Portland exports Wampire are a long time in the making. The duo, comprised of Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps, have been playing music together since they were in middle school — “we started jamming in 2001,” says Tinder — in their hometown Keizer, OR. While this is a lengthy amount of time to have under their belts as collaborators, it was only recently that they finessed their sound into what is ultimately the make-up of their upcoming Polyvinyl debut full-length Curiosity.
When the guys were around 19 — they’re 25 now — they started to become staples of the house party scene in Portland. “At first it was just the two of us dicking around and writing songs and just like playing funny house shows where we were like, in the corner, as far back crammed as we could be,” Tinder says of their first real foray into a scene. But while they enjoyed the performance aspect of they were doing, it wasn’t the actual music they wanted to make. “At that time, 2007 through 2009, the wild shitty house show was at its absolute climax,” says Tinder. “For us to bring our own P.A. and blast as backing track and [play] guitars and get everybody dancing was ideal then but a couple years later we’re like, you know, besides just loving the parties we were never super into that.” So they dismantled their party sludge prowess and began carving out something that made sense to them.
There’s no real direct line to that sound. It’s bass-heavy indie-pop macabre, at times, like their track “The Hearse,” which sounds like it belongs on a dive bar’s jukebox where Bela Lugosi slings the drinks. But it’s never schtick-y, despite the constant rotation of which elements are at play. Curiosity feels exactly like it comes from a band who halted their tenure as shlocky, screaming house show fixtures who took the time to actually mature and retool their love of electronics and rock music into a kaleidoscopic package. “It’s a weird album and it’s a little chew and swallow,” says Tinder, but the bouquet of sounds are indicative of the time they took to craft it — and sometimes those projects take time to sit with, as a listener, as well.
But the guys have no problem with the slow burn. There were three attempts at making an album before signing to Polyvinyl last year, but it was guidance from their hometown friend Jake Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra (who also serves as producer of their debut) that got them to really take their time with their work. “The best advice I ever got was from Jake,” says Tinder. “He was like, ’If you’re not 100% behind it, don’t put your name on it.’” That name has, also, always been Wampire, a cheeky nod to Phipps time in Germany. “My goth friends were talking about vampires and they would always be like, ’Oh yeah, oh what it is, oh wampire, wampire,’” Phipps says. “I started making fun of them a little bit and they made it my nickname, and it just stuck with me. People started like, knowing me as the Wampire. I came back and wanted to start a band and it just stuck in my head. The things kind of got a ring to it. I always liked it.”
Check out the second single from Curiosity below, as well as the duo’s excellent cover of Kraftwerk’s “Das Modell” below.
Curiosity is out 5/14 on Polyvinyl.