After forming Wampire, Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps steadily began to make a name for themselves in the same Portland, OR, scene that has produced labelmates STRFKR as well as Unknown Mortal Orchestra. It makes sense, then, that Wampire came to Polyvinyl’s attention when the duo opened for STRFKR at a hometown Portland show and that UMO’s bassist Jacob Portrait produced Wampire’s debut full-length, Curiosity.
The choice of Portrait was a natural one, with both Tinder and Phipps believing he’d be able to contribute almost as much to the record as they would. And so, in mid-August Tinder and Phipps each brought fragments of song ideas into the studio, before deconstructing, re-arranging, and fitting them back together piece by piece — at times lyrics and melodies were thrown out, brought back from the dead, or improvised on the spot.
This loosely structured approach made the process truly collaborative, with producer Portrait occasionally chipping in ideas for lyrics, arrangements, and instrumentation. The resulting nine tracks are instantly memorable, while defying easy categorization. Says Phipps, “We realized the record began to stray away from having a ‘sound’ and gradually became a platter with an assortment of sounds. The record showcases a flavor we haven’t quite dug into before.”
The album’s diverse combination of sounds ultimately helped give birth to its title, Curiosity — a word that invokes the listener’s wonder at what will greet their ears next, while also describing the overall curious tone the record possesses.
First single, “The Hearse” serves as the perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with the band — its opening notes swelling instantly with electronic organs over a driving drum beat. By the time bass and vocals kick in, you’re already hooked. Elsewhere, “Orchards” weaves an infectiously breezy melody on the strength of vocal harmonizing, tuneful whistling, and undulating guitar lines. In some cases, Wampire’s unique rhythms are best described by the band members, as with “Trains,” a Motown-meets-Strokes track that Tinder perfectly summarizes like so: “It’s sexy, sounds huge, and by all means should be blamed for future babies.”
The album concludes with the equally sensual “Magic Light,” a song centered around a dark seductive bass groove that sets the tone for Tinder’s come-hither lyrics. It’s the kind of track that draws you ever further into the record’s beguiling clutches, leaving a lasting impression that remains well after its final notes have faded out.