Wampire at Silver Dollar: Live Show and Interview
Wampire, the five-piece synth-pop band from Portland, parked their van on Toronto soil Oct. 14 and rocked out their funky tunes at the Silver Dollar as part of their fall tour, promoting their recently released sophomore album, Bazaar.
Opening for Wampire was Montreal indie rock band, TOPS. Lead singer Jane Penny impressed the crowd with stunningly smooth vocals layered over the band’s dance-y beats. Penny’s iconic falsetto was effortlessly executed and did not fall in the danger zone of being too pitchy. TOPS proved to have great stage presence, enticing the audience with their charismatic quirkiness. From the witty banter, to the amicable interactions between band mates, it was hard not to keep a smile on your face while watching TOPS perform.
Wampire donned the Silver Dollar stage next, and their vividly synth-driven melodies did not disappoint. After opening with a few first-record songs, including “Orchards” and “Trains,” the band dived into the high-energy sounds of their latest album. Among them were “Wizard Staff” and “The Amazing Heart Attack”. From drummer Thomas Hoganson’s impressive ability to lay down a solid beat, to Eric Phipps’ energetic guitar strums (while singing alongside fellow guitarist Rocky Tinder), the band held up to the groovy studio production found in both debut album, Curiosity, and Bazaar. The highlight of the night was the band’s performance of “The Hearse,” a favourite—showcasing keyboardist Owen Thompson’s synth riffs, complimented with mellow bass lines from Cole Browning.
Wampire began as a duo consisting of Phipps and Tinder, evolving along the way. “We started playing in Portland years ago, played more and more, added more people and wrote new songs,” said Tinder, which has led to the current Wampire of today. Despite the fact that they had been playing and performing music for multiple years, including an intimate show for friends in a cabin during 2009—which was filmed for Into The Woods, the band did not release official work until 2013’s Curiosty.
“We got signed to Polyvinyl, which put more kick in our step. We couldn’t just be lazy anymore,” said Phipps on the release of Curiosity. However, Wampire’s potential was recognized even before they had released anything, and caught the attention of fellow Portland synth-pop band, Starfucker. “We were just playing shows in Portland and found out that Josh was a fan of ours, which is super flattering because that was before we had anything out,” said Phipps, adding, “It’s a super weird thing that this band that we were pretty influenced by at the time was curious about hearing our stuff.”
Tinder agreed, saying, “Back then we were super fan boys of them [Starfucker] and we went on tour with them about a year ago.” Starfucker has since remixed Wampire’s “Orchards” and included their music in a mixtape where Joshua Hodges of Starfucker remixed hip-hop songs with their own.
Bazaar, Wampire’s most recent album, was released only weeks ago on Oct. 7, 2014, and has already been well received by critics and fans. This second album allowed the band to be more versatile, with accessibility to more equipment. “The first record was a little more lo-fi, mainly musically toying with songs that we’ve had for a long time,” said Phipps. Bazaar, however, was recorded in New York, which allowed them to implement the use of a plethora of instruments, including a grand piano, saxophone and “lots of instruments we wanted on the first record, but didn’t have access to.”
Although the second album misses the Hammond organ from Curiosity, which Thompon said was purchased off Cragislist, Bazaar definitely does not fall short of delivering an eccentric sound, full of foot-tapping tunes. Wampire truly offers various unique components in their music and its eclectic arrangement of melodies and instruments is likely something you haven’t experienced recently. If you happen to get the chance to catch a show, you’re in for a real groovy treat filled with dreamy vocals and electric guitar spontaneity.