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INTERVIEW WITH THE WAMPIRE

Wampire: Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps. A somewhat enigmatic duo from Portland, Oregon. These two make pop music feel replayed at the wrong speed, stamped on, then fed back through ancient speakers. Dreamy and confused indie, some say; Rocky and Eric say psych pop. In other words, it's all a little screwed up, which is always a good thing (at least in my music dictionary). 

Friends since childhood, Tinder and Phipps are fierce, very witty, and most importantly, they don't take themselves too seriously even if they're rather obsessed with making some sweet epic tunes. Their big debut album Curiosity (released in June this year) is the perfect mixture of soft-rock, soul, psychedelia, combined with a wobbly tone of infectious pop tunes lavishly coated with a psychedelic rush. The songs are a mélange of weirdly genuine gloom filled with black humor. 

I got a chance for a little  chit-chat with Eric and I'm more than happy to share it with you guys. Wanna know more about Curiosity, its production, the band's life philosophy, ...? You've come to the right place, my friend. Just keep on reading. 

Hi Rocky and Eric, how're you doing?

Hey! It's Eric here. I'll try my best to speak for both of us ... We are doing very well! Thanks for asking. We are fresh off a month of tour in Australia, and now we head off to Europe to see some particular areas, like Slovenia, that we have never ever dreamed of travelling to. We are very excited for this trip! 

How and when did you two meet? I know you've been together (as a band) for around six years now.

We actually met around 5th grade, when we were starting to play in the concert band at school. We were young idiots. Rocky was playing trumpet and I was playing saxophone. Then, as time went by, we became more interested in punk and rock'n'roll, and we picked up guitar and bass. By the time we were off to high school neither one of us was playing brass or woodwinds anymore. We started making attempts at songwriting, using our primitive understanding of melodic and harmonic structure, but Wampire was still nothing tangible. After high school Rocky, I, and two other hometown buddies went to Europe. When we returned, Rocky moved to Portland and I went back and forth from Germany and the States for about a year while I was seeing a girl. In late 2007 Wampire finally started when Rocky and I both found ourselves in Portland. 

Were there ever any periods of time when you two weren't mates? Have you gotten in any hot-tempered fights?

We have been through so much as a band, and I think it's inevitable that there are going to be plenty of disagreements and arguments, especially when you are creatively involved with other people for so long. We have our fair share of arguments, but I think that is typical of any group that spends so much time in the same room. People get fed up and annoyed with each other; it's the way tour goes, but you can't let it interfere with the music. However, if you happen to think your band argues too much, just listen to The Troggs Tapes. This rad 60's English Psych-Garage band left the tape rolling during an epic argument in the studio, and they seem like they hate each other. It must be a part of the process, right?

How long did it take you to write Curiosity? Is the album totally fresh or have you fitted in some of your old tunes?

The writing happened at different stages. We have fitted in some old songs that never saw much attention outside of Portland or the West Coast of the U.S. Orchards, for example, was probably one of the oldest songs that we reappropriated for Curiosity. I think that one had been around as early as 2007. Songs like the Hearse or Magic Light were written around 2009 or 2010. Trains was written around 2011 or so, but songs like Giants or Spirit Forest (and the rest of the album) were pretty fresh when we started recording the album. The actual recording of the album took about 4-5 months, if I'm remembering correctly.

How would you describe Curiosity? What would you say if you had to describe it in only one sentence?

Curiosity is an album that you want to listen to on a sunny day, while you are planning a trip to outer space.

Curiosity was produced by Jacob Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. How did you come to a decision that he was the right man for the job?

We've always admired Jake's work in Blouse and UMO, as well as other projects he had produced. He had helped us work on a couple tracks before we got signed. That was sometime around 2010 or so, but the tracks really didn't go anywhere after we had "finished" them. They never sounded that great because I think Rocky and I were still kind of figuring out our approach to recording, and I think Jake got too busy with his own projects to work on our stuff at that point. When Polyvinyl came into the equation we really had more momentum to get back in the studio with a bit of a budget and get to work. Jake was on board again, and he had fresh ideas on how to produce a band like us. I think Jake was the best man for the job because we knew what amazing work he was capable of in the studio and we were friends, so it was easy to trust him to make decisions without feeling like our vision was being compromised. With a random producer I don't think we would have felt so comfortable giving up some of the control of the album's direction.

