Death and grief are universal, but on Vundabar’s Smell Smoke, these themes feel timelier than ever. In 2018, as each day in America offers a new and urgent political crisis, societal problems find ways to seep into our daily routines and private lives. For Brandon Hagen, the past few years have been impossibly difficult; while making music and touring with his busy and successful rock band, Hagen found himself forced to care for a dying loved one. That unfortunately very real, and very relatable pain fueled Vundabar’s most recent release, a feverish collection of personal and political turmoil that highlights the many flaws of modern American culture.
During their recent Paste studio session, Vundabar played three songs from Smell Smoke, including deceptively jaunty album opener “Acetone.” In the track’s video, Hagen dances around a grave, but he’s the one eventually buried inside it. “Acetone,” about fake “bleached personas,” suggests the dark fate of someone who is detaching from reality.
“Big Funny” tackles the controversial topic of American healthcare. “Hospital receipts, they make a coffin seem so cheap,” Hagen sings. “It’s just wild,” Hagen told Paste. “When we go to other countries that have really solid government programs for healthcare and art and everything… how don’t we have this yet? I don’t know.”
Watch Vundabar’s full Paste session, also including “Tonight I’m Wearing Silk,” right here.