The Surreal Life of The Von Tramps

July 17, 2020 by Jimmy Alvarez

History. It’s an interesting word that means different things depending on your perspective. Merriam-Webster defines it asa chronological record of significant events (such as those affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes. Scholastically speaking, that’s an accurate statement, but the reality of living through history is something different all together.
The subtext of history will always lead us back to some of our favorite moments in our lives. There are some not-so-good memories in this consideration as well. Whatever it is, it’s different for all of us….good, bad, or indifferent. For most of us, music has always been a constant when we think of our past, present, or future. This is a story about one of those weird moments where some of these themes merged.
I remember being a kid and marveling at the legends before they became icons. Names like Johnny Cash, John Lee Hooker, Lou Reed, and Bowie were at the top of my list. I vividly recall many of the things Bowie did (I was about 15 when he was killing it). To me, it seemed when something was happening in “history,” Bowie always had a few words to say about it. Most of the time it was comforting or thought provoking. Now fast forward to 2020 where we have a lot (understatement!) going on.

Sadly, there are no more summer nights on the Warped Tour, covering bands playing with lions in Vegas, or experiencing the “next big thing” to land at the Roxy.
All those shows are – for the moment – no more. Has 2020 robbed us of all our great memories? To some extent yes. But is 2020 a total bust? The answer is no!
That’s the thing about history; it may be one thing on the surface, but in another area, it shows us who we are.
This story is about a band I admire very much for how they’ve handled themselves during this Zombie apocalypse. Hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, that band is… The Von Tramps.

When you think of Minneapolis, you probably think Prince, the Replacements, Vanity 6, Atmosphere, Soul Asylum, and the Andrew Sisters. Bands and artists that are larger than life,  and they’ve brought a spotlight to Minneapolis.

So why include the Von Tramps in this pantheon of legends? The answer is easy. First and foremost,  they are a very talented band, but that’s not why. They put on a great live show and their fans love them, but, again, that’s not why. The reason is in the subtext of who they are as people.
On the surface, they are known for their uber-hit “14B” and other fan favorites “L.A.,” “New Year’s Day” and “Summer Nights.” Their music has been heard from coast-to-coast and around the world.
You see, 2020 was supposed to be their year. The year this band exploded. The year we all got to know them up front and personal. The year Main Street USA was supposed to fall in love with them. With a number of high profile shows and festivals lined up, 2020 was supposed to be the year of The Von Tramps.

This band was destined to be the “next big thing.” THEN, “the virus” reared its ugly head. Show after show and festival after festival canceled due to the global pandemic. Devastating news kept rolling in. The impact it had on people everywhere on the planet has been heartbreaking.
So what to do? Well, honestly… most people who were on the brink of major stardom like this might be a little pissed off for a multitude of reasons. You work so hard your entire life to be put in that position, and then the rug is pulled out right from under you. So what did The Von Tramps do?
They didn’t bitch… they didn’t act a fool or meltdown on Twitter. Most importantly, they didn’t feel sorry for themselves. Instead, they used their well-earned notoriety to help fellow musicians and local businesses. They also helped people in their community and as a result, they became a voice for many in their area. This isn’t something that earns a band extra record sales or gigs in 2020, so why do it?

Therein lies the reason for this story. The Von Tramps represent what’s good and decent about all of us. Like Prince and all those other legendary artists, they bring a positive energy to Minneapolis. With all that’s been going on, especially with the national protests that continue, the band has put their arms around their community. By doing so, they’ve brought attention to causes that needed help in Minneapolis. That in itself is a thankless task, and when you’re knee deep in it, you think maybe your efforts don’t matter. But they do, and from the outside looking in… people notice!
Of course, bands are ultimately judged by their music. They are a fantastic band, and they will blow up once we get back to a normal-ish reality. For now, they bring a new type of respect to the Minneapolis music community; doing the right things and setting a positive example. Habits reflect character.
The Von Tramps will be held by that standard. Even though they have many causes they are helping with, they somehow managed to work on a new music video for their song called “Sara” from their album “The Future Is Female.” Since they couldn’t get together to work on a “standard” music video, they hooked up with animator Amy Duel to create a defining and innovative video.  

So who are The Von Tramps? They are simply an electrifying band. They embody the energy of Fishbone, with the musical delivery of Blink 182, and the vocals of The Cranberries. They are as legit as it gets. The band features Jenna Enemy on vox/guitar, Chelsea Oxborough on guitar, Krissandra Anfinson on bass, and Kieran O’Donoghue on the skins.
We asked bassist Kissandra for her thoughts on “Sara.” She said “I think everyone’s had that experience where your best friend gets into a new relationship and ghosts you. And maybe that new person doesn’t even like you and that can be very painful. ‘Sara’ is the extreme of that, but the message we want to convey is give your friends all the space to get into new relationships and have their back no matter what. True friendship always has space for growth. And you know, dinosaurs.”
About “Sara,” lead singer Jenna said “If your friend starts dating someone that is a complete nightmare – it’s your duty as a friend to stand by them and get them to wake up. When a friend’s relationship becomes toxic for you – it’s time to leave. And there may be space for them to rejoin you later – after the inevitable break up. ‘Sara’ is a really fun weird video.”
Guitarist Chelsea Oxborough said “Sara is a song based on a true story of a friend of mine dating someone new and that someone suddenly stealing them away from all the things we sued to do together. The video is loosely based  off of the early 2000’s web series “Teen Girl Squad” from the HomeStarRunner website – anyone remember those videos? Maybe our age is showing!  The song is a fan favorite and we wanted to bring it back and give it its’s own release.”

The video is as advertised, it’s fun and quirky, and a perfect fit for them.
Whatever your thoughts are on what a band should be, The Von Tramps are an excellent model on how to be good people and a good band. The truth about anyone’s character is always expressed through the choice of their actions. In the end, talent and album sales will give any band power, but character will get them something more valuable: respect. That’s an accomplishment money or album sales can’t buy. Hats off to The Von Tramps for being at the top of that hits list. Hopefully 2021 will be the year we get to see this band live. For now, take in “Sara.” It’s definitely a defining video!

As for the band, they’re still helping their fellow musicians and their local community in every way they can. They also have new merch, so check it out.