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March 6, 2021

A Night with Vampires

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The Vampires makes their way to the Byron Community Centre on Sunday 25 March: Photo by Frank-Crews

ARIA & Australian Music Prize shortlisted jazz world roots quartet The Vampires makes their way to the Byron Community Centre on Sunday 25 March. The Echo spoke with trumpeter Nick Garbett about the upcoming gig.

What influences do you draw on for your music?

We have always drawn on an eclectic range of musical styles. The band was formed while we were still studying together in 2005 as an opportunity to play the music of Ornette Coleman, Charlie Parker and Eric Dolphy. Then as we started writing our own tunes the music quickly morphed into more of a ‘worldy groove jazz’ sound, taking influences from Jamaican, South American and Balkan music.

What does jazz mean to you? Do only really cool people get jazz? Or is it spreading?

Hahaha.… well… hopefully without sounding like too much of a wanker, personally I think jazz is a very loose term used to pigeonhole a massive swathe of creative and improvised music styles. When people say they don’t like jazz, I think they just haven’t found their kind of ‘jazz’.  Also, the improvised jazz language has been a huge influence on all kinds of modern music that you wouldn’t necessarily think of as jazz.   

How important is improv when you are playing?  Is it a dialogue of sorts? Are there some people you’d rather speak to?

Improvisation is a huge element of our music. Improvisation is a language and when you are all speaking the same language dialogue is inevitable. In The Vampires I’m equally happy speaking with any of the guys because we know each other so well. In other bands that can be a different story!

What is one of the more surprising things that has happened in your live shows?

When we first started touring we’d play a lot of regional country towns and sometimes our style of music wouldn’t quite suit the chosen venue, especially if it was a Saturday night and people were out to party. Once, between songs at a show at the Lennox Head Hotel, a bloke came up and told us he’d ‘rather be eaten by a shark than listen to any more of this sh…’. I guess that’s not the most glowing endorsement for our music, but a funny story!

What are the challenges in getting music to the stage and keeping a band active?

Firstly, I think the band has to want to play together and all members have to trust each other to make interesting and exciting musical decisions. Without that it’s no fun and the band won’t last. However, if you do trust your band mates and you have faith in your music then keeping a band active is easy. You want to play as much as possible and hope that translates to good music that people want to come along and hear.

Lloyd Swanton from the Necks produced your last album. I once asked him how he writes his lyrics, and he says, ‘22 years, 20 albums, not one lyric…’ I said, ‘Maybe you’re blocked’. He found it funny, but frankly, it was pretty embarrassing! I loved his sense of humour. What did he bring to the album?

Lloyd is a very funny guy. He’s definitely not blocked though… he can reel off dad jokes for hours if he’s given the chance!

What Lloyd brought to the album is an ear that we all equally trusted. He’s a prolific writer and a beautifully creative musician, so when he had a suggestion to make in the studio we all listened. He also knew when not to say anything, which is just as important when producing an album. Lloyd has a way of defusing tension in the studio and keeping the atmosphere light hearted, which was incredibly helpful too.

What do you love about being on the road?

Being on the road is exciting and it’s a chance to play night after night with your friends to people who have come out to hear your music. We’ve been fortunate enough to have been touring for more than 10 years together now and in the past few years we’ve toured Europe three times. For me that has been the highlight of my touring career. It’s hard work and you don’t sleep much, but it’s definitely worth it. Touring Australia is great fun too, especially when we get to play Byron Bay. I just wish our friend and musical mentor Dave Ades was still around to jam with when we come into town!

What should we expect for your Byron show?

The Byron show is the last of our 12-gig tour so the band will be firing! Our music mixes grooves from all over the world with strongly melodic horn lines and exciting improvisation. If you say you don’t like jazz, you haven’t heard The Vampires!

Byron Theatre on Sunday 25 March at 5pm. Tickets $10–23. www.byroncentre.com.au


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