XENOMANIA artists:

Origin: England
Years active: 2008-present
Members: Alex Vargas, Stephen Carter, Luke Fitton, Sam Odiwe, Karl Penney
Vagabond official site
Vagabond MySpace
Vagabond Facebook
Vagabond YouTube
Vagabond Twitter
Vagabond Bebo
Vagabond news
Cloud Circus
Do You Fear Me?
Don't Wanna Run No More
I Hope You Know Better
I Know A Girl
I Said Hello
I've Been Wanting You
Smile of Mona Lisa
More Than You Can Take
Sweat (Until The Morning)

Don't Wanna Run No More (single)
release date: 3 August 2009

Sweat (Until The Morning) (single)
release date: 11 June 2009

Vagabond are an international five-piece pop/rock band with a bluesy and soulful sound. They are signed to the newly-revived Geffen label and are being launched by Xenomania.

The group consists of Alex Vargas (vocals, acoustic guitar), Stephen Carter (backing vocals, guitar), Luke Fitton (backing vocals, guitar), Sam Odiwe (bass) and Karl Penney (drums). They have roots in Uruguay, Denmark, East London and Huddersfield.

History and formation

They met in the Xenomania studio in 2008 and have been crafting their sound under the guidance of Brian Higgins. "It all started out in a studio in Kent where I was working with our producer working on material and met Steve [Carter] and Luke [Fitton] down there", Alex says. "That was the basis, that was Vagabond basically. We started doing some acoustic shows, kept working hard, and eventually found Karl [Penney], who was recommended to us. We met Sam [Odiwe] while touring with another band he was playing for."

"We were a band before we even knew it", says guitarist Luke Fitton. "It's luck I guess, being in the right place at the right time. Just so happens we found each other in a studio in Kent".

Musical style and influences

The band's MySpace site lists Sly & The Family Stone, Hall & Oates, The Spencer Davis Group, Cat Stevens, Sam Cooke, INXS and Duran Duran as influences, while their record label Geffen claim that Alex Vargas is a cross between Michael Hutchence and Bryan Ferry.

Front man Alex Vargas explains Vagabond's sound: "The most important and key thing for us is that our music is soulful. We are influenced by many genres of music - pop, rock, lounge, funk and blues - as we all come from different parts of the world but we always come back to soul."

Writing process

Vagabond's music isn't written in the more traditional way; instead, the group follows Xenomania's process. Stephen Carter says that Xenomania is about "stepping outside" and looking at things in different ways: "[They encourage] you to be creative in every way, as opposed to just maybe sitting at a piano, which may well work for others. Some of our songs will have like five or six different versions, different chord progressions, before settling on the final version."

Alex Vargas explains the music writing process: "You get a track ready, you blast it out of speakers, you have a Dictaphone, and I'll sing over that, trying out different ideas, looking for varying melodies. It could literally just be a 4 bar drum loop, (...) and after that you go back and listen to the melodies again and pick out the best ones. Quite often you find the best ones come out in a string, and you can find yourself taking something from the beginning and something from the very end, and they'll fit perfectly well together. It was quite intimidating when I first did it, it's a really interesting, really productive way of writing."

"They like to get the best out of you as producers", says Luke Fitton. "Brian [Higgins] is so driven and likes to try new ideas. He makes you re-learn what's worth playing in some ways, he had me trying all sorts of different things out, it's good to get out of your comfort zone from time to time".

Xenomania's guidance

Xenomania's emphasis on studio perfection has been an inspiration. When Alex Vargas and his band first started working with Xenomania, he was skeptical - he thought he was a rock singer. Brian Higgins begged to differ: "There's nothing wrong with teenage musicians having an idea that doesn't tally with their ability," says the producer. "That's called being young. Growing up is about learning who you really are and what your true ability is. If Xenomania stands for anything, it's about trying to get clarity into that situation far quicker than life experience allows."

Alex Vargas admits that it required some adjusting to work with Xenomania: "It was a bit of a mindf***, to realise, not that what I'd been doing before I met Brian was wrong, but to go in there as a 17-year-old, a bit arrogant, used to having a band and telling everyone what to do, and suddenly meet someone with such authority. He's a very intimidating man. I was so impressed with how he opened my eyes; just the brutal honesty - you don't get that with many people."

Brian Higgins says he was attracted to Vargas because he could hear in his head the music he felt the front man should be making. "As important as I knew I was for Alex, because I had a vision of where he could be, he was of critical, enormous importance to us, because of this sense that we would be able to move forward into areas we hadn't been able to go to before, because there hadn't been a voice of that nature." In the early days, Vargas was all higher register and rock phrasing, a sound his rock-poster-boy image and looks would certainly suit. Higgins, though, had "a hunch that he wasn't particularly a rock singer but a soul singer".

Photobucket Live shows (List of live shows)

Since playing their first acoustic show in 2008, a gruelling schedule of studio work and national touring has seen Vagabond develop their live show. The band's gigs have seen a steadily increasing fanbase.

Vagabond were asked to be the main support to James Morrison on his UK Spring tour, in 2009.

Discography (Vagabond's complete discography)

Vagabond's first release was More Than You Can Take, a limited 12'' EP that came out on September 2008.

The debut album from Vagabond (titled You Don't Know the Half Of It! - a line from the song "Smile Of Mona Liza") arrives June 22nd. Their first single, "Sweat (Until The Morning)", is due June 8th.

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