came to be associated with Vaux as their unofficial roadie and lighting technician, still operates their lights from the stage every night, now while simultaneously manning his guitars and keyboards—how’s that for D.I.Y.?)
Such hard work and attention to detail sometimes proved grueling—especially during Vaux’s stint on the 2002 Warped Tour—but their valiant efforts were always rewarded. “I personally don’t remember the Warped Tour, because we didn’t sleep at all!” laughs bassist Ryder Robison. “We made 300- to 400-mile drives every night to be there first thing in the morning to set up our stage, then we’d work our merch tent all day in the hot sun. It could have been awful, but it was very, very good. It was all worth it.”
During their Warped trek, Vaux faced the daunting task of any early-afternoon, second-stage baby band—that of trying to win over an indifferent festival crowd. Furthermore, they were saddled with the additional challenge of quite literally having to make a name for themselves all over again, since they’d been forced to switch their moniker from Eiffel to Vaux midway through the Warped Tour due to legal reasons. But the newly christened six-piece’s triple-guitar-threat easily lured countless curious stragglers away from the other band tents. “Our overall response was fantastic,” Robison raves. “People would be walking by, and they’d stop and say, ‘Ooh, what’s this?’ And then they’d stick around. They could just tell that we put everything into our live show, and with kids, that’s going to make or break a band for them.”
As those daytime performances readily proved, even without their sensory-overloading lighting effects, fog machines, and Robison’s occasional Nashville Pussy-esque attempts at breathing fire, a Vaux concert is nothing short of spectacular. Again, it’s the band’s unflagging dedication that sets them apart. “This really is what we live to do—to play music and perform for people,” Robison stresses. “We really get off on watching people getting off watching us, and we totally go crazy onstage. In fact, we put so much into our shows that there’s been numerous times that we’ve fallen over or thrown up just because we’ve exerted ourselves physically so much.”
Amazingly, this energy and intensity isn’t lost in the translation onto tape, as There Must Be Some Way To Stop Them provides just as giddy an adrenaline rush as the Vaux live experience. Recording the album at Seattle’s Robert Lang Studios with producer John Goodmanson (Bikini Kill, Blonde Redhead, CIV, Catheters, Posies, Sleater-Kinney, Unwound), Vaux captured their dynamic live vibe by pushing themselves to their usual maximum: After practicing the songs nonstop for three solid months (“We made it our sole purpose,” says Robison), they recorded during marathon 14-hour days, emerging from the studio only to crash at the house of their friends’ band, Vendetta Red. “The recording process was awesome. We recorded 13 songs in three very short weeks, and 11 of them made the record,” Robison reveals. “We worked until 2:30 every morning, and it was pretty brutal, really hard work, but very rewarding.”
Perhaps the Robert Lang Studios environment itself—which is rumored to be haunted either by the Almighty (the walls are lined with hand-cut marble allegedly containing a visage of Jesus) or (probably more fitting in this instance) by Nirvana, who recorded their last-ever sessions there—had an effect on the album’s raw yet refined sound. But of course, Seattle grunge is only one of the many widely varying musical influences among Vaux’s six members. Further demonstrating their all-encompassing love of music, the guys also cite classic rock (drummer Joe McChan has been described as a “Keith Moon Jr.” and “mini-John Bonham”), Britrockers like South and Muse, intelligent hardcore bands like Refused, Ink & Dagger, and At The Drive-In, and “really good metal” (“not this cheesy crap you see on MTV”) as key inspirations.
The resulting album is an eardrum-obliterating, skull-bludgeoning, pulse-quickening, goosebump-inducing opus that, refreshingly, can’t be tidily compartmentalized in today’s marketing-minded world. “We’re not a punk band, we’re not really a hardcore band; however you choose to describe us, this is just very intense, well-thought-out music,” muses Robison. “When you listen to our CD, there’s so many layers that you can keep hearing new things.” And he’s right: From tightly wound, Helmet-on-amphetamines paint-peelers like “Fame” and “Ride Out Bitch” to the Sunny Day Real Estate-on-steroids juggernaut “Switched On,” from the Radiohead-in-a-knifefight-with-Trail-Of-Dead hyperballads “At Your Will” and “Four-Cornered Lives” to the sledgehammering, Master Of Puppets-esque album coda “Shot In The Back,” There Must Be Some Way To Stop Them offers the proverbial something for everyone yet somehow sounds like absolutely nothing else.
Following the release of There Must be Some Way To Stop Them, Vaux set-out on tour with bands such as Coheed & Cambria, The Used, Thrice, Vendetta Red, Blood Brothers, A Static Lullaby, Boy Sets Fire, STUN, The Hope Conspiracy, My Chemical Romance and others. Vaux had another stint on the 2003 Warped Tour and then went out with Andrew WK immediately following that. Theyhave been touring non-stop since the album’s release.
“We’ve done a pretty good job of being able to win over a fan of just about any kind of music,” Robison says proudly. But Vaux, who were named by Alternative Press magazine as one of “100 Bands To Watch” in 2003, have only begun in their mission to unite and conquer the currently fragmented rock world, one fan at a time. Says Robison with unwavering conviction, “We’re going to keep on doing this, because we’ve got a hell of a lot of ambition, and we think we can achieve absolutely everything we want.” Clearly, there is no way to stop them.