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Vandal Hearts

The Pittsburgh-based artist making unlikely trippy K-Pop-influenced beats speaks to us about Creme Eggs, Celine Dion, and his love of U2

Despite what his Soundcloud claims, Owen McLean (aka Vandal Hearts, or sometimes Joseph Nanner) isn't from Seoul, but Pittsburgh PA, where nine-piece K-Pop girl-groups aren't quite as common. There, he makes hi-NRG instrumentals where chiptune slides on an oilslick of warehouse-sized beats. 'Mermaids' is happy hardcore giddiness with stuttering defibrillator tic-tic-tics, while new track 'Stumblez Dance / Heaven' (premiered exclusively on Dazed Digital today) plays out like a cosmic UK Garage track with its diced vocals and majestic synths. Home is where the heart is though: a passing email reference to the neon-lit Korean pop scene quickly turns into a YouTube dork-out.

Dream vocalist to collaborate with? Celine Dion, who else? And if I can't get her then ORIGA. She killed it on the FFXIII-2 soundtrack


…The story behind the name?
One day I accidentally started making sloppy dance tracks as 'Vandal' and then I remembered this game Vandal Hearts I used to pick up at this crummy rental store as a kid. I've never played it but I like the name and the vibe. I remember cool warriors and babes and colourful, lo-fi graphics, but I'm almost positive I'm remembering it wrong.

…Your favourite video game?

FF7. It sounds cliche, but that shit is sacred. All it takes is a few seconds of 'Holding My Thoughts In My Heart' to see that there's something magical going on there.

…Your top 3 K-Pop recommendations?

'Lies' by Big Bang was the first K-Pop song I really loved and it's still one of my favorites. It's got this shitty, thin, GarageBand-y piano and cheesy rapping that's really great. The chorus is killer, and you can tell at the time they were like "We gotta squeeze some Timbaland stuff in here somewhere" so there are these stabby 'My Love'-ish synths and filtered vocals in the background. The video is also particularly great.

'Shampoo' by After School
is probably my all-time favourite… It's at least the one I've listened to the most. Although I actually prefer the Japanese version because it's got snippets of English. Not enough can be said about it - it's pretty much perfect.

The third is probably 'Tell Me' by Wonder Girls. It's just another classic that's always been in my head since I heard it.

…Your worst vice?

Domino's. Or BonChon Chicken - it's this Korean chicken that's double-fried and slathered in this soy garlic sauce. My girlfriend lives right across the street from one so we're constantly tempted. It's a dangerous setup.

…Your dream music video?

Some type of fucked-up collaboration between David O'Reilly, Tabor Robak, Nate Boyce, Brenna Murphy and Ryan Trecartin. Inspired by Sailor Moon. And makeup commercials. Edited by Wolfgoreshow. Set to a Tobacco song. Slowed down 800 percent.

…The best party you've ever been to?

I don't think I've ever been to a good party honestly. Unless I'm DJing they just kind of mind-numbing. Every once and awhile all my friends and I get together and get kinda drunk and watch Bravo. Does that count?

…Your favourite type of candy?

Cadbury Creme Eggs. There's just something so, so wrong about them but I still love them. Aero bars are also great!

…Your dream vocalist to collaborate with?

Celine Dion, who else? And if I can't get her then ORIGA. She killed it on the FFXIII-2 soundtrack.

…The movie you wish everyone knew about?

U2: Rattle and Hum. I fucking love U2.

…The least cool item of clothing in your closet?

All of them. I believe in the holy trinity of old white guy clothes - LL Bean, Eddie Bauer, and Land's End. I have this one navy blue winter parka that is as thick as a comforter and goes all the way down to my ankles… I look like an axe murderer in it and I love it.

… The cartoon/anime character that you most relate to?

I don't really relate to them at all, and I think that's what's beautiful about it. If I do feel something it's like a totally separate thing from my own life - it's just taking place in that suspended world that's been created. I've been thinking a lot about fantasy and what it means to me and I think I don't relate to those characters - I actually envy them in some weird way. It's an escapism thing for sure, but it also ends up having a positive influence in my real life in some super weird, indirect, refracted way. It's just a feeling. I dunno. Probably Ein from Cowboy Bebop.

…The thing you'd save if your house was on fire?

Any DiGiornos that are left in the freezer. A man's gotta eat, you know? Actually I'd let them cook in the fire and then get them. So in that case I guess I'd save this giant stuffed monkey I keep around. It'd be sad to see him go...

…Your favourite website?

Whichever one lets me watch Storage Wars for free.

…What are you listening to RIGHT NOW?

Old Skam records and the Metal Gear Solid soundtrack. AT THE SAME TIME.

How would you describe your music?

The aural equivalent of a pack of Haribo gummy bears and a Vanilla Coke.