For 50 years, youthful rebellion has been the backbone of rock ‘n’ roll. Sure, the once-antiestablishment genre has morphed into our country’s greatest cultural and commercial behemoth, but raw, unadulterated rock still thrives in drunken, seedy corners of every American city.
One such band of merry pranksters making garage-tinged psych-pop is Indianapolis’ Vacation Club.
“We’re pretty much just about having fun,” says guitarist Jeb Lambert. “We figured we were already hanging out on Friday and Saturday nights drinking beer, so why not start a band that people would want to hear? Then we’d get to drink for free, and that’s enough motivation right there.”
In a very basic way, Vacation Club represents every kid’s rock ‘n’ roll fantasy. Lambert, singer/guitarist Sam Thompson, bassist Brandon Jackson and drummer Jered Sheline all moved to Indianapolis from various small Indiana towns. Thompson says everyone was in “shitty punk bands” in high school, and an original iteration of Vacation Club even had Lambert playing drums while Sheline played bass.
“But we thought, ‘This is stupid,’” Lambert laughs. “‘Our drummer’s good, and Jeb can’t play drums, so let’s make him play guitar.’”
Of course, Lambert had to teach himself the instrument. But no worry — he supplemented his love of Frank Zappa and other inventive garage-rock greats with an immersion in country pioneers like George Jones and Buck Owens.
“I play a lot of one-note, hooky melodies,” Lambert says. “So that early ’50s and ’60s stuff really influences my guitar stylings.”
Beyond those inspirations, Thompson hesitates to attribute Vacation Club’s style to anything else. “Of course we like music,” the band’s frontman says. “But we don’t really take time out of our day to over-think it. So sure, whatever we play is slightly ripped off from our favorite stuff.”
Ripped off or not, there’s no denying the infectious energy of Vacation Club’s music. Multi-part vocal harmonies add crystalline layers to jangley, lo-fi instrumentation. It’s saccharine and slightly dangerous at the same time, shards of six-string freak-outs rubbing shoulders with doo-wop-inspired love jams. And anyone who’s a fan of music from the ’60s will appreciate Vacation Club’s sonic qualities.
“We’ve recorded everything at home on a reel-to-reel TASCAM machine,” Lambert says. “We just moved out of the house we lived and jammed in for two years, but Brandon and Sam got a new house where we do all of our recording.”
Vacation Club has released several singles, EPs and cassettes on GloryHole Records and Happenin Records. As for touring, the band’s upcoming month-long run is its most extensive yet, hitting both coasts and the Midwest.
“We’re pretty excited,” Thompson says. “But other than getting our music out there, hitting new places and visiting old friends, our aspirations for this tour aren’t that high. It’s just a ‘drink and have a month-long vacation’ type of thing.”
If you haven’t figured it out, Vacation Club likes to have fun. On their website, they describe themselves as “Purveyors of weekend sexuality and punk ritual … four young roughs with tendencies to burn bridges/bend light.” But it’s not just their raucous performances that have turned Vacation Club into leading Indianapolis lights.
“We’ve been lucky to fall in with a group of very active friends and bands in the Fountain Square scene,” Thompson reasons. “We all put on house shows and organize events. It’s pretty unified — or at least we try to make it like that.”
Thompson says that house shows are still Vacation Club’s favorites, too. “People get a little more drunk since they don’t have to spend money on bar liquor,” he laughs. “And the crowd’s a little more tightly packed, which is more fun for us than being on stage.”
If this all sounds familiar to anyone well versed in St. Augustine’s similarly DIY music scene, Vacation Club recognizes it, too. “Last time we were in Florida, we met some of the coolest people ever,” Lambert raves. “Everywhere we played and hung out we had a blast, so we’re stoked to come back.”
At home, the four men of Vacation Club all lead relatively normal lives: Thompson works as a bill collector, Lambert and Jackson both cook at restaurants and Sheline drives a cupcake delivery truck. But for now, that’s more than enough, according to Thompson.
“I don’t see us moving to a bigger city in the immediate future,” he says. “Right now, we’re all pretty satisfied with what we’ve been able to pull together here in Indianapolis.”