The Rapidian

Vagabonds frontman Luke Dean launches tour, full-album release

Luke Dean of Vagabonds delivers honest lyrics, emotional intensity in his highly anticipated full-album release.

 

 

“I’m not really anybody.”

That is something that Luke Dean, the frontman of the band Vagabonds, often says about himself. With a brown checked blazer pulled over a hoodie and a fanny pack strapped to his waist, Dean’s style fits the hipster chic of any Eastown coffee shop. And yet, something about Dean stands out. A quiet confidence underlies Dean’s sheepish grin and self-deprecating jokes.

Vagabonds, an emo band, kicked off its latest tour at Calvin College’s Festival of Faith & Music, alongside artists Julien Baker and David Bazan. Sharing an appearance with La Dispute at Blood Fest, Vagabonds has shows scheduled through May 27.

Becoming a Vagabond

Music has always captured Dean’s attention. He started playing cello in the fifth grade, and added the guitar and bass to his repertoire in 8th grade. Upon entering high school, Dean kicked off his first band. It wasn’t exactly a success.

“We were really bad. Picture a bunch of kids sitting around a basement, playing Green Day covers for hours,” Dean said.

Music never proved an easy path forward. Despite having a nearly 4.0 GPA and numerous scholarship offers, Dean doubted that college was for him.

“I love learning and being tested. I like completing things. But I needed to learn in a different way.” Faced with the choice between pursuing a formal education, and a career in music, Dean chose music.

“Music was the only thing I felt drawn to. The only I place I felt at home.”

The choice did not go over well with Dean’s friends and relatives. They held a rigid view of success: go to college, find a job, and settle down. Differing views of success created feelings of isolation and self-doubt, inspiring Dean’s first song. The name Vagabonds reflected the inconsistency that comes from life on the road. Things never remained constant - they kept moving, just like Dean when he embarked on his first tour at age 18.

“Sometimes, I wish I was braver,” Dean admitted.

From Lansing to Texas

Touring for months on end can exhaust any musician, even a veteran. Introverted artists like Dean face an especially tough time.

“I love meeting people between sets, but it’s definitely not how I recharge,” said Dean.

From June through August of 2015, Dean performed every day in any available space: backyards, attics, porches, and coffee shops. Driving across the country with only his guitar and friends met on the road, Dean struggled with intense bouts of loneliness and depression.

“Each night, I played hard. I left it all out there. And then I walked away.”

Between shows, Dean read about Biblical characters who struggled in dark places. Old Testament tales - Jonah running from God and Daniel praying in the lion’s den - fascinated Dean. “There are sad things. It’s okay to identify with the struggle, being caught in a hopeless place, running from God. These are things we all experience - they are not just storybook.”

The tour’s standout show took place in a basement associated with Lansing’s Straight Edge Scene. Thirty hardcore punk kids packed in close enough to touch the microphone stands. When Vagabonds hit the first guitar note, the crowd lost its collective mind. Kids dogpiled on a couch mattress and sprayed cans of root beer, screaming at the top of their lungs. At one point, Dean flung himself onto the crowd on a whim. Gliding across the crowd’s hands felt weightless, almost like flying.

“It was this moment of euphoric aggression washing out pain. It was the best thing ever,” Dean said.

Dean’s favorite moment of the tour came when he met a young fan in Texas, who had recently left a stay in the hospital. The kid pulled off his shirt, showing off the Vagabonds tattoo on his shoulder. He explained that jamming to a Vagabonds mixtape on repeat had got him through the pain of a major leg injury. If even one stranger found solace while listening to Vagabonds, then all the rigors of touring became worth it to Dean.

We are Going to See the King

For his first full-length album, Dean gathered songs written from when he was 18 to 20, capturing the feelings of this chaotic period. Opting for a lo-fi production, Dean recorded the album in his bedroom, leaving in glitches and slip ups. Inspired by Pedro the Lion and Bright Eyes, the album features simple guitar riffs and harsh vocals.

Vagabond’s lyrics express raw emotion, but end--intentionally--on a redemptive note. One of the album’s final lines proclaims, “We are going to see the king, Hallelujah.”

“Vagabonds isn’t a hardcore band, but it brings a similar catharsis that others refrain from,” Dean said.

The release of Vagabond’s first album is expected in the summer of 2017. For upcoming tour dates and updates, visit Vagabond’s website at http://vagabondsmichigan.bandcamp.com/.

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