Vagrant Records by Jake Cleeves

Inspired by his true punk rock roots, Rich Egan took the independent label, Vagrant Records, into a fresh and new punk rock era.  Egan envisioned a brand of music that would be truly recognizable to the world of listeners.  With a little mixture of pop and emotion, Egan came up with an exceptional formula that would be accepted by numerous punk rockers of the time.

In 1994, Egan, along with his fellow comrade Jon Cohen, established the home base of Vagrant Records in Santa Monica, California.  In 1995, Vagrant put out their debut record called West x North South.  The compilation album featured a handful of punk rock, emo and indie rock artists such as Down By Law, Tilt, J Church and Face to Face.  Following the success of the album, Vagrant quickly released a second compilation album that would go on to sell 70,000 copies.  The name of the album: Before You Were Punk.   This feature was made up of a variety of pop punk bands that performed covers of various 1980s new wave hits.  Some of the songs included Blink 182 performing “Dancing with Myself,” Unwritten Law performing “Goody Two Shoes,” and Good Riddance performing “I Melt with You.”  With both compilation albums starting to ignite the idea of Vagrant’s brand of music, it was time for them create an explosion in the punk rock scene.

The Get Up Kids - Something to Write Home About

They were able to accomplish this when Vagrant signed their first major act, The Get Up Kids. The Kansas City pop punk group released their debut album with Vagrant Records, Something to Write Home About, in 1999.  The album was a huge success and it ended up being just what Vagrant needed to put them on the map.

Vagrant Records was starting to make a name for themselves and they found many artists looking their way.  They went on to sign three significant acts that would set up the foundation of the Vagrant brand.  These acts included Saves the Day, Dashboard Confessional and Alkaline Trio.  Each band brought something new to the table.  Saves the Day, straight from Princeton, New Jersey, would become Vagrants next successful act.  The power pop group released their 3rd recorded album with Vagrant Records entitled Stay What You Are.  The album went on to sell over 200,000 copies and produced two singles, “At Your Funeral” and “Freakish,” which made several appearances on MTV2.

Vagrant’s next act put the emo in emotion.  Dashboard Confessional was highlighted by singer/songwriter and front man, Chris Carrabba.  The group released their first album with Vagrant entitled The Places You Have Come to Fear Most.  This album would produce the widely successful single, “Screaming Infidelities,” which beat out Norah Jones, The Hives and The Strokes as the MTV2 video of the year.  The band also recorded the song “Vindicated” in the summer of 2004 for the hit movie Spider-Man 2.  The song was included on the soundtrack and played over the end credits of the film.  (Vindicated video)

The final group that would set up the foundation of the label Vagrant Records was none other than Alkaline Trio.  The eerie punk rock trio recorded their first album with Vagrant Records named From Here to Infirmary.  The album hailed the two singles “Private Eye” and “Stupid Kid” and was Alkaline Trio’s first album to make the Billboard top 200 and gross six figures in sales.

These three acts would go on to be the most important pieces of the puzzle.  Vagrant Record’s featured style and brand would rain on for several years and reach out to teenage punk rockers of the generation.  His acts were touring the nation and playing affordable shows for that broke teenager that couldn’t come up with the cash.

Vagrant Today

With the excitement of emo rock starting to die out, Vagrant Records has definitely found a way to broaden and diversify their roster.  They have dipped into the singer/songwriter pool signing artists like PJ Harvey, James Vincent McMorrow and John Gold.  These artists have been taking a slight approach to the Music 2.0 philosophy as several of them have live streaming of their albums on their websites.

In 2009, The controversial, German metal band, Rammstein, signed a marketing and distribution deal with Vagrant Records.  Vagrant also released Waylon Jennings‘ last album where he performs 8 cover songs and sings with his son.

So, even though the hype of emo rock wasn’t what it used to be, it takes nothing away from what Rich Egan and Vagrant Records accomplished.  They truly became one of the most recognizable indie labels of the time and created a brand a music that reached out to that teenage punk rock culture.



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