Image Credits: The Vampires © Karen Steains
The Vampires formed in 2006 whilst we were in our final year of our music degrees at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. We had actually been friends for many years before this – the trumpeter Nick Garbett and myself met at a summer music workshop when we were 15. We later ended up becoming best friends and sharing a house together for two years south of Sydney on the beach, where the first three albums were composed and workshopped. Regarding the name, we wanted to get away from using names such as “Jeremy Rose Quartet”, and looked for something alternative. At the time, many of our compositions were based on musical “vamps” and so the name The Vampires came about. In fact, we chose the name before the craze of Vampire movies came out, such as Twilight and True Blood.
When the band first formed, we were playing the music by Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman and Australian jazz legend Bernie McGann. However, we were listening to and playing a lot of music from Jamaica, Cuba and Nigeria at the time, particularly the music of the Fela Kuti and Grounation (a traditional Rastafari Nyabinghi band). These all came together in the compositions we started writing for the group.
Many of the sketches are composed by the two composers in the group – trumpeter Nick Garbett, and myself. We bring the material to rehearsals and workshop various ideas with the band and soon try them out on a gig. A composition is typically arranged after several workshop sessions to something different to the original plan. We have composed a lot of music, and have just completed a songbook with over 40 of our compositions from the past five albums. We are also arranging many of the songs for jazz orchestra, which we hope to perform soon.
Yes it can be difficult with expensive flight costs, and being relatively unknown in Europe. Thankfully we believe our music has something different to offer audiences, and so far the response has been very good, with invitations to perform at Jazzahead, A Love Supreme Festival, and several other festivals in the UK. We are also very persistent, which I think is just as important! Our bassist Alex Boneham currently lives in Los Angeles too (he just finished at the Monk Institute), so we are used to travelling far to make our tours work.
Yes it was a very special project and we were very honoured for Lionel to want to work with us. We have been a massive fan of Lionel for many years. As part of our 10th year together, and our 5th studio album, we wanted to do a special collaboration, and Lionel was our first choice. Being a chordless quartet (sax, trumpet, bass, drums), it was nice to have a chordal player with such an interesting harmonic and rhythmic concept as Lionel. Also, we believe we share a similar aesthetic and range of influences as Lionel, who originally comes from Benin, West Africa. It was a natural and beautiful collaboration, and we completed a national tour of Australia, performing a sold out tour of all the major jazz festivals. The album we released together has been getting great reviews and radio support/. We currently have plans to tour Europe with him in October 2018. We are touring Germany, France, UK and Austria (hopefully Italy also!) as a quartet this October 2017. Tour dates are on our website of course.