If you could judge the quality of a punk rock band by the cleanliness of their practice space—and assuming the dirtier the space, the better the rock—then Vampirates would be one of the best bands in town. Their practice space is filthy: ankle deep in empty beercans, a poster of Frank Zappa sitting on a toilet adorns one wall and, on another wall, a picture of a little girl from the cover of an old RN&R is augmented with an actual cigarette dangling out of her mouth. But the centerpiece of the room is a blown-up photo of the band’s friend Stan vomiting up a green and frothy cascade.
What is it about a messy room that’s so conducive to rock ’n’ roll?
Vampirates doesn’t pull any punches. The band plays hardcore and plays it fast, aggressive and tight, and lives up to its fearsome name. The band members rock hard and fast like there’s full sail wind at their back, and attack their instruments—and each other—like they’re out for blood.
Vocalist Dave Masud screams, growls, shouts and bellows. Guitarist Chris Fox and bassist Pat Mayfield play with what at first seems like frenzied abandon—but they’re plenty tight and their songs are full of surprising herky-jerky rhythm shifts and key changes. (The Zappa poster isn’t just a novelty; the band members cite him as a major influence.) Of course a hardcore band is only ever as good as its drummer—and Chris Tufino provides the propulsive beats to tie it all together.
Vampirates’ songs usually originate with Fox and Mayfield co-composing. After the rest of the band lays down a demo track, Masud listens to it and composes lyrics and a vocal line.
“Usually in my car,” says Masud, “because that’s where I’m usually the angriest.”
Most of the lyrics are aggressive finger-pointing. Masud takes on targets from George W. Bush to elderly drivers. But he admits, “It’s hard to write about shit you hate all the time.”
Though the band plays bar shows as well as basement shows, they prefer the all-ages crowd.
“They’re there more for the bands than the booze,” says Masud. “Or if they are there for the booze, they’re there for the bands also.”
The band members describe their shows as “very violent.” They take a rock band-as-extreme-sport approach, physically attacking one another with kicks and tackles throughout their sets.
“My favorite part is watching the crowd make a U,” says Masud. Everyone in the crowd takes a couple of steps back to avoid being hurt by the physical (and sonic) onslaught.
Vampirates has been a band since 2003. They say that their physical aggressiveness has improved their chops over the years, by forcing them to learn to rock in a high stress environment.
“You develop a sixth sense for when something’s flying at you,” says Masud.
But why would these guys, who seem like the best of buds, want to attack one another?
“It’s just fun,” says Mayfield, with a shrug. “This band is about having fun. … Even if it’s just two old dudes and the bartender, it’s always the same effort.”
“We bring the fun!” says Fox.
“It all comes down to having fun,” says Mayfield. “And if somebody sees us and if they think it’s lame—we’re still having fun.”