The opening song (The Hearse) is pretty awesome, so are the lyrics. Is there a deeper meaning to the lyrics or are they supposed to be taken literally?

Well, it's hard for me to say for sure because Rocky wrote this one, but the song is about accidentally killing someone, so I hope people don't take it too literally. I've always thought of it as a song exploring the dark and creepy motives behind murder, but in a surrealist fashion. Like I said though, The Hearse is not my handywork, so that is just my interpretation.

While we're on the topic of lyrics: how does your writing process look like? Is it very systematic and well thought through?

Yes and no. We have a different approach to each song I think, but we like to craft them that way. They are unique from the beginning, and they are inspired by a specific thought usually. I like to keep my choice of melody and harmony informed, yet mostly intuitive. Make it sound natural with not too much effort to it. But we want lyrics that aren't void of meaning in any way, so often we revise those constantly. Basically, I would say we don't follow a formula, but we do analyse our writing as objectively as possible. We think it through, but this isn't complicated chemistry - it's more like cooking a meal for somebody to appreciate, not a systematic process necessarily.

Wampire has been described as an eccentric band in a lot of articles. I even read somewhere that you were an "indie goth horror" band (sweet baby Jesus). How would you classify yourselves as a band? Do you even want to be classified?

I say if people want to call it "indie goth horror" then more power to them. I would never call it that, but I am flattered that it received such bizarre titles and reviews. I don't really want to be classified, because I always want to follow what feels right and don't want our sound to be cornered while we drift in different ways as artists. I know we will continue to experiment, so it's hard to imagine that we will always be what people have classified us as. We did actively pursue the spooky, horror, gothy vibes on Curiosity, and I think that is what we will continue with in the future, meanwhile borrowing more from 60's psychedelic and garage sounds. I would say we are psych pop.

What is the Portland music scene like? Apart from Wampire, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Starfucker?

I don't think we can answer that question accurately at the moment. There are plenty of amazing bands here, and many are friends of our that we love, but we are hardly ever in Portland anymore because of our constant touring! When I'm home I try to go to shows, but mostly I just want to relax and hang out with my ladyfriend and my dog. I'd say the Portland scene is always vibrant, but I'm a little bit out of the loop at the moment.

Do you take yourselves seriously? :) Not as a band, but individuals.

That is a strange question. I feel like if you take yourself too seriously, then you don't see the humor and absurdity of existence. However, if you don't take yourself seriously at all, then aren't you just neglecting your sense of identity and our individuality a little? I think you have to find the right balance for yourself. Yes, I take myself seriously, but I laugh quite a bit too.

Who would be your dream collaborator? You can pick anyone from any era.

David Bowie. Pure brilliance.

What's your life philosophy? Are there any rules that you try to live by?

I try to appreciate the absurdity of existence. Life is not ever perfect, but it's always our responsibility to appreciate it for what it is and make it worthwhile. My rules: please yourself while you are here and minimise or nullify the harm you cause to others.

Thanks so much for you time, see you in Ljubljana :)!

Thank you! See you in Ljubljana!


Slovenian folks can check out Wampire on 18th of November at Kino Šiška
See ya?

xxxx

16 comments:

  1. Love how you introduced the band. You have such a great writting style :)

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  2. awesome post dear
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  3. Wow really interesting interview, sweetie now I´m following you in GFC and Bloglovin´
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  4. I must be stock in a time warp as I've never heard of these guys before - but great interview, well done!!

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  5. You go girl. The coolest ever. Keep it up and surpise us with your great posts.
    Miss Margaret Cruzemark
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  6. I love the interviews you do, they are always so interesting and introduce me to people I've not heard of before.

    Hannah x
    http://b-l-a-b.blogspot.co.uk

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  7. thanks for the lovely comment xx i love them too

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  8. super blog!!!
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  9. Ohh amazing post, that's great you got to interview a band - love it! x

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  10. Great Blog and a fantastic post.
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  11. I love reading your muso interviews G. You are so awesome girl.

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  13. Another great interview! I love the answer to if they take themselves seriously! Too perfect ;)
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