Brilliant, audacious and hardworking WAMPIRE is a band that will make you dance and fill you with joy. Behind Portland's uprising trio is Eric Phipps (vocals, guitar), Rocky Tinder (vocals, guitar) and Cyrus Lampton (drums). Be on the lookout for their 7" which will be released this coming August!
We got the chance to have Rocky answer for us a few questions.
When and how did it all start?
Eric and I (Rocky) have been playing music together since we were in middle school. Before that, we both played in band class and that's actually how we met. I was playing trumpet, he was playing saxophone and we started hanging out. Eventually, we started playing guitar and jamming covers of MxPx, Social Distortion and other random stuff. Mostly punk at the time. Then in high school he and I and a couple friends of ours formed an avante-pop outfit root villa which started as an anti rock band but slowly took on a pop vibe while still being pretty naive sounding, but in a charming way. A few years later, Eric and I had to get out of our small home town Salem, Oregon. So we moved up to Portland and eventually started making music just the two of us. At first, our songs were all acoustic. Kind of street music but a friend of ours asked us to play at her dance party, so we started making sequenced beats and songs with more of a dance feel and tempo. The party was a week away and we quickly wrote 4 or 5 songs for it. People seemed to be pretty stoked about it and from there we just kept working on songs in that format. If it ain't broke don't fix it, right?
How did you come up with the name WAMPIRE?
That was actually kind of an inside joke we came up with when we were vacationing in Germany. Our friend Manuel spoke impeccable English, like he would use words that I didn't even know. But he ALWAYS and most of our German friends did this, always mixed up his V's and W's. One day he was translating a pizza menu for us (I think this is what happened, I might be making it up though) and he was trying to think of the word garlic. He says to us "what is it called? The food that repels a wampire?" At this point anytime he would mix up his V's and W's we would look at each other and chuckle, but this one really stuck and sent us into a fit of laughter. It became a fond memory and inside joke and when we were trying to come up with a suiting band name it came down to wampire and space heater. The choice seemed pretty obvious.
How would you describe your music to people who are new to your sound?
This is something we've always had trouble with. But when people ask I usually say something along the lines of really stoned dance rock. I feel like we might be in a slight transition too, so we have a handful of songs that all sound different. Some of our new songs sound like soul, some punk, some psych rock, some chillwave, so I’m just going to stick with way stoned dance shit until I or somebody comes up with something better.
From where do you get your inspiration?
I know personally a big inspiration for me was booking an all-ages venue for a year. I think that was huge in us deciding to go in more of an electronic direction. Seeing acts like Guidance Counselor and Jeffry Jerusalem changed the way I thought about music. Everybody has so much fun dancing yet the songs have so much heart and passion. There are also so many good local bands that have totally inspired me like Starfucker, Reporter, White Rainbow, Nurses - we're blessed to live in a town with so much good music, good food too!
Tell us a little bit about your music-making process?
It’s always different. For most of the songs I write, I’ll hear a melody somewhere or think of one, and kind of form in my head what I would like to do as far as chord structures and sounds on our song before I actually start sequencing it out. Then from there I tinker around on my synthesizer to beef it up, we'll prerecord some bass tracks and then bring it to Cyrus so he can figure out what he wants to do on drums. As we move along, we want to start including him more on the initial song writing process.
Who are your musical influences? And which artist do you look up to?
We were all pretty big fans of The Strokes when we were younger, or at least I know I was. I don't think there is any band that I could sing along to better. Weezer's Blue Album, Astrud Gilberto, J Dilla, Beach House, Dan Deacon, Broadcast, The Misfits, Air, Kraftwerk, Peter Bjorn and John, Ariel Pink, Tortoise - way too much stuff to list here.
Last year you released your first album on High Scores and Records but in cassette and digital format only. Will there also be a CD release?
Not of that batch of songs no. We made a bunch of burned cd's for tour, since not a whole lot of people buy tapes and we needed gas money, but I don't really regard that tape/download as an album so much. It's more like a demo that we wanted to spread around so people can hear what Eric and I were doing just the two of us. All of it is recorded in my bedroom and none of it was recorded after Cyrus joined the band. We’re working on a full length now that is recorded in a legit studio and with all three of us. The full length will have new versions of most of the songs off our first release as well.
If you had to name your favorite song on your self-titled LP. What would it be and why?
Wooby Dooby, the reason being that people often go nuts to this song when we play it live and there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a crowd of people having a blast listening to something you have created.
I was pleasantly surprised by your cover of Kraftwerk's Das Model. I really didn't expect you guys to sing in German moreover from the forefathers of electronic music. Did you send them a copy of the single? If so what was their reaction?
No we never sent them a copy! I guess I hadn't really thought about that! I spent so much time trying to figure out the legalities of covering the song that when I found out its okay to do a small run of a cover song without paying, I felt satisfied and forgot about it. Geeze, I really should.
Yeah the whole singing in German thing was a no brainer. The song sounds so much better in German and the translation into English changes the context of the song.
You've perfectly replicated your live sound on your album. Was it your intention?
Well yes and no. Our songs have so many prerecorded instruments that we would have to add ten more members to accurately recreate the recordings live. So yes, we want the songs to sound the same live as they do on the recordings, and if we were to do it the three of us without sequenced elements the songs wouldn't sound anything like the recordings. There is bass, keyboard, and backup vocals that we can't do when we're already playing guitar and singing. It’s also really nice to have the backing track because it keeps us tight and aligned with each other.
Talking about your live shows, as I watched several videos of your live performances I was amazed by the blissful atmosphere you create and also the energy you put in your songs like wooby dooby and magic light. So my question is when the audience leaves the show what do you always want them to remember of the gig?
I want them to remember that we we're not only pouring our hearts out into the performance, but being goofy and playful and trying to make them smile and be happy. It’s crucial to have a sense of humor in what you do and I’d like people to recognize that we are definitely not taking ourselves too seriously or trying to look super cool.
Portland seems to have a rich music scene with bands such as Nurses, Y△CHT, White Rainbow, White Fang and Guidance Counselor to name a few, how do you explain that?
Something in the water, maybe? Yeah I agree. The music scene is fucking awesome here. I’m pretty glad to be here instead of Seattle, no offense Seattle; it's just not your decade. I think it's also the abundant house show scene. People have the opportunity to play a packed show no matter what, here in Portland, so it gives people more freedom to do what they want and not what they think people want to hear.
You'll be releasing a 7" this coming august, which if I'm correct shall be the first one ever since Cyrus your new drummer joined the band. What should we expect?
Fucking clean sexy drum sounds and awesome mixing by our wonderful producer Jacob Portrait. Jacob Portrait is lord.
Where do you see WAMPIRE 5 years from now?
Hopefully making music for a living, touring the world and writing music that bleeds more emotion than we have ever written before. This band is all I want to do and I spend most of my time working on it, so if that pays off I will be soooooooooooo happy in life.
One last question, what's on replay?
"Tin Man" by Future Islands. I saw this band when they came through town a couple months ago. They gave me the chills and made me cry a little. They also kind of changed my life. Dum Dum Girls too.
Thank you to WAMPIRE for answering our questions.