If your teenager doesn’t already think Windmill Vandals are the hottest young band in town, then it’s only a matter of time before they get caught up in the energy and hype these high school rockers are generating. Made up of singer/songwriter Travis Tighe, drummer Dakota Dobbin, guitarist Zach Wallace, and bassist Ezra Danley, the Vandals have moved up the ranks to dominate the S.B. band scene in recent months, despite sporting a median age of only 16 years old.
“We’re still a baby band, just trying to figure out our stuff,” said Tighe. Indeed, the band’s only been around for two years, having formed when all four members were students at Santa Barbara Middle School (SBMS). They started out jamming classic rock covers, like AC/DC and Van Halen (“It was a delightfully awkward experience,” said Tighe of their first meeting), but pretty soon their distinctive oldie-blues-meets-hard-rock sound bubbled to the surface. Within a year, their music was being played on national television; “Slow Motion” got airtime on the season premiere of Entourage and “Mousetrap” showed up on the revamped 90210 just a few months later.
Now in their junior year of high school—Tighe, Dobbin, and Danley go to Santa Barbara High, and Wallace is at Dos Pueblos—the Vandals have developed a following of real-life groupies. Although they started out playing smaller shows at Jensen’s Mainstage and the SBMS Songfest, they really hit their stride at area all-ages shows because, as the guys explain, they could word-of-mouth advertise at the high schools. And it’s easy to see why: these four emanate an Urban Outfitters-meets-California cool brand of charisma that has easily solidified their places in the hearts and minds of local teens.
With their Slow Motion EP available on iTunes, the Vandals have pushed themselves to the proverbial next level. They’ve also recorded two new songs, which they’re hoping to release by the end of March. And if they have their way, they will score a record deal by senior year. If that doesn’t happen, college might mean a band breakup, though Dobbin and Tighe both say that music is their career of choice, no matter what happens to the Windmill Vandals.
In the end, though, the guys are still teenagers with the pressure of high school on their minds. “But we’re willing for it to cut into our school life,” said Dobbin. And yes, they’ve still got their parents cheering them on from the back of their shows. “They dance and do embarrassing things,” said Wallace with a laugh.