Bleeding Hearts

Vendetta Red rock for the kids, not the scene.

Kurt Cobain concluded his awkward, tangential liner notes to Incesticide by hurling a monster gauntlet: “If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for usleave us the fuck alone!” Growing up in the conservative, football-first, white-collar suburbs of Canton, Ohio, I was one forever-changed white boy after reading that. Yeah, my testimonial reeks of clich頮ow, but Cobain’s Kurt-ness ignited the most important, meaningful journey of my life.

All you Warped Tourin’ kids in Bremerton, Kent, Redmond, and beyond, listen up: Vendetta Red are no Nirvana. At times, they’re no Blink 182. Their instrument-flinging, screamo-pop hysteria has always been not-for-me at best, fuck-that at worst. Thing is, the Bakersfield, Calif., transplants can take a right cross like Rocky. Talk shit about the quintet’s hefty Epic Records signing bonus or tag and bag ’em with a nasty review, and they’ll shake your hand at a show and compliment your witticism.

Maybe big billfolds beget blitheness, but the reality is, Vendetta Red never hadand don’t care to haveanything to do with Seattle’s impressively diversifying indie scene. Frontman Zach Davidson is extending an olive branch above your folks’ in-ground pool and patio and looking out for you. If Vendetta Red are gonna be your Nirvana, you could do a hell of a lot worse.

“Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re a fucking prophet,” Davidson suggests via telephone in L.A. “I enjoy being a role model, because I feel like I’m living a positive lifestyle and there needs to be a positive example for kids that have so much fucking negative shit thrown at them from all sides of the media, whether it’s the collegiate journalism inherent in Seattle’s underground scene, or the elitism inherent in the fucking hipster/electroclash scene, or the fucking negativity thrown at them from mainstream radio.”

Plenty of that “collegiate journalism” Hatorade (happy to oblige) stems from the Red’s stage show, a battle-axing, junior At the Drive-In pinball game in which Lennon-esque melody and bloodcurdling primal screams are safe bedfellows. The last drop: Davidson’s gorgeous Frieda-from-Peanuts curls and his frequent onstage shirtlessnessthe bastard tans like Paul Walker.

“It’s very, very fucking flattering when someone says you look like your hero,” Davidson concedes. “I mean, to me, Roger Daltrey is, like, probably the best frontman ever. I think he’s a beautiful person and it’s definitely not coincidental that I look like the dude. But I don’t think I look like him anymore now that my hair’s brown. Hell, dude, at least they’re not saying I look like somebody fuckin’ ugly.”

There’s contrivance and there’s Contrivance. Vendetta Red care about neither. Their just-released Epic debut, Between the Never and the Now, should sound awfully familiar to even casual listeners; it’s basically a mishmash of their previous LP White Knuckled Substance (Loveless) and the pop-punk-if-there-ever-was-pop-punk Cut Your Noose EP.

“[White Knuckled Substance] came out in November [2001], and we signed in January,” Davidson explains. “We were like, ‘Well, OK, so we go on a major label; can we rerecord these songs and make them sound, like, major-label style? Can you give us a lot of money to go in the fuckin’ studio and make a great record?’ And they were like, ‘Fuck yeah; do it.'”

New ties to the Man got Vendetta Red a hot-shit slot opening for AC/DC at the living legends’ purportedly only domestic gig of 2003, at N.Y.C.’s Roseland Ballroom in March. This had nothing to do with Angus Young’s musing (courtesy of Davidson’s spot-on Aussie twang): “Ya know who we really fuckin’ like right now? That Vendetta Red. Those Americans are fuckin’ great, mate.”

“It was a fuckin’ nightmare, dude.” Davidson sighs. “It was scary how blatantly homophobic a lot of that crowd is. AC/DC’s music, whether you like it or not, is not socially conscious. You wanna drink, fuck, and smoke weed when you listen to AC/DC . . . and eat steak. Fuckin’ American dream. I can handle anything, but I didn’t really like it when, before you play a fucking note, the minute you go onstage, people are yelling ‘Faggot!’ That, of course, made me have to go down there and start kissing boys.”

So, was my opening Nirvana analogy that much of a stretch? Answer: hell yes. Vendetta Red will not alter a pebble on the rock ‘n’ roll landscape. As to the landscape of (sigh . . . ) the heart? They’re bulldozers.

“It’s important to be a fuckin’ . . . voice of hope,” Davidson posits. “There’s enough people telling [kids] to hate each other. I’m not gonna do that. I’m gonna fuckin’ tell ’em to love each other, and I don’t give a fuck if I piss off all the fucking hipsters by being a goddamned hippie, because there should be more hippies in the fuckin’ world, you know? Love is all you need.